Tag Archives: bullying

Letter 35: When You’re In A Valley

24 Jan

Dear me at 13:

Your headphones have been plastered to your ears for the last several hours.

You’ve got “High and Dry” on repeat. For whatever reason, Thom Yorke and the gang have been able to coax you through this morning. Something about the first few drum beats of that song- they’ve got some kind of a magical quality. They instantly calm you and allow your mind to float away.

You’ve just crossed over another state line. Farmer’s fields are blurring into one another outside your window. Each mile that you drive brings you further away from home and shrinks any possibility of escape. You can’t turn around now. You’re stuck on that bus.

It’s the big Grade 8 class trip and you’re on your way to Boston. While all the other girls are cozied up in the rear, gossiping and subtly stabbing each other in the back, you are sitting in the front. By yourself. You’ve got your legs stretched out on the empty seat next to you.

You didn’t really want to go on this trip in the first place. You didn’t really care about Boston. You didn’t really like any of the other kids in your class. And you’ve never really done well being away from home. You like your own bed. Your room. Your routine. You debated for many weeks about whether or not to attend. But you ultimately knew that skipping the trip would exclude you from the experience that everyone would be talking about. You couldn’t risk further alienating yourself. You had to go.

Initially, your childhood “Best Friend” promised to room with you. At least you’d get to giggle away with a familiar face. But days before the trip, you found out that she had signed on to be in a room with the popular girls instead. Everyone else had already booked their rooms. You were plunked in with the other girls who had been left without a chair during the latest round of musical cliques.

Your being stuck in the “runt” room gave the popular girls lots of ammunition. They wanted to make sure you knew how much fun they were going to have and just how boring and geeky your room was going to be.

Under normal circumstances, you spend your days being taunted, but ultimately have the ability to go home and escape each evening. To recharge before having to march back into the salt mines again. An overnight trip would be like an endurance test. With no respite from the battle.

Understandably, you have been dreading this trip.

I want to tell you something. Plain and simple. It’s the essence, really, of all these Letters I’ve been writing to you:

Your life won’t be like this forever. I promise you.

I know. It’s really hard to believe. You’re so young. You’ve only been on this earth for 13 years. The first 10 of which were relatively unblemished. Happy. Worry free. Then this whole puberty deal started. You entered Junior High. You met the mean girls. It felt like life would never be the same again.

Here is the thing: Life is essentially a series of peaks and valleys. There will always be valleys, and you have just entered your very first one. But I can guarantee you that if you just hang in there for long enough, you will always be met by the next peak.

There is something about Junior High that is so, so hard. So dramatic. So emotional. For whatever reason, people go really far out of their way to make each other miserable. Nasty rumours. Entrapment three-way phone calls. Stealing friends. Stealing boyfriends. You’re forced to spend every day with a group of people whom you have not chosen. You’ve been clumped together and told to get along.

No matter how old you get, being at the bottom of one of life’s valleys is daunting. It’s hard to see how you’re going to get out. And it’s easy to start believing that it might never happen.

I know you’re feeling a little sad. I know you’re feeling lonely. I know you’re feeling homesick. But you won’t feel this way forever. When you do hike your way out of your very first valley, you will turn around and look back at the distance you’ve climbed. You will be proud of your strength. And the next time you see a little dip up ahead, you will know for certain that no matter how deep this road might lead you, you will always manage to find your way back up again.

_________________________

If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

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The Hindsight Notes: Teenaged Nemesis

21 Jan

Andy and her Teenaged Nemesis Steff in "Pretty In Pink"

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Your Teenaged Nemesis.

We’ve talked about your Teenaged Bestie. Now let’s talk about your Worstie. You probably remember them all too well. That person that made your skin crawl. The person that made you want to run in the other direction when you spotted them in the halls. The person that you were so glad to leave behind when you left school.

So tell us- who were they? What made them so aggravating? Have you ever run into them since leaving school?

As always, I’ll start us out:

____________________

If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

 

Letter 33: The Wicked Witch Of Windfields Junior High

10 Jan

Dear me at 13:

Congratulations!

You have just successfully won the lead role in the school play. You will be Dorothy in “The Wizard Of Oz”. You were the only Grade Seven student to audition for the lead role amidst a sea of Grade Nines. And you managed to get the part.

Me as Dorothy, during the Big Performance

You should be proud of yourself. Take a moment to bask in the glory of this achievement. Because unfortunately, you’ll soon be wishing you could click your own little ruby slippers together and be anywhere but up on that stage, rehearsing for the big performance.

When the school play was initially announced, and you started to think about auditioning for the lead, you fantasized about how playing Dorothy would redeem yourself socially amongst your peers. After your unfortunate loss in the campaign for student council (something that we discussed in a previous letter), your circle of friends seemed to be shrinking by the minute. You desperately needed a win. Surely securing the lead role in the school play would give you some street cred. The Grade Sevens would think you were cool because you would get to hang out with the Grade Nines. The Grade Nines would think you were cool because your skill level was at par with theirs. Your popularity would skyrocket. A clear win-win.

So you auditioned, sang your little heart out, and nailed “Over The Rainbow”. When the music faculty first announced the results, you alone were named Dorothy. Ripples of dissent began to reach the teaching staff. The Grade Nines were outraged that a Grade Seven was cast in the lead. A chubby, tone-deaf Grade Nine girl named Jessica W. began leading the uprising. She was mean and loud and very convincing in her argument. You were told in a meeting that there would now be two Dorothies. You would each get to do two performances. Bureaucracy at its best.

You thought to yourself, “It’s not that bad. Maybe Jessica W. and I will bond over our common goal. Maybe we will encourage and learn from each other. Maybe we will become BFF’s”.

I love your optimism.

Jessica W. does not. Evidently, at some point her focus shifts from being the Best Possible Dorothy to making your life A Living Hell. Every time your turn comes to practice your solo, she snickers in the background. She all but forbids the other actors from talking with you at all, outside of practicing lines. She makes fun of the costume your Mother made you.

You seek sanctuary in your fellow Grade Sevens. However, they too are not pleased with your win. Having been cast as munchkins, flying monkeys and dancing trees, the other 13 year olds are feeling equally silly and insecure and are too frightened to risk associating themselves with you. You have unwittingly upset the delicate hierarchy of Windfields Junior High. There are many days where you consider dropping out of the play entirely.

My dear, sweet girl.

You auditioned for this role because you love to sing. You love to perform. And “The Wizard Of Oz” has been one of your favourite movies since you were a child. Yes, when Jessica W. snickers during your solo it breaks your heart a little. But ultimately, the joy that belting out that tune gives you trumps any negativity that she sends your way. And it’s that joy that will lead you to see your commitment through to your two big performances. You will nail them both. You will bring your Grandfather to tears. And when you look back on the experience, you will be so proud of yourself for refusing to allow an insecure, jealous Grade Nine take that joy away from you.

So, my dear girl, sing your little heart out. Memorize your lines as best you can. Go to each and every rehearsal and hold your head high. Own that role, regardless of what Jessica W. or anyone else thinks. And the next time you hear someone let out a snicker during your solo, take it as a sign to sing louder. After all, when you sincerely focus on your own joy, it will always drown out the din of your critics.

___________________

If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

The Hindsight Notes: It Gets Better

12 Nov

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers desperate to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: It Gets Better.

As you know, this week all of our posts have been dedicated to the It Gets Better Project. We’ve even been lucky enough to share an incredible Letter from talented Canadian Writer Sarah Liss.

For this week’s Hindsight Note, we’re asking that you share with us a moment from your adolescence when you needed to know that It Gets Better. Were you having a tough time at school? A tough time at home? Feeling alone or frightened or small? Share it with us here. You never know who you could help along the way.

As always, I’ll start us out:

___________

If you liked this post, you’ll love this one and this one!

Letter 18: Don’t Run For Class President

27 Sep

Dear me at 13:

One of the qualities that I love most about you is your optimism.

In spite of being chronically unpopular, you still enter each school year with the belief that “this will be your year“.  That “this year everything will change”.

This is a big year for you, granted. Grade Seven. You graduated from Elementary School (as the valedictorian, no less) and moved on to Junior High. A whole new crowd of kids. A whole new group of potential friends who know nothing about your former status as the resident pariah. A fresh start.

Within your first weeks of attendance, you learn that the student government elections will soon be taking place. Grade Seven will be looking to elect a President.

“This is my chance to shine”, you think to yourself as you enter your name in the race.

Now honey, I say this with love, really I do, but PLEASE. DO. NOT. RUN. FOR. CLASS. PRESIDENT.

“Why?” you might ask. “I was President of my Grade Six class. I was valedictorian. I aced all my exams on the Canadian government in social studies. I’m responsible. I’m a great student. I’m PERFECT for this role!”

You’re right, honey. You are perfect for this role. You would make an excellent President. You would never miss a meeting and you would be on top of all your duties one hundred percent of the time. But here’s the thing:

It’s a popularity contest.

And currently, the only person that will sit next to you at lunch is the ESL guy that wears the really tight track pants.

Let’s be honest here. Your altruism is indeed a factor motivating your campaign, but you also have an ulterior motive: You seem to think that being elected as Class President will instantly make you a star. You are of the belief that as Class President, all the cool kids will suddenly flock to you and you will attend all the cool parties and have lots of people to eat lunch with.

Sadly, this is not the case.

Me as the Valedictorian of the Grade Six Class

It’s reversed: in order to become President, you first need to be popular. And that is a feat that cannot be accomplished in the two-week span before the ballots are cast.

You will run for Class President. Your Mom will help you create an “Ad Campaign” to promote yourself. It will be cute and clever but will quickly become your Albatross. You will no longer be the Anonymous unpopular girl. You will now be Kyra. That girl with the super dorky posters (sorry Mom) that lost in a Landslide election in favor of Adam Whats-His-Name. You will now be singled out on a regular basis as the token object of ridicule whenever the popular kids get bored.

I know that your efforts are coming from a really good place, sweetheart. But there is a bigger lesson to learn here:

You have (and will continue to have) a tendency to tell everyone who you are. To want to make sure that everyone around you knows what you’re about. Later on in your adolescence this will manifest itself in crazy hairstyles, clothing, and piercings. They will be your personal billboard to the world, proclaiming your brand: “Look! I’m not actually a geek! I’m a punk rocker! I’m not cool because I don’t want to be cool. Na, Na, Nabooboo.”

Here is the thing: it’s actually way cooler to let people discover who you are. On their own terms. To watch your actions, the way you live your life, and make their own assumptions. The fact is, they’re going to do that anyway. Manufacturing your persona, and then pointing it out to people only tells them that you care way too much about what they think. And that’s never cool.

So maybe pack away your posters and save your campaign for another year. Scope the place out a little. Observe. Be wise about the friends that you make. Maybe volunteer to help with the election in another way. Join some clubs. Take up some hobbies.

Most importantly: focus first on understanding who you are. Focus on loving that person, in spite of her flaws.

And if you can get that down pat, the popular kids are bound to feel the same.

———————————

If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

Letter 8: She’s mean to you because she’s fat

19 Jul

Dear me at 13:

Your parents have always told you to turn the other cheek. Take the high road. Be the bigger person.

Screw that.

I mean, with all due respect…

Screw that.

They mean well, but your parents don’t know what they’re talking about on this one. You are dealing with a full-blown, raging hormones, 13-year-old psycho hose beast situation.

Amanda S.

Ugh.

Just the sound of her name sends shivers up your spine. When you see her walking toward you in the hallway you feel like cramming yourself sideways into your locker and shutting the door. When she’s not calling you names to your face, she’s saying goodness knows what behind your back.

You don’t know why she picked you as her target. You never will. She probably doesn’t even know. What she does know is that she has made you cry on at least three occasions in front of your classmates. The other hundred million times- well, we’ll just keep those between us.

You like school. You’re good at it. It comes naturally to you. You get straight A’s and you’re always on the honor roll. You used to look forward to your studies. Now the sight of those heavy iron doors makes you want to run screaming back to your mom’s dodge caravan.

Let me tell you some things about bullies:

They don’t like themselves. That is why they’re mean to other people. People who don’t like themselves are mean to people who threaten their tenuous sense of self-worth. You are smart, sweet, kind, naive, optimistic… All the things that threaten mean people the most. People who like themselves aren’t mean like that. Ever.

Bullies can smell you coming from a mile away. They know your type: sensitive, desperate for acceptance, and too slow to come up with something snappy to say in retaliation. They like the fact that they can get a rise out of you, and they think that you’ll allow them to push you around.

If you didn’t allow it, they wouldn’t push you around.

Here is some big, big news: You tell people how you want to be treated. You create the rules for your interactions. You dictate what you will and will not accept as respectful behavior. Each time you allow someone to walk all over you, you tell them that it’s alright for them to do it again. Your acquiescence begs for a repeat of the behavior.

Here is the unfortunate thing: Bullies will follow you around all your life. They will seek you out and try to rain on your parade regardless of your whereabouts. Bully-moms will seek you out at playgroup. Bully seniors will probably seek you out at the old folk’s home.

“Well that’s pretty depressing. What am I supposed to do? Lock myself in my parent’s basement with a crate of cheetos and watch Degrassi reruns my whole life?” you might ask.

The solution to your problem is twofold:

1) Stand up for yourself. Go for the jugular. It might feel weird at first, but rest assured, Amanda S. won’t ever bother you again if you look her in the eyes and say “Are you mean because you’re fat, or because your parents don’t love you? Just wondering”.

2) You need to change your reaction to the bullying. This is more than just “acting tough” when it happens. This is about “being tough”. Who cares what Amanda S. thinks about you? She might be popular at Windfields Junior High, but she’s not very bright, she’s about 30 pounds overweight, and she has eyebrows like gnarled pubic hair. She is a miserable person. And the bottom line is that all her animosity has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with her. Don’t let it get you down! Don’t let it hurt your feelings. Don’t allow it to take over your day, and certainly don’t allow it to taint your opinion of yourself. You are awesome, and that’s why she’s bullying you anyway.

So go back to school holding your head high. Focus on your studies. That’s why you’re there in the first place, remember? And the next time you see Amanda S.- in the hallway or otherwise- don’t be tempted to take up permanent residence in your locker.  Just look up into those massive eyebrows, meet her head on, and remember our chat.