Tag Archives: bullying

Composition was not dotting the lines of my marbled notebooks.

She brushes away a nonexistent tear. It’s after midnight and I figure she’ll be up again in less than six hours, but strength ripples from her.

It’s a strength I couldn’t find back then, back when I was fifteen and stayed up until two a.m. Back when I backed out of my driveway before seven the next morning. No matter how many boxes of ripped jeans and cheap flip-flops I overturned, bravery was just not seeping from underneath them.

Composition was not dotting the lines of my marbled notebooks. No, more like pure misunderstanding at a world that preferred petty jabs on public message boards. More like the false compliments that accompanied them.

It was as if someone had handed me bottled water. When I opened it and took a sip, it tasted, instead, like the ocean. Not clean and clear and pure but tainted and bitter and salty.

I imagine she has notebooks like that lining her bedroom bookcase shelves. Some beneath her bed under a pile of worksheets she already conquered. Or stuffed into the sleeve of her backpack so she is ready, when doubt creeps up on her, to smash it back down with a pen and paper.

Or, in her case, a video.

“Bullying affects people so deeply,” she says. “No matter how many great things people say about you and how much you are built up, all it takes is one bad comment to stick and everything just comes crashing down.”

And I am so struck, some five years later, by the maturity of these words. I have more than half a decade on her and yet she knows more than I did then. More than I comprehend now. More than most of us realize when we jump on someone else—out loud or behind a computer screen.

There are plenty of trends I’d like to jump all over. Slouched leather boots and skinny jeans. Fair isle sweaters and pixie cuts. Sugared up lattes and peppermint mocha frapuccinos.

But the cowardly sort of jabs and stabs that use keyboard keys as weapons and computer screens as mouths are not my cup of Joe. You can keep your creamer, your sugar, your spice. I don’t need anything nice if its not genuine. And I certainly don’t need anything mean.

What kills me about bullying someone who’s doing good, so much good, for the people who feel victimized by those words is that she should be last on that strike list. She shouldn’t even be on it at all. It should not exist.

She is right. Oh, how right she is. There are plenty of ways to build someone up and how easy it is now with the words on a screen right in front of you. But it is easier, still to cut them into small pieces, to take a knife and slide it into their unassuming guts. And that is a sad, sad world we live in.

[Photo credit]

[Video that led to cyberbullying]

And girl, you're going so far.

Just to be clear, I am 16 or 17 here. Not 13. I may've burned all those photos.

Dear thirteen-year-old Me,

Thursday night I knocked on Brooke’s door and just started crying. And not the wiping-a-few-stray-tears-away kind, either. I’m talking full-on can’t speak crying.

Some things, my dear, will never change.

Brooke told me something pretty radical, something I still don’t quite believe, to make me feel better. She said I’d been through a lot more than most of the girls in this town. Like the two standing outside my neighbor’s house Saturday night, shrieking, the green strobe lights pulsating into our street.

She told me that and I shook my head, because of course it wasn’t true. The more I see of the world, the more the scale tips toward heartbreak. There’s just a sea full of brokenness rolling between Us and Them.

Kellie’s challenge made me think of the thirteen-year-old girl locked deep inside of me, still reeling from the pain she put herself through.

I know you’re awkward. And I mean, everyone says that when they’re thirteen, but it’s about sixteen times truer for you. I don’t know how you got out of bed at six in the morning and watched Fresh Prince reruns with syrup-drowned waffles and didn’t just want to go comatose.

By then, though, you’d already sworn off school for once. You figured you might as well go back again. I know. I understand.

You lied about a lot of things. I know you didn’t want to, but you felt like you had to. And that’s true for a lot of us, but sooner or later the truth has to free you. I think, eventually, you learned that. You lied about things that, seven years later, you cannot even dare to speak out loud. That’s how ashamed you are.

You lied about things you’re unable to write about; and that’s a big deal, because let me tell you that all your little stunts, all your little mishaps will find themselves again on the page. Even the ones that ended you in hospital beds. Even the ones that threatened, at times, to yank your bedcovers off you and take you right from this earth.

Don’t lie so much for so long, OK?

It’ll be eight years in December, but I can still see you standing barefoot on that cold blue tile floor, sure that something bad was about to happen. You didn’t know it already happened. You didn’t know that it could take three days to find the right kind of tears for a funeral you never anticipated. You didn’t know how to heal.

And so you gave up. It wasn’t your first funeral, nor was it your last, but you had seen enough.

Now, you look at death and see it backwards, each person falling closer and closer to birth. 57, 40, 17. You pray it starts going back up again. You pray your next funeral might not be for a 3-year-old, but a 98-year-old.

Mostly, you pray life at thirteen is more complicated than life at twenty-two. Guess what? It’s not.

But you’re fine. Obviously, you’re more than fine. You still laugh nine out of ten days and you still look more or less the same. You still know how to hold your chin up, even if those other girls in town don’t.

And girl, you’re going so far. You don’t even know it yet, but you are.

This world, your life, your mind is a magical place.

Love,
Your future self

"Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I've ever known."

day 30 – a letter to your reflection in the mirror

Look at yourself in the mirror. You look almost the same as you did three months ago, don’t you? You cannot always see the progress that results from ninety days’ time, but it’s real.

via weheartit.com

I am a result of a collection of the wonderful human beings who take a few seconds out of their day to acknowledge my presence. To admit that I exist. I’m a part of their life. I don’t think any of them realize how wonderful that it.

I have a best friend who calls me every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30 in the morning. Sometimes, I reach for the phone and it starts ringing.

I have a sister who keeps me looking (somewhat) fashionable. Parents who believe in the power of a liberal arts education but wouldn’t stop me from doing whatever my heart desires after college.

I have dreams that reminded me to roll out of bed on last Tuesday at 7 in the morning when I didn’t have class at all that day. And strangers who offer advice and insight in 140-character segments.

I have an ex-boyfriend who taught me how to fall in love and heal back together.

I have a friend in the middle of the Bronx who has offered writing and sheer strength to heal my wounds of depression and self-hatred.

I have a musical idol whose heart-on-her-sleeve attitude reminds me to do the same. To write these words now.

I have a God who keeps me from careening into oncoming traffic. A gymnastics coach who taught me how love can change the world.

I have been bullied by girls who remind me why I love being different.

I have a best friend who keeps me in her life despite all the strings tugging her into the Real World. A roommate who decided to love me before she even met me. A friend in Canada who taught me that age doesn’t matter when it comes to friends and that wisdom is invaluable.

I have friends from my childhood who taught me how to be a flexible parent someday and how to take giant risks.

I have a friend in Ohio who taught me how to take initiative if I want to see the world change and reminded me of the power of verbal affirmation.

I have friends in North Carolina who love my sister the best way they know how.

I have a friend whose indecisiveness about me has taught me how to be firm in my own feelings and actions.

I have a track team who taught me to believe in magic, persistence, and the power of the underdog.

I have a best friend who deserves to live in California, far away from the destructive people in her life.

I have three beautiful and talented cousins who taught me to believe in miracles, and a stranger who showed me the power of a mother’s love. A friend in Wisconsin who changes the world each week in less than 15 minutes.

I have a best friend who’s been a big part of my life from 300 miles away and who is always there for me without question.

And I have me. I am the only Kaleigh Erin Somers you will ever meet. I’m almost sure of that.

What do you have? Who are your people? What are their lessons?

Keep your atlas and guidebook. I'd rather be lost in the world searching for some respect.

Letter 19 – someone that pesters your mind – good or bad

Dear you,

There’s something to be said for trying to always Do the Right Thing and Say the Right Thing and Be the Right Person. There’s something to be said for pushing so hard, so much that it sometimes hurts, and persistently getting knocked down.

There’s also something to be said for fear. Fear is a big word, and we throw it around a lot. Kind of like love. Do you love me? You don’t.

What I wanted for this challenge, and for everyone following me, was to show the good in everyone. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. But I’m striking out this time.

And I can’t even say your name out of fear. I’m afraid because you’ve got a rationale for everything, and I cower. I literally feel my muscles tense and my face flush.

post-it notes bullying

via weheartit.com

That, in and of itself, pesters my mind. Nobody should have that much control over me, should they?

Pes•ter  (tr. v): to harass with petty irritations; annoy

My buddy Merriam-Webster has pinpointed quite exactly what it means to “pester.” How it feels to be pestered. “Pestered” conjures up images of little boys in classrooms poking little girls on the shoulder incessantly. Or babies crying loudly in confined waiting rooms at doctors’ offices.

But what you don’t know is that “pester” conjures up a very specific set of emotions, stances, and voice tonalities for me.

You pester me because of the person you make me into, the person I immediately become when you step into the room. It’s a sad fact that I feel my insides retreating, my stomach churning, my pulse racing. And I’m not talking about a first love kind of feeling. I’m talking about a slow dreading that escalates with each second.

But why? What is so gosh darn bad that I’m backpedaling instantly?

It’s hard to define, but it’s a collection of small moments that never go my way. It’s the feeling of being belittled with almost every single miniscule encounter. It’s the way I’m always wrong, I’m always messing up. The way I’m almost always a step behind without a guidebook to catch me up. The way I’m always “lost” without an atlas.

I’m walking in the woods without bug spray when I’m around you.

And what kills me, really eats me up inside, is that I’m not. Unprepared, I mean. I’m not asking for ridiculous favors or making outrageous assumptions. I’m not saying something idiotic or being immature. And I’m certainly not supposed to feel like this.

I’ve been that kid for way too long. The beat-up doormat, the laughingstock of the joke and the screw-up. You’re just the last person to step all over me. The last one to grab me by in a headlock and throw me down.

But I think it has to stop. I know it does.

Because at the end of the day, the hardest thing for me to do is keep believing in myself. Keep believing that I’m out there doing so much in the world. That I’m no less of a person than you. That there are people in this world who don’t even know what my voice sounds like that have made the decision to respect me. To befriend me. To encourage me to change nothing about myself.

 

people looking at guide

via creativephotographymagazine.com

 

“You should never be surprised when someone treats you with respect, you should expect it.” – Sarah Dessen

I think that’s where I’m at with this. It’s me—fearfully and hesitantly laying out my maltreatment—asking for respect.

Love,
K