So I know the title of this post is not what you have come to expect from this blog, but with the latest of countless tragedies resulting from some seriously disturbing high school and internet bullying, I felt the need to share my own insight…who knows maybe my point of view and personal experience is shared and someone reading can relate…in or out of high school.
Amanda Todd was a vibrant and beautiful 15 year old girl with her entire life ahead of her. Amanda took to YouTube to share with the world the torment she felt in her life. After seeing posts all over the internet about Amanda, I finally watched the video yesterday that she wanted the world to see. We are all now aware that she tragically ended her own life last week, I was beside myself. In tears, I watched her show us page by page, word by word everything she had been dealing with up to that point. Completely and utterly senseless and could have been completely avoided if one person, just one, was strong enough to go against the grain and not follow like mindless devil sheep tormenting, lashing out and hurting this sweet, young girl.
Let’s start off by saying life is not always easy and can be really tough at times. We all know this. As an adult I am fully aware and understand the concept that some people just suck but as a teen I was only just starting to realizing it and could certainly not fully comprehend this notion. If the boy I liked didn’t like me back (which was most times btw) or if something I told a friend in confidence leaked out it was the end of the world, in the eyes of a teenage girl. I say girl because that is what I know and have experienced first hand, but I’m aware this issue doesn’t stop with girls. As a girl, the hormones alone are hard enough to deal with but the humiliation and embarrassment of figuring some of it all out – on top of being expected to know at such a young age what to do with the rest of your life equals out to be a lot of pressure that many as teens haven’t learned to properly cope with…let alone dealing with the drama along the way.
I remember all through my small elementary school in Milton I was finally “true” friends in grade 5 with two girls I thought were so cool that I rode the school bus with. Up until that point I was known as “FLE-bag” pronounced “Flea-bag” thanks to my older sibling as my initials were FLE. Everyday I would hope someone would forget but I was tormented, teased and branded uncool on a daily basis. I even remember this guy who took a rubber shoe sole when I was in grade 2 and smacked my left arm with it repeatedly on the playground until I was red, swollen, bruised and crying. Funny, I still remember that moment clear as day as I sit here years later writing about my elementary experience. Whoever thinks bullying doesn’t stay with you in some form, has clearly never been bullied or they are otherwise in complete denial.
As a youngin’ in a Kindergardten to Grade 6 school, it was known that the cool kids sat in the very back of the school bus. I sat in the front but when grade 5 hit and I started “hanging” with these girls I was on top of the world, in the back of the bus and most importantly no longer “FLE”. Still, at that young age I would still socialize with everyone I could but at the end of the day, they were my “crew”. On the last day of Grade 6 I was heartbroken and I still wince thinking about the moment they pulled me aside after hanging out to tell me that when we start Grade 7, it was best if we didn’t hang out anymore because they wanted to find cool friends meaning I wasn’t cool enough to hang with them anymore. Can we say devastated? I couldn’t understand why. I blamed myself of course, my uncool clothes, my looks, my name and everything else that made me, me. I remember back then being so hurt and angry all I could do was go home and cry. Back then, I had the sanctity of my home to do it in privacy. Noone had to know the humiliation and embarrassment I felt, even though it was completely and utterly awful…I could at least suffer alone in silence.
I look back at that one incident with girlfriends and know that was not really a bullying moment at all, but I can see in this day and age how it could have turned terribly for me. I feel extremely fortunate that I didn’t face high school in this day of Social Media. What that was, was pettiness and we have all been there. Two girls who didn’t want to be friends with me because they wanted to be cool. I can look back now and say it is their loss and my gain because on first day of Grade 7 at my new school I met amazing girls who are still to this day my dear and fabulous friends. On that first day of Grade 7 I was so worried about being alone and not having anyone to sit with at lunch and a girl named Tara asked me to sit with her and her friends and I will never forget how that moment made me feel. It took one person who was kind, just one.
In high school, I was the girl who was friends with everyone. Although as we left Montclair Senior School for White Oaks, I felt that everyone went into separate cliques. People discovered who they were becoming or who they wanted to be and who they most identified with. Although I had my core group of friends, I didn’t stay in one clique. My clique was socializing with everyone and anyone who wanted to. Sure, I had my best friends that I talked to daily and went to Oakville Place and the movies with but I pretty much talked to everyone. I was nicknamed by some “Social Butterfly” because when I walked down the halls I would say “Hi” to almost everyone that passed.
It was in high school that I was faced with my one of two bullies. One was named Heather in Grade 9 and I remember being threatened by her at a high school dance and heard that she was going to beat me up. I wasn’t sure what I had done to piss her off but she scared me, I only really remember that it lasted just a few weeks. I remember being so scared to go to school because she was going to beat me up at school if not at the end of the night of the dance. I tried to be nice to her and I believe after she was gone for a couple of weeks due to something medical we ended up being civil to each other and that was that. As scary as it was, we made some kind of amends.
The other one? I wasn’t so lucky. HOLY CRAP was this girl awful to me and to this day, I have no idea why. I guess I can chalk it up to jealousy on her part. Jealous for what I am not exactly sure, but whenever someone hates something about someone isn’t it usually because they see it in themselves? Or they are jealous? If you don’t actually know the person to hate them, aren’t those the only two reasons? Maybe because she seemed to have only one friend and didn’t like the fact that I talked to everyone? Maybe, just maybe I was so annoying to her that she felt that she should threaten me every single day. I was scared to leave the school to go to the convenience store at lunch or pass her in the hallways. It was a great day if I could get through it without seeing her, running into her or having her yell, threaten, get physical with or scare the shit out of me. I remember she literally made my life a living hell. Roula was her name and she was as mean as a snake. On top of it I am pretty sure she was a couple of years older than me which would in most cases she knew better, but apparently not and to this day I will never forget how she made me feel – it was truly frightening. With what was happening in my life at home, there was no relief it seemed. I look at again, if this had happened to me in this day with social media, I can’t even imagine how I would cope as there is no way to escape, at all.
The bully 2012 has so much power and so many different ways of carrying out their vengeance on the innocent. Facebook pages, hashtags, video and everything so instantaneous – I can’t even being to imagine what kids today go through. Amanda Todd is one very sad example of what happens when someone is picked on and bullied and harassed so much. People shouldn’t be expected to tolerate any of this kind of behaviour and those who hide behind their computer screens who are the ones actually filming, sharing, spreading, commenting and taking part in any way are in one word: cowards. If only teens in high school realized what happens in high school doesn’t actually matter when it comes down to what happens the rest of your life. It is amazing such a small amount of time can make such an impact on all of our lives. WE all remember our high school experience and have to admit that looking back if you were “cool” in high school that is pretty much all you will amount to in the real world. Think Al Bundy or what I like to always refer to as the quintessential post high school experience summed up perfectly is in the movie Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. All of the jocks are drunks, most of the popular girls are married to them still living in their home town popping out 8 kids and all of the former nerds are gorgeous, rich and successful. I think we all wish we knew then what we know now…
On a wintery day back in January 2010 I was on Facebook and I happened to be looking through White Oaks graduating class profiles – which I am not sure if you can still do – and guess who I came across? Yup, you guessed right if your first thought was my number one bully, Roula. Seeing her name after all of these years made my stomach turn and brought back a lot of those feelings of fear. Her profile picture was her and two children that I assumed were her own. Wow, she was married and a mom now. Although some may frown upon it, I am a woman who does not really back down anymore. I am definitely not the same girl I was in high school that would accept this so I made a very impulsive decision. Instead of moving on and forgetting seeing her face, I decided to send her a message. I believe I was extremely polite considering, but you decide for yourself.
Dated January 29, 2010 with the subject line “Nightmare“:
Thanks to the lovely world of Facebook, I was looking through our graduating class profiles and came across your familiar name and just felt compelled to write to you.
It is funny how people effect you when you are a teenager. I just want to let you know that you were a nightmare. You were awful to me and made many days a living hell when you threatened to hurt me and bullied me.
You may have long forgotten, but I was just reminded when I saw you. I see that you have a family. My hope for you is that your children never encounter anyone like you in their path when they are trying to just live their day to day when they are in school.
I hope part of you feels regret. Knowing you, most likely, you will feel nothing but pride.
I would love to have a conversation with you today, because it would be a lot different than how it was then.
It wasn’t that bad, right? If you received an email like this, what would you do? Would you respond? Would you ignore it? What do you think she did? She did exactly what I figured she would, ignored it completely but really what could she possibly say that would help me excuse her behaviour? I admit that if she had come back with some type of mortified response for her behaviour, perhaps an apology it may make me feel happy that she decided on a happier path. I would figure that she had grown as a person and deserved my forgiveness. With her lack of response, she is in someway probably the same mean girl that bullies her way through life. Being the wonderful and lovely person I am, I will say this once and for all – I forgive her for her extremely bad behaviour and I meant what I said in her letter, I pray to God her children never have to deal with what she put me through…especially in this day and age.
I think about how seeing her face on a screen 17 years after, illicit those feelings of fear from way back then and thankfully I can’t put myself back to that time as enough time has passed. I think of living with it right now as a teenage girl and having to face another 3 years of it. Every. Single. Day. Trying everything I can to escape, even changing schools, but there is no relief in sight. It haunts. It is incredibly sad and I really wish I could tell every teen struggling, feeling alone, like they have noone or can never get out of the living hell that they are in, don’t give up…it will get better and I promise you can get through this.
Bottom line is we all need to accept differences, love each other and eliminate the hate. Have your own mind, don’t share one. At the end of the day, everyone makes mistakes, noone is above anyone else and we need to realize how this mean and vicious behaviour can have an immediate and lasting effect on those around us. Love yourself, only then you can spread the love to others and start an epidemic of love, support those who need it and always be kind. It wont hurt you or anyone else…remember, it only takes one so do your part.
The title of my blog is sadly true. Bullying doesn’t end in high school, it can stay with you for years or continue into adulthood. I only hope that for all of you, and all of your children that you or they never have to experience what Amanda Todd and countless others before her have had to face.