Monday, April 28, 2014

Bullying and Substances are Stealing Lives

I was recently contemplating about the endlessly growing number of people around the world who terminate their lives before their talents and gifts flourish into the arms of humanity.  I’ve always been told I can be a bit emotional at times since I truly wear my heart upon my sleeves.  But hey… that’s just me.  What can I say?  We all have our weaknesses but I’ve learned to treat my weakness as something beautiful.  My softness and sorrow toward others who need help gives me this sort of fulfillment which only my writing has had an ability to do.  It’s freeing.  And if I can share a story, tale or experience of my own to help shape or shift someone else’s journey, then I’m all in; 110 percent.

When I was young, I was severely bullied.  If you asked me why, I really couldn’t tell you... other than kids can be cruel and if they don’t understand you or are jealous of your talents, they have no other means of showing their envy then by the use of bullying.  I was tall, very thin, had clunky braces and glasses before contacts and more modern means of straightening your teeth were available.  I worked hard and always received straight A’s on my report cards.  My love for academics helped me to graduate in the top 10 of my class; among 360 other students. 

And still; I was the subject of harassment and endless torture throughout my elementary and junior high school years.  My passion for the written word, science and history equated to an eternity of pain and suffering.  Back then, those seven hours of school felt like an infiniteness of dodging hurtful whispers, loathsome mockeries, and unwanted confrontations. 

I remember being in 8th grade and being segregated from a table where I had some friends who had split lunches with their choir practice.  When they would leave for Chorus (this is what the class was referred to as), I was left there, utterly alone, only to be mocked, made fun of and had things thrown at me.  Is she serious you ask?  I wish I wasn’t.  Many of my days were just scenes out of that Patrick Dempsey movie,Can’t Buy Me Love, or even Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Mean Girls.  But these girls were much crueler toward me.  I eventually joined the choir, although my voice sounded more Phoebe when she would sing about “Smelly Cat” on the hit television show, Friends.  I ran away instead of confronting them because I had no one to back me up.  My friends at the time were too scared to be shunned as well. 

It was only until Mr. Finallo's History class, where I was assigned to sit next to a girl, (we will call her Savior) who hated me for no apparent reason my freshman year of high school.  I believe her inconceivable hatred toward me was over a strikingly handsome, young boy who lived next door to my house.  He looked like Christian Slater so you could see how one would be jealous of another girl's kinship with such a gorgeous fellow.  One of her friends adored him which afforded her the desire to make my life a living hell. 


This boy would walk me home from school every day which made the girls cringe at my high school.  But after I was designated a seat next to this girl for the entire year, we had no choice but to work together on group projects.  It took less than a week for us to become good friends.  Can you believe it?  She was very popular and since she befriended me, I then, became part of the “in-crowd.” 
My next four years of school would be pretty much smooth sailing and no one ever really bothered me again.  I still struggled with some girls who just couldn’t understand why teachers gravitated toward me.  To tell you the truth; either did I… other than I was an over-achiever who really enjoyed excelling to further the future of my education.  My parents were less than middle class so I knew I had to do well to be awarded some, if not all, scholarships and grants for college.

Sadly, there are so many kids in this country who are bullied every single day of their lives.  They are taunted and become the products of cruel jokes and deceptions because of their uniqueness and susceptibility of being pushed around.  Since I know how it feels, I understand the fear which plants them in their shielded comfort zones.  They would rather skip class or not go to school at all because they are afraid of what lies within those small and overbearingly suffocating brick walls.

As I mentioned before, once Savior befriended me, everything changed.  The girls who at one time, made fun of me, now wanted to sit with me at lunch and always come over to my house after school.  I was invited to sleepovers and nights out at the skating rink.  I was asked out by guys who before, always looked at me and smiled, but never acted out on their curiosity about me from fear of what the popular kids would think about their actions.  Then, when I started dating a guy in college, this sent my status over the moon!  He drove one of the hottest cars around town and was super dreamy.  I never really had to worry about being bullied again and tried to help others who were in the same predicament I once was in.

You might think I copped out of my situation by accepting Savior's invitation to become her friend but at the end of the day, we actually had a lot in common; other than our grades.  We remained close friends until I left for college.  After I arrived at college, I never looked back on those people again and managed to build true, life-long friendships with some of the most kindest and sincere people.  I am grateful to have some of these people in my life today.  I'm sure some of the decisions I made in college were the end-product of my experiences in high school.  Although the bullying had stopped, there would be scars leftover internally which lead me to make some bad decisions.  I'm happy to say those scars are just murmurs echoing in the wind and reminders of how strong and significant I really am.
(Old Queens Campus at Rutgers University... beautiful, isn't it?)

The point of my ramblings about my past struggles and suffering from bullying is that people are ignorant towards one another.  They have “ideas” which tend to develop into ugly assumptions about beautifully strange, yet, magnificent people.  What is so wrong about someone who wants to do well in his or her class?  Or about someone whose parents can’t afford the same clothes or shoes as their friends?  Or children who might seem different, but in actuality, their personalities are far more epic and unique than imaginable?  If we could just instill better values and morals within our children’s acceptance and gentility towards others feelings, this world would be a better place.  My mother always taught me to be kind and respectful; something I see more of our upcoming generation lacking. 

Devices like video game systems and social media outlets such as Facebook tend to numb our youth’s ability to focus on the importance of communication with one another.  I’ve observed how a long day of playing video games affects one of the teens I currently care for.  He becomes a lot more agitated and aggressive; cursing and throwing the paddles at the television.  I hear other teens through the headphones they use nowadays; cursing and using vulgar language while shooting at soldiers or even civilians on the TV screen.  We need to encourage our beloved children that there is a whole world beyond social media and video games.  We need to fight for our right to the irreplaceable bonds which hold humanity together.  This involves communicating more, interacting with each other, and dare I say… playing and getting involved with outdoor activities!  Yes, we played jail break even into the college years!

We didn’t have Facebook and texting back when I was in high school and college so I can’t imagine how teens have to deal with the horrid affects of bullying through means of social media.  We used to have a neighbor who was a girl and attended school at a prestigious private establishment.  Her boyfriend took provocative photos of her when they were alone and decided to post them onto the internet.  Can you believe it?  Her own boyfriend.  She was bullied severely by other prep girls and it became so bad, her mother had to take her out of that school and place her into another.  When this didn’t help, the family moved to an entirely different town.  All because some clueless moron with no values decided to post pictures of her on the internet.   

Whenever I hear about a small child taking his/her life because they have been driven by bullies to do so, it breaks my heart.  And whenever I learn about someone who can’t live with their current situations and instead of using their talents to fix them, they drown themselves in alcohol instead… this shakes my soul.  I know how it feels to both be bullied or become a product of what other people and our darker, inner demons do to us.  But I also know that we are capable of CHANGING these situations.  There are lights inside of us which are begging to be turned on.  And no one or substance should ever have the permission to shut that light off for us.  We are in control of the destiny of our light and where its tendrils may reach out toward. 

There is a whole vast and epic world out there beyond the limitations of school walls.  We need to remind our children that those few years of adolescent schooling are just a small part of the rest of their lives.  After graduation, they become free birds... able to spread their fascinating wings and gravitate toward higher heights because of their individuality and talents.  We need to talk to our kids more and encourage them to be nice and accepting of others no matter how different they may seem.  This only takes a few moments our of our busy schedules and is well worth the long-lasting affects our wisdom will have on them. 

Have you ever been bullied before?  Do you know anyone who has been pushed around?  Was there ever a time when you used a substance and as a result, your talents and journey became limited?


  1. Bullying is a terrible thing! I have definitely been bullied as a child, teen, and an adult. There was a bully on my school bus who would pick on me every afternoon. I regretted having to take the bus home and when she wasn't there, I was relieved. In middle school I was bullied for being a "toothpick", the the clothes I wore, my shoes, for the color of my nail polish, for my eyebrows which I had over-plucked,a and for being shy. It seems I was bullied for every reason. And always by girls. As a young adult, I was bullied by my half-brother. He made my YA adult life a nightmare. As an adult I've been bullied by my own sisters. It seems we can never escape it.

    Great post!

  2. I'm so sorry for your experiences with being bullied, Chrys. I hope you understand how special and talented you are. No one should ever have the right to take any of your precious thoughts and positivity away from you.
    Isn't crazy how we are made fun of if we are skinny or too thin? Most people who are tall and thin grow up to be beautiful and statuesque. I just wish children would realize that these stages are phases and someday, people will truly appreciate their inner and outer beauty.
    Thanks for sharing, my amazing friend!

  3. I've never been the victim of or even witnessed bullying, except once in Elementary School when we had a mentally challenged boy named Tony in our class for a while. I made a point of talking to him and being kind, but being a nasty b***h to anyone who treated him badly. I'm fearless and intimidating and always protect the underdog. (Too bad I wasn't in your class.) Women get bullied as adults too, and often accept it. I find that hard to identify with.

    I think schools and law enforcement need to pick up the slack from lazy parents who don't bother to teach their kids respect, tolerance, and consideration these days. More sites should ban harassers and trolls. There should be zero tolerance for that kind of behavior.

    1. Well said, Lexa. I couldn't agree with you more. Parents should be instilling better values within the morality of their kids so they can be respectful toward others. And both school and law enforcement should be more involved in aggravated acts of assault and bullying. Technology is surpassing our means of controlling what our children are capable of doing nowadays. It's time for more people to get involved and work together to integrate and enforce zero tolerance, for sure!
      I wish you were in some of my classes back then! You seem like a fierce woman with a kind heart=)

  4. Gina, I was always so proud of you and your sisters, for being the kind and tolerant children that you were. Kind to all the poor underdogs and tolerant of all the ignorance that you ever had to face. I knew I did something right with your upbringing, when you came home crying because all the other kids were taunting the town bum, known as Jersey Day. you asked for some old blankets and clothes to give to him, not caring what anyone else thought. I truly wish that all parents could instill these good qualities in their children. Thank you for calling attention to this matter through your writing. Looking forward to the best bullying book ever you!!!

    1. Wow, I can't believe you remember Jersey Day! How sad that people poked fun at him and made his days of already living shamelessly on the streets even more unbearable. I can't thank you enough for teaching us to be courteous, kind and accepting of others; no matter who or what they were. In doing so, you helped to make this world a better place. I wouldn't trade my upbringing for the richest of positions... ever! We didn't have much but we had each other and the important family values which helped to construct the loving and spirited hearts we have today.

  5. I'm so sorry. No child should have to go through that.

    1. You're right, Sandra. No child should ever have to endure the ignorance and lacking of values from other kids. It's a sad world we live in today... but if we can instill teachings of respect, love and kindness, then we can establish empathy and better communication between our youth.

  6. I'm sorry to hear what you had to go through back then, Gina. Thank goodness for Savior. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious or reaching for what you want. (I often regret not reaching for the stars when I was young.) Another blogger friend also talked about anti-bullying this past week. She said there was a case in which a teenage boy, after being bullied relentlessly and sometimes with uncaring teachers looking by, decided to videotape (secretly on his phone) his ordeal in school. It was just one of those many times he was bullied. The principal charged the boy for violating that bully's privacy instead and punished the poor victim instead of helped him. We keep telling kids to approach adults for help but sometimes it's the adults who fail them the most.

    Bullying has certainly escalated through the digital medium. But we can't blame the technology, so we'd better use it to spread anti-bullying and more-kindness messages. Like your blog posts!

    1. Thank you, Claudine. And how sad is it when our children can't even confide in their own teachers and principals? Often times, we like to blame parents but there are other adults at fault here, too. This epidemic can only be helped when each one of us accepts ZERO tolerance. There should be no reason for kids to think it is okay to treat other children in such degrading and malicious manners. Teachers and principals, of all people, should know better and if they don't do anything to change the happenings in their school, they should be fired. There is nothing more worse than not being able to talk to an adult about a problem you are facing in school... absolutely unacceptable.
      You are right- we need to use technology to spread anti-bullying campaigns more often. I think social media is a great tool when it is being used correctly. If children and adolescents abuse this privilege, it should be taken away from them; period.
      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  7. It helps to look back and recognize the bullying for what it is. Recognition can help with both healing and prevention. Denial is what keeps cycles turning. Yet, what really resonates with me is how you relate your deep compassion to writing as an outlet for it. That really clicks and says something powerful about writing, truth and taking a stand.

    1. Writing is an extremely powerful tool because words have the ability to get our stories out there and help to change and move others. Music has the power to do this as well. I love when we use our art and passions to change the world and make it a better place; especially for our youth.
      Denial is an awful thing... and just as Claudine mentioned above, when we turn our heads away from bullies, we are just giving them more room to make the lives of others a living hell. Again, we need to engage in more positive means of discussion and help annihilate the lacking of empathy and sincerity.
      Thank you for sharing, Charli.

  8. I remember being bullied in elementary school because I was a younger and smaller than everyone else in my grade. It was tough. But like you, I made a friend who stood up for me, and then things started to change. I wish every child who is bullied could find that friend who is willing to help them out.

  9. It's really sad, isn't it? That many children are subject to being bullied and harassed simply because of the way others portray them... without even getting to know them first. But as soon as children and teens give others a chance and invite one another into conversations and activities, they seem to get along. Savior didn't like me because of her misconceptions about me. But once she got to know me, she and I became better friends than her previous kinships. Sometimes, I think we should round up those who are having problems with one another and have them work on certain projects or community service together. Then, they can really learn more about each other whether they like it or not!=)

  10. I was bullied in both of my schools. I think if the teachers were more aware and work on it at a younger age, Something could be done.

  11. Yes, I agree Lady Lilith. Sometimes, it's easier for them to turn their heads or simply ignore the situation. They may not feel comfortable dealing with problems when it comes to bullying. But in a way, aren't they becoming products of the bullies themselves? We simply cannot allow bullies to overtake our schools. Schools are a place of learning and teachers and principals should know better.
    I'm sorry that you, too, suffered from this epidemic. But I'm sure you teach your children about how painful it is to devalue another human being.
    Thanks for sharing.

  12. You certainly have hit a sensitive and powerful topic, Gina. I am sorry that you went through what you did when you were younger. I get it. I understand because I was bullied in late grade school and all through high school. My sin was doing well in school. That is, until it got too much and I started skipping school. Started drinking. Wanted to kill myself. I was 15. I started getting bad grades. The bullying never ceased (went to all boys Catholic uniformed school - that didn't help) and even when I tried telling the "counsellor" (he wasn't really a counsellor - just the old VP), that didn't do anything. Physical, emotional, verbal...I got the full

    And that was my calling card until I got sober. Victim. Sure I had a lot of crap go my way, but I used that to fuel my alcohol. Would I have become alcoholic without the abuse? Not sure - probably. Would have found another reason to keep at it, methinks. Or not. Not sure. But regardless, it took me time before I could start to see those guys with compassion for the wounded kids they were. Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. Do I get hotflashes of anger when I hear about kids cyber bullying or pushing teens to suicide? Damn straight I do. It's more a social justice type anger than an internalized anger. But I know that there is still a small part of me that is still hurt. More like a regret about what it could have been like to enjoy going to school for one day. Not for one day did I enjoy going to school. How sad! But things are worse these days with the cyber stuff - I agree with you.

    What I can do these days is try to teach my own children empathy and compassion. As was taught to you, and as you show in you words and in your actions (Jersey Day). To have them forgive as I was unable to. I had the most vivid and violent revenge fantasies in my head, Gina. The funny thing? That is how I soothed myself when going to bed. People counted sheep - I counted mutilated body parts. Screams from my past tormentors. I had extreme and nasty ways of "dealing" with those guys. Not anymore. Those fantasies have long dissipated since I was able to see where I was complicit in keeping my resentments alive and well, and learning to forgive...them and me.

    All we can do it exhibit forgiveness in others who may wound us as adults now. It's like a cosmic do over for me, in some ways. I know I will be challenged if and when my own boys start getting the gears from others. Hopefully the boys will be able to have tools and the gift of empathy.

    Very powerful post, Gina. We talk about this in general terms, but the day-to-day stuff is very hard when you're in it. But you have those like Saviour who helped. I had no Saviour until I found Saviour within - from His loving guidance.

    Thank you for sharing this.


  13. What an awful schooling experience you had, my friend. I'm so sorry to hear this. As mentioned above, even the people we look toward for help (teachers, principals, etc.) don't know what to do so they choose to ignore the problem instead. Unacceptable and cowardly... this needs to STOP.

    As we continue to grow and explore our sober paths, we also turn our heads back at times and embark upon the mistakes we made in the past. We learn how foolish we were to justify our behavior simply because we were victims. Family struggles, murdered fathers, biological ones who weren't around much and still could care less today (although I've learned to move on... forgive? Maybe someday...working on it)

    You are much stronger than I am in this department... to look at our past bullies with compassion because of their own mishandled situations and childhoods. But I firmly believe if we gather our children together and encourage them to respect and be kind and accepting of one another, then we have a chance to build a stronger future for them. To be honest, I think there should be a class focused on feelings and bullying which would coincide with health class or something. This problem has grown immensely over the past decade and it's time to take better precautionary steps to prevent further lives from being forsaken.

    To forgive is one of the greatest gestures and gifts of mankind. It is definitely something that is learned and taught through not only our own experiences, but the sober involvements and observations in others. Savior may have saved me from a few years of continued harassment, but now, I look to the Creator as my healer and one, true Father. Someone who will never leave me behind or forsake my love for anything else in the world. Someone who will support me and stand by me and never devalue me as a human being. And when I meet Him and my loved ones after I have left this incredible world, I hope I can share with them stories and tales about how we tried to stop the hate, the disconnection and lack of empathy certain people have toward others.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your beautiful thoughts, Paul. They are always looked upon with the highest of regard=)