Thank you to my bullies. Each and every one of you.
This has been something that has been resting heavily on my mind over the past few months. There is so much I want to dig into here, but lets start at the top. This is going to be a post about judgement, and about thinking about other people. More than anything, it is going to be a thank you, to each and every bully of mine. Bear with me. Being bullied was an incredibly defining part of my life, and has lead me to become who I am.
I need to warn you, that some things I will be discussing might be a bit uncomfortable for some people. But I made a commitment to write my truth, so that is what I will be doing. In no way, shape, or form do I claim to have been a perfect person – far from it. I made A LOT OF MISTAKES, and continue to do so, like we all do. But it is never a justification for cruelty.
Many people are surprised when I tell them I was bullied. And not just bullied a little – but bullied quite heavily throughout my schooling. Bullied physically, bullied emotionally, bullied in all the ways you can imagine – Have you ever had people come to your house in the dead of night and draw mean things on your bedroom window, while you slept? What about driving up to your family home, throwing an avocado through your door (which is glass, and obviously broke), laughing and screeching away at a high speed?
I’m not saying any of this for ‘woe is me, feel sorry for what I went through’, but to give you an indication. I remember being 12, and having my pants pulled down by one guy while another threw a tin of blue paint over me.
I know that I wasn’t your typical kid. I don’t know whether it was growing up in South Africa, and then changing to a whole new culture in New Zealand or what – But I was always myself. I AM A ‘WEIRD’ person, with a really kooky sense of humor that actually, I LOVE (now). when I was 8, and we moved overseas, I took all of these traits with me. And, having been accepted and loved for them in South Africa, it never occurred to me that people in New Zealand might not enjoy this ‘oddball’-ness (yes that is a word!). For the first few years, I was truly and unabashedly myself. I made lame jokes (which I still do!) wore ‘weird’ clothes, and broke out in 5 second dance parties any opportunity I could get. Anyway, I digress.
My earliest bully memory was my first day at Adventure School. My brother and I wore these really cool tracksuits. Mine was white, with dogs on, and I thought it was really fun. And, in South Africa, the ‘brand’ was a funky and ‘cool’ one. The top matched the bottoms. I remember sitting on my knees in class, where the kids were learning the 4X tables (Four ones are for, four twos are eight, four threes are twelve – are you getting this straight!?). I was bopping along to the song, enjoying myself, when a kid (I don’t remember who) asked me why I was wearing matching clothes. I don’t remember my reply, but I remember them all laughing at me.
Now, most people that went to primary and intermediate school (and a bit of college) with me, will remember my obsession with Harry Potter. My desk was covered with it, it was all I ever spoke about. Let me now tell you why.
When I was 13, my parents started the divorce process. My Dad moved to Auckland for ‘work’, and stayed there for about a year I think. We visited him every second weekend or so, but we didn’t know that they were actually separating. Before this, my parents fought. A lot. And I fought with them. Really ugly fights. A lot. Our home was a sad place for a while, filled with anger and aggression and negativity. My parents never brought my brother and I into it, but energy like that can be sensed by even the most spiritually deaf.
One day – I must have been about 11 – my brother came home with a picture of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. I think he needed it for a school project or something. I remember seeing this person, surrounded by magic and wands and mystical creatures, being completely immersed in this world of fantasy that was the complete opposite of what I was living at home and at school. By this point, I’d been accepted by the cool kids once or twice, only to be thrown out again in emotionless ways. A note on the desk, ‘We don’t want you to hang out with us at break anymore’, a passing, ‘Oh, actually, X has taken your part in our dance’, right through to being ignored point blank when I spoke to someone. Invited to sleepovers that didn’t exist, or invited only to turn up and find out (from a Mom) that the girls decided to go to someone else’s house far away and just forgot to tell me. The one or two people that were kind of my friends were so scared to show their friendship with me that they forbid me to speak to them in public, and they could only speak to me in the bathrooms or when the ‘cool kids’ weren’t around.
One of the favorite topics to bully me about were my clothes. For a special occasion, my Mom took me to HBK to choose a top. I was so, so excited as this was a ‘cool kid’ shop. First let me tell you that we weren’t rich or anything like that – My parents both worked really hard to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Big shopping trips, especially to ‘cool’ shops were not really a normal thing.
There was this gorgeous top that I thought was just the best thing EVER. It was furry, and orange. Yes, furry and orange. And it had a collar, but no sleeves. To me, it was AMAZING. I couldn’t wait to wear it, and especially to school. In my childish mind, I thought if I could wear something ‘cool’, I’d be accepted, and my life would be amazing forever after.
Er…. No. The top became the newest favorite thing to tease me about. It was done behind my back for a few weeks, with girls telling me how much they loved it, and building my ego only to laugh about it behind my back. Until someone actually told me this was happening, I wore the top several days a week, thinking it truly was making people like me again. Funny, how we think at such a young age… and what is important to us.
I had one ‘friend’ (not really sure what to call them?) who I was really on and off with. She was one of the cool kids, and she came over for a sleep over. I think I was about 11. Something happened that night while she thought I was sleeping, and it made me incredibly uncomfortable. At a young age like that, when you don’t really know what is going on in your internal world, things have quite an ability to scare you.
Come Monday, I was still feeling shell shocked and confused. So, I wrote a note to her and put it under her pencil case on her desk (I was banned from speaking to her in public). After break, she came back into the classroom with her popular friends, picked up my note and rolled her eyes, ‘Ugh, it’s from Jacqui’. The girls all demanded she read it, which she began doing, ‘I wasn’t asleep when you-‘. She stopped reading, and shoved the note into her pocket, glaring angrily at me (across the classroom). She ran to the teacher crying, asking him to speak with her. She told the popular girls loudly what a liar and a freak I was, and how it was actually me who did what I claimed she did to me.
Obviously, it wasn’t. But you can imagine the backlash of that. Suddenly, I went from being bullied, but not SO bad just yet, to becoming terrorized by the popular kids – and actually, anyone that wanted to. I became free meat for anyone to take their own dissatisfaction out on. On top of this, I was labelled a liar, which I was not. I think one of the most hurtful parts about that experience, was that the teacher didn’t even believe me. The girl had told him what she’d told everyone else – that I was lying. But you know what? I get it. And I don’t blame her one bit. More on that later.
Enter Harry Potter. A world where anything was possible, good conquered bad, love won over all. I was in a place physically in my life where I was shedding being a kid, and becoming a woman. I had no real friends at this stage. I hated going to school, knowing I would be teased, or shouted at, or be the butt of someone’s joke, have something thrown at me…. Whatever the kids felt like doing that day. So, Harry.
I became obsessed. It was my safe haven in an unstable world, and my place of safety. When I got home from school, I would run into my bedroom, into the little tepee I’d erected that was my comfort zone. Images of Hogwarts and Harry Potter was plastered onto the wall, the book ready and waiting for me on a pillow, earmarked to where I’d finished reading the day before. When I read the books, or watched the movies, reality fell away. The only place that existed was a place where magic was real. Harry, Ron and Hermione felt closer to me than many real life people did. It was the only place where I was not hurt by other people. And yet, it was something that also caused me so much heart ache, teasing, and deep hurt.
I mentioned earlier that someone – or a group of people – desecrated the window of my bedroom. I think I was around 12 – it must have been before college. I don’t actually really remember, maybe the first year of college. I woke up, sun streaming into my room, and saw black permanent marker scrawled all over my window. Of my family home. The kindest comments were ‘Harry Potter Freak’ and ‘Fuck Harry Potter’, ‘Harry Potter bitch’….
That really hurt me, not because of what was said – but because my parents had to see it. This was followed by someone – again, or a group of people – throwing an avocado right through the glass of our front door, totally smashing it to pieces.
My parents, my brother and I were already going through so much. The ugliness and the negativity that this brought into our already unstable family home shook me. It made me begin to question if I was actually all of these things that people had said I was. A freak, a weirdo, fucked up, not right in the head, lame, not funny, just plain odd. This then started a dark spiral.
I started high school with this frame of mind. I became empty, and whatever I wanted to do – I would do the opposite. I’d come to believe that I was a bad person, something was wrong with me. Not because I chose not to love myself – but because for many years, people I saw everyday told me I shouldn’t. And because we are who we surround ourselves with, this is what I started believing. So, instead of taking those years to ‘find myself’, I became a chameleon. I would change myself depending on who I was around, and what I thought they needed from me – girls and guys. I just did whatever people told me to, and in honesty it was all a blur to me. Who I was, who people wanted me to be… I didn’t really care. This of course resulted in some really bad decisions on my part, based on a culmination of not knowing who I was and what was important to me, and seeking approval from exterior sources (I feel like that is a whole new blog post) because of things I was working through with my Dad having left the country – which to me, validated my belief that I wasn’t good enough.
Hiding in classrooms underneath desks while people hunted – literally hunted – around the school for me. Seeking solace in people I thought were friends at the time, but who instead ran to the group of people looking for me, telling them where I was so they could earn points.
I don’t blame you, bullies.
I really, truly don’t.
Instead, I send you love. I send you all the love that the world has to offer, and I understand your reasons and your mind set. I forgive every one of you.
Infact. I am grateful for you. I can easily regret the dark times you added to, but I don’t. I could easily get angry and hold hate for you in my heart. But I choose not to.
Do you know why?
Because we are all going through our own shit, and believe me – I get that on a deep level. We are all only trying to do what we feel at the time is right. Yes, you destroyed me for a while. But you didn’t do it to purely be a dick to me. You did it because you wanted to fit in too, because you were just as lost as me. You did it because you wanted to feel superior to someone, because you were made to feel little at home or at some other point in your life. And I get that. One of my worst bullies committed suicide a few years back because they were in so much pain of their own, and another has come to me recently apologizing and feeling ashamed of their behavior.
Almost every person in my life says to me at one point or another, ‘ You are always SO happy/You always make me happy/you have this ability to make everything so positive’. And right now, I want to peel back the layers and share with you WHY I do this.
Because of my bullies.
Without them, and without the years of torment, I would not know what it is like to hurt on such a deep level.
Without them, I wouldn’t know what it means to feel worthless.
Without them, I wouldn’t know what it is like to not know myself.
Without them, I wouldn’t know pain.
And, most importantly….
Without them, I wouldn’t understand the absolute power we have over other people. Our actions – our words, what we do – can be directly responsible for how we make someone else feel.
We have the power that can destroy, break, hurt, hate.
Or we have the power that can love.
And we are responsible for that. We are deeply responsible for how we make someone else feel. Do you want your energy to be the reason someone feels shit? Or the reason someone smiles?
THAT is why, it is my mission, always, to make you smile. THAT is why I can’t go one second without winking at a stranger, or telling a stranger that they look beautiful (if I genuinely think they do), or asking the cashier at the shop how they are, and actually genuinely caring about their answer. We never, ever know what other people are going through.
I know what power other people can have over how we feel about ourselves and our lives. That is why I choose, and always will choose, to only contribute my energy in a way that will make you feel good.
Because I know what it is to hurt at the hands of others.