Today is Pink Shirt Day in Canada, raising awareness about bullying in schools, the workplace and over the internet. It was started by two cool, brave boys in Nova Scotia who retaliated against a bully who picked on a kid for wearing a pink shirt by buying and distributing 50 pink shirts to other kids in the school. Just awesome.
There are always stories about bullying in the news and way too often it’s a tragic report about how a child took their own life because of how they were being treated. When I read these stories my heart aches for these kids. And I relate to them, because I was bullied.
It started early, when I was about 8. Three neighborhood girls Jana, Jill and Jennifer, made teasing me their favourite after-school activity. Games of hide-and-go-seek that would end with me alone and the girls gone to giggle in one of their bedrooms I was never invited to play in. When I would go home they would come to my door, sweet as pie to my Mom – Can Allison come out? I never told my Mom, just went back outside and counted-down the minutes until dinner. (Coincidentally, this also happens to the main character in Margaret Atwood’s incredible novel Cat’s Eye and when I read it, years later, I cried and cried).
My Mom had me change schools for grade six but by the time I got to Junior High, my “new kid” status was worn off and the friends I had made went on being friends without me. It didn’t help that I was a bit socially awkward (who isn’t at 13!?) and overweight. I remember a couple of girls I did hang out with would ditch me constantly. Would literally run away from me, laughing. You can’t come was something I heard a lot. One night, they called me and said that they weren’t my friends and would never be. I remember looking into the mirror for a long time after that conversation and considering how to make all the anger and hurt I was feeling stop. Obviously “the way out” crossed my mind, but the anger I also felt at these horrible girls pushed me past those thoughts.
The sad part is I didn’t even have it as bad as some of the other kids. And when I got to high school, things got a lot better: I made real friends and gained self-confidence. I even got the satisfaction of having those cruel girls from eighth grade ask me to hang out with them again. (I passed)
I wanted to share this story here not because I want you to feel sorry for me, but because for so long I felt ashamed of having been bullied. I would lie about my time in JR High to my closest friends and my parents never knew the full extent of what I dealt with. There was this lingering fear that, if my friends knew that I used to be a “loser”, they wouldn’t want to be friends with me. What’s more ridiculous than that thought was how long it took me to get past it. Years and years and years. Such a small fraction of my life story but it left its mark on me for too long.
Still, if I had to go back and relive everything, I would. Because dealing with bullies made me a stronger friend and a more compassionate person. Rumi said: The wound is the place where the light enters you. There will always be bullies. There aren’t enough pink shirts on the planet to stop people from doing hateful things and using hateful words. But I guess my message is Hold On – because things will get better (that’s science) and you will one day look back on all that shit and be proud that it’s part of your life story. And a better person for it.
Oh, and also that kids between 8-15 are inherently assholes.
Thanks for hearing me out guys. XO