A Letter To My Bullies

This is a letter I’ve been wanting to write for years, but was too afraid to. Afraid that by writing it, it would give power to other people. Afraid that by forgiving, or even acknowledging, the acts of others would mean that what they did was OK. Let me be clear: it is NOT OK. It will never be OK. But I’m done letting it affect my life. I’m done letting people walk all over me out of fear I will “rock the boat” too much. I want to rock the freaking boat. I want to speak my mind. I want to stand up for myself. If that all makes me a bitch, then so be it. I am done being used. Taken advantage of. Treated like a piece of garbage left by the curb and picked up only when someone needs it. There are certain people I want to read this, but I am pretty sure none of them will. Heck, I don’t even know if more than one person even reads any of my blogs. I’m not going to let that stop me, though. This is a letter to my bullies—from grade school all the way up until adulthood.

Dear bullies, young and old:
What you did to me was heinous. What you thought was innocent kid-stuff, wasn’t. The name calling, the spitting in my hair and in my face, punching, stabbing, drawing blood, kicking me down a flight of stairs, throwing books at my head, shoving my face in a snow bank and holding it there so I couldn’t breathe, throwing basketballs at my head, telling me I’m worthless, ugly, annoying, stupid, too this-too-that, not enough of this, not enough of that, too quiet, too loud, telling me my dreams are pointless because I’m never going to amount to anything, excluding me from everything, telling me I don’t belong and never will, acting like I am not even in the room with you, calling me a bitch behind my back when you didn’t think I could hear you, un-inviting me to things, telling me I don’t have the right to cry, I don’t have the right to be angry, sad, hurt, to feel, telling me to just get over it, telling me to just be like everyone else…I’m sorry you felt so badly about yourself to make someone else feel smaller. I’m sorry you hated yourself that much that you had to hurt someone else. I’m sorry you had to drag others down with you. I’m sorry you felt the need to hurt someone so badly, just so you could feel better about yourself. Did it help? Did you feel better? Did your heart heal from that? Did your ego get bigger? Did it make your quality of life better? Did it improve your sleep and everyday life? Who made you so angry that this is how you decided to live your life? What happened to you that was so bad? I’m sorry that bullying me didn’t make you feel better. I’m sorry that by trying to kill me, you ended up hurting yourself. I’m sorry you felt like the only way to get through life was to try to hurt me. I’m sorry your life was so bad that you had to be so mean to me. I’m sorry that as an adult, you still can’t grow up and you still feel the need to hurt me to make yourself feel better. I’m sorry your life didn’t turn out the way you wanted, so you have to turn to hurting others just to make it through. I’m sorry you hated yourself that much. I’m sorry I let it bother me as much as it did. I’m sorry I gave you power over my life and my emotions. I’m sorry I let all of the sink in and believe it. I’m sorry I ever gave you the time of day. I’m sorry I let it keep happening day after day without standing up for myself. I’m sorry I let you get away with it for as long as I did. But that’s all changing now. I met some people. Some people who told me that I am worthy, that I deserve to be happy and have the right to feel how I feel. People that told me my anxiety that was caused by all of your inner pain, doesn’t have to be how I live my life anymore. People that told me I’m beautiful, smart, whole, funny, fun to be around—and who supported me and those dreams you said were pointless. People who liked that I wasn’t like everyone else, because being different is beautiful. Eventually, your negativity stopped bothering me. Instead, it gave me strength. I had to learn how to be strong and take care of myself. I learned how to speak my mind and to stop letting others treat me like dirt. I learned my worth and let me tell you something—my worth is damn expensive, and if you can’t afford it, then get out. I know I will never get an apology from you, but you know what? I don’t care anymore. I don’t need your words anymore. I spent too much time listening to them replay in my mind for years, and I’m done. I hope life has improved for you. I hope you learned to grow up. And if you have kids of your own, I hope you teach them to be the opposite of what you were. You may have thought your negativity was going to tear me down for good, but in reality, it gave me strength, built me up and I am proud of the woman I am. I love who I am. And I hope one day, you will love who you are and you will forgive yourself for what you’ve done. I really, truly do. Everyone deserves to be free from pain. And I am now free from you. You have no place in my life anymore.

Xoxo.

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Friends One Day. Bullies The Next.

Who loves a new school year?! Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on? Yeah, I hated the first day of school. Actually, I hated every day of school…but that’s normal, right? It was fourth grade. I still to this day, don’t know what happened. I went from being liked in school, to suddenly being hated and bullied. Literally, overnight. Suddenly, it went from having friends, to those same “friends” whispering behind my back, calling me names, telling me I’m a piece of trash and a loser. Lunch time was always gross for me. One day, I grabbed my lunch and went to sit in the same place I always sat, which was with my friends. Well, I wasn’t welcome there anymore. I was told to go sit at the other table on the other side of the room. I looked at it. It was empty. They said, “no one wants to be around you. So, just go sit by yourself.” When I started to walk away, confused, the entire lunch room erupted in laughter, whispers and stares. My self-esteem shot down so low that I didn’t even eat lunch for about a week, because I didn’t want to get laughed at. I didn’t want people to see me feeling sad and to give them pleasure in my pain. I eventually got written up because I wasn’t eating. Me. I got in trouble for what they were doing to me. They would throw food at me. Laugh. Spill milk on my chair so I couldn’t sit. And yet, I got in trouble for their actions. And (like I’ve said in other posts), I refused to let them see me cry.

After lunch came recess, which was even worse than lunch. At least at lunch, you don’t necessarily have to socialize (well, I just plain couldn’t). Recess, though, was different. I tried joining my little group that I had always joined. Instead, they were throwing kick balls at my head. Shoving my face in snow banks. Shoving me up against the gate by my throat and pinning me there. When we’d get in line to go back into school, they would spit in my hair. I remember one girl said behind me “why don’t you just go home and stay there forever and never come back.” When I didn’t turn around or answer, she got more aggressive saying “aren’t you going to answer? Are you too chicken? I hope you’re going to cry.” At that very moment, a teacher—A TEACHER—heard and saw everything, and stared at me with a look of disgust on her face, but smiled at the girl who was treating me like that. What message did that send to a child? That I should be ashamed of who I am. That I should blame myself for the actions of others. That I’m inadequate. I’m not good enough. Something’s wrong with me. I’m not normal. I can’t show emotion. I can’t speak up. I have to try harder to be better than who I am. I have to keep my mouth shut. I have to be someone other than who I am just to not get bullied. I have to just learn to deal with it. Get over it. And guess what? That all carried over into other areas of my life as a child, and even as an adult. It wasn’t just happening in fourth grade; it happened for many years after that. And it escalated. Big time.

People seem to think that what happens when your younger years, stays there. You move on, you get over it. For some people, yes, that is the case. For others, it’s not that easy. I still don’t like walking into places, especially places I’ve never been before, by myself for fear of being ridiculed if I don’t know where I’m going. I still get uneasy about being in a group of people, not knowing how to act because I’m scared that they will be nice to me one minute, and the next, turn on me. (Yep, good ole trust issues.) If I start to let my guard down and get hurt, I go back into my shell and retreat. That sends me all those messages again that I learned from childhood. When you go years listening to people tell you to “just get over it,” and “don’t say anything. You don’t want to cause problems,” you start to shut down in so many ways. I was basically told that standing up for myself was a bad thing, because that would make things worse for the other person and those around them. But, what about me? Who’s helping and taking care of me? No one. I wasn’t even allowed to take care of myself! I was the one who kept getting hurt, and why is that OK? It’s not. It’s never OK. You are allowed to speak up. Say how you feel. Get angry. Cry. Show emotion. Be strong. However you feel, feel it. Don’t let anyone tell you how you’re supposed to feel. Learn to trust yourself, and listen to that voice inside of you.

As you start this school year (many of you already have), just remember to be kind. If there is a new kid, include him or her. Make someone feel wanted, special, included. If you see bullying, be brave and say something. Tell someone. Take action. Bystanders are bullies, too. I say this all of the time, but I’ll say it again: your words and actions have the power to make or break someone. Which one do you want to take responsibility for?

Wake. Up. People.

How many people have to die to suicide in order for us to do something about it? Change the way we treat others? Change the way we think? Change the way we talk about someone else? When I first moved to Nashville and encountered a lot of not-so-nice people, my Mom made me promise to myself that no matter what I went through, or how mean other people were to me, to never let that change who I am. To never let it harden my heart and become like them. To always rise above it and stay who I am. It’s hard sometimes, trust me. When someone is talking about you, undermining you, laughing at you, treating you like dirt—it’s hard not to want to “get back” at them. It’s hard to stay soft and not fight back. But, there’s a difference between fighting back and being hard. Being hard means hardening your heart and closing yourself off to everyone…even the good people. I have been both soft and hard, and let me tell you something—being soft is so much nicer. It may not always be easier, but it’s so much more calm and peaceful. There’s something about being hard that made me feel gross. Lost. Crabby. Insensitive. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to be a doormat and let everyone walk all over you. No. What I’m saying is stand up for yourself, speak your truth, be exactly who you are (even if that’s a hot mess—which I can totally be), but keep your heart soft. Keep your smile warm. Your thoughts peaceful. Recognize who truly wants you around for YOU, and not for using you. And be kind. One of my favorite quotes is: “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” It’s true; every single one of us has a battle we’re fighting—big or small. We all have one. There isn’t one person on this Earth that isn’t. Stop judging someone you don’t even know. And even when you do get to know them, stop judging them! We live in a society where there are TV shows promoting gossiping (I’m guilty of loving one of them, I’ll admit), getting revenge, changing your body—heck, even swapping families for a while. When there is a wholesome show out there based on family, it’s so refreshing and feels so good. Best dressed. Worst dressed. Biggest success. Biggest failure. What’s the point?! Seriously…it may give us something to talk about for a while, but what message does that send kids? Bullying happens in many different forms, and from many different sources/reasons. But, some of it happens because of what kids witness adults doing and saying. Sometimes I’ve seen worse bullying between adults than between children. When is it going to stop? Will it ever stop? Honestly, I’m tired of hearing about another person taking their own life due to bullying. It makes me sick. It’s not “cool” to treat someone so horribly that they end their life. A HUMAN LIFE. Can you fathom that? An actual human being—gone. They will never go to prom. Have their first boyfriend/girlfriend. First heartbreak. Graduation. No more birthdays. No more holidays. Dreams will never be accomplished. They will never get to plan their wedding with their Mom. Instead, their Mom will be planning their funeral and blaming herself for not seeing the signs and helping. She will spend years in counseling trying to learn how to forgive herself. Their family will grieve for years. They lost a son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, grandson, granddaughter, niece, nephew, friend. The person taking their own life doesn’t only affect them, it affects every single person around them. For the rest of their lives. I ask this question a lot, but I’m going to ask it again. You always have a choice—would you rather make someone’s day with a smile and/or kind word? Or would you rather break someone’s day with a nasty word? It’s always your choice. A nasty word could be their final straw. A smile could save their life. Which one would you rather be responsible for? Think about it. Talk about it. Maybe it will help to encourage you to be kind. Thanks for listening, friends.

Raw Emotions

Hey friends. This blog entry is going to be a little bit of a different one. It’s raw emotions and things that I’ve kept bottled up for years, and I figure if this blog can (hopefully) help someone else, maybe it can help me, too. Because sometimes I get tired. Tired of trying. Tired of fighting to be heard. Tired of fighting to be taken seriously. Tired of trying to belong. Tired of speaking, but no one listening. Tired of crying. Of feeling overwhelmed. Depressed. Anxious. Alone. Afraid. Asking for help but not getting it. Trying to be strong, but wanting to fall down. Tired of apologizing for things that aren’t my fault (which I’ve totally stopped doing, btw). Tired of being told how I should live my life. I’m just tired. And you know what? That’s OK. We all get tired every once in a while. Sometimes we just finally realize that enough is enough, and whatever we’re going through, we can’t take it anymore. While it sucks (totally sucks), it can actually be a blessing in disguise. Maybe there’s a silver lining somewhere in there. Our body’s way of telling us, ‘hey, this situation isn’t healthy. Let’s find a way out of this. But first, you will have to go through some pain and raw emotions.’ That’s not say that I still don’t feel all of those things listed above, because I sure do. So much so that I sleep more than normal. Don’t really have much of an appetite. Cry myself to sleep more than I want to. People always say to just fight it…fake it till you make it. I don’t want to fake it. I want to face it, head-on, because that’s the only way to really get through it and grow, in my opinion. As much as I wish it wasn’t happening, and I wasn’t having these feelings, I’d rather deal with them now, than 5 years down the road when they will surface again.

I’ve noticed that when I start to feel like this, it’s (for the most part) because of two reasons. One, not spending enough time with myself to process and just be. I’m an introvert, with anxiety, and I know that I need to spend time alone in order to recharge my batteries and reconnect with myself. But, sometimes I feel guilty about it, or I really want to spend time with this person, or that person…and then I put myself last. Two, not being connected with my faith. I’m a believer, I try to go to church as often as I can, I read devotionals, but when I lack in this area, it shows. This also goes hand-in-hand with spending time with myself, to not only connect with myself, but also to reconnect with God. Obviously there are other things that come into play when I feel this tired. I’m also the gypsy type. I like to take adventures, explore, move from here to there, but I also crave structure, plans and peace. We are all different, but that’s the fun part, right? If we were all the same, what a boring world this would be.

After years and years (starting back in the fourth grade) of being told I’m worthless, ugly, of fighting to be heard and seen, fighting to be taken seriously (among other things), has finally taken its toll. I’ve finally reached the point where I either face this once and for all, or spend the next 20+ years feeing this way…and that’s just not an option for me anymore! I’m doing what I should have done years ago and putting myself first. I can’t expect anyone to do this for me, so here I am, taking a stand, for myself!

So, this blog was more like a journal entry than anything else, but it helped me. If it helped you, then yay! Stand up for what YOU want, what YOU believe in; which hopefully means–YOU.
Xoxo,
Aly

Dear Younger Me

Hey friends! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve spent the last few months working on this blog. Deleting, typing, deleting, typing. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to divulge, so I took a break. The little girl is still reaching out for me. I can see her, plain as day, standing in the hallway of my school, with her arms reached out to me, begging for my help. So, I wrote a letter to her. In writing this, I hope that it helps illustrate that it’s OK to feel how you feel. And, it gets better. It always gets better, and you don’t have to put up with pain.

Dear younger me,

It’s OK. Not that you are being hurt both physically and emotionally, but that you feel the way you feel. Don’t try to cover it up or hide it from yourself or those who care about you. They are there to help you. Things will get better, I promise. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but the pain you are going through, is going to help you in the future. Take a minute to breathe. Cry if you want to. It’s OK. You are allowed to feel hurt, betrayed, disgusted, and angry, shame, guilt—whatever you feel, don’t ever try to feel bad about it. These kids that tell you that you are worthless, ugly, disgusting, a piece of garbage, wasted space are lies. Happy people don’t hurt other people. So, when they are hurting you, they are themselves hurting. No, that doesn’t make it OK and, no, it doesn’t mean that’s an excuse. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right to feel sad. You had books thrown at your head. Your face shoved in a snow bank. Uninvited to a lot of things. Beat up. Shoved out of the bus. Had your crutches tampered with so when you went down the flight of stairs, they broke and you fell. You were stabbed in the knee and had blood running down your leg and YOU were blamed for it. You had to clean it up yourself, in front of the whole class. All while trying to hold back tears or not show pain, because you promised yourself you would never let them see you cry. You were so strong. I know you think you were weak back then, but my goodness…you were such a strong girl. You never asked for anyone’s help. YOU got YOURSELF through it. I don’t know how you did it, to be honest. How you could go through that pain at school, and yet still go home and pretend like nothing happened? I really love that you turned to music as your escape. You created a world of your own, where you did have friends, and you had people to help you. You wrote your own music. You couldn’t wait to get home from school to listen to music and write more. I am so proud of you. You never turned to anger to get back at those kids. I know for many years, you thought you should have stood up for yourself more, but you got through it with grace. I am so sorry it took me so long to realize that. Maybe I wouldn’t have developed anxiety, or fallen for the wrong guys. Maybe I wouldn’t have allowed myself to get used, hurt, betrayed, lied to, and cheated on, later on in life. But you know what? It’s OK. I am sorry I abandoned you and never dealt with my pain until now. I am sorry I not only let others bully me in my adulthood, but that I bullied myself. “I’m not good enough to follow my dreams. I don’t deserve that. Someone else is better at it than I am.” But, I still chased them and realized that I am better than that. I chased something for years that wasn’t right for me—something that I wanted, but realized I was better than it. But, together we did it and we fought the odds, didn’t care about the naysayers. Little girl, you and I are fighters. We may get overwhelmed at times, scared, thinking there’s no way we can handle this—but we do. Every time. We survive and come out stronger than ever. We don’t settle anymore. When someone bullies, excludes, talks down to us, disrespects us—we fight back. Not with words, but with our faith. We know that we can’t have that in our lives anymore, we deserve better. I am going to surround you with positive, uplifting and encouraging people who will honor you, not shame you or make you feel bad for being who you are. If someone loves you, they will love everything about you and will never speak a bad word about you or other women. You deserve the world, because you fought so hard to be a part of it and make your mark on it. You will have friends and family who will betray you, bully you. But you have a voice now and you need to start using it. It’s time you put yourself first, even though it’s hard and uncomfortable to do, it’s necessary. You have to take care of yourself, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. Love yourself. Give yourself some grace and most of all forgiveness. You didn’t deserve to be treated the way you were in school and after. There was nothing wrong with you then, and there’s nothing wrong with you now. You are you. Be proud of that. I know I am. If people can’t see your worth, then as cliché as it sounds—that’s their loss. I would rather you have one honest, loyal, honoring person in your life, than a hundred people who talk about you behind your back as though you are something that can be discarded when they are through with you. You once made a promise to yourself that you would stay true to yourself, your art and that you would rather be living in a run-down shack for the rest of your life, than to sell yourself short and live in a mansion. Stick to that. Don’t back down. You and I are a team, and I’m not letting you down anymore. I’m here for you and you have my support, forgiveness and undying love. From now on, I am going to build you up, and speak love. I’m here for you and you’re not going it alone anymore. We’re in this together. Xoxo.

-Aly

Stop Being a Bystander!

by·stand·er
noun
  1. a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.

You see someone getting shoved down. A girl who is standing by herself with five other girls behind her calling her names. A family member who is being shunned and the subject of snobby looks.A boy standing in the corner of the playground because no one picked him to play kickball. Where are you? You’re there, you see it all happen, but you don’t know what to do. So, you do nothing. You think, “it’s not my battle. This is between them. If I get involved, then they will attack me and right now, I have a good relationship with them. I don’t want to ruin that.” You are the bystander. By you seeing and hearing these things happen, you are already apart of it. You now have a choice. Do you want to stand there, do nothing and encourage this behavior? Or do you want to potentially save someone’s life? I know what you’re thinking—“I’m not encouraging anything by not doing anything.” Oh, but yes you are. By not stopping it, you are encouraging it to continue.

No one necessarily wants to be involved in a situation like this, but when you are, you have step up. Whether it’s a classmate, a friend, a stranger, a family member…you have the obligation to help. We all do. Think if the role was reversed and you were the one being bullied. Your friend knew it was happening, and yet did nothing. Ignored it. Pretended it wasn’t happening. Told you that you were overreacting. Told you to just get over it and let it go. How would you feel? I know how I felt when it would happen to me–pretty worthless. You’re supposed to care about me, and yet when I needed you the most, you let me down. That’s not easily forgotten or something that is easy to just “get over”. Think this doesn’t create trust issues? You’re wrong. It does.

When you do nothing about it, you might as well be the bully. You are just as guilty and just as much to blame. It shouldn’t matter if you have a good relationship with the person(s) doing the bullying…if they are hurting someone else physically or emotionally, you need to step up and help. By not helping, you run the risk of hurting that person even more than those actually bullying. Why? Just like I stated above–you are supposed to care about me, and yet you did nothing to help me. That tells me you don’t care as much as you claim and you are only protecting yourself. And while you should protect yourself, you have an obligation to help others in times of need. I expect to be hurt by these bullies, but not by you.

You have a choice: you can look the other way and pretend that nothing is happening and hurt them even more to the point where they might even take their own life. Or, you can step in and help and potentially save a life. Which would you rather be responsible for? There are no excuses for not helping. If you truly care about someone, you should do whatever it takes to put an end to this behavior.

It’s A Wonderful Life

Since I was little, a Christmas tradition has always been to watch the classic holiday movie It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m a sucker for old black-and-white movies, but this one has such a sweet feeling to it. The first year I lived away from home and was getting all of my presents wrapped up, packed and ready to travel the 1,000 mile trip, I had this movie playing. It was such a warm feeling because it reminded me of home and I couldn’t wait to celebrate. It’s also a movie I often reference when I hear people talking about how the world would be a better place if they weren’t in it. If you have seen the movie, then you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t, then let me give you a brief synopsis.

George Bailey was a full energy, I-want-to-see-the-world kind of guy. He had plans of traveling to far away places, doing great things in the world. He falls in love with Mary and as they’re about to jet off on a grand adventure, something happens. George makes a decision that put a damper on those plans. They stay, have a family and never really got to take that grand adventure. For years, he can’t shake the “what if” feeling. “What if we had gone. Where would we be now?” He sinks into a depression. Starts detaching from everyone, and got the idea that the world would be a better place if he was no longer in it. He thought everyone would be better off. Well, along comes Clarence, George’s angel. He allows George to see exactly what would happen to his family if he really did end his own life. He sees his wife depressed, alone, sad, scared and wanting to die. He sees his Mom and Dad not knowing who he is, because, well…he never existed. No one knows him. No one was blessed with his ideas, energy. His old boss that George helped save his life, well, he was dead because George was not there to save him. His kids did not exist. The town was a dark, dreary place without him in it.
Then Clarence brought him back to reality and finally George saw the error of his ways. One of my favorite lines of the movie was when Clarence told George: “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

Friends, your life affects everyone around you, whether you know it or not. Think of what an awful hole that would leave. Keep believing in yourself, and I promise you one day, you are going to do incredible things. It will get better, I promise. Just rent this movie if you lose hope. It will restore it 🙂

Xoxo,
Aly