An Open Letter to two girls I used to know.

Dear So-and-So and So-and-So:

Should you not be aware, today is Pink Shirt Day, a grass-roots anti-bullying initiative which has swept across Canada and has allowed bullied youths to feel and understand that they are not alone. Had such an initiative existed when I was in junior high and early high school, I’m not sure how comforted I would feel by the initiative but seeing others who care about marginalized tormented kids is a start to the battle against bullying, and say whatever you want about slacktivism and so on and so forth – it is an initiative I truly appreciated. During my teaching practicum, it was of great comfort to me as former bullied kid to see so many kids at my very large practicum high school wearing pink on that day, and the announcements reading out bullying facts every day that week. Great strides are being made to value each and every student, and that means a lot.

The question is, can we ever actually end bullying? I am of the (pessimistic) belief that where there are people, there are opportunities be mean to each other. Human beings cannot not do that. I would know. I’ve been a victim of human unkindness my whole life. Abuse, then bullying, then men, and then… and then the two of you. You can argue all you want or say whatever it is you want to say to justify your actions and claim you aren’t being mean to me, but the reality is, I feel like I am being crushed under an anvil of female cruelty and even when it is isn’t overt, it is there. It is a reminder of everyone who has ever rejected me or made me feel so, so tiny that I wasn’t just looking desperately up to people, but they were barely looking down on me. Nobody can hurt you like people you love. I love/loved both of you. And now I don’t know what to feel because this crushing numbness and lack of closure kill me on the inside and make it very, very difficult to move forward in life. I want to so badly and I don’t want this to undermine all of the good things I have going on, but it is hard, and that is the reality, although I wish so badly that it wasn’t.

To me, the only way to end bullying is through making peace. The question then is, how do we make peace? I tried, a few times and was met with nothing, really. Nothing, or passive aggressive and condescending comments like “I’m sorry you feel that way” and other injurious words and phrases that alleviate blame and induce frustration and don’t solve any problems. I have maintained for so long that I did nothing to deserve this. My crime was being vulnerable and this treatment was my punishment. I changed and grew up and did the best I could to get my life to move forward but in that process, I lost people who meant the world to me at one point, who I was inseparable with, and who I can’t shake. Because ending things like this is a reminder of both people who were mean to me, and memories that are now lost and gone forever.

You know what, though? My mom always used to say when I was little, “it takes two to make a fight.” And she’s right. All one person needs to do is walk away, not respond, unplug, and maintain composure. There are too many wars on words in the world and there are too many people trying to one-up and undermine each other. And looking back and reflectng, no. I did not ‘do’ anything directly to end this or make a concerted effort to make people feel badly. But at the same time, I am not perfect. And actions against me have to come from somewhere.

I confess to changing my life, becoming thin (or at the very least, ‘thinner’ than I was in my late teens and early twenties) and taking full advantage of the sudden attention I was getting from men. Maybe that process changed my value system, at least in the beginning. Maybe I wasn’t as nice as person because I didn’t need to feel as inadequate anymore (on the outside, at least; I always feel inadequate on the inside).

I also confess to being petty; in the moment, making petty and snide comments to combat and validate my own feelings of anger and frustration makes me feel good. Afterwards, it makes me feel childish and silly. I’m almost 30 years old and I can’t ignore or let go things that make me feel rotten on the inside without saying something unkind back. What kind of person am I, to allow myself and others to feel this way?

I admit that I’m not good at confrontation. I admit that I should have brought up my issues I was having with one or both of you a long, long time ago. I opted instead to let everything just sit and stew and fester until it all got out of hand. Words. I must remember to use them, having learned from this mistake. How is anyone supposed to know how I’m feeling if I don’t say anything? And how am I supposed to have a close, trusting relationship with someone if we don’t ever share our feelings? It all seemed so good on the outside. But there was so much hurt on the inside. The whole time.

I will admit too, that sometimes I felt satisfaction of one kind or another from feeling superior to either of you at certain intervals in our friendship. This comes from a long long history of being inadequate and insecure and full of problems that I never sought real help for. I’m sure that nowadays when you talk about me with scathing rage (don’t even deny it, I know you do) you talk about how ‘crazy’ I am and how irrational I am. And you’d be right. But it doesn’t come from erratic nothingness It comes from a world of hurt and doing anything I can, sane or not, to overcome that.

For everything I have just stated here, and everything I didn’t state that the two of you think about, gossip about, bring up in conversation with people I know, and people I don’t, I am sorry. I am so, so, so sorry. I screwed up. Because I am screwed up. But that’s not an excuse for disrespecting everything I loved and everything I built. I feel so foolish and stupid and childish and mean, and these are feelings I never wanted to feel, especially after living through so many people being mean to me in the past, and now. While I don’t think I deserve that based on how I’ve reacted, I don’t think you deserved my reactions either. And if we keep reacting to each other again and again and again, then we will always be hurt, and we will always be unresolved, and we will always be angry at each other. And if down the road in some place at some time, we all happen to be in the same room together again, what I don’t want is for us to still hate and resent each other, when there was a time we told each other everything and would have done anything under the sun to, and for each other. We’re all to blame. None of us can unplug. And I’m going to tell you that now, I am unplugging. I’m done. I am not going to contribute to making people feel badly anymore, nor am I going to react to others making me feel badly in a way that is cruel and unproductive.

I sit here confessing these things to you, and in a public forum as a strong and firm reminder of what bullying, smack-talk, gossip, hurt feelings and festering issues within a group of friends can do to people. How long-lasting the effects of this kind of hurt can be; how much yearning there is to return to a clean slate and erase it all and start over but knowing this is impossible; as a reminder that behind every bully and every victim of bullying, there is a story of pain and deep-seeded unresolved feelings that manifest themselves in ways that are ugly and bring out our worst selves. It is so important that I raise these concerns on Pink Shirt Day because sometimes looking into your grim future is the only way of changing your present. Don’t bully. Don’t react to bullying. Feel and discuss your feelings in safe spaces with people who are safe. Confess ugly feelings and allow yourself to reflect upon why and how they exist. And please, TALK.

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