This morning, like every other weekday morning right after I get up, I turned on the news. I know it’s inevitable that I will hear about violence, about death, about sadness. I expect it. And yet, hearing about Daniel Fitzpatrick, a thirteen year old boy from Staten Island who was bullied and as a result, took his own life, was like a painful punch to the gut.
It’s not the first story of a bullied young teen taking their own life, and sadly, it probably won’t be the last. I wish I could say that it was. That people will wake up tomorrow with a renewed sense of kindness, empathy and sympathy. I wish I could feel confident that kids will go to school and not be humiliated by their peers. But I know that won’t happen. And so all I can do is sit here and hope that my words will touch somebody, possibly someone on the brink of giving it all up, and they will take comfort from them. Hope that they will hold on a little longer.
In many ways, I was lucky. I don’t know what kept me from going over the precipice, but I am still here. I remember – although it’s a little foggy – either walking into chorus or out of chorus and being stopped by my teacher. “Your friend tells me you’re having a hard time with some of the girls in this class.” I was stunned. Not because my friend told my teacher, but because finally, here was someone – an adult – taking notice and offering me an olive branch, a way to receive reprieve for the next 40 or so minutes. He changed my seat so that I would no longer be near the girls who were making my twelve year old life a living misery.
It didn’t end the bullying entirely, but it helped.
It’s hard for me to believe that this was nineteen years ago, and it’s even harder for me to believe that it has stayed with me for so long. But then I think, well, what did you expect, Alyssa? That one of the worst years of your life would disappear entirely from your memory bank?
I guess I did. Now, it doesn’t affect me the same way it did nineteen years ago and with good reason. I was a child then. I’m not a child anymore. And that’s why I can write this.
A letter to my younger self.
So, without further adieu:
I would tell myself that one day, you’ll wake up and be out of the confines of school. One day you’ll walk by this building that once seemed so huge and insurmountable and it won’t feel that way anymore.
I would tell myself that it’s okay to let others know what is happening to you. It’s not your fault.
I would tell myself that bullies come in all shapes and sizes and that even someone who was the victim can become the perpetrator. Which is why I would also tell myself this: Forgive.
Forgive those who have hurt you and not for them, but for you. Carrying around all of that anger is unnecessary baggage, and you’ve already got enough on your plate.
Accept an apology if one is given, but don’t expect one. Some people will not be able to grasp how deeply their actions have hurt you. And, unfortunately, some people just won’t care.
Talk about your experience to anyone who will listen
Let yourself heal.
Try not to judge others as others have judged you.
If you see someone in pain, ask if they are okay. The answer may be no and there may be very little you can do to alleviate their situation, but perhaps you asking is all they need.
And finally, never ever define yourself by other people’s standards. Just because they call you weird or dumb or ugly doesn’t mean you are any of those things.