Life in the Fast Lane


It Gets Better

By 11:05 AM , , , , , , ,

Once upon a time, I was a quiet, naïve, shy, and nice little schoolgirl. When I say nice, it's not because I was angel. It's because, back then, I didn't know how to say no. I was a people-pleaser and went out of my way to do things for people, even at the expense of my own grades.

In the third grade, I remember clearly that there was a particular Science project wherein I did everything. And it was supposed to be a group project. My mom was so mad because I stayed up the night before assembling pages upon pages of reports, cutting out photos from magazines, researching, etc. And when the teacher returned the work, giving us a not-so-high grade, a groupmate of mine complained. I remember coming home crying, feeling as if I was outnumbered and abused. My mom went to the teacher the next day to tell her that I did all the work and the teacher gave me extra points; my groupmates retained that not-so-stellar grade.

It was the same in high school and college. Though I became more vocal through the years, I still assumed the responsibility of others. I used to think that I'd rather do all the work than see my grades suffer on account of my irresponsible classmates. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to talk to them about it and to exclude their names from those projects I worked on. Thus, they enjoyed the fruits of my labor: usually those meant pretty high grades.

I also experienced being "stepped on" in other ways. Friends would make plans with other friends, forgetting to invite me. When I'd ask them why I wasn't invited, they would tell me, "You're not close to these people anyway."

It was very easy to make fun of me — my froggy voice that would slowly climb to 177,906 decibels whenever I'd get nervous, the awkward jock swag I used to have (since I was a competitive swimmer) — in my presence. I would laugh on the outside, but inside, I'd be depressed. Later on, when I had the opportunity to do so, I'd talk to these friends of mine about how I felt; they never realized that they hurt me the way they did. They were sincerely sorry and things went swimmingly after that.

After some time, I came to realize what this all meant. At the time, however, I had no idea what was happening. Like a little martyr, I just accepted that this was my life. I was too nice, too defenseless, even though I was taller and stronger than most of my peers.

I may not have been pushed around physically. My head may not have been dunked inside a toilet bowl. I wasn't given any derogatory nickname. I was sad, yes, but I may not have reached the point of wanting to slash myself or run away.

However, I can genuinely say that I experienced this: I did experience some form of bullying.

Why am I writing about this, you may wonder?

It's because I read about the recent death of ten-year-old Ashlynn Conner.

She was once a bubbly, bright-eyed little girl. Then she was verbally assaulted day after day by her classmates who said she was "too fat" and that she was a "sl*t". Her mom went to the teachers and the teachers told Ashlynn to stop tattling (according to other news articles).

One day, Ashlynn asked her mom if she could be home-schooled. Mom said no. I imagine that it might have been one of those casual "no's", like the response you would give a kid after asking if he could have candy before dinner.

But in a matter of hours, Ashlynn was found inside her closet. She had killed herself.

My heart goes out to poor Ashlynn and to her parents. At ten, she should have so much more to look forward to: high school, prom, her first boyfriend, college, her first job, marriage, family life. But she will never experience any of these. Her parents won't have the privilege of watching her grow up.

Bullying is one of those gray area issues because, on the outside, it seems trivial. It's easy to dismiss a child who comes home crying because someone drew on the back of her dress. "It's part of life," some might say. "You have to learn how to stand up for yourself."

On the one hand, I agree with such statements. Yes, once you get over being the victim of a bully, life suddenly opens up for you. You can walk down the halls of your school without fear of being physically abused. You can be part of spelling bees or Math contests without fear of being stereotyped a nerd. You can talk to just about anyone without fear of being ridiculed.

Some kids are lucky to have overcome the wrath of bullies.

Many, though, aren't as lucky.

These kids come home crying, wish they'd never been born, wish they were richer, wish they weren't from a rich family, wish they were prettier/more handsome, wish they weren't the brother/sister of the most popular/smartest kid in school.

Yet what they don't realize while all this is happening is oftentimes, their bullies also have insecurities. Bullies just don't know what to do with these emotions and opt to channel them differently: by preying on those they feel are weaker and unlikely to fight back.

In a perfect world, I'd talk to each and every victim and tell them that it's gonna be okay. That it'll hurt now, but that sooner or later, everyone will be forced to grow up.

That these bullies aren't worth their tears.

At the end of the day, all I want is for bullies to just stop. I know this is farfetched; I might not see this (i.e. a global anti-bullying law) in my lifetime, even. But what I do know is that there is not a single human being who deserves to be mistreated.

And I want kids like Ashlynn to feel that they aren't worthless; it may hurt now, but there is a future for them.

And this future is so, so bright.

Take it from me. I used to be a shy girl who said "yes" to everything and everyone. I used to cry because I was so different from everyone else.

But I've grown to become more independent, unique, and with a sense of purpose and direction. I may still be different from the norm (read: yes, I'm weird) but I like being me.

And those who used to intimidate me? Well, we're now friends on Facebook. Those whose projects and assignments I used to do? We're pretty good friends nowadays.

Rest in peace, Ashlynn. And may the Lord give comfort and strength to the Conner family in their time of sorrow.

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  1. Up until now I still have the problem of how to say no to favors. It requires a great deal on my part and have to muster every will I have to decline.

    Reading this post, it came to remembrance the different types of bullies I also came across with. I feel so sorry for Ashlynn and her family. I did not come to the point of suicide put there were times that I was paranoid to go to school. Yes, I wish all bullies to just stop but I would wish more parents be more responsible raising their kids. I do believe bullies are the result of poor child-rearing in the home.

    Working with a lot of pediatrics made me realize the lack of will power of today's parents we have.

  2. Wow, totally late reply! So sorry! But thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment. :)

    Same here — still working on that two-letter word. It's still hard to say sometimes, but it has to be done.

    Hoping that Ashlynn's family, moving forward, will find meaning in her death and something good will come out of it.


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