Dear teen Jus,
You’re familiar with bullies. A little on the quirky side, no one really gets you. As you get older, you’ll realize that people have a hard time accepting things they don’t understand. People who are different from them. And you my dear, are an original.
Right now you think bullies only use words. Hurtful, abrasive names and pointed whispers that are meant to gut you. To tear you down so that they can feel big. But there are different types of bullies. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but I’m here to tell you that you can get through it.
It’s going to be a hard road, but I promise—I swear—it will make you better, stronger, and kinder in the end. You see, you’re going to catch the attention of the wrong people. Desperate to end years of lingering on the outside, to find someplace to belong, you’ll be easily won over by their charm and eager friendliness. But it doesn’t last because these people are not your friends. To them, you’ll be nothing more than an object of amusement. The thing that makes them feel powerful. Something they can dominate and control and use.
At first, you’ll tell your parents you fell. They won’t question it. You are, after all, clumsy. Stuff like this happens all the time. The bruises, the cuts, the multitude of scrapes—you’ll always have an excuse. But it will progress past excuses. You’ll become twitchy and withdrawn and there will come a time where looking over your shoulder will feel as necessary as breathing.
You’ll try to get help from people at school, but they won’t believe you. No matter what you say or show them, not the marks on your shoulders or the cigarette burns on your legs, will convince them. One of the guidance counselors will tell you that these things are self inflicted. An attempt to gain attention because you are insignificant and unremarkable. A trouble maker looking to drag others down. He will tell you this after witnessing another student poke you with an X-ACTO knife…
Eventually you’re going to fight back. Fear, the weapon they’ve held like a blade against your throat, will disappear in a single moment of painful clarity. You don’t start it, but you don’t stand there and take it this time, either. There will be blood and broken bones—yours and his—and blame. Lots of blame. You’re the one branded a trouble maker. The liar. So it all comes down on you.
Ultimately, that one act of self defense will get you kicked out of school. It will make you jaded and untrusting. Letting people in will become something from the depths of your darkest nightmare. At this point you’re going to feel like everything has unraveled. You’ll close yourself off because it’s easier. Safer. Seclusion is the only way to ensure that something like this never happens again, right? If you refuse to get back out there, then no one can hurt you. It’s okay. You need this time to heal. And you will. Heal, that is.
These things will leave scars. Both seen and unseen. But when you get older, they’ll take on new meaning. As you look back, you won’t see multiple signs of weakness. You’ll see badges of courage. You’ll see the things that shaped you into the person you were destined to become.
When you grow up, you won’t be the most outgoing person, or the most open, but you’ll be strong. You won’t let a rocky start dictate your path and nudge you over the edge. You’ll use that darkness and channel it into fuel for your imagination. Chase the demons away with the power of words and stories of strong, capable people able to overcome anything.
And though you may remain slightly cautious when it comes to people, the good ones—yes, there are good ones—will manage to slip in and steal your heart. You’ll get back out there and the reward will be meeting an amazing man. One who will love you enough to pick your walls apart—pebble by pebble. You’ll have the opportunity to pursue your dreams, resulting in the ultimate job.
And you’ll get the chance to write this. In some ways, that’s almost the most important thing… People can call us crazy if they want. Insane, different, delusional… But if it helps just one person overcome their own struggle, realize that kinship exists in unlikely places, or makes a bully think twice before opening their mouth or raising a fist to tear someone down, then it was all worth it.
Because you are not alone.
None of us are.
I pledge to never look the other way. If we stand together, we can stand against bullying. #OneVoice #YouAreNotAlone
~ Jus Accardo, author of Darker Days
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