Some of you know I will be signing at the upcoming event in Vancouver, BC hosted by Dirty and Flirty book blog, but you might not know that this signing is also a benefit for Amanda Todd and her legacy, and for bullying awareness in general.
Everyone has been impacted by bullying, whether directly or indirectly, myself included. In middle school and early high school, I was picked on–on nowhere near the level we see/hear about today–but it was sadly during a time I needed a friend the most, so I can relate to feeling alone and what that does to a young person’s mental health. Being alienated and laughed at was the very last thing I needed at the time. My parents were splitting up and there were drug and alcohol addictions involved, along with mental illness, so I had no one–no one to listen or help or just be kind. Like so many kids who don’t know how to handle that situation, I resorted to unhealthy coping mechanisms. I was one of the lucky ones. I found my way and made it through that dark time, and eventually found friends and a support system who loved me and showed me how to believe in myself. Many kids have support at home, but sometimes it’s not enough. A person’s peers can have a massive impact on self-image, self-esteem, self-love, and everything else that is a part of growing up and finding our identity, no matter what is being told to us at home.
My best friend was also lucky–she made it through a dark time and is here to tell the tale. But the extent of her experience with bullying was far worse than anything I ever endured. It made what I went through look like child’s play. She was ridiculed, jumped, and beaten numerous times for being gay and for dressing differently. Like me, she resorted to destructive coping mechanisms, only hers were more devastating and the repercussions far more reaching. So much of Amanda Todd’s story reminds me of the pattern my best friend went through: switching schools, cutting, and drug overdoses. I almost lost her to drug overdose, and there were many times I wondered if she was alive or if she’d ever survive the hell that school was–because school was truly hell for her. We attended different schools, so I was never there to defend her, was never there to witness it firsthand or to speak up for her. I would only see the effects when she’d come home, would see the marks on her arms when she began cutting. It was and still is heartbreaking to think about what my friend, who is literally a sister to me, went through during those days.
I think what I want to say most is that we never know what someone is going through at home. When we see them in class, at work–wherever–on a daily basis, we never know what kind of mask they’re wearing. We don’t know if their mom has cancer or if their dad beats them at night. We know nothing except what they show us during any given day. So, when we’re unkind, impatient, and downright cruel to that person? We leave such tragic marks on that person’s life. If we had any idea just how much of an impact we have on one person, even in the span of a few short minutes, I really believe we’d think and respond a whole hell of a lot differently in our day-to-day interactions. None of us are insignificant. Words and actions matter, no matter how petty. We have a choice. We can CHOOSE how to treat someone. We can CHOOSE to be compassionate and considerate. We can CHOOSE to love, even when it’s not popular. Most of all, we can choose to love ourselves, because without that? We have the capacity to hurt and spread hate to others on a devastating level, and isn’t there enough of that in the world already?
I’ll end here by leaving one of my favorite quotes. I think it covers everything I’m trying to say here. If you’re in the Vancouver, BC area on October 26th and 27th, I hope to see you at the Strength Through Love of Books event. You can buy tickets HERE. Please help spread the word about this event even if you cannot make it, because chances are someone you know can.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead