Hey my loves,
I’m going to deviate from my usual topic now. For personal reasons, but also to start a new series called “Motivational Monday“. But most of all to spread awareness.
The following words come from a person who became a very dear friend of mine in the last half-year. She has agreed to work with me on this blog as a co-author. The first project I have given her was to “write something about the documentary The Bully Project”.
I personally was bullied at a young age. I managed to survive – thanks to people like my two best friends and my family, without them I would haven been stuck in that dark place longer.
I have the opinion, Miri has brought it quite to the point. Therefore, without much saying: Read on and stay strong!
We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.
In 2009, 17-year-old Tyler Long from Georgia hung himself in his closet after a few fellow students at his high school told him that he’s worthless and should kill himself.
“Bully”, formerly called “The Bully Project” which is the title given to the internet project inspired by the film, was directed by Lee Hirsch, who himself had been bullied in school. The movie starts out with an interview of Tyler Long’s father David who talks about his firstborn son, Tyler. From an early age on, David saw signs that his son would be victimized at some point. According to a Facebook site arranged for Tyler post-mortem, Tyler was diagnosed with Asperger at an early age, which made his interactions with other people difficult and awkward, especially for him.
David and Tina Long tried desperately to change something after they lost Tyler, tried with all their might to make people aware of the issue called “bullying”, but the only response of school board representatives, predictably, was the obligatory “kids will be kids”. Still, David Long does not give up. “My voice will not fall silent” he says into the camera. “I will make a difference.”
Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Alex, a 12-year-old from Iowa, has two younger sisters and two younger brothers and lives an apparently happy life with them and his parents. But, and this is not a complicacy easily managed by a teenager just hitting puberty, Alex also has an unattractive face and awkward social skills. As an obvious consequence to that, peers and older students treat him badly. Alex claims he doesn’t mind them calling him “fishface”, asserting that they “don’t mean it”, but all the while viewers as well as Alex himself know this is just a defense mechanism. Alex DOES mind, and the other kids DO mean to hurt him.
He has severe issues making friends, and he’s regularly threatened and physically abused on the school bus. Alex takes the abuse with an “Okay” and a careful attempt at being friendly to his tormenters.
Kim Lockwood, assistant principal at Alex’s school, tries her hardest to do something against bullying, admits her helplessness at facing hundreds of possible bullies and bullied.
When the situation on the school bus is close to escalating and becoming more and more dangerous for Alex, the filmmaker shows the video material to Alex’s parents, who directly turn to Lockwood, asking for Alex to be put on another bus, fearing for their son’s safety. Alex feels just as helpless as Kim Lockwood, even though they’re on different sides of the equation.
We know who we are, but not what we might be.
Kelby, 16 years old, lives in a small town in Oklahoma. She’s the only openly gay girl in the entire small town. Neither Kelby nor her parents are welcomed at church anymore, and people who Kelby’s parents had been friends with pass them by now without looking at them twice. Students and teachers (!) at Kelby’s school discriminate and insult her. “If anyone comes around and is the least bit different” Kelby states matter-of-factly, “they make sure to put them down.” She admits that she used to harm herself. Kelby tried committing suicide three times. Still she never wanted to leave this town because, as she put it, “if I leave, they win.”
“I’m the one in this town that could make a difference” she says. Because in the end it does all start with one.
Be sure of yourself, don’t let anyone bully you, be a strong and independent woman or boy.
Ja’Meya, 14 years old, Mississippi, is a passionate Basketball player and an honour student. She’s also in custody for bringing her mother’s gun on the school bus because she didn’t see any other way to defend herself against the students who bullied her. Ja’Meya never planned to hurt anybody, she just wanted to scare them off. A surveillance camera on the bus captured the occurrences: Nine or ten students were throwing things at her and insulting her when she drew the gun. In that moment, according to the police, she had 22 counts of kidnapping, 22 attempts of aggravated assault, 45 felony charges against her in total.
In the end all charges against Ja’Meya are dropped, and after a few more weeks in inpatient psychological care, she is released and free to go home. But it is obvious that her life has suffered a significant change.
I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.
Ty Field-Smalley from Oklahoma only lived until his eleventh year because he shot himself after having been bullied for a very long time. Kirk Smalley, Ty’s father, started reaching out to other parents of bullied children all over the world through the internet, building up a network to somehow fight this thing that cost his son and so many others their lives.
At the end of the movie we meet Kelby again as she visits the event “Stand for the Silent” in Oklahoma City where Kirk Smalley holds a speech about changing the world. “We’re doing it for each other” he says. Parallelly to Oklahoma City, there are similar events in Lansing, Michigan; Johannesburg, Illinois; Joshua, Texas.
“We’ve all got to continue what we started today” Kirk Smalley says. “I will never, ever, stop fighting bullying wherever I find it. I will fight bullying forever, because my son will be eleven years old forever.”
Say what you want to say and let the words fall out, honestly I want to see you be brave.
Sara Bareilles – Brave
It was a personal matter for me to write about “Bully”. I myself have been the victim of severe bullying when I was in school. I was ignored, I was called a c***, I was called ugly, I was told to my face by students I barely knew that they hated me, I had the most peculiar things thrown at me – blackboard erasers, tennis balls, pencils, gums, paper balls, and those are only the things I remember clearly. When I hit puberty, I suffered from acne and had to get glasses. As you can imagine, it didn’t make things better.
Yes, I wanted to kill myself. I thought about it quite often in the course of the first four years in secondary school. I cried myself to sleep a lot, and I cried to my parents that I didn’t want to go to school anymore.
And then at some point, I had The Epiphany. I am not the one with the problem. THEY are. It is that simple. The bullying slowly started subsiding when I was 15 or 16 years old, and at some point maybe a year or so before I graduated it stopped. The Epiphany came after that. And now, at almost 24 years old, I am at a point where I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “I really like myself” without lying.
If you are wondering how I managed that, well, it took me long enough, but in retrospect it appears so simple – the first step is to realize that anyone who is cruel to you without reason has a problem, and it’s a problem that’s not yours. The second step is to like yourself. I know that’s not the easy part, but remember to tell yourself something good about yourself every day. Think about your talents, think about what you can do better than someone else. It can be the little things that tip the scales. And the third step is to do things that you like. Wear clothes you feel comfortable with. Get a hobby that you love, ideally one that you can share with friends. If you don’t have friends, getting an interactive hobby is the best way to meet them. And the fourth, and most important step:
Get an opinion. Stand up for yourself. Know that your life counts. Know that you’re special. See your own uniqueness. There’s no-one in this world who is like you.
As one person alone, unfortunately there’s not much you can do about bullying except not letting it affect you. I wish I could tell you something else. As a group, though, it can work. That’s why this movie was made.
It all starts with one.
Follow Miri on her personal Twitter: OriginalSGreenD
The Bully Project Links: