I like to surf the internet in the morning before work. It's quiet, everyone is asleep, I can check my email and read the news in peace.
This morning I saw something posted on my friend's facebook page, a link to a news story about a young girl from the west coast. She made a YouTube video about her life - about her pain. You can see it here. If you've skipped the link - don't.
I don't like to start my day with sadness or anger - who does? But watching this video made me think of my own teenage daughter and her friends.
I think every parent dreads the thought of their child being bullied. No one wants to see their child suffer. I think what scared me more about the video was the thought that my child could be one of those bullies. I'm not saying my kid is a shithead in any way and I don't think she's a bully but I think we'll all agree that not standing up for someone who's being bullied - or at the very least not doing something to help someone who is being bullied makes you just as guilty.
I know how hard it is to be a kid. I remember. I was bullied - through most of my elementary school life. And not just by the students. I can remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday - my 7th grade teacher saying to me "When I told the class you were going to be moving into this class they were all upset and didn't want you here." What the fuck kind of thing is that to say to a 12 year old girl?? And 27 years later is sticks with me. (I'd have words for that teacher if our paths ever crossed again - I can promise you that!)
But I was also lucky. Suicide is not something I ever considered. I don't know if it just wasn't bad enough for me, if I was just stronger or what - but for so many young people.....they just see it as the only option. Obviously this young girl did. Unless you're familiar with the story or read the comments on the video, you may not know - that girl took her life earlier this week.
I had a hard time functioning today. I couldn't stop thinking of that poor girl. I couldn't stop thinking of my own girls. One bad decision and it ruined her life. No ones life should be ruined because of one mistake.
Technology makes it so easy for kids these days to be nasty. It's easy to hide behind a screen and say terrible hurtful things. It's easy for them to convince themselves that what they are doing really isn't that wrong. And because our kids are so addicted to their devices - it's hard for them to escape it.
When I started writing this post I titled it Kids Need to Give Their Head a Shake but then it occurred to me, this isn't just about kids. Adults are bullies too. I saw it first hand at work. I had a coworker who was treated like shit by just about everyone until it got unbearable for him and he left. And I was sad because I took the time to get to know him and while he has his quirks - he was also the kindest, most genuine, compassionate person I've met in a while. He's thoughtful and funny (if you like his brand of humor - not high brow by any means but still funny) And it saddened me to see people treat him so poorly.
I made a point of always treating him well. I didn't hide it. I didn't care if the others didn't like me because of it. I won't make an apologies for being kind to another person - whether you like them or not. But - I'm comfortable in my own skin. I'm not looking for acceptance. I just need acceptance from myself.
Most teenagers aren't wired that way though.
I showed Emily the video. We talked about it - both from the point of view of being bullied and feeling hopeless but also about being a bully - whether it be directly or by standing aside and letting it happen. I've tried to instill in her that if she's not comfortable enough with coming right out in defence of someone (which makes her a target too - I get it) that she needs to tell a teacher or a parent or anyone...until someone listens and helps. If she can't be the one to help - she can be the one to get help. But standing by and watching someone hurt so bad that they feel like life is not worth living anymore.....we just can't do that.
That girl had her whole life ahead of her.....
Let's all hope that this terrible tragedy isn't in vain - that her life - her death will inspire others to stand up and stand beside those who need someone.
Rest In Peace Amanda.