Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Being Bullied: A Letter to 13 Year Old Me

Dear 13 year old me,

I know it's hard right now.  I remember and I hurt for you.  So much of my advice would sound trite, but please know you have two choices.  You can believe them and wither away or you can remain strong and find a solution.  I know you.  I know which path you choose, and you are going to do amazing things, things you could never begin to imagine.

But for right now, I remember how difficult it is when you are called, "Short, Fat, and Ugly."  It hurts because you are short and overweight.  In the south there is a saying that when someone is mean, they are "being ugly". You aren't ugly, but even if you were, physically ugly is much better than being ugly.

I know you feel helpless.  Stand up for yourself.  You hear at church you have to forgive.  I will tell you hate will eat you from the inside out.  Hold your head high and DEMAND basic human respect.  Just because you are told to forgive doesn't mean you can keep allowing people to treat you however they wish.  There will be people who tell you to just ignore it or that is only happening because people like you.  When people like you, they don't reduce someone to tears. They don't shove them down the stairs.  When the adults in your life won't listen, go higher.  There is the state board of education.  While I know what choices you made, I can almost guarantee you will find someone somewhere who will step in on your behalf and put a stop to you being called "Tampon Breath" because of what the boys found when they dumped your purse.  But don't worry, by next school year that nickname will be forgotten and "Short, Fat, and Ugly" will resume.  (Not much consolation, but hopefully some.)

Take this time and develop yourself.  Read.  Explore.  Don't be afraid to ask questions.  The fact that your mother is your best friend will be treasured by you someday.  Use this time to start doing things you think you have to be "an adult" to do.  Why not start your own business?  Or try and publish some of your writings.  It will be easier to do these things in the future, but it never hurts to get a head start.

You made a needlepoint sampler for teen talent that said "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young."  I know it hurt when you placed 2nd with no one else competing in your category.  But there are so many other reasons for people not to look down on you.  They shouldn't look down on you because you are overweight.  Or a nerd (although it will one day be popular to be a nerd.)  The shouldn't look down on you because you don't have a perm.  (In fact, don't ever get one.  In addition to avoiding one that was done wrong and your hair will fall out, in 25 years your high school photos look as weird as your mother's yearbooks do to you now.  Just leave the Aquanet to the cheerleaders and you can laugh at *them* in the future.)

The future will come for all of you.  Expect for the ones who have already passed away in your class.  I know the school didn't discuss it and it worried you, but don't dwell on it.  Just because Jerry was murdered doesn't mean that any true physical harm will come to you because you are different.  Unlike Jerry, you have a sharp mind to avoid danger.  (And please tell your dad that he is mentally disabled when the call comes that he is missing.)

Your mind will serve you well.  You will someday get to travel the world.  You will visit a temple in China, eat blini in Leningrad, and yes, just like your 4th grade teacher, you will get to hold a koala.  Your mind will also help you do something that none of your classmates will ever do.  You will be in a fashion magazine.  Not because of looks but because of your creativity.

It's hard right now.  I remember.  But hang in there.  Stand up for yourself, and buckle your seat belt and get ready for an amazing ride called life.  (Come to speak of it, even though it's not law when you read this, wear your seat belt.)

I know you don't believe it now, but some of these people will become some of your closest friends someday.  You will attend your 10th high school reunion because you want to hold your head high. By your 25th you will be attending because you want to see your classmates.  Your class is small enough that you all are kind of like brothers and sisters.  You are just stuck right now being the one picked on.  But it's okay.  It's going to make you into a person that you could never dream you could be.  You will become one of the most confident people you will have ever met.  You will learn to stand up for yourself when needed and let words roll off your back at other times.  These lessons will serve you well in life.  When you become an adult there will be other adults who will laugh at your dreams.  The lessons you are learning in school right now are how to overcome adversity.  You'll never need to diagram a sentence again, but tenacity is something you will use every day for the rest of your life.  It's a difficult lesson, but you are, in a way getting a better education for life than those around you.  An Ivy League education comes at a great price tag.  You are just paying a different price for some indispensable lessons you are learning from being bullied.

Trust me when I say your dreams will come true -- and so much more.  Also, please study hard in German class.  There will come a day that you actually will want to use it when in Berlin a woman will make a comment about your weight.  You will be able to understand her, but won't be able to tell her off.  You will learn to stand up for yourself.  I promise.

Get ready for an amazing journey called life,
Sincerely 42 year old me.

P.S. Forget a savings account for college.  Buy Apple stock.  If you would have just done this, I would be retired by now.


  1. As I sit here, crying, I wonder just what my forty year old self would tell me today, and I just hope it sounds as good as this. I'm sure you've heard this.

  2. amazing I am sharing this with my 13 year old although some don't apply i think she will get the jest of it. Thanks so much love you Jenn

  3. Very well said Jenn. I like the part that you were being more prepared for real life than the students that were just getting a regular education. You have persevered and I know your mom and dad are looking down proudly at the person you have become.

  4. Nice article. Thanks for sharing and being so open with us your readers.