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OP/ED: Tomorrow’s A Better, Brighter Day

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Imagine this: Dark gray clouds overcast you as you’re out on a ledge with your feet hanging over. Your entire body numb, to the point you can’t feel anything. Feeling all sorts of emotions, you’re not sure you really want to do what you’re about to.

You take a deep breath and close your eyes at the sight of destruction surrounding you. In your next breath, you debate what your next move will be.

All of a sudden, you hear the voice inside your head whispering, telling you, “Tomorrow’s a better, brighter day.”

That little voice inside your head just gave you all the strength you needed to slowly back off the ledge and onto the path behind you.

You finally open your eyes and watch the gray overcast slowly disappearing. With a slight smile on your face, you know you chose the best option: embrace the rest of your life with your head held high.

***

Teenage girl, trying to fit in at high school, hides in the bathroom with tears in her eyes. Despising herself and the popular girls for laughing about the way she looks, she stares at the mirror.

Looking at her reflection, she sees an ugly, overweight girl staring back at her. What she sees as flaws are her worst nightmare.

When lunchtime would come around, she’d hide in her books and wouldn’t eat a thing. She ignored the rumbling sound of her stomach that was screaming for food, just as she was for acceptance.

Trying to be pretty became a disease. She was slowly killing herself, when all she wanted was to fit in.

***

A little boy, ten years old, waits at his bus stop patiently. Scared, and feeling threatened by the older kids, he boards the bus quickly and hides behind his lunchbox.

Terrified the kids may get their chance to kick him around, he fears for recess.

The playground, in the eyes of the adults watching over their students, looks like nothing more than an ordinary playground where kids play with no worries. But to the boy, he sees a battlefield – a battlefield he’s scared to step foot on. If he does, it may end in a bloody battle.

Not up to the fight, he tries to back away. Calling out for help, no one hears his screams. Or if they did, no one bothered to help.

He leaves school with a black eye and blood in his mouth, thinking the whole ride home, “Why me?”

***

Whether you were the teenage girl starving herself just for acceptance or the bullied little boy terrified to go to recess, we have all experienced some sort of bullying in our lives. I know I, for one, have.

High school for me wasn’t the average cookie-cutter experience, like the ones you see on television, where you attend homecoming dances and football games with your friends. I was never the girl that people were dying to talk to or hang out with, nor was I the most attractive. I was never invited to parties. I sat alone at lunch. I was the one people whispered about, whether it was my taste in music, my quietness, or my appearance.

Just like that little boy, I questioned myself, “Why me?” everyday on my way home from school and right before I went to bed. And all I could ever think about was if things were different. What it would be like if I didn’t have to worry about it all the time. We could’ve been friends, cheering at the football games, or we could have gone to the prom, sharing a limousine and having the times of our lives.

But no. Instead, they used their words like a weapon, shooting at the spit of a fire. And as a result, I was wounded by them.

There’s a saying that goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Well, what if you hear these words.

“You’re worthless.”

“You’ll never succeed,”

“Go stand in traffic.”

“You’re never going anywhere in life.”

“No one cares about you. You’re a nobody. Just kill yourself.”

I heard this on a daily basis for four straight years.

Would you still believe “words will never hurt” you? Because honestly, I can tell you that words often hurt worse than a scraped knee. Words can sting like salt being poured into a fresh open wound. Sadly, there’s no Band-Aid or Neosporin to help cover up those nasty wounds words create, and in that case, it only causes bigger scars.

I was constantly told by my family and friends, “Don’t listen to what they say because they can be so childish.” But how could I not, when I was continually reminded of their words every other day? It’s hard not to listen to them when they linger in your head afterwards. And in those minutes, you start believing the words, as they’re the only words you can hear on replay like a broken record.

What I learned from my experience though, is that it’s sometimes okay to hear what people say about you. You can take their words, turn them right around and show them otherwise.

This is something I’m glad I was granted to do right before I graduated. It was during senior awards night, with them all there, as I received thirteen awards.

Yes, you read that right, thirteen. Thirteen awards for “little miss nobody.”

Thirteen more than the boy who called me a b**** and had a bone to pick with my hair being different colors. Twelve more than the boy who told me I’d get nowhere in life and the girl who tried slandering my name. Eleven more than the girl who told me I’d never be successful.

I received more awards than I could count on my fingers. Now, if that isn’t the best revenge someone can give after all the torment, I don’t know what is.

***

There’s a quote I came across the other day that read, “If you didn’t like me, you should’ve just let me be.”

Some days I believe this. Other days I don’t.

Yes, my self confidence and fight were brought down like that little boy. Yes, I had millions of insecurities like that teenage girl. But because of those words and those people who said them, I am who I am today.

Today, I’m in a better state of mind. I’ve embraced my flaws, gained self acceptance, and have made more changes to my life to make myself happier and more confident.

Don’t get me wrong: there are times when I wish I could go back and tell myself not to get all worked up or lose sleep over their words. But other times, I think how their words helped me push through the pain and become strong when it comes to criticism.

I am not in anyway saying being bullied was a good or great thing, because trust me, it wasn’t. It was the worst dark clouded thunderstorm I’ve ever had to face in my life. It was to the point that I felt I was out on the ledge, with my feet hanging over, looking at the destruction around me as I debated what to do next.

Do I listen to them and become what they tell me I am, or do I set out to prove them all wrong?

Just because the popular girls don’t believe you’re what matches up to them because you’re not “pretty” or “skinny” enough, you are beautiful, regardless. Don’t hurt your body just to fit in. If they don’t want you hanging out with them, that’s their loss.

When the older kids pick on you to give themselves better self-esteem, don’t take it. Stand up for yourself. You can do it.

Don’t let anyone pick on you because you’re “different.” As Lady Gaga said, “You were born this way,” and don’t let anyone take who you are away from you. You are who you are for a reason.

Never blame yourself because it’s not your fault. When someone says you’re not good enough, or you’ll never get anywhere in life, set out to prove them wrong.

And please, don’t be the bystander watching everything unfold before your eyes. Stand up for the innocent and the weak who can’t. When their voices can’t be heard, yours can.

It’s time to make a stand and take responsibility. Seek help before it’s too late.

***

A little orphan named Annie once taught me you have to hang on ‘til tomorrow. Come what may, you’re only a day away.

So, the next time life passes you a dark gray overcast with showers, as you’re standing on that ledge, debating what to do, stop in your tracks. Close your eyes and slowly step back.

Want to know why? Because you have a bright, lengthy future ahead of you to embrace.

And trust me, as hard as it may seem, the sun will come out tomorrow, as tomorrow is a better, brighter day.

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OP/ED: Tomorrow’s A Better, Brighter Day