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Strength In Letting Go

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“It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on. Rather, it takes a lot of strength to let go.” – J.C. Watts.”

— J.C. Watts.

This morning I woke up to a Twitter notification that stopped me from leaving my bedroom, and caused me to stare at my phone for a while longer.

A little piece of my heart skipped a few beats. It was from an individual I went to high school with and rarely ever spoke to.

This tweet had words I never expected, in a million years, to read from a fellow graduate.

 Ghost from the past here. Read an article of yours, just wanted to congratulate you on your success as it’s well displayed in your work. Keep it up! From your new fan.  

– Gary Graduate of McKee 2014.

It caught me by surprise, honestly. I had a flashback back to high school – back to a time where I once feared signing into social media. Twitter, especially, because of the words my fellow classmates and others joining in on the fun of writing about me

Back to time when I was the girl who kept her head low in the halls and was afraid to speak in class. Back when I feared walking into class and seeing the looks on their faces directed towards me, or hearing the words slip off their tongues and into my eyes.

It was a time in my life where I’d cry myself to sleep often.

Some perhaps forgot all about me. But I didn’t forget about them.  When it comes to all the torment, I have an elephant’s memory.

Some of them only hurt me a few times, while the rest of them hurt me on a daily basis. But the one trait they all had in common was that every single one of them left a terrible impact on me.

My high school experience was not the cookie cutter experience one sees in movies, where the individual had lots of friends or went to parties.

I was sort of the outcast, in a sense, with maybe three friends, and my party nights involved watching another episode of Law and Order: SVU or Mamma Mia! for the thousandth time.

High school started on the right foot for me. I made a few new friends, but quickly the tables turned and I fell through a hole in the floor.

The girl I was friends with from the first day turned on me when she decided to choose a boy over friendship. This boy was someone who verbally bullied me on a daily basis, right in front of her.

“Go to hell.”

“You’re worthless.”

“You’re not going anywhere in life.”

“Stupid b—h.”

“You’ll become a nobody.”

She would sit there and laugh, boosting his ego, while hurting mine, instead of standing up for a friend.

We quickly had a falling out, and I confronted her about it. “I let friends fend for themselves,” she told me.

That’s not what a friend does. A friend helps when you’re broken and falling. A friend is the one who picks you up.

Before I knew it, not only was I betrayed, but rumors started flying everywhere. No one spoke to me anymore, unless it was to ridicule me.

One would even think since my mother worked at the school, the bullying wouldn’t happen, but it did. They didn’t care. They saw it as an even bigger opportunity.

Especially him.

“Guess you weren’t smart enough to go anywhere else, you had to go where your mom worked. Dumb b—h.”

Then there was the other girl in my class who everyone anointed as the “smartest.” She somehow found a bone to pick with me and I will never forget that day she harassed me over text while I was sitting in the back of the car as my family was on our way back to Staten Island from New Jersey.

I cried the whole way home, and even myself to sleep. I couldn’t understand where any of this was coming from.

That following Monday, I remember walking into AVID, my college readiness class, and receiving dirty looks and feeling uncomfortable being in the presence of the entire class.

It pained me mostly because no one cared how badly they hurt me.

I soon turned to dying my hair as a source to relieve my pain. At one point, I had 14 colors at once (crazy, I know, but it was better than self-inflicting pain on my body, which I swore I would never do).

Outside of school, I received some of the best compliments about it, but once I walked through the halls, it was like I was a member of P.T. Barnum’s collection of freaks.

My fellow peers saw it as another opportunity to break me down.

I can still recall the boy who called me out on it as he sported his natural ginger hair color.

“If you have colored hair, you’re a f—king gay b—h.”

Ignore him, right? Yeah, easier said than done. Especially when he found a new way to torment me beyond the walls of school: Facebook.

“Die b—h.”

***

I was young and vulnerable. I prided myself on being the girl who tried her best to be nice to everyone, and they used that to break me down. I went from the student who loved learning and being at school, to a person who was terrified to even go. I never felt more alone.

There were days where I’d walk into class and see their empty seats, and it brought relief to me.

Thinking back, how horrible is that? To know someone’s presence made another feel fear and anxiety, but when they weren’t there, it was such relief?

Back then, it seemed like high school would never end. Graduation was past any horizon I could ever see.

The high school version of me couldn’t imagine what life would be like at the end of the day, let alone, the end of the year. That version of me, though quiet, had a seething anger burning inside and a deep desperation for someone to notice what was happening and step in.

The other half of me felt powerless, scared and frustrated — trapped.

I questioned my self worth and whether I was good enough or not more times than I could count. I felt beyond weak on the inside and at an all-time low.

***

The torment stopped as graduation was a few weeks away. I felt the broken girl inside me, ready to be released and endure the future ahead of me.

Then it happened, again. This time, on Twitter. And by a girl I never had an actual conversation with in four years of high school. I only knew her name.

Sixteen tweets, and over 40 likes and retweets from fellow classmates.

She irrelevant & that’s that. We graduating in a month anyways.

That’s how the rant about me ended.

If I was so irrelevant, then why did you feel the need to write disgusting tweets about me?

The replies were even worse.

“You are my favorite tweeter of the night,” one said.

Someone cyberbullying another makes someone the best tweeter? 

Throw the hands tomorrow.

Really?

SHOTS FIRED. Aaliyah was like gratata f—k you b—h. Well at least this happened towards the end of senior year. 

Are you really enforcing this!? It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. 

Aaliyah be saying some foul shit to people god damn #turnon #shespeakshermind

Cyberbullying someone is a turn on!? Are you insane?

The shit that was on Twitter tonight coming from my fellow seniors was comedy.

Cyberbullying is comedy, really? I guess you’ve never been bullied.

Liyah’s comedy. I’m still laughing!

Guess what, while you were laughing, I cried.

Calm down before you get arrested for cyber bullying white girls do shit like that.

Wow. So you know it’s cyberbullying but you let it go on, anyway?

The painful issue about this is I bet they all sat around talking non-stop about how important the message of 13 Reasons Why was; how bad bullying is and what it could possibly lead to. 

And that’s great, don’t get me wrong — spreading awareness about cyberbullying, suicide and mental illness is a very important thing to do. 

But four years ago in high school, they never helped people like me. They probably say they would if they ever saw someone getting bullied or hurt by others. 

No one stood up for me. No one stepped in and stopped it. No one.  

I truly was alone.

How could someone put their head down at night and sleep, knowing they brought someone else’s self-esteem down? How could they look themselves in the mirror, knowing they made an individual feel completely broken inside?

***

This morning when I read Gary’s tweet, I felt at peace — like something inside of me changed. 

I’m finally looking around and finding even the smallest details to smile about. I’m celebrating what makes my soul happy. My heart is no longer filled with such hatred and anger that it harbored in the past. I’m officially deleting all the connections I once had with people who brought me down and the memories that made me feel worthless.

And that’s why, reopening these wounds has helped me start to let go. It’s helping me find forgiveness, not because they deserve it. In fact, I doubt any of them genuinely feel sorry for their actions or the pain they caused me.

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

I will always remember the torment, but I’m letting go of the pain — all the sadness and broken pieces I’ve been carrying with me.

These individuals who all had a part in that, helped me see how strong of a person I was, to be able to make it through the worst four years of my life. I’m not that bullied teenager anymore. I’m a young adult who ended college a whole semester early, ready to embark on her career.

I didn’t write this to point fingers or to find pity from others. I wrote this because this was something I needed to do. This was my way of letting go of the demons that I’ve kept caged for so long, as I’m finding the beauty finding a fresh start.

I’m living proof that once one is knocked down, there’s always a way to stand back up again. And by standing back up again, one is shining brighter than ever.

I’m finally turning another page in my chapter, to concentrate on achieving greater aspirations, than anyone else ever thought I would.

Letting go, in a way, I feel like I’m winning the battle I thought I always lost.

My story could have ended differently, like some do. If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying or cyberbullying, please take action. Don’t be the bystander. Step in.

 Scars may show where someone has been, but they don’t dictate where someone is heading. 

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