Amanda Todd’s suicide is a painful reminder of how sad it can be to be a teenager. While many of us can relate to being teased, few grown-ups have had to deal with cyber-bullying, which is as unforgiving and brutal as it is relentless.
Dealing with bullying is something that I have first hand experience with, but it’s also something that I’ve never really talked about. Truthfully, Fredericton High School wasn’t exactly an easy place to go to school. With a population of just under 3,000 students in three grades, you’d think it would be easy to hide from bullying. But as anyone who’s ever been teased, taunted or bullied can tell you, it finds you, it always does.
For nearly two years, I was made fun of almost every day. Being called “gay,” “faggot,” or “homo” was a daily reality for me. Add in the fact that I barely weighed a hundred pounds and was battling an ever-growing bald spot, and I was prime target for bullying. Luckily, I never felt as sad as Amanda did, thanks to great friends and teachers who always had my back, even when I didn’t understand why.
Then something weird happened. I got a lead role in my school musical, which, as strange as this sounds, made you cool at FHS. Through that role, I learned that I was funny both on and off stage. (Something, weekly readers of this column probably disagree with.) Soon, I learned that my ability to make jokes, more than any drug, could win almost anyone over. By the time I graduated, the bullying had subsided, because my burgeoning confidence was a clear repellent.
But it wasn’t just being funny that made me feel confident, it was being happy, which is something that I still consider to be more important than anything else. That’s why I graduated with a degree in Spanish, why I moved across the country with my best friend, why I’ve quit terrible jobs after six weeks, why I’m in healthiest relationship of my life and why I make sure I write something every single day. Years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would try to always be happy. It doesn’t always happen, but it always gives me a goal, which in turn gives me the invaluable feeling of accomplishment.
The death of Amanda Todd has reminded how important having a conversation with someone in crisis can be. To my knowledge, this column will be the first time my parents will hear about me being bullied in high school. It’s silly that victims would be too embarrassed to talk about it, but I understand why.
Tonight, there will be a candle light vigil for Amanda Todd at Olympic Plaza at 7 p.m. While events like this are important, it’s the conversations that need to start happening both before and after the vigil that are going to start saving lives.
For more information about how to deal with bullying, please visit http://www.bullying.org