An Open Letter to My Former Bully.
Today, the fantasies of my thirteen-year-old self became a reality six years in the making. As I checked Facebook while walking home from class through the crowded streets of Astor Place, a message notification with your name popped up onto my screen. Intrigued, I clicked to see that you (like many of your middle school comrades) sent me a heartfelt message, apologizing for bullying me during our pre-teen years. I’d like to thank you. Not simply for your apology, but for all the valuable lessons you’ve taught me throughout our grammar-school encounters.
Thank you for befriending me simply to learn (and ultimately exploit) my darkest secrets. To this day, I still struggle with trust issues, constantly and irrationally fearing my friend’s sudden abandonment for reasons outside of my control. While I’ve developed coping mechanisms to help calm my thoughts, some days, I can’t help but question if my friendships are genuine. Thank you for making fun of my writing. Receiving critique on my work is one of the most terrifying moments I’ve experienced as a poet and essayist, yet I ease my nerves knowing that whatever comments I receive will never be as hurtful as your laughter. Thank you for truly showing me the importance of using a person’s preferred gender pronouns. After constantly referring to me as an “it”, blatantly invalidating my femininity during my most formative years, I can’t help but smile a bit whenever someone properly identifies me as she or her. For this reason (and simply because I value respecting others’ identities), I always make sure to ask for one’s preferred pronouns upon introduction. Thank you for teaching me to cope with the inevitable objectification that comes with being a woman. Although at the time, I laughed at your jokes, comparing my breasts to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny (all being nonexistent), it sparked a great insecurity in my breast size. For many years, I would only wear padded bras to avoid the same ridicule I had received from you and your friends, just recently learning to embrace my breasts as they are. But most of all, thank you for driving me to pursue my dreams. After I moved away from Park Ridge, I was emotionally vacant and severely depressed. Yet slowly, with the help of my pen and paper, and a bulletproof willpower, I overcame my physical and emotional scars, intent on proving those who thought I’d amount to nothing wrong. Upon entering high school, I worked as hard as I possibly could, spending hours studying for the ACT and my AP exams, joining as many clubs and activities as I was able to fit in my schedule and even acting as the student leader of my school’s broadcasting class so that one day, just maybe, I could study Journalism at New York University. I can genuinely say if it weren’t for the way you and your friends terrorized me, I would not be here, sitting on my windowsill, writing this letter and gazing over the East Village on a summery September afternoon.
But consider yourself lucky. If I hadn’t been raised to believe that success was truly the best revenge, I just may have lived my long-time daydream of hanging from my parent’s ceiling fan, permanently escaping the psychological war I fought on a daily basis. But despite my dark fantasies, and desperation for change, I refused to give you that satisfaction, for I knew that one day, if I fought hard enough, I would make it. And I did.
I hope that someday if you have children, you teach them the importance of kindness and compassion, telling them the story of the crazy ginger girl you bullied to the brink of suicide, who used her pain as fuel to achieve her goals. Hopefully, they (and you) will think twice before tearing someone down.