Dedicated to Kirsten Perea (my mama)
My mother was an inspiring woman trying to make a change in this modern world. A modern world where children can be bullied online through social media. Before she passed, she was in the process of completing a project called “Bullies Unmasked”. I wrote this blog with her in mind but because of it’s content, but I chose to not post it. Since my mama has recently passed…I changed my mind and chose to post it in her honor.
A while back, a very sad event took place near where I live. And it is yet another reminder of why I do what I do; write stories about real life events that young adults experience on a daily basis, one way or another.
An eighth grader took her life due to bullying, according to the media and rumors. I don’t know the nature of what kind of bullying this young girl was forced to experience, but believe no child deserves such torture–help maybe, but not torture.
Suicide is a subject that, unfortunately, is a very personal one for me. My brother took his life, and it was a tragic loss that my family and friends never truly recovered from. You eventually learn to move on with life, but you are irrevocably changed and your soul is forever sensitive when hearing of another such loss, even when a stranger from afar.
My brother was an adult when he chose his life was too much to bare (for his personal reasons), but what just happened recently, a child already so desperate… saddened me to the point of tears. I didn’t personally know her but last year she was a student at my own children’s school, before transferring to another, and had even rode the same school bus.
As a child, I was bullied for reasons that were completely out of my control, and for being different. It was hard to endure to say the least. For me, I didn’t know being different was a bad thing until classmates told me otherwise. To avoid the painful reminder that I didn’t fit in with the ‘norm’ I faked sickness to stay home away from the cruelty in my classroom and playground. Unfortunately, some of my teachers were no better, and a life trend was set for me. It has taken years for me to break a cycle that should have never begun in the first place.
So, I sit here at my laptop asking myself about the child who recently passed, How was her being different worth constant ridicule from her peers and possibly others? What did she do that was so awful peers had to berade her with judgment. What can we learn from this so her death isn’t in vain? How can I help bring change so that another child does not suffer so?
A couple years ago, I started the first draft to a YA book about bullying. Due to the complex layout of the manuscript, I didn’t feel ready to finish it because I was lacking the writing skills needed. Since then, I have grown as a writer—and as a woman, and feel confident and inspired to see this manuscript through.
The title is Girls are Beautiful, and the story is about an adult lesbian who is speaking of her high school years to an auditorium full of present high schoolers. In the beginning of her speech, the high schoolers are more interested in their cell phones and new gossip than what this courageous woman has to say, or possibly teach them. Because of her experience as a public speaker who has visited many schools, she continues her planned speech and slowly but surely begins to win over the attentions of the students.
As her story unfolds and triggers uncomfortable emotions with touchy subjects, it begins discussions and soon arguments amongst the students in the auditorium. Once again, her experience tells her to allow the students to express themselves, but she skillfully directs the now open conversation in such a way that the students start to think about how they weren’t exactly responsible for the words they just voiced. How, because of their tone and judgment, they are now acting like the students who once judged her.
By the end of this book, this woman is mournfully telling the now entranced students listening, about her girlfriend who was tragically killed during a hate crime. Her inner dialogue is:
This is when I know they all are feeling and empathizing with my pain, my sorrow. This is a monumental moment for these students and is the moment I drive my message home. Everything I just told them that had transpired during my high school years, was all for nothing other than . . .
“And to think,” I say into the microphone, “all this heartache, all this loss and tragedy took place just because . . . I think girls are beautiful.”
When the simplicity of the women’s message sinks in, the stunned students realize that just because someone dresses differently, or acts differently, or naturally loves the same sex, or has different beliefs other than their own, doesn’t make that person wrong; just makes them different.
So, as the author of Girls are Beautiful, to answer my own question, of what I can do to help change… I will simply stop judging. Period. The end. Every time I catch myself having ill thoughts of someone or their actions, I will stop. Every time I make fun of someone (as harmless as it may seem), I will stop.
My pledge: I, from this day forward, promise to constantly remind myself and correct myself, to simply stop judging. And I will continue to stand up for those who don’t feel worthy of standing up for themselves.
If this blog ever makes it to the parents of the child that inspired me today, or any other parents who lost a child or love one in this manner, know that my heart bleeds for you and your unimaginable sorrow. My father was never the same after he buried his son. He had to live on for his other children, but a part of him went into the ground that day and never resurfaced. My prayers and sincere thoughts are with you, and wishing you strength to carry on and someday find beauty in life again. And, if you’re someone experiencing bullying—of ANY kind, reach out to me or another adult. Believe there is another way out of what is breaking your precious heart, and try real hard to remember you are perfect, just the way you are. Every time I write another chapter, where my characters are experiencing more bullying, of whatever kind, know that YOU are a part of the message I’m so desperately trying to bring awareness to.
To ALL the ones reading this emotional blog, I say thank you for taking the time to hear my thoughts, and I leave you with this, the anthem song for one of my characters, Sky, in the novel Serenity, book one in The Forever series. I know the artist Pink says a couple bad words ☺ but I think she was adamantly trying to get her point across. May the lyrics and video inspire you to never to give up, as it has for me.
Dedicated to Kirsten Perea (my mama)