I don’t know if you remember me, but I was the little girl with the Barbie shoes who you taunted and teased in front of our entire sixth grade class.
I was the one who walked past you with my head down so you would not notice me, yet you called out to me with your thundering voice, commanding all to watch as you would swear and spit on me.
I was the small, five foot girl who felt even smaller next to your large, six foot frame as you dumped out all the contents of my backpack and pushed me to the ground.
I was the strawberry-haired, freckled-faced kid who sat next to you in class because the teacher thought it would be good for us to learn how to “get along,” while my stomach churned in agony every day knowing that you would be there eagerly waiting to ridicule every thing about me.
I was the smart one who was made to feel dumb.
I was the outgoing one who soon became shy.
I was the strong one who was made to feel weak.
I was the kid who soon had no friends to sit with at lunch or play with on the playground because the other kids wanted to avoid being picked on too.
I was the child who loved to read and learn, who became sick everyday and wanted to stay home from school.
I was broken.
But, my Mom heard me, she held me when I cried, and then she showed me how to protect myself. She stood up for me and demanded change, teaching me how to use my voice.
When the school would not help us and no one listened, she sent me to a different school, where you could not follow.
Was I running away? Defeated?
No, because I learned who the bigger person doesn’t always fight their abuser, but sometimes removes themselves from the abuse.
I learned that sometimes standing up for myself means walking away.
I learned that being alone is preferable to joining a crowd of followers.
I learned that intentionally hurting another person is never a way to make oneself feel better.
I learned that the strong one does not use weapons, but their voice, their feet and their heart to heal and not hate.
I learned that some people use hate and hurt because someone else has hurt them so deeply that they don’t understand any other way to be, or protect themselves.
I learned that life is full of both pain and love and that every person I meet has something valuable to teach me, even if I may not know it in the moment.
And I learned to never forget what I have been taught.
Author: Stephanie Parry
Image: flickr/Bailey Foster
Editors: Ashleigh Hitchcock; Caitlin Oriel