“It’s okay to be a glow stick. Sometimes you have to break before you shine.”
I’ve had a lot of people give me a weird look when I recite that quote. I guess it’s hard to understand it unless you’ve lived it. Or maybe, because I’m shining now, they don’t understand how broken I was before I got to where I’m at now.
My name is C.M. Wilson. I am a best-selling author for BraveGirl Publishing. I have a ton of friends, an amazing boyfriend and from the outside looking in, I seem to have the world at my fingertips. What people can’t see, is that I’m also an adult survivor of childhood bullying.
What you need to understand, is that even though high school eventually ends, the long term effects of bullying do not. It took me decades to finally send in my work to my publisher because I didn’t think I was good enough and I thought that I’d probably quit writing if I got a rejection letter. And it was all because of not dealing with what happened when I was in high school. I let people’s opinions become my reality.
And then, National Novel Writing Month 2013 came along. I had stopped participating a few years before and hadn’t planned on doing it again. Then, I got in the shower and suddenly, I heard characters start to speak to me (writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia). In that twenty-minute shower, I had the premise, the characters, the motivation and what Glow Stick needed to be about. At the time, it was called High School Ain’t For Sissies.
When I told my boyfriend that I was going to lay my demons out on the paper for people to see, he asked me not to do it. He was concerned that it would hurt me too much to have to relive all of that stuff again. And I appreciated that but I needed to do it like this. I let those demons haunt me for so long that I thought it would be easy to write it out one last time.
Without giving the book away, 85% of the book happened. The plot is actually something that I’m surprised didn’t happen. There are 3 scenes that are almost verbatim of what went down. I was having flashbacks when I was writing it, so I worked through it by tapping into those memories and writing what I saw.
I wrote the book in a month and by far, it was the hardest one to write because it took an emotional toll on me. There were a lot of tears. A lot of sleepless nights. But by the time I wrote the last word, I felt like I was cleansed. I felt like I was able to close the book on that part of my life and move on.
I was bullied because, at 12, I was 5 foot 9. And I was a nerd (before being a nerd was cool). I dressed like everybody else, but that’s because my family made sure I looked good. My mom was a single mom and going to school but made sure I didn’t realize just how tight things were. I got picked on because I couldn’t afford things like everyone else. And once it leaked out that my mother was gay, I was picked on for that too.
As I got into high school, the boys got meaner. They started teasing me with the possibility of liking me and then laughed when they realized I thought they were serious.
I kept hearing that high school would fly by. I’m about to celebrate 20 years of being out of it, but while I was in high school, it seemed like it was going to go on forever.
It didn’t, but it affected how I live and deal with people today.
I still have most of the same friends that I did when I was going through all of it because they know the real me.
Because of this, it takes me a very long time to open up to people and show them who I am. However, the first thing I do is tell new people my mother is gay because it saves me time on who I should get close to and who I shouldn’t.
I got through it because of my friends and because of my writing. Even though I can be gun shy, I am a stronger, more empathetic person because of what I went through. But as strong as I am now, I am so freaking glad that I graduated before the information age. Social media has heightened the intensity of bullying. When I got bullied, I could go home and I got a break for a night, a weekend or a summer. And outside of prank calls or tee peeing, I was pretty much left alone. Now, the torment never stops.
There are hate groups and IMs and things are probably being invented that we had never thought of.
Parents, we need to start being more aware of what our children are doing. Ask them what’s going on at school. If there are changes in their demeanor, then find out why. And do something about it. There is something to be said about not allowing lap tops in their rooms or still having parental controls on devices so you know what they aren’t doing. Yes. It’s a hassle. Yes. They’re going to complain. But yes. They’re going to be safe.
This is where I want to talk to the ones being bullied.
My advice is, don’t put up with it. I wouldn’t allow my mom to go to the school and raise the hell she wanted to and I was wrong for that. This has less to do with you and everything to do with the people that are harassing you. You do not deserve what’s being said about you or done to you.
Do not allow what they’re saying to become your reality. Don’t change your appearance, your behavior or what you like just for them to like you. Because at the end of the day, not only will they still not like you, but you won’t like you either. And the most important thing is for you not to lose who you are. As long as you’re comfortable with yourself, then let the haters hate. What other people think of you is none of your business.
Chances are if you’re being bullied, the bullies are miserable too. Their lives aren’t as perfect as they want people to think, in fact, their situation may be worse than yours. This one is hard, but try to have compassion for them and realize that they’re just lashing out.
And finally, turn off social media. They can only get to you if you allow it. You can stop what they say, but you can control your access to it. What you don’t know, won’t hurt you and, in fact, it may save your life. Seeing that stuff day after day and watching strangers jump in on it would make anyone crazy. But it’s up to you how you handle it. Not feeding into it gives them less fuel and they will eventually get bored and go away.
And now, I’m turning my attention to the bullies. Yes, I’m calling you out. Why? Because that’s what you want. You’re not getting the attention you’re seeking at home so you lash out on who you perceive to be weaker than you so can feel better about yourself. Is it working? I didn’t think so. Talk to someone. A relative, a teacher, a friend’s parent – even the kid that you’re picking on. Chances are, they’d understand just what you’re going through. It doesn’t make you cool to pick on the underdog. In fact, it makes you look pretty bad.
We only get one life so we might as well choose to be happy and spread as much of it as we can.
I started this post telling you how I broke. And in one simple statement – I’ll tell you how I started to shine. I wasn’t going to let them win. The things that happened to Camille in the book, actually happened to me. They followed me around for 20 years, and finally, I said enough is enough. So when I wrote the book, I gave them to Camille and when she left those issues at Green River High, so did I.
And that is when I really began to shine. When I freed myself of what other people said. I have really come into my own as a writer and as a person. But, let me say this; I am stronger because I was broken. I know what I will and will not stand for. I do not regret what happened because without it I would not be who I am. And who I am is pretty terrific.
So as I close, I have one last thing to say; “It’s okay to be a glow stick. Sometimes you have to break before you shine.” – Because when you’re breaking, you find out what you’re made of.
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