The biggest story that we've all been hearing about is the Rutgers freshman, Tyler Clementi. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20018385-504083.html This story is incredibly tragic. Because homosexuality is still seen as something "bad" and "wrong", many of our young people try and fly below the radar and avoid questions about their sexuality and just cover it up altogether. They shouldn't have to, cuz guess what, God made them this way and God loves them too. Loving someone of the same sex isn't wrong, its what feels right to them and I say if they are lucky to have found love, then they are truly blessed!
It would be amazing to see what would happen if we all stopped judging each other and instead understood that we all want the same things. We all want to be happy. We all want to love and be loved and we all want to be heard and accepted. Imagine a world where we accepted and celebrated that people were different? We could learn a lot from each other if we could only close our mouths and open our minds. There is just too much intolerance and too many messages telling us that we are not okay just as we are.
With this in mind, there are some amazing things happening. First of all, I think MTV's new show "If You Really Knew Me" is brilliant. I don't even care that they don't play music videos anymore with shows like this. It really gets these teens to remove the mask that they live through everyday and expose who they really are. We ALL have fears, we ALL have insecurities, we ALL feel stupid, or put down, or not good enough at one time or another and anyone who says they don't, is flat out lying.
This show takes on the head cheerleader and the popular jocks who seem to have it all and you know what? They don't. All they do have is an ability to cover up what is going on for them with a smile because maybe they were taught that it wasn't okay to be anything but perfect. They have learned social skills to interact and hide all the pain and pressure they feel on a daily basis and pretend that everything is "perfect", but it never is.
When I was in school, I actually cycled through different ways of dressing to finally find myself. I went to public school through 6th grade and we were all just a bunch of back woods country kids without much money who all pretty much accepted each other. I remember some kids were waaaaay more attractive than me and some of my crew, but no one really made fun of anyone. I actually got lucky because I was quite a sight during those first 7 years of school. I had bucked teeth, short, stringy, greasy hair and glasses with bifocals. (Know any other 8 year old with bifocals?) I knew I was a mess and waited daily for the teasing about how I looked like a boy with overhanging Bugs Bunny sized chompers....but it really never came.
Even without the bullying, I still retreated into a world of keeping quiet and trying desperately not to stand out. Invisible was my name and I was good at it. I remember a kid in 3rd grade named Dion who had a wooden leg. Not really sure why he had the wooden leg, but kids were mean to him. He always seemed so resilient to it, even taking off his leg at recess and chasing kids with it who had made fun of him, all the while laughing. He didn't seem to need a savior but I'll bet he really would have appreciated someone standing up for him. I wish I could have been that person, but I had way too many things that kids could have zeroed in one and I wasn't about to step into the fire.
Junior high and the first year of high school I spent at an exclusive private school full of rich kids, with lots of money and lots more attitude. I was hitting puberty and on top of the glasses and now, braces, I had ridiculous acne. (Sweet! Every preteens dream!) Luckily my parents did their best to dress us like the others in polo shirts, khakis and L.L. Bean bulcher shoes and boy was I even MORE of a mess. Those that know me, know that preppy ain't a good look for me, but it allowed me again to fly under the radar and stay out of sight. But because of this "invisible" shield I wore, it kept people away and made me look unapproachable.
I remember walking down Senior Hall to go see my oldest brother at his locker. I was terrified to walk by the other seniors because I was a freshman and I was waiting for them to tell me to get the hell out of there, so I adopted the "Fuck You Face". This is the meanest most angry and tough face that I could conjure. Every time I walked through Senior Hall I'd wear it and finally one day my oldest brother told me that the seniors were afraid to talk to me because they were afraid I'd beat them up.
Me? Beat someone up? I was a total chicken, but no one saw me that way and they were scared of me all because I didn't want to get picked on. Then I felt bad that I couldn't let my guard down. I did get to know some of my brothers friends, but I still felt like an ugly nerd that was a total retard and part of that came from the fact that I was failing out of that school. I think I got "D's"in all my class but Art and Music. Hmmmm.
My final three years of high school, I spent at an all girls boarding school and what a savior that was! The most incredible thing about that place was that you had kids like me from the boonies and kids of super wealthy NYC elite and we ALL got along and treated each other with respect. Sure there were groups of the wealthy kids and the not so wealthy, but the groups intermixed and mingled nicely. I'm not gonna say there was no teasing and making fun of people, but there was a lot less and more of a sisterhood.
When I first arrived my tenth grade year, I still wore the preppy look from my previous school and I had long stringy, greasy hair. Before dinner that first night, I had had my roommate cut my hair into a cute bob and had taken on a nickname because I was really, really tired of "Invisible Kira". She was a mess and I needed to become someone new so I could find out who I really was.
This school was incredible for me and it allowed me to spread my wings. By my senior year, I was sporting a mohawk and had explored all kinds of artistic areas. I had performed in musicals, art shows and even learned to play bass guitar in our all female band. I was in heaven because I had found things that I was good at and since the student body was more about supporting one another than tearing each other down, I blossomed.
I wish all kids had this kind of school to go to. I got really lucky that my parents recognized that I was drowning in my second school and that I needed a new environment. God only knows where I would have ended up if I had continued the years of feeling like a failure. It saddens me that some kids just fall through the cracks and don't get a chance to spread their wings, especially if they are bullied. If I had been picked on through those rough years, I would have become even more invisible and shut down than I already was and it was only because I knew that I wasn't attractive by societies standards. Its too bad that we can't focus on nurturing our kids talents more and less on looks because one day they are leaving us, like it or not!
Today, Joe Jonas posted a short video blog about bullying and I commend him for it. http://www.cambio.com/shows/cambio-cares/on-bullying So many kids look up to the Jonas Brothers and I really hope it inspires some kids to maybe stand up for the "Dions" in their schools. I know its hard because no one wants to become a potential new target but other kids would sure have respect for them if they stood up for someone else who is getting picked on. Even just sitting with a loner at the lunch table could change an entire schools dynamic. I really hope things change because its unacceptable for this to continue. No one should want to take their life for just being who they are and the teen to early twenties are when we are trying different things to see what works for us. This is our building and growing time and its not usually pretty but we should be allowed to have it because it makes us better people when we figure out what we love to do and who we want to love. We can be authentic. We can be real and I don't know about you but I sure love spending time with someone who is real because they feel like sunshine and fresh air. Fake people just downright bore me and its makes me sad that they don't know who they are because I'll never get to know who they are either.
I wish I were a celebrity because I would make a point to go around to schools and share with kids what a mess I was growing up, but how it all worked out in the end. Because I was unattractive and fell on my face several times, I was able to sculpt who I truly am underneath it all and take off the pieces that didn't fit. I realize the blessings that I have and I am now thankful for those "10 Years of Humbling" as I like to call it. It made me who I am today.
I was lucky that I wasn't endlessly teased. There were many things that I could have been taunted about, but let's look out for those who aren't so lucky. Let's take a stand for those who are just exploring who they are, whether it be through an odd way of dressing or the "nerdy" activities they enjoy. Just remember......karma is a bitch and it may be coming for you! That day that you get your dream job and the CEO is the tech geek from your high school, you'll either be thanking yourself for standing up for him/her or you'll be quickly looking for a new job!