Story Submitted by Anonymous

Whoever said ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger’ was never bullied in school. My middle and high school years were in the 80s, so technology didn’t play a role in bullying the way it does now. Of course, no one was trying to kill me; the bullies had no problem pummeling my self-esteem for being bespectacled, smart, tall, and skinny, killing any bud of confidence I might have had. As a grown woman, I certainly don’t feel stronger having endured those six years. Though I was never beaten up, the verbal abuse – it was called being picked on back then – caused invisible bruises that I carried into adulthood. I couldn’t walk into a room without looking down. I didn’t want to make eye contact for fear of accidentally connecting with someone who might see it as an opportunity to be cruel. My childhood escape was writing and drawing. I wrote stories where I defeated my bullies or drawings where they were no longer in power. It enabled me to control a situation that, in real life, I had no way to regulate. My safe space was the newspaper office and my drama class – especially my drama class. My drama teacher knew I was bullied and always had something nice to say. He was the first person to allow me to have something I wrote produced on stage.

I found comfort in theatre and playing characters unlike myself. I truly feel that theatre brings together people with these similar experiences. I was planning a degree in journalism and playwriting, but life interrupted and changed my course. I rediscovered my passion for theatre and playwriting in my late 40s. Because of being someone else on stage, I’ve finally learned to walk into a room of strangers without an overwhelming sense of panic, feeling like I needed to shrink into myself. Instead, I become a character who’s brave and confident, and that helps me ‘fake it, till you make it.’ As crazy as it sounds, when I was a teacher a decade ago, the hardest thing in the world was walking into a classroom with teenagers without feeling like I was still a teenager and waiting for the bullying to begin. It ended up being one of the best experiences in my life because, as the teacher, I got to stop bullying. It felt somehow like redemption. I couldn’t protect myself – that girl who desperately wanted to fit in, but I could protect my students from bullies. I could not fathom being a bullied child in 2021, where there is no escape from the brutality of words and videos on social media. The worst I got was taunts down the hallway – ‘if I were as ugly as you, I’d shave my *** and walk backward,’ not ‘kill yourself.’ Something needs to be done before another bullied child decides he’s had enough and becomes one of two horrible possibilities: a suicide statistic or another school shooter.