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Letter to friend's daughter who has been bullied

Sunday 8/28/22


I was thinking about you last night after talking to your daddy on the phone. I think I probably know your dad as well as anyone. I know how much he loves you and has loved you from the very moment you came into the world. But I can also hear just how proud he is of you every time he talks about you. It’s always been that way, and it’s more that way all the time. I know how much he cares about you and wants you to be well. I’ve come to learn a lot about you from how he talks about you. I see a girl who has everything going for her. A girl who is super smart, funny, kind, pretty.

I know you are anxious about school starting and having to deal with these girls who have picked on you in the past. I totally get that. I’d feel the same way. But there are a few things worth keeping in mind, which can make a big difference. First of all: You will be fine. You will be. These kids are not going to change your life because in the big picture, they’re not going to make a difference. It’s important to understand what bad things are, and what bad people are, because when we have that understanding, the influence of those bad things and bad people gets limited. At the same time, this is a new year. Allow it to be a new year. Start again. Be open. From what I understand, you’re not someone who is ever going to “need” 100 friends. There are certain things that no one ever tells us, that are true. One of them, Remy, is that most people go through their lives never having a real friend. We’re lucky when we have one true friend. Or two. Or three. If you have twenty, great, but it rarely works that way.

Find the people you care about, who care about you. Understand other things. The reason bullies and people who suck—let’s just call them that—impact us so much, hurt us so much, is because they make us question ourselves. Isn’t that what it is? We think we’re not good enough. You have a strange kind of dilemma. Because of how smart you are, and funny, and pretty, all that good stuff, there are always going to be people who want to tear you down. It’s not because you lack those good things—it’s because you have them. But when we get picked on, we doubt ourselves. That’s what the people picking on us want us to do. A secret about bullies and people who suck is that they prey upon us by how much of that doubt they produce. That’s how they get us. But if you know who you are, and you believe in that, they can’t do much. Especially when you’re a kid.

You might not know this from the way your dad talks about me, but I was picked on a lot when I was a little bit older than you. I went to two different high schools. At the first one, I was a sports star, one of the best hockey players in the state, but still I was picked on. I got the best grades and knew everything about everything and was smarter than my teachers, and that threatened people. It’s like if you have a bucket of crabs, and one crab climbs to the top. He’s like, “I’m going to be free! This crab has made, baby!” Okay, he’s not as boastful as all of that, but he’s worked hard and he’s gotten to the tippity top of that crab bucket! What happens? The other crabs try to pull him back down. It’s not because anything is wrong with him. It’s because of what he’s done. Who he is. Then at the other school, it was so bad I stopped playing hockey, and in two years I never went to the cafeteria. Not once did I eat at school. I sat in the library during that period and read and worked on my writing. There was more I could have done, maybe, but I was still finding a way to build myself up, to not let anyone take me from me.

Hardly anyone has ever existed who can be told that they’re such and such and not take it to heart. You could be the most in-shape person in the world, and if some random idiot says, “Hey, fatty,” that super in-shape person is going to go home and think they’re fat. For a little while anyway. That’s human nature. We are tasked with knowing ourselves. The good—so nothing can knock us back or down in that knowledge—and the bad, so we can work on it. Work on knowing who you are. Accepting those good things. Seeing the people who are unkind to you for what it is. It’s not a you thing, Remy; it’s a them thing. I understand that you are shy. That’s not a bad thing. Shy is just shy, and shy for now doesn’t mean shy for always. It’s okay if it is, so long as we’re still being open to people and things and ideas and ourselves. I was shy. I remember being at my sister’s wedding, and her maid of honor gave a speech at the party after. I was thinking, “I could never do that.” I was scared of public speaking. Then some bad things happened in my life, and everything changed. I changed. What was scary and what wasn’t changed. Now I’ve talked hundreds and hundreds of times in front of people, on the radio, and my heart beat doesn’t go up at all. I couldn’t be less scared. It’s like getting a drink of water from the tap, only easier.

Bad things are bad things. Bad people are bad people. But when we deal with them the right way, they do something they are not ready for: they make us stronger. They make us smarter. They also may make us more caring, if we’re really doing everything right. Don’t let anyone take your goodness from you. Grow that goodness. We are here to know ourselves, and facilitate our personal growth, and love ourselves, so that—and this is the even more important part—we can help others grow, and love themselves, and find meaning, and deal with what they need to deal with. Work to try to understand that. It takes a while.

But one way we do these things is we speak honestly to people. If you’re dealing with something, talk to your dad about it. Your mom. Your sister. That’s a sign of strength. Saying, “Hey, this sucks, I’m hurting, can we talk?” isn’t weakness. It’s the opposite. Don’t keep things to yourself. You are smarter than other people, and I get that that can be frustrating, but you also have an ability to touch lives in ways that others might not be able to. Including your own. Be a good friend to yourself. So much starts there. That impacts the friend we can be to others. Help your cousins and what they are going through with the loss of their dad. Be the friend they need.

You’re going to be fine. You have more say than you think. If someone is mean to you, work to be less bothered by it. Their interest will dwindle. You have better things with which to concern yourself. Cool things. I know it doesn’t feel this way, but they’re the ones who are having a worse time of it, and that’s why they’re acting like they do.

You keep that head up, always. You are the one with the control here where it counts. Never forget that.



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