Jay, 18, Ontario
Many people growing up would have heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well I didn’t, my family and I are immigrants and have never heard of this instead I got the phrase “if you didn’t get hit, there’s no reason to cry.” While my parent’s version of it was more straight to the point and much less poetic, I believe it delivers the same message, what people say shouldn’t be of any harm to you.
These words repeated in my head in grade three when I was being called “Gay Jay”. I didn’t really know what it meant at the time, but the constant musical chants made me feel awful. Later the same year, I had my first encounter with being physically beaten up.
Around winter time, the classmate that I had trouble with had hit me with a chair and beat me up outside. Of course, as an eight-year-old who had no idea what to do when put into such a situation like this, I resorted to biting his knee to get him off me. As a result, this became my first experience being bullied, suspended, and having to change schools.
A new school breathed life to new friends and new surroundings. I was greeted to this new neighborhood only to realize soon, that the first friend I had made there would also be the person to physically bully me. I couldn’t tell my parents because at such a young age I thought telling them would mean I have to move schools again. Despite being bullied at this school, I became something I would deeply regret later on. There is nothing acceptable about being a bully, of all people I should have known. After a little over a year of emotionally and physically hurting people, I realized how much I was turning into the same person that had caused me to move schools. After a few talks with the parents of the peers I had bullied, I stopped. The people that I once picked on, were the ones to later invite me over to their house and play games with. It was almost unbelievable to think that the people that I once caused harm to, were also the same ones that I would spend the most time with for the next three years. The times that I regret most in my life, were also the ones I learned the most from. I will always be grateful to the people that forgave me despite how I acted. Thank you to Anmol and Michelle, because I learned from them to face hate with kindness.
Entering high school felt like a fresh start away from physical bullying but it was only once school had started that I experienced forms of discrimination, stereotyping, and being outcasted. I have never been stereotyped more times in the four years of high school, than all the years before that put together. Every decent mark I received was followed by a peer’s scoff and comment “Ugh it’s because you’re Asian” and every poor mark I received was followed by another peer’s criticism on how I had failed to be a perfect stereotyped Asian. I’ve come to realize that my peers would need an expectation of what being Asian means for them to judge me, almost as if there’s a stereotypical checklist to go through. I can see the checklist in my mind, “oh yup check math, check piano, check martial arts, check science.” All the things I have previously mentioned were stereotyped on me, they also happened to be things that I am terrible at. Finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the constant stereotypes, I tried looking for activities that would keep me occupied. I turned to creating art, playing videogames, and writing. I was fortunate enough to have friends who could relate to me and open up about similar situations we’ve encountered before regarding bullying.
Hoping that these support systems will always be there is a dream that I always wished could be true. Often, people are caught up in their own lives, they have their own battles to fight, or sometimes they just might not be willing to help out. This was a reality that I faced in my later years of high school. When tension grew among my friends, I became alienated by them for 3 months. Outside conflicts and social exclusion led to my first encounter with depression.
As someone who was extremely shy and introverted, I found that reaching out for mental health support was nerve racking. Staring at the help line phone number and deciding not to call was more common than it should have been. A single thought cemented itself to my mind, that the stress and the depression I was going through was temporary, like a cloud in the sky. Sure, some days the clouds will block the sunlight but, it’ll eventually go away. It was just going to take time. Desperately hanging onto this thought, one of the friends that had alienated me reached out and apologized. It was then when I noticed it, that the roles have once again switched and this time, I would be the friend that forgave, and let go.
Time and time again, it would be my friends that would be the ones to reach out and help me from spiraling into an emotional and mental fall. Having a support system of people outside my family helped a lot with how I dealt with bullying and depression. Every person has their own story and battles that they face. The best way to help someone that is being bullied is to support them. Even if you have nothing to say, listening really does go a long way. If you’re someone that is being bullied, please try to reach out to a friend or trusted adult. It’s terrifying yes but it’s healthier than to keep it in. Trust me, I’ve dealt with bullies my whole life and I still am. It does get better and brighter, the clouds may just be covering the sky right now.