“The heart is like a garden: it can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” ~Jack Kornfield
To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever write you a letter. As far as I was concerned, the amount of suffering I went through during my school years was enough to make me bitter.
I didn’t forgive you, and I most certainly wasn’t about to forget.
I remember those years like it was yesterday—the cruel name calling; the scrutinizing of how I looked, what I said, and what I did; the public humiliation and cornering on the bus rides home.
Wrong face. Wrong size. Wrong skin color. Wrong personality.
No matter how hard I tried to understand it all, it felt like the world was telling me that I didn’t belong, and I never would.
I remember the hours spent locked in my room crying after school, while my mother paced around the house anxiously. Back then I didn’t know how to communicate to her how I was feeling, and she felt at a loss how to help. I felt paralyzed and confused.
In the schoolyard I was the good girl who never spoke badly of anyone, the quiet student who worked hard and who hated getting into trouble.
I remember the laughter, my cheeks burning as I walked from class to class, wishing that the earth would just swallow me up.
Dear bullies, I really remember that laughter.
I remember the times you refused to sit next to me, “that thing” in the class photos, deeming me too ugly to sit next to, unworthy of sharing your personal space.
I felt crushed that day.
Or the times you used pens and sharp objects to write cruel nicknames over all of my school books and stationery while I was home sick.
And yet every time my family moved to a new city to follow my father’s job, I always held hope that somehow this next new school would be different, I would be different.
I would be finally accepted.
But that day never seemed to come, and it wasn’t long before flip top cell phones without color, instant messenger, and social media websites arrived, sending messages that made my insides squirm.
You were my so called “friends.” You were strangers who found an easy target in a girl who was too afraid to use her voice.
I remember it all.
When I finally escaped school in my teenage years, I thought I was free. Instead, a suffocating depression and crippling anxiety knocked heavily on my door, as I withdrew from the world, convinced that “you” would be everywhere.
I hastily took your critical voices and directed it inward. You became my internal radio station, one that I couldn’t quite figure out how to change or even switch off.
But this is not where my story ends.
By being forced to go within, I began to slowly gather puzzle pieces out of a dark and challenging place.
I explored every nook and corner, searching for long lost parts of me, parts that hadn’t been seen in quite some time.
I learned how to face myself without fear, but rather with a growing sense of maturity that helped me to look beyond my pain and start to become aware of yours.
You see, we humans are merely a reflection of one another.
For you to project words so broken and so laced with anger, you had to have been battling your very own storms within.
Genuinely happy people don’t pull others down, and for that, you have taught me the art of compassion.
You have taught me how to connect fully with others from all walks of life; I look around me, and I see beyond the superficial, the carefully put up walls, and I see something else:
I see that behind every face, behind every pair of eyes filled with experiences, there is a story to be told, if we just took more time to stop and listen.
And even though some of your stories are now forever linked with mine, they’re now the gritty, rough drafts that add to the chapters rather than take away from it.
Because, you see, despite the hurt, you truly did contribute to the biggest gift of all:
The gift of learning to genuinely love and accept the child that I was and the woman I am becoming.
And for that, I only have a few words for you:
Thank you for making me strong.