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February 27, 2019

Pink Shirt Day/Anti-Bullying Day

TP (Teacher's Pet). Shrimp. Shortstuff.

These were some of the names I was called, oh, I'd say, 25 years ago. And there's probably (likely) more I didn't even know about. And yet, I remember these words.

If you follow me on here, you may be surprised to know:

  • I didn't have a lot of friends when I was a young girl. Maybe that's why I'm not overly concerned with having hundreds of thousands of followers today. I had (and still have) a handful of really great, supportive friends;
  • I wasn't in the "popular" crowd. Far from it, actually. I was a 'good' girl, very studious and obedient; and,
  • I wasn't overly confident or rebellious. Today, I critique just about anything and everything I see, hear or taste, but I wasn't always like that. I wouldn't call myself introverted, but I remember being more reserved or quieter than I am today.

These were all natural character traits, and yet, they caused a lot of taunting over the years. I wouldn't say I was "bullied" (maybe because we didn't use that word as much in the 80s/90s), but I was definitely made fun of, teased and mocked. This much I know. In fact, I don't know many people who weren't.

Somehow, someway, I developed confidence and strength as I got older. I found my voice, I maintained my friendships, and I used my characteristics as my greatest assets. If I happen to come across someone who may have been unkind to me as a kid, I gently remind them that it was difficult to grow up in that environment. And I forgive.

Most importantly, I've decided to spread kindness as much as possible. I try and be as inclusive as possible, I call people if I think they're upset or unhappy, I remind my kids to recognise people's differences, but be open to conversing with many groups of friends.

As much as time passes, history has a way of repeating itself, and kids today can be just as mean and cruel as kids were when I was growing up. Actually, probably worse. And with the integration of technology into our every day lives, there is another outlet for kids (and adults) to spread hate and hurt. And if you're ever on the receiving end, it hurts.

I think the onus is on adults to think back to the times where we may have been bullied or teased. Think about how we felt. Remind ourselves that we have a responsibility, both online and offline, to maintain open dialogues and open minds. While people may not agree on everything, we can be respectful and inclusive, not divisive. And it is never ok to mock someone for qualities or traits from when they were born. Nix that. Harassment is never ok. Period.

And so, as I wear my pink shirt proudly today, it's a reminder to everyone to exercise these philosophies, not only today but every day.

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