Chances are, you don’t know me from a hole in the ground. In fact, a hole in the ground may look more familiar than I do, but I am Your Aunt Becky, and while we may not actually be related by blood, I have adopted you along with the rest of the Internet. It’s okay. Don’t worry. When I show up to your house for some family gathering and get rowdy and drunk and sing God Save The Queen, I’ll distract your parents so you can sneak some rum into your eggnog, okay?
Anyway, I hate to bother you with a boring letter since you kids like your text messages but what I have to say is important and I hope that you listen to it. Or parts of it. Tune out what doesn’t matter to you, but please, listen to at least a little bit of it. I may not be particularly smart, but I have lived about twenty different lives, so I’ve picked up some insight along the way.
Your teenage years are not the best years of your life.
What seems like a permanent and dire situation now, the things that make you hurt and ache inside, those things will stay with you, but the hurts and the aches, those subside over time. These are the things that will fortify you. They will strengthen you and they will make you a better person. Eventually.
I know that it seems like there is no other way out, believe me, I’ve felt that way before too. I’m willing to bet that most of the people who are reading this column right now have felt this way at some point as well. Maybe it’s not the same. Maybe we cannot understand precisely how you feel because we are not you. But even when things seem so bleak and so empty, even when all that you feel is a deep chasm of pain, it will pass. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but it will pass.
Things will get better.
Physically, my heart hurts when I see statistics like sexual minority youth are bullied two to three times more than heterosexual youths. In our lifetime, (yes, I am using the royal “our” because I am rightly assuming that you will be around to make fun of my obsession with bacon for a good long while) I would be willing to bet that this number will drop as bullying is taken more seriously by schools and parents alike. Certainly, that does not help you right at this very moment, as you are hurting from the devastating effects of verbal, emotional and even perhaps physical abuse, I know that. Let every unkind word, every insult, every horrible slur thrown at you strengthen your resolve to help the next generation.
You know that you must be part of the change the next generation of children who will grow up to be in your shoes some day. You can and you will.
These are not the best years of your life.
The best years of your life are yet to come. The years ahead of you will be long and they will be beautiful and they will be brimming with love. The suffering that you have withstood at the hands of cruel bullies and those who do not understand you will leave the sorts of scars that may never be visible to anyone but those who know you best. Those silent scars will only serve to help you as you can turn all of your pain and channel it into something greater, something positive. There is a whole world out there beyond your high school, beyond your small-minded town who will welcome you with wide arms, who will love you as you are, and who will accept you simply for being you.
It’s hard to remember all of this, I know, because even now, at age thirty, my high school years winking merrily in my rearview mirror, I struggle to remind myself that it’s not the end of things when I have a bad day. I have to take a breath and remind myself that it’s not going to break me when I’m bullied by someone. The days when I get harassed simply for being me aren’t bad days at all; because they make me stronger. Sometimes, I have to take a step back from the situation, let all of that hatred flung in my face wash over me and and allow it to strengthen my resolve to do more good.
These horrible bleak days are going to make the rest of your life that much better.
I want you to know that somewhere, Your anonymous Aunt Becky is rooting for you, kid, and she loves you dearly. You’ll learn that the world is a good place. High school may not always be, but the world is. I’m sorry that things have to be so hard for you and trust me, if I could take on those bullies, I would do it in a second (don’t doubt me on this). I have a loyal Prankster Army who’d back me up. Bullies are bullshit. No, let me rephrase that: bullies are FUCKING bullshit, and you don’t deserve the suffering they’re causing you.
There’s a big world out here, kid, and we can’t wait to meet you. Please remember that high school is temporary and the rest of your life, well, it’s wide open. We can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with it.
Please, do not give up hope. There is always hope.
If you’d like to talk to someone from the Trevor Project, here is the Phone Number: 866-4-U-TREVOR
And, loves, you know where to find me.
Your Aunt Becky
What would you say to one of the teens who are being harassed? What can we do to stop this horrible harassment?
Photo by nongpimmy.