We Survived – How You Can Too
Have you ever felt alone, as if no one understands what you’re going through, and that no matter how hard you try, you’re scared things may never get better? Do you wish your classmates would give you a break? I felt that way often in school. I was bullied and excluded for the same reason maybe you or someone you know has been-simply for being different. There were days when all I wanted was to stay in my room. Back then, I would have given almost anything to meet the kids you’re going to meet here.
Autumn dreaded recess. Joshua was afraid to trust anyone at home or at school. Taylor had lots of friends until her BFF turned them all against her. Gabe’s online gaming world was turned upside down when other players started humiliating him. A teacher was bullying Brianna. Eric’s Asperger’s made him the butt of cruel jokes. The cool crowd beat up Tiffany and videotaped it for YouTube. Zach got punched and stomped on because of his weight. Trinity felt invisible. Aamina was harassed because of her family’s religious beliefs. Riley had to live with the soul-crushing weight of mental illness as well as the other students who jeered at her plight.
These are some of the brave teens who will be talking to you in this book. They-and others they inspired-found the courage to stand up to their bullies and reclaim their lives, and you’ll hear exactly how they did it.
You’re not alone anymore.
Endorsed by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
More About the Book
Chapter One ….. Ethan
Chapter Two ….. Taylor
Chapter Three ….. Cameron
Chapter Four ….. Brianna
Chapter Five ….. Zach
Chapter Six ….. Aamina
Chapter Seven ….. Trinity
Chapter Eight ….. Joshua
Chapter Nine ….. Tiffany
Chapter Ten ….. Autumn
Chapter Eleven ….. Hunter
Chapter Twelve ….. Riley
Chapter Thirteen ….. Aaron
Chapter Fourteen ….. Gemma
Chapter Fifteen ….. Gabe
Chapter Sixteen ….. Connor
Chapter Seventeen ….. Savannah
Hi. I’m glad you’re here! If we’ve already met, either through one of my other books or perhaps because I’ve spoken at your school, it’s so cool to see you again. And if this is our first time hanging out, I’m happy that we found each other. I want you to know you’re safe here, that you’re not alone. We all understand what you’re going through. When I was in school, I never thought it would get better. I can still hearmy classmates laughing at me. I can still feel the sting of all those parties I never got invited to, the football games on Friday nights I longed to attend but didn’t dare because I knew I’d be sitting alone in the bleachers, humiliated and ashamed. Don’t even get me started about what it was like in the cafeteria at lunch or in the locker room after gym class.
Back then there was no Internet. When I got home from school, I was beyond lonely, but at least no one could mess with me in the sanctity of my own home on a computer or smartphone. Cyber-bullying was a monster of the future, one whose claws hadn’t yet scratched, whose teeth hadn’t yet bitten. Now that monster is unleashed. It’s just one more way the mean kids can break your heart. I know all about feeling broken. I also know what it feels like to survive and come back stronger, smarter, and better than before. So do the kids you’ll be meeting here. They never gave up. Some took longer than others, and some made a lot of mistakes before getting it right, but every one of them found a way to stand up to their bullies and reclaim their lives. Not only will they give you hope that you can too, but they’ll tell you exactly how they did it.
Welcome home. It’s time for you to get to know everyone!
Gemma – Chapter 14
I’m Gemma. I’m in eighth grade. It’s boring and it sucks but whatever. I feel uncomfortable talking to you. I pretend to be all open with people, but I never really let anyone get inside. I did up until middle school, and then everything got messed up and I didn’t care about anyone anymore. Today totally freaked me out! This thing happened at school that changed everything and I wasn’t sure I could even talk about it, but if I don’t, I’ll probably just feel worse.
Okay, so, I’m in eighth grade. Oh yeah, I already said that. Sorry. Anyway, this morning Jodee came to speak at my school. I never even heard of her before. I was so not into it. Most people are BS. And she was like the queen of everything I hated. She was like super pretty, and in my head I was like, “Yeah, right, bitch, like you were bullied. You are so full of sh_t! The only reason you’re telling this phony story is to sell your stupid book.”
I f___ing hated her, but like my BFFs were totally into her whiny crap so I had to pretend to give a sh_t. Jodee cried sometimes in the talk. I still thought she was full of it. Then she told this story about how when she was in fifth grade, her friends turned on her ’cause she was her own person and didn’t want to make fun of kids just because everyone else was. That like freaked me so out ’cause the samething happened to me in fifth grade. So I thought maybe I should give her a chance. I really listened to the rest of her talk. Then afterward, me and my friends went up to her. We asked her if we could talk to her alone. She was really nice about it. She hugged me and said she knew what it was like to be bullied. I go, “No, I’m not bullied. OMG, me and my friends are like the most popular clique at school.” She asked what was wrong. I told her about this kid, Eric. He was the
school outcast. Ever since fifth grade, we were really mean to him. I told Jodee me and my friends were wondering if she could help us figure out how to make it up to him. We wanted to tell him we were sorry. Jodee got us a classroom and told the principal to bring Eric down. Okay, so, before I tell you the rest of the story, this is the kind of stuff we did to Eric. I’m not proud of it, but I promised if I talked to you, I’d tell the truth. I think I’m gonna throw up. Okay, so Eric was a weird dude. He was like mental. He’d make all these weird sounds all the time, and he could never look you in the eye. I’m just saying the dude was like retarded.
So me and my friends did this thing where we’d wait until right before the second bell rang when Eric was passing our math class on his way to homeroom, and we’d bang the erasers against the chalkboard really hard. It made this super loud popping sound like a gun. Eric would freak out. He’d start crying and screaming and a few times he pissed his pants.
My friends and I would high-five each other. Like I said, I’m not proud of it, okay? It was stupid and mean, what we did. I don’t even know why we got off on it so much. Okay, so we were hanging out in the classroom with Jodee when the principal came in and said Eric was waiting in the hall. He asked if we were ready. Jodee went out to talk to Eric for a minute alone first. I kind of was wishing I’d never started this. There were about fifteen of us “bullies” in the room, mostly cheerleaders and guys on the basketball team.
Our school was a total jock school. The basketball team won state championships three years in a row. Jodee came back in with Eric. He whispered something in her ear. She said, “Okay.” Then he went to the front of the room and said he wasn’t mad at us for being mean, that he knew he was weird. He said it was ’cause he had this thing called Asperger’s. He said it made it hard for him to talk to people and look them in the eye and stuff. He said that he could think okay, that he wasn’t dumb or anything, but that a part of his brain was broken and he couldn’t help it when he got all spastic. I felt bad. He was being sweet and we were always jerks to him. I remember this one time at lunch we put soap in his food. He had to go to the nurse’s office. How
could we have been that awful?
Okay, so-I say that when I’m nervous. I start every sentence with “okay, so.” My mom says it’s a bad habit, but like, I’m so nervous right now that I just want to keep saying “okay, so” over and over, until you get sick of it and I don’t have to talk anymore. Me and my friends f___ed up. It was the kind of mistake that a person has to live with forever, like drunk drivers when they hit someone. Eric said, “You know how when you banged the erasers
real loud against the chalkboard, and I’d scream and sometimes have a accident, but it wasn’t ’cause of my Asperger’s; it was ’cause of something else.” I think praying is dumb, but I said a prayer then.”I scream ’cause when I was in fourth grade, my mom went to the store and left me home with my dad, and I was nervous ’cause of the cartoon on TV, ’cause the roadrunner was being mean to the coyote again, and the coyote was hurt bad, and the roadrunner kept saying, ‘beep, beep’ and I blocked my ears, but the roadrunner wouldn’t stop, and I started making popping sounds, ‘pop, pop, pop’ with my finger in my mouth, and my dad told me to stop, and I couldn’t, and he kept telling me he was sick of having a retard son, and then he yelled at me and I was screaming, and he got his gun, and he put it next to his head, and he shot it, and there was blood all over and it got on the TV, and I screamed, and then I was in the hospital.” I looked over at my friends. None of us knew what to say. Jodee was holding Eric’s hand. The principal was guarding the door.
“That’s how come I scream when I hear the erasers,” Eric said. “They sound like Daddy’s gun, and I think it’s going to be all blood everywhere again.” I wanted to die. I got up and hugged Eric. I told him over and over how sorry I was for being such a bitch to him. He said, “It’s okay, Gemma, don’t cry.” I felt so small. By then, my friends had gotten up and were coming over. We all gave Eric a group hug. We stayed like that for a really long time. It was lunch period, so the principal had food brought up. The counselor came too to make sure we were all okay. She asked if there was something us kids could do for Eric to “say we’re sorry in actions and not just words.” Eric got all red, and said, “I want to learn how to play basketball.” The guys all
volunteered to play with him after school twice a week beforepractice, and we invited him to sit with us at lunch every day, and we’re going to include him in lots of cool stuff. He’s part of the gang now. It’s not ’cause of guilt. It’s not. We found out that Eric is cool in his own special way.
He changed all of us.
Okay, so (I know I’m doing it again, sorry), I never talk about this but if Eric could be brave, I will too. There was
another reason I wanted to be friends with Eric after what happened. He’s my hero now. I know I’m a bitch. I never give a sh_t about anyone. I like making fun of people and laughing at them. It makes me feel important I guess. Here’s the thing. I wasn’t always a terrible person. In elementary school, I was nice. I stuck up for people and if someone was being mean, I got up in their face. Like there was this one kid, Adam. By fifth grade he already knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wanted to be a radio talk show host. It was so weird ’cause nobody even knew what that was. He had these ugly glasses and he wore a tie to school every day. At recess, he’d always want to play radio with people and he’d run around with a tape recorder asking everyone to do interviews.
He had one friend, this kid Shane, who was like a math geek. Shane would play with Adam and stuff but he was a total chickensh_t when the other kids made fun of him. He never stuck up for him. I never made fun of Adam. I thought he was cute. He was one of those kids you just kind of knew would be famous one day. I was into celebrity mags like OK! and Star and Tiger Beat. They always had tons of stories about famous people who were bullied when they were in school too, like Christina Aguilera, Demi Lovato, even Adam Levine, like OMG I know he’s super old but he’s still totally hot. He had acne when he was a kid and felt all awkward and stuff. The Adam at my school was sort of the same way, like, there was this whole other person inside of him that just hadn’t been born yet. I felt bad that no one saw it but me. Okay, so (sorry again, it is a bad habit, Mom’s right, arrrghhh!). Anyway, this one day all these kids were picking on Adam really bad. They had his tape recorder and were playing catch with it. He was crying. They kept throwing it up in the air and then pretending like they were going to drop it. It was so mean. I went off on them. I told them to leave him alone, then I grabbed the tape recorder, gave it back to Adam, and told on them to the principal. I was never so mad. After that, all my friends turned on me. They said I was a tattletale. No one would talk to me. I stopped getting invited to sleepovers. No one would hang out with me or play with me at recess.
Then Adam won some radio contest for kids. It got in the papers and everything. All of the sudden, the other kids thought he was cool now. One day they hated him, and the next he was God. It was such BS. A group of kids who used to be my friends started messing with me at lunch. This one girl dumped juice all over my new white sweater on purpose. Adam was there. He saw it. She started laughing at me and then everybody else started laughing too. One kid said, “Hey, put some cold water on it, freak.” Then he threw a whole bottle in my face. Adam was laughing at me with everybody else. I hated them all. Now I just hate myself. I became just like them. Everybody treated Eric like crap. Why did I have to do it, too? I never even thought about it until today. Now I can’tthink about anything else. I hope being friends with Eric will help the old me, the one I liked, the one who stuck up for people, the one who was a good person, make the mean bitch who took over my body in middle school go away. I swear, I’ll never be mean to anyone again. I swear I won’t.