Content warning: The following story contains references to bullying and violence, which may be triggering to some readers.
“Skin of My Teeth,” Eve
In my short life I have been no stranger to bullying and harassment. Some may shrug, others dismiss it as a part of childhood, some say that’s so sad, me? I say it’s a chance to grow and learn.
As early as middle school, seventh grade, I was unfortunate enough to have one of my best friends turn on me just three days after my Bat Mitzvah by sending me nasty email and spreading rumors around the school. She told people I was pregnant; I hadn’t even dated or kissed anyone at this point. She succeeded in turning one friend against me and tried to make others hate me as well. Together these two former friends “pushed” me against lockers by basically body-checking and tried to do the same with the trashcans. They did this right in front of teachers who just stood by and watched.
Somedays, I just went home and cried and I took my little candle cleaner to my arm but I couldn’t cut myself because I was afraid of more pain, so I just cried some more. I had chat logs from emails and instant messages and when I took them to the guidance counselor he told me that he couldn’t do anything other than a mediation or tell her a faculty member saw the way she was treating me. This actually got her to stop, thank god, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t still afraid until high school when she went to private and I was still in public.
I was lucky enough to use this experience to become a peer counselor in high school, it helped me decide that I wanted to be there for other students and not just as a peer but as a teacher too. My middle school teachers cared so little about what I was going through and my high school teachers cared so much I wanted to be a teacher like the ones I needed in middle school and the ones I had in high school.
Now, you would think that bullying like this wouldn’t happen to a college student, let alone someone that had already been through a friend turned bully, but it did. My sophomore year of college was a living hell for me that I am still recovering from. End of freshman year I thought I met a great guy and a good friend but the following fall I learned that was not the case.
I was told by the basically ex-boyfriend that the female friend I made didn’t like me, that it was just something about my personality that didn’t mesh with her. This was after she had been slightly mean to me about my performance in a video game consistently over the last couple months of summer. He told me to just not play with her but that meant isolating myself from other friends too. He told me something similar in the fall when it came to hanging out with people. He said that I would only be able to hangout with people when she was not going to be there because it was obvious that she didn’t like me or want to be around me.
When I told him how that made me feel second-rate, he got defensive and said they weren’t attached at the hip. Know how many times I hung out with him after that? Twice. That whole semester up until that point he had been blowing me off afraid I’d “make a pass at him” and then he’d tell me he’d need space only to tell me a month later he missed me and then that he was “overwhelmed with school” only to have her tell me a had a girlfriend, which he later confessed was a lie he had her tell me because he had actually felt overwhelmed by me.
Meanwhile this ex-friend was still bullying me and harassing me in the Facebook group about the aforementioned video game and belittling my skill and even though we weren’t friends, she was going off on me and harassing for me playing certain characters in that game that she played. The facebook group was meant originally as a way for us at this school to share our experience of the game with each other and when she started referring to everyone in this group as part of her “club” her “team” and wasn’t letting me be involved at all and basically forcing me out of this group of friends and these people to play with I felt so isolated and unlike in middle school I couldn’t go home away from this, I was home…
The hardest part was seeing these other people in the group in a way let this happen. My ex saw how she was acting during the summer and told me to just not play with her instead of being like “hey chill, it’s a game” and others jumped on board when saying “you’re *insert level here* “ and basically saying I wasn’t good enough to be in that current conversation. My ex also started one of the worst posts where only one person in that main group defended me in any way and then a couple of other people thankfully jumped in with him. That was the first time in 19 years, my entire life, that anyone ever stood up for me and I know I won’t forget it.
While this was going on other things were going on as well, I felt another group of friends at school had forgotten about me or didn’t want me anymore and my father was in the hospital again. I was broken by the end of fall semester. I had thought of suicide at least twice that semester I was so depressed but somehow I held on by the skin of my teeth. I hate to say it but I feel that part of how I held on was based on spite. The girl had that said that the club was hers but I kept thinking how it wasn’t an official club at school and I was going to beat her to the punch. As I was working on the club constitution I kept thinking to myself nobody else should suffer like this, I was bullied and harassed by friends and peers about a game! Nobody else. Not while I’m here.
I was the only one at the approval meeting and it was everything I could do not to cry. I cried when it was approved and I cried when I received an award the following year for all the work I put in to try to make sure my clubs were as bully-free and safe as possible.
That night I knew I made it out again stronger but still broken and that I owed a tiny thanks to my ex and that girl for what I accomplished that year. There is something I always say and I still after all these years to be true, “it is good to forgive but just because you forgive doesn’t mean you have to forget."
About the art:
Eve shared a powerful story, and wanted the last quote of her piece to be reflected in the art. It reminded me of a simple quote, one that captured the message clearly. Eve suggested that the image associated with the quote represent helping to lift others up, and requested a calming blue palette for the art.
I imagined the many different ways we show support and help others rise, and wanted to embody that forgiveness is a skill that needs building. So the bottom of the piece includes a climbing rope, a hard place to start. By the top, the ladder represents an easier route to forgiveness that often comes with practice.