When I was a teen, I would have been mortified to admit I was being bullied. My junior high and high school years were the worst time of my life. As a poor kid at the rich kids’ school in a small town, I was targeted for not having the same experiences as everyone else: for not wearing the right jeans, for living in an apartment instead of a huge house, for being a science nerd, for sucking at gym…really, just for being different. I was embarrassed by all the ways I didn’t fit in.
I am not embarrassed anymore. Because I have turned the negative experiences of my past into something positive.
After I left for college, I realized that the kids who were different in high school would become the grownups who change the world. You have to stand out—be outstanding—if you want to make a difference. I couldn’t believe I’d wasted so much time wishing I had fit in with a bunch of people I would never have to see again for the rest of my life. Out in the real world, I was surrounded by hundreds of accepting people who rocked their unique qualities. And I was finally one of them.
What made me keep holding on through my horrible teen years was the hope that one day I would be living my dream life. All of the bullying I endured has manifested in strength, insight, and my purpose in life: To reach out to teens and help them feel less alone. By writing teen novels like Keep Holding On, I can hopefully connect with teens who are feeling desperate. I know what it’s like to feel like you’ll never be happy again, that giving up would be a relief. On your worst days when you can’t even stand to be in your own skin, please know that you can create the life you want to be living. You can find your place to belong. You can be the person you want to be.
You are the change you’ve been waiting for.
Helping others is an excellent way to make this world a better place while increasing the positive energy in your life. You can take a stand against bullying by being an Upstander with the Tyler Clementi Foundation. As an Upstander, you pledge to support anyone who is the target of abusive words or actions.
Speak out, stay strong, and never give up.
The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.