Letter to my Middle School Bullies

Hello.

How are you.

I’m good, thank you for asking.

So, here we are. Four years later. Six, from when you started—decided—that it would be fun to tear down the spirits of a twelve year old. I wish six grade me could see me now. Happy. Relatively well liked. Accepted. She dreamed of this day. She hoped that it would happen but each day she walked into Ms. M classroom, she began to believe that it would never come.
She never understood why you treated her the way you did. Why you called her the names you called. What she did to make you… hate her so much. She started the first day in that school a happy-go-lucky child. A—dare I say—confident, chatty person. She was always a social person. She had to be, the constant moving forced her to. She never had trouble making friends. She never had enemies, until you decided to make one out of her.

When looking back at grade 6, all I can remember is sitting in the girl’s washroom, crying. Bearing my soul to the empty tiles of the bathroom floor in the form of sobs.

Staring at the cold mirror, trying to wash the redness out of my eyes so you wouldn’t know just how sad you made me. I think the worst thing was knowing that it wasn’t anything that I had done that made you treat me this way, it was simply who I was. Because I wasn’t pretty enough, cool enough, rich enough…THIN enough, I wasn’t deserving of your… kindness. I wanted to tell someone but I couldn’t because if I did, they would tell my parents and they would pull me out of the school. It was a private school and I knew how much they were struggling to give me the best possible education they could afford, I couldn’t break their hearts by telling them that it was hurting me. So instead, I let my own heart break instead. And crumble it did. Until there was nothing left in me. Until the will to live started to diminish. How bad would I be if I died really? My parents would be relieved the financial burden of raising me. You guys, you would be forced to say nice things about—as is what we do when speaking of the deceased. It would almost be poetic. Somehow, I carried on. I woke up every day and walked into Ms. M class, choked down my lunch in the washroom, rinsed my face and repeat.


Eventually it stopped—you stopped. I wish I could say it was because you matured, but the truth is, it was because you found a new target. I think the worst thing is slowly, I became like you. I was thirteen, scared of you turning back on me so I joined you, but that’s no excuse. It’s one of my biggest regrets. And to the girl we talked about—I’m sorry, I truly am. Even then when you all claimed to be my friend, I knew you weren’t being completely honest. I still heard the unkind nicknames, the mean rumours, snark giggles. The only difference now was that these were done in whispers.


 It hurt more.

It hurt more because this time you were supposed to be my friends, but every time I turned my back to walk away, I saw your knives in my peripheral vision.
Now years have passed and I have moved on. The memories still remain, they always will. They have become a part of who I am and my story. And as I sit this cold February evening, now “officially” and adult, vulnerable, I have just one thing to tell you all:

I forgive you.
Sincerely,
Natalie Stravens
Song of the post: Mean by Taylor Swift

Quote of the Post: Sometimes bullies are your friends and very rarely do bullying prevention tips acknowledge this fact or what to do about it. -Rosalind Wiseman

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Book Worm Love

I love reading, I really do and admittedly, I have fallen prey to many of the book fandom craziness that have swept the world. Hunger Games, read it (though in my defense it was when it was only mildly popular and way before the first movie.) Series of unfortunate events, Narnia, all read when I was 10-11. Alex Rider series. Percy Jackson. Divergent. Fault in our Stars. All of them and a bunch of other obscure series that no one’s really heard of (because I’m hipster like that). Didn’t do Harry Potter though, nothing against it just wasn’t allowed to read it when I was younger and by the time I was, the craze had died down and didn’t feel the need to, though one day I will. Twilight. No. Okay, my introduction to twilight was around the time the first movie came out. All my friends were reading it; I was in middle school so I thought, why not? Watched the first two movies, found it boring; read half of the first book, fell asleep. I just couldn’t get myself into it and Edward creeped me out with his stalking thing. I mean, I’d personally be like:

What I do remember doing is Wikipedia-ing the ending. Okay, was I the only person who thought it was weird, no, disturbing that Jacob fell in love with an infant? Sure she grew up fast and all but she was a BABY!!! Why are we seeing this glorification of pedophilia and just being like aww, it’s so sweet. They are imprinted forever.  That’s more of a nope moment.

I think the Youtuber, Alex Day also ruined it for me because of his series a couple years ago. That was also when any shred of respect for it completely left. I prefer to keep my brain cells, thank you very much and go read some… Shakespeare or something.
I know it sounds like I threw in Shakespeare as a random, well referenced author but I do legitimately like reading him, especially the comedies. (Favourite play is As You like It) His stories are humorous and clever and somehow relatable, all written in beautiful language—though admittedly, sometimes you need a little SparkNotes to appreciate that beauty. Now when I ask you for the name of a Shakespearean play, I’m sure one of the first ones you think about is Romeo and Juliet. That could possibly be the only one I absolutely hate that he wrote. Okay, he must have been slightly high when he wrote that. I think the thing I hate about it the most isn’t the plot itself, it’s more the fact that it has become the epiphany of what love is and that annoys me. Romeo and Juliet were just a bunch of hormonal teenagers who got so many people killed because they couldn’t wait.
 I mean let’s just analyze the ending, (*spoiler alert* but honestly if you don’t know how it ends, that is pretty sad because it’s been out for centuries and is a famous literary work.) Romeo finds Juliet ‘dead’ and kills himself in sorrow, she wakes up and sees him really dead and then kills herself in sorrow. Initial reaction: WTF? Okay, do you know how that story starts? Romeo was in love with some other random girl called Rosaline who wanted to be a nun so that couldn’t work. He met Juliet at a party his friend took him to so he could forget his troubles. Juliet is the freaking rebound girl. THE REBOUND GIRL.  Take that in. It took lover boy Romeo a whole afternoon to get over Rosaline. So if he had just used his common sense and been like, “oh Juliet’s dead. So sad. I’ll mourn her now but life goes on (and you know another girl could walk right in and I’ll ‘fall’ for her too).” Then Juliet would have woken up by now and it would be a happily ever after! Yay! But no, he had to be a stupid teenager. I mean he was what? 15? And Juliet was like 13? And let’s go back to the fact that it was THREE DAYS! Not even a week! Why are these people the romanticized image of love? I do not think at 13 or 15 you know what love is. You might know crush or infatuation or even lust but not love, at least not that kind.
Yeah, so that rant went off but it had to be made. My point is—I don’t even know anymore. Basically, Valentine’s Day is coming soon and I think the whole forever alone-ness moping part of me is creeping out. Anyway, love is… not something you find in 3 days at 13-15 years of age and is not some creepy guy watching you sleep. Also books are cool.
Yup, that was the point I was making. (It was probably gonna be some inspirational thing about the power of books and words but whatever).
Song of the Post: S.A.D. by Joseph Vincent
Quote of the Post:Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.-Albert Einstein

In Hindsight

Happy 2014 everyone!

Can I first express how disappointed I am with technology? Hello, where are the holographic video chats and the flying cars? I was really looking forward to a new hoverboard for Christmas. C’mon Science! You’re slacking.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to do a little recap on 2013 and what this new year means to me… all that sentimental mumbo jumbo. Everyone seems to be talking about how 2013 was such a bad year with all the deaths and natural disasters. I admit it wasn’t the roaring 20’s but 2013 was an ok year. Like every year it had its ups and downs, but what year doesn’t? Here’s what 2013 was for me, the good and bad:

This is small on the grand scale of thing but if I hear “Blurred Lines” again I think I’m gonna shoot myself. I think a little part of my soul dies a little every time it comes on. There were others that were abominations to the Arts but that one particularly irks me. 

On the more serious side of things, a lot of people died this year, and I don’t just mean the famous ones. It’s sad, but I think what’s more sad is the fact that some people’s lives were considered more valuable than others. Don’t get me wrong, my heart goes out to the families of all those celebrities that died, but it also goes out to the others. Where’s the mourning for the infants that die every day in a developing country because they didn’t get the right facilities to cure a disease as simple as the common cold. Or the newly orphaned family who’s mum died of HIV/AIDS. Then there’s the death of Nelson Mandela. He was a great man and an inspiration to us all. However, I don’t understand why everyone was so sad about his life. He lived a long and fulfilling life, we should be celebrating it, not mourning it. Nelson Mandela isn’t a man who died, He LIVED!

National Disasters were another wave tragedy in 2013. They were devastating, I’m not gonna argue that. However, the human race is faced with great tragedies every year. I think it says more of how we deal with it and the triumph of the human spirit. Even with all the horror, I say many band together to help those in need. Now let’s not argue the merits of charities and if all the money got to them, but the fact that people went out of the way to help and donate to the cause is what we should be discussing.

This year is honestly a blur to me. I know it’s not been the best because I remember being sad or mad or whatever but I can’t remember what I was mad or sad or whatever about (real intellectual sentence right there). I make me think how insignificant that was in the grand scale of things. Like the ice storm we had here in Toronto.  Sure it sucked and we lost power but at the same time it forced me—and others I bet—to actually spend time with their family this holidays. I know the whole “silver linings” explanation usually sounds so terribly cliché but I warned you this post will be filled with sentimental mumbo jumbo. The anwswer don’t always have to be grand and mind blowing, sometimes it’s something we already know but choose to ignore.

Now on the positive side of things, these are more personal than the above ones. 2013 was a good year for friendship in my life. Not only did I wake a lot of new friends but my friendship with current ones really blossomed. I have a lot of friends who were just people I didn’t really know but hanged out with but I think on a more emotional level, I got to know many of them this year. I guess it’s because it’s going on my third year in one place which is an achievement for me. I’ve only stayed 3 years in one school once before and this will be the last time because of me graduating and all. It was also a great year for new friends. You know how you have these connections with people where you click and become amazing friends in such a short period of time, well that happened to me a lot this year. It must be because of all the camps and the mission trip I went on and being forced to spend time with the same people around the clock. What’s even more amazing is the fact that I still kept in contact with a lot of them which usually doesn’t happen. I’m tired of regretting cultivating friendships that could have been so I decided to change that. This year was also one of life changing experiences. True, I had to travel to another side of the world to experience it, but it happened none the less. So yeah, I guess 2013 was a good year for me. I dunno how it was for you, but what I do know is that no matter how bad things get, there truly is a silver lining.
Sorry for the cheesiness with extra cheese.

Quote of the Post: “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”- Nelson Mandela

Re-evaluating Imagination

I don’t think I’m going to do the whole Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy—well, maybe her—with my kids… if I have any. You must be flabbergasted at that statement. Why would I deprive my future kids of their childhood? Well, why would I encourage some fantasy to my kids that I’m just going destroy and devastate them later on in life? I know that sounds weird—like I’m talking in terms of an adult not a kid, but I never believed in Santa or the Easter Bunny. Nobody told me they weren’t real, I just was a logical child about stuff like that. The only one that got me was the tooth fairy because ‘she’ visited me at a friend’s house and it baffled me how even when I wasn’t home, I still got money.
However, I still had a great childhood. In a way, knowing that it was my parents who put those presents under the tree or hid the chocolate eggs at Easter was better. I mean, even when times were hard and I knew my parents were struggling financially, there would still be gifts on the best day of the year. You can’t help but feel loved. I mean if I wanted say—an iPad—for Christmas, but my parents couldn’t afford it but they get me a bunch of clothes and smaller gifts instead, you know how much they care and the gifts mean so much more. If I believed in Santa, I would feel terrible because…c’mon, it’s SANTA, he’s loaded, where’s my iPad? Being a child, I would be so broken hearted, maybe even throw a tantrum. It’s just not worth the supposed ‘magic’ of believing.
Why should I believe in a mythical creature anyway? What is this magic you speak of? So I believe in a fat old man and his little helpers, or a bunny that somehow has loads of eggs to give—where does he even get the eggs from? He’s like some master thief or something—I digress. Is the magic of the holidays what they represent? Christmas and the gift God gave us, Easter and the Sacrifice He made? Why don’t we encourage this part of the holidays? Why isn’t generosity—‘tis better to give than to receive—, love, joy, thankfulness, etc promoted instead?
Anyway, back to my childhood. I was a happy child. I grew up normally. I know I said I was logical and all, but I also had an imagination. Remember pretending the ground was lava—I still do that—or building a fort/cave thingy-ma-bob out of pillows and couch cushions? That was my thing! I remember pretending to be a spy, a princess, a mum, an animal with my friends. I loved the game of make-believe. I need to be LIED to by my parents in order to have a great childhood.
The long and short of it is, I’m pretend Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc are real. I’ll tell them about it, I mean, they still have to watch great movies like The Santa Claus; Elf; Rise of the Guardians, etc, but just for fun, for enjoyment.
Or maybe I’m being overly logical.
Quote of the Post: Imagination is more important than knowledge… Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.—Albert Einstein

Happiness for Sale

What does it mean to be happy?
Is it smiling and laughing all the time?
Is it having dozens of friends?
Is it owning hundreds of things?
Everyone’s always saying, “money can’t buy happiness,” so why do all the pictures of rich people have smiles and the ones of poor kids in Africa have tears?
I don’t want to be happy.
That’s a weird statement, probably one you wouldn’t expect me to say, but here it is –I don’t want to be happy. Why? Well, let me just clarify what I mean by being happy:
Happiness is an emotion –temporary
Happiness is a series of chemical reactions in your brain –temporary
Happiness can be changed easily by circumstances –temporary
Happiness is temporary
Do you see where I’m going with this? Every day, we are bombarded with images of happiness and products that can give us that so called euphoria –but they don’t work. Sure, getting a new pair of shoes can make me happy for a while, then I have an argument with my dad and then suddenly –it’s gone.
What do things have to be with being happy anyways? I live in a place where we’re all supposed to be happy because we have everything, as far as food and things go; yet in North America, the third leading cause of death in teens is suicide. That’s a crazy statistic. If we have so much, then why are we all so sad?
I, personally, have had the opportunity to see the ‘other side of the world’ many times, and the picture I get there is completely different. Yes, there’s poverty and all that. People have next to nothing –but they are some of the happiest people I have ever met. I would meet a kid who doesn’t even own a pair of pants yet still shows off his toothy grin in a smile every time I saw him. How is that contrast even possible? It doesn’t make any sense.
Going back to my original statement, “I don’t want to be happy.” I neglected to say the second part, “I want to find joy.” Now you may be thinking, “What’s the difference? It’s simple really:
Happiness is temporary, joy is permanent.
Happiness is an emotion, joy is a lifestyle
How do you even achieve joy? Well, I’ve found that the first way is by choosing to be happy, despite the bad days, sad days and mad days –that came out way cheesier than I intended. Joy is choosing to be content. Now I must clarify, contentment is not complacency. Being complacent is choosing to be a doormat and not doing anything to change that, just accepting your fate in an almost bitter nature. Being content is knowing your circumstance and accepting it, while still allowing a possibility to grow.
The next step on the ‘road to joy’ is the elimination of self on the brain. When one is depressed, sad, etc, it’s often due to them concentrating on themselves and their problems and flaws. Have you ever done that thing where you sit by yourself, alone in your room and contemplate your existence?  Next thing you know, you’re rocking on the floor in fetal position, crying in despair. I feel that when we get out of that habit on thing of ourselves and focus more on others, that feeling despair goes. I don’t know about you, but I’m usually happiest when I’m helping others. Volunteering could possibly be the best form of therapy. This is not to say that it’s easy. I would be lying if I told you that you could switch on a button and be content and generous and happy. It’s a process, but it’s one you have to force yourself to start.
Anyway, this went on a lot longer than I wanted it to go –again. I should probably apologize for taking long to update as well, life’s been getting in the way. I’ll just leave you with my new found philosophy:

I don’t want to be happy, I want to find joy.
Natz
Song of the Post:  All Star By Smash Mouth

Quote of the Post: “Be content because that makes you automatically awesome.” –Quote developed by my friend, Miriam R., and I

Introduction to Confusion

As a teenager living in a post modern society, one thing you are never lacking in is opinions. Everybody is ready to give you their view and ‘knowledge’ on that topic that they’ve only read a tweet about and obviously are now experts on. As I start my last year of high school, this misguided advice has only grown exponentially which has done everything but help me. I, like many seniors, have been struggling with anxiety over my future this last few weeks and I’ve only been back in school for two! This uneasiness and confusion is only fueled by the constant thoughts of the adults with good intentions but cliche and unhelpful advice. How have I been coping with this constant state of internal turmoil? By taking it one day at a time-distracting myself with everyday tasks and chores- which incidentally, is yet another cliche. A cliche that works so I think it should, at least, be given some credit.
On the topic of distractions, a subject that has been on captivating my mind recently is love. I attend a public Catholic high school in Ontario (Which is basically public school with a mandatory religion class each year). In my religion class, we’ve been studying ethics and, more specifically, love and it’s relation to us as human beings. Love has always been something that has bothered me; mostly because of its inaccurate and skewed portrayal in media and our society in general. Love is that gooey feeling you feel for that cute guy you’ve known for a month according to most romantic comedies. You can’t help it, it just happens. 
It’s not. 
First of all, let me establish that the previous definition of love is in fact one of infatuation or -dare I say- simply lust. Love is something so much more. Love is not just a emotion because emotions are just chemicals in our brain reacting in different ways-purely physical. Love involves both the human body and spirit. It is a choice. A choice to put your own feelings, comforts, and self behind someone else (be that a significant other, child, or friend). The complete surrendering of self. That is why the whole ‘love at first sight’ is a load of baloney. Yes, I acknowledge those couples who say they just ‘knew’ when they first met but from a more objective standpoint, I believe that sure, they might have liked each other (infatuation) at first sight but love… that grew in later. The best words I can use to summarize this is a quote from Deus Caritas Est by Pope Benedict XVI which says :

“Love is indeed ‘ecstasy’, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation self-giving…”

Love is selfless, so selfless in fact that true love only wishes for the happiness of the other, even when that love is not reciprocated. I believe this is one of the reasons for the increase in divorces in the last couple of decades. People are so consumed with the gooey feeling stage of a relationship, they don’t ever develop the true selfless love stage and when things take a turn for the worse, they are ill-equipped to cope. This is also why love is one of the most overused and misused words of today. This is also why there are so many Taylor Swift songs (sorry, I had to).  I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking I’m just a kid (17 years old if you were wondering) what do I know about love. I will not claim to be an expert or even to have experienced it (maybe once I came close but that’s a story for another day). However, don’t they say truth comes ‘from the mouths of babes’ or something along those lines. All I ask is that you take what I’ve written into consideration.

This post took a more philosophical turn than I expected and I should mention that not every post will be like this. I plan for this blog to be almost a journal of my thoughts and current state of mind which sometimes may be something  light or something with more substance. 
That is all for now, thank you for reading
Natalie 
Song of the Post: Man Who Won’t Be Moved by The Script
Quote of the Post: (Another one from Deus Caritas Est) “It is part of love’s growth towards higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive, and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity… and in the sense of being ‘forever'”