Rachael's Personal thoughts on Bullying
There are very few words that I'm afraid of. After all, I'm not only a grown woman, I'm a New Yorker. I'm supposed to be tough. But the word "bully" still strikes horror and loathing in my gut. The irony is that so much of the joyful work I do now as a musician is a direct result of the alienation and sadness I experienced as a kid.
Most of grade school was absolute hell for me. At its best, being bullied meant being excluded from playdates and birthday parties. At worst, it meant being verbally and physically assaulted. And when I tried to tell the teachers at my school, the principal criticized me for being a "a tattletale, which is no better than a bully."
After one particularly relentless round of insults and threats in sixth grade, I broke down and told my family I just couldn't go back to school because I was too scared. I was, by then, utterly defeated and depressed. Nonetheless, my strength in that moment was my honesty. I was brave enough to tell my parents, and they finally heard me. Somehow, I stuck it out for the next several months, and the next year they transferred me to a new school. Finally, I was able to be myself and even thrive, just by virtue of meeting a new group of peers.
If there's one thing I can offer, it's this: confiding in someone was how I survived. I always hope that young people who feel ignored by their parents or teachers will somehow have the strength to reach out to another adult they trust, whether a counselor, a relative, or someone at their religious institution. Just talking about it in a safe context eases some of the burden. And if there’s a way to find other friends, in or out of school, that will help, too.
What also helped me was having something I loved to do, something that allowed me to express myself and raise my self-esteem. Dance, poetry, music: those “hobbies” became my best friends, and a powerful armor against fear. I'd never say I’m glad that I went through all that pain, because it absolutely, utterly sucked. But I am so incredibly grateful that I never gave up, or allowed them to “win”. I know that part of the reason I still dress the eccentric, colorful way I do now is because I was so relentlessly picked on for being different at my first school; it's a form of vindication.
The world is wide and beautiful, and whether you find a safe haven in music, art, sports, or writing in a journaI, it does get better. And not just better, but wonderful, magical, and—every now and then--downright transcendent.
This is an edited version of Rachael's full article on bullying. To read her complete, unedited article, click HERE.