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Friday, February 03, 2012

Spread Love, Not Hate

Today is an entry that could very well be considered a special edition of sorts.  And, fair's quite the read...I got a wee bit carried away.  But, hey...the subject matter is VERY personal to me, so I think allowances can be made.  :)

Before I launch right into it, I'd like to explain how I came up with the idea to do this.

Do you see the link directly above this post? If you click on that link, you will be directed to another blog by a woman named K.C. Neal. She is an author, and she also hosts a blog, like me.

This is the entry she posted that inspired today's blog.

How it all began was that one of K.C.'s friends, another author named Katie (who goes by the pen name of K.M. Parr) had accomplished what many long-time writers (myself included) have wanted to do for quite some time. She had gotten her first novel published. This was undoubtedly a big deal for her, and it should have been one of the most exciting times of her career.

Unfortunately for Katie, this experience was tarnished by a bully.

A person that Katie had previously known had discovered the news that she had become published. But they didn't seek her out to congratulate her. Instead, they took the opportunity to slander her by mocking her accomplishment. The situation eventually turned into a case of online bullying.

So K.C. and Katie were talking about the bullying that Katie had experienced, and how upsetting it was. It just wasn't right that what should have been a happy experience for Katie had been soured by the callousness of an online bully. So, they decided to do something about it. To send a message to all bullies that they were going to rise above it.

Hence the creation of the multi-blogging extravaganza “Spread <3 Not Hate”. Which coincidentally happens to be the title of this blog entry!

The way that K.C. and Katie put this together was by getting a group of bloggers together on February 3, 2012, having each one write an experience about bullying and how they themselves dealt with it. The blog entries would then link back to K.C.'s original blog (through the button link above), where they could all be read together on the same page. The more bloggers that united, the bigger the message was. So when someone shared the link with me, I jumped at the chance to participate.

If you click on the link at the beginning of this post (which I'll repost HERE as well), you'll see a list of all the bloggers who are taking part in this day.  And, if you scroll down to #58 on that list, you'll be directed to my blog! As far as I can see, there's quite a few people participating in this event.  I think it's a great turnout, and I'm honoured to be taking part in it.

(CONFESSION:  I was actually given a code to post that should have posted the blog hop button in the blog, but I'm very much the techno-newbie, and can't figure out how to use it...LOL)

K.C. and Katie will be sharing their stories today, as will many other people. If you get a minute, use the link I've posted to read some of them.

And, today, I want to talk about bullying in my blog.

Mind you, for those of you who have read this blog on a daily basis, I've talked about my experiences with bullying a lot. But, that's a part of my own personal healing process. If you'd like, you can read some of these accounts by clicking on the dates that I have highlighted in this paragraph, and those dates are August 7, 2011, September 7, 2011, and January 23, 2012. That will allow you to read some of my own personal experiences with bullying in greater detail, but that's only if you're interested. I won't force you.

But here lies the challenge for today. Today is Friday, and on Fridays, I normally talk about television events. So, how could I tie my bullying experiences to a television event, so that I can keep up with the pop culture theme at the same time?

It then dawned on me. Television award shows.

The first three months of the year are almost always dedicated to awards ceremonies, and 2012 is no exception. We've already had the People's Choice Awards last month. The Grammy Awards are set to air February 12, while the Academy Awards will be airing two weeks later, on February 26.

Certainly there's a lot to witness during these ceremonies. Red carpet interviews, on-stage performances, hosts telling jokes that may or may not be funny. You know, things like that.

One part of awards ceremonies that I find somewhat entertaining are the acceptance speeches that people give out after they have won an award. Some speeches are poignant, and speak from the heart. Some speeches are short and to the point. And, unfortunately, some speeches are interrupted by Kanye West.

I felt incredibly terrible for Taylor Swift during that moment.  Although, I've been told that since that incident, Kanye and Taylor have patched things up.

I have always felt that when one is up on stage accepting an award, that in most cases, we're seeing them at their most raw and unscripted. After all, I'm sure that most of them were genuinely shocked at winning, and likely didn't really have a lot of time to prepare for it. To those people trembling on stage in their tuxedos or Donna Karan evening gowns, it's really a big deal. Their finest moment, if you will. The moment in which they realize that they have made it.

So, my contribution for the "Spread <3, Not Hate" event is to write my acceptance speech.   The picture above is the person I used to be.  The one who was picked on and bullied.  I've accepted that it has happened to me. I can't change it. Nor, do I want to change it. Those experiences, both good and bad, have made me the person who I am today (who you'll meet at the end of this entry).

And for this acceptance speech, I will be thanking people, both good and bad.

Because I believe in getting all of the bad stuff out of the way first, my first list of people who I wish to thank are those who I can best describe as the lemons in my life. Lemons who tried their hardest to make me an incredibly sour and bitter person.  No matter what though, I managed to find the lemonade within those lemons.

The first person I would like to thank is my first grade teacher. Some of you might not believe that a teacher is capable of bullying a child, but I had one of the worst. So, first grade teacher, I have quite a bit to thank you for. I wish to thank you for telling me that I had the worst handwriting in the class and that I would never learn how to write properly, because I spent the next few years trying to prove you wrong. Now, I have some of the best handwriting in my entire family, and am now taking up calligraphy. Maybe one day, I'll write you a letter so that you can see how true your prediction was. I also want to thank my first grade teacher for broadcasting my walking difficulty to the whole class (I walked on my toes for the first few years of my life), leading to the kids making fun of me for walking funny.  She taught me that I should never embarrass anybody publicly, especially if the remarks were mean-spirited and cruel.

The next people that I would like to thank are the bullies in elementary school who used to tackle me in the school playground to shove snow, sand, or dirt in my face. The bullies who called me names every day in school. The bullies who caused me to have emotional panic attacks in class during the last part of my elementary school career. I want to thank you guys for showing me how much inner strength that I had in myself. Yep, you tried to break me, but I just wouldn't break. I may have had some emotional distress, but I still found a way to go to school almost every single day. That takes a lot of courage and strength...strength that I was too blind to see as an 11-year-old boy, but am now owning with pride as an almost 31-year-old man.

On a related note, I wish to thank a select few teachers at my elementary school for turning their backs on me when I needed their help the most. Not going to name names, of course, but I wanted to thank you anyway, because you actually taught me something about myself. Your inability to care about what happened to me, and your nonchalant attitude towards trying to stop the bullying helped me realize that it was the wrong message to be sending to people, and maybe it helped me become a better listener and a more compassionate person as a tradeoff. After all, I had so many examples of what NOT to do, that finding out what it was TO do became easier. In some way, you also taught me to go against the crowd and do what I felt was best for myself. So thank you for not caring, because you taught me how to care more.

I guess that same message can apply towards certain faculty members at my high school as well. Remember when I went to you about how classmates were sending me nasty messages and torching my belongings, and how you promised me that you'd find out who was behind it all? Well, you didn't. A few teachers did come to my aid (and believe me, I'll be thanking them a little later in this entry), but most of you looked the other way. Having to move my locker to four different locations in a single year was tedious, tiresome, and unfair, and deep down inside, I think you all knew this. But, you did nothing about it! So, thank you for not doing a thing to stop my bullying, because as I said before, your inaction to do anything fueled my action to try and prevent it from happening to other people.

By the way, thank you to the person who decided to torch and vandalize my locker in grade eleven...four times, no less. The reason I'm thanking you is because you helped me realize that I don't need material possessions to make me happy. Yes, I did lose some posters, and yes, I had to buy some new notebooks that were charred beyond recognition, but those were just material things.  Meaningless casualties as far as I was concerned.  I do regret the fact that my safety and security at school (and perhaps even in life after school) was forever compromised, but I got by as best I could under the circumstances.

Finally, I decided to save the worst for last, so to speak, and I really want to save my biggest thanks for the person who decided to send me a message through my student e-mail account...let's see...what did it say again? Oh, yeah...the message about telling me that school would be a better place if I killed myself. That's the one. I know that to most people, the thought of me even expressing gratitude towards such a cruel and disgusting message must sound like I have lost my mind. But, yet that's exactly what I am doing.

Thank you for sending me that message. Sure, it hurt me. Yes, it made me not want to be at that school again.  And, yeah, in my weakest moment, I considered actually obeying the note. But then I thought...if I did do that, what good would come out of it? Nothing. I'd be gone, and this blog entry would have never been written. As for the person who sent it, they'd end up getting the very thing that they wanted...I'd be out of the way, and to them, the school would be a better place.

And, there was no way that I was going to let that happen.

So, I found the courage to break free from the depths of darkness, stayed at that school, and got my diploma. So, thank you to whoever wrote that message because you helped me find that inner strength to keep living day to day...telling myself that one day, it would eventually get better.

And for the most part, it has gotten better.

I won't lie to you though.  I still deal with self-esteem issues and have emotional scarring as a result of the pain and cruelty that I endured during my school years. I've made tremendous progress in trying to overcome it all, but I imagine that some of those scars will always remain. But, at the same time, I wouldn't change those moments for the world, because I know that all of those incidents happened to me for a reason.  Of course, there were times in which I wished I could improve on my self-esteem.  I thought, if only it were sold in stores.  Then I'd never have a problem finding a large quantity of it whenever I wanted it.

If only self-esteem were this easy to get.  Instead, I had to build it up the tough way, trying to overcome each barrier to get closer to what my true self was.

And, what is my true self? It's a person who listens. A person who shows compassion. A person who didn't let bullies turn him into a bully himself.  A person who stands up to bullies, no matter what!

No longer did I want to be surrounded by people who brought me down. I wanted to be around people who brought me back up.  Made me feel better about myself.  And, now I want to do the same to help others who might be going through a similar experience.

So, I guess I'd like to thank everyone who ever bullied me, or made me feel badly about myself. For the more pain you inflicted on me, the stronger I became. Now, I take action to try and get people to talk about their experiences, because the more that people speak out, the more united we become, and the better chance we heal.

There's actually a group on Facebook that I started up as a way to heal from my pain, which is called the 'Gallery Of Healing', and if you're interested, click on the link in this paragraph. It'll explain what it is, and what you can do to help out. It's a small group, and it's not the most active, but it will always remain open so that anyone who wants to talk about their experiences can do so without the fear of being bullied. It's there if anybody needs to use it. No pressure though.

To end off this entry, I would like to now thank those people who did make a positive difference in my life. People who stood behind me and did their best to help me cope through the bullying, stood up for me, or did something as simple as be nice to me when everyone else walked away.

First, I want to thank the teachers and educators who did make a difference. All of them helped me deal with the trauma I faced, and I feel as though they deserve special recognition. So, I want to thank Mrs. Woodfine, my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Pearson (high school chemistry teacher), Mr. McDonald (high school computer teacher), Mr. Corney (high school gym teacher), Mrs. Quick (high school music teacher), Mr. Cristello (high school math teacher), Mr. Wright (high school math teacher), Mr. and Mrs. Morgan (elementary school computer and French teacher), and Ms. Renusz (high school history teacher). It would take me a full page to go into detail how much your standing by me when nobody else would meant to me. From encouraging me to write about my bad experiences (which I guess sort of inspired my career choice of becoming a writer), to launching an investigation into tracking the nasty e-mail messages, to ripping down slanderous posters in the school cafeteria, to just being available to talk to...all of these teachers proved to me at least how good educators they were. I just hope that someday, I'm able to run into each of them again so that I can thank them in person...that is if they even remember who I am.

There's also a couple of educators that I want to include on this list. Sadly, both have passed on now, but I want to extend my thanks to Mr. Tripp (elementary school music teacher) and Mr. McMillan (elementary school custodian). Both of them were two of the biggest confidence boosters that I've ever had the fortune of having. One provided encouragement and praise when I had to perform a solo at the school concert (in which I had almost not gone to due to being bullied the day before), while the other one always had a kind word to say, and actually told off a bully, getting him to leave me alone one day. Simple gestures, but they meant a lot to me, and I'll never forget them.

Finally, I'd like to thank some special classmates who I'm honoured to have kept (and/or reconnected with) in my life...classmates from elementary school and high school who never went along with the crowd, and who showed me genuine compassion no matter how badly I was feeling. And since this is the positive portion of the blog, I wish to name names...well, at least first names and last initials, anyway.

Laura A.,  John A.,  Melissa A.,  Jason B.,  Diane B.,  Ian C.,  Bailey C.,  Becky D., Jennifer E.,  Erin E., Leah F.,  Tim H.,  Amanda H.,  Ashley K.,  Sarah L.,  Erik M.,  David M.,  Dana M.,  Nicole M., Orijit P., Erica P., Alecia R.,  Laura S.,  Eileen T.,  Wendy T.,  Clement T.,  Laurel T.,  Sarah W.,  Cary-Lynn W., and Matthew Y.

Some of you, I've known all my life. Some of you, I've only recently reconnected with through social media. And, some of you probably don't remember me as I haven't seen you since school ended. But, I certainly remember all of you...and if you see your name up here, know that I think very highly of you, and I really do appreciate every single one of you for reaching out to me when I needed someone to talk to, and being there for me when I was at my lowest in school because of what I went through. And, in case I don't get a chance to thank each one of you in person one day, at least there's a permanent reminder inside of my blog. I certainly hope that I listed everybody, but I'm sure that there's a few names that I'm simply not remembering. But, just know that if you made a difference in my life, you'll know it.

Thanks to the support of my fantastic co-workers, fellow writer friends, special online friendships that I have maintained (some as long as a decade!!!), and most importantly, the support of my entire family, I'm getting my life back on track again. And, it is a wonderful feeling.

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all...

...and while being bullied may have prevented me from learning that lesson in the's certainly not stopping me now.  The person below is the person I am now...and I like the person I see!

(Once more...if you'd like to blog hop to other bloggers who are taking part in this venture, please click on THIS LINK to view the list in its entirety...and thanks to K.C. and Katie for allowing me to be a part of it!)


  1. What a wonderful and inspiring post :)

  2. Thanks, Claudia! I really liked your post as well. :)

  3. Hey, look... we barely know each other and you made me cry, Matthew!

    It's okay, though... really... it is totally okay.

    This is beautiful... beautiful, sad, incredibly moving... damn, I'm gonna start crying again!

    I think you are incredibly brave, Matthew... a hero and a survivor! Thank you for sharing this.

    I was never bullied in school, but I think I might understand just a little of what you went through. In the fourth grade, I befriend a girl who was being bullied. Needless to say, I took some 'heat' for that... even lost a couple of so-called friends... but I learned a lot from her, Cami was her name. Cami taught me some things about myself and the world around us... among them, how utterly fragile we are at times and how incredibly strong we can be.

    As I said, I was never bullied in school, but in college something far worse happened. During that long, terrible ordeal, I thought of Cami... what she had gone through and the strength and courage she had.

    Part of the reason I am here today is because of Cami. there were times when I wanted to just lie down and give up, but I couldn't, because I would think of her and how she never gave up. I couldn't let her down.

    Thank you for a truly inspiring post.

    Veronica Marie

  4. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments, Veronica Marie! I always have said that the "Cami's" of the world are some of the most coolest people out there. It's just a shame that it takes a special kind of person to recognize it. It sounds like both of you were lucky to have each other. :)