I recently read a great quote that said, "The opposite of love isn't hate, the opposite of love is fear." That took me right back to junior high school when the jocks and their followers would tease and harass me, calling me "fag" in the hallways and shoving me into the lockers. I knew I was different from them but couldn't understand how people who didn't know me could hate me. I always thought if these guys took the time to get to know me, they'd discover what everyone else in my life knew—I'm pretty freakin' awesome!
It occurs to me today that no, they didn't hate me, they actually feared me. Feared the differences it never occurred to me to hide, feared the bright future I would undoubtedly enjoy, and feared the possibility that they might be like me, or even worse, never even come close to the heightened level of "awesomeness" I had already achieved. Trying to make me feel bad about myself somehow made them feel a little elevated.
The "It Gets Better" campaign reminds me of what I used to tell myself, and still do some days: "It HAS to get better!" and I'm the one who can be in the driver's seat on this one. Back then, I HAD to go to school, I had no choice but to face these bullies every day. But I did have a choice to dream of the greatness that would follow those days... the next days, after high school and the rest of my life, the great future I was sure to enjoy while leaving those bullies, the hurt, and frustrations far behind. Though there were many tough dark days, I knew I had to push through and not give up or give in to the verbal and physical attacks because I needed to be present, I needed to stay, and BE... recognizing that the bad days were sure to make the good days so much better.
And now, over 20 years later, at planned reunions and chance encounters, I look these bullies straight in the eye and extend my hand. My life is brilliant and I have to wonder how different it would be had I not been bullied and harassed, and made to become the strong person I became? And while I'll never respect these now-adult men, the reflection I see in the mirror every day is of the man I respect the most and am proud to be.
Yes, indeed, it does get better. I had to convince myself a lot back then and today I happily get to ask, "It gets better than this?!" I can hardly wait! Stand strong, friends, your own amazing future awaits you, and it won't be the same here without you.