NOTE: If you’re an adult that was bullied as a child… this story is for you. I understand, and I hold you virtually through your self-discovery of your own greatness.
She sat at the kitchen table staring at the object in front of her. The ivory white handle, polished to a shine. The silvery blade glistened as it reflected the ceiling light. Darkness, much like the darkness of her heart, spread out from the edges of the table beyond… seemingly to infinity. A tear slid down her cheek as she thought about what she was about to do.
Months of terror passed through her mind. A whirlwind of thoughts and regrets flooded through her entire body as she shook. The tears fell faster.
“Why did we even move here?” She asked herself. “Don’t they know this was the worst decision they have ever made?” She asked of her parents.
The ultra-sharp chef’s knife gleamed in front of her. Her mom was always good about keeping her prized knives sharp. The girl’s eyes ran down the blade and marveled at its craftsmanship. It would hurt, yes. But she’d read enough books to know the faster and deeper the cut, the shorter the pain would be before… darkness… the end… hopefully peace… unless…
She had been warned. Heavily warned. What she was about to do was the most selfish thing anyone could do, which meant an instant trip to Hell. No passing “Go,” no collecting $200, just straight to the depths of fiery pits and damnation… forever. She had decided this was a risk she was willing to take. Her fingers wrapped around that smooth handle as she thought about why this was worth doing.
She was smarter than most of the other kids. This wasn’t ego, it was just a fact. She easily got better grades and qualified for honor’s programs without even trying. Yet she was denied entrance to those programs because, well, she was told it was because her family didn’t have the money to buy her way in. She watched those who walked down to collect their rose, pin, and certificate for the elite program and tried to smile and be happy for them. Those who made worse grades than her and didn’t even qualify for the program, yet bought their way in. It was unfair, but she tried to be happy for them regardless. Deep inside she seethed in anger.
Then there was the band director, the only person in the entire school that seemed to like her. She was a musical prodigy, and he got her out of the most despised of all classes—Health—to play in his upper grade band. It was a time she relished, being away from her hateful classmates who would tip over her desk, poison the class pet with her markers, steal her homework, deface her books, and blame her for it all. That one time each day was her brief respite from the evils that surrounded her. And as soon as it was over, she was vulnerable to the abuse once again. Shaking, she tried to hide in the bathroom as long as possible, but even that wasn’t a long-term solution to stay safe.
The principle’s office became her haven. At first she thought she was constantly in trouble for the things the others did, as she was called there several times per week and made to wait in front of the secretary’s desk. She learned to bring a book to read, as she realized after the first few visits she may be waiting a long, long time (or what seemed like a long time to her 12-year-old mind). Finally one day she asked the principle why she kept having to spend so much time in his office. The secretary’s eyes shifted and she nervously said something about filing and left the room. He looked at me and said, “It’s for your own safety and I’ll leave it at that.” She would find out later about the death threats they found…
Which brought her mind to two of the most recent events… the pool party and the fire. She remembered being underwater, which was nothing new to her. Growing up near the ocean, her mom often called her “my little fish” as the water became her second home. Then there was the feeling of hands on her, which she dismissed as being bumped into by the other kids in her class. She looked up through the water and saw a shadow of adult legs walking by and realized she needed to breathe. She couldn’t push her way to the surface. The shadow legs paused, and right when she started feeling nervous, whatever was holding her down was lifted. She wouldn’t find out until she was grown and spoke to one of those very kids that those hands were intentionally holding her down, attempting to drown her… and those shadow legs saved her life. Yet somehow as she let the vivid memory play back, she did know.
The fire was the last straw. It had just happened. The police and fire department came out and said it was probably her fault that the shed caught fire. One more feather in the cap of her wrongs… Thankfully they were home and the fire department got there in time to put it out. They said if they had waited ten more minutes, the fire would have engulfed the house, as it had already begun to melt the siding. She shook in fear. If her mom had not woken up and seen the weird light outside their bedroom window, they would all probably be dead. Again, her fault… But then she and her parents discovered evidence of arson in the light of day. Just one more in a long line of attempts to end her life. Yet nobody believed the attempts were real, or that kids really wanted to harm her, because what kids would do that? “They’re just kids being kids.” In their minds, they’d be bullies… maybe. The kind that would call her names, “bump into” her desk hard enough to make it “accidentally” fall over… maybe. But murder? No way.
The knife gleamed in front of her. Clearly it wasn’t worth fighting anymore. Everyone she knew wanted her dead, so why not grant their wish? The sharpness of the knife taunted her… reminded her how much she hated needles. “This will be much, much worse,” it said. “You can’t go through with it because you’re a coward,” the voice in her head whined.
Slowly she pressed the knife against her left wrist, imagined it dragging across… imagined the mess her parents would find… imagined the relief the town would feel that the bane of their existence was gone… and fear of pain overwhelmed her. She slowly stood up, walked to the knife box, put it back, and walked zombie-like back to her room where she sat on her bed for the next who-knows-how-long staring at her hands. The tears fell. She wasn’t strong enough. She was exactly who they thought she was. Pathetic.
That moment haunted her for the next 26 years. Not because of what she had been about to do, but because of the cowardice of not being able to follow through with it, even in the tiniest attempt. The fear of failure, pain and, well, to be honest… Hell, kept her from acting that day. And for the next 26 years, deep down inside, she saw herself as an utter and complete failure for not being brave enough to even try to take her own life. Which somehow made her a failure at everything.
Her life actually turned out to be pretty awesome. Through ups and downs along the way, she paved her own path as an entrepreneur through the tangled brush of traditional jobs. She married the man of her dreams, who supported all her crazy ideas, and they began to build an incredible life together. She got involved in her community, found her place and finally found home. Her voice got stronger as she sat down with that little, scared girl sitting at the table caressing the shiny blade of that knife and told her that she was amazing, would touch thousands of lives, and had to live. She held that little girl and they both cried through the pain, the grief, and the realization that it wasn’t cowardice that made the girl put the knife back after all…
It was bravery.