(Photo: Natalie Bisignano)
I have many stained images in my head because of what I went through in grade school. A lot of them I wish I could wipe clean, but it's not that easy. Instead, I've learned to embrace the fact that I have overcome these painful experiences and have become a better person because of it. There are some terrible people out there—and to be honest, not a lot can prepare an eleven-year-old for what he/she may be called or what physical or emotional pain may be inflicted on them in the near future. But I can at least give my advice and share my experiences with you, in hopes that you'll take something with you from reading this.
Music was my medicine. I remember having paper balls thrown at me and the other kids sitting in the front of the bus, by the “cool kids” who would sit in the back, for the entire 50-minute bus ride home. I was ridiculed for the acne I had and was teamed up on by that group of kids in the back just because they didn't like the way I looked. I would hold it in until I stepped off the bus and then cry the whole walk home. Not to be completely depressing, but I was miserable. I really didn't feel like I had anyone to turn to. Sure, I could talk to my mom and she'd tell me everything will be okay, but it didn't take back what everyone had already done to me.
So I would lock myself in my room and blast Relient K, New Found Glory, Five Iron Frenzy and Fall Out Boy. I'd scream the lyrics out until I felt okay again. I would find the songs that spoke to the outcasts like me, grab onto them, and everything was fine. Through music, I found a way to cope; through the lyrics, I found someone to talk to. Once I realized my passion was music, everything became so much easier. I found what I love, and it was the constant in my life.
That's really important: You need to talk to someone if you are feeling down. It doesn't matter who it is. You may even feel like nobody wants to hear it, but I promise you that isn't true. There is always someone willing to listen, whether it's a parent, a friend, me, anyone. You can't keep everything bottled up inside, because it will drive you crazy.
I know this from experience; I had this problem where if something bothered me I'd hold it inside. I didn't know I had the ability to snap until one day in seventh grade. We were playing flag football, and I am no athlete; I was always picked last for that reason. We were in between plays and one of the kids thought it would be funny to throw the football at my face while I wasn't looking. It hit me dead square in the face really hard and instead of anyone checking if I was okay, they all laughed at me, including the coach, and it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was breathing heavy, sobbing, and had this awful rush of anger come over me. Luckily, I channeled it all into the sport we were playing, otherwise I probably would have gone crazy and done something I would have regretted.
I wrote the lyrics in our EP, Horrible Kids, a certain way for a reason. I wanted to be that coping source for people who are going through what I did. Each song tackles a different issue and gives you hope that things will get better, because they will. A lot of people assume that since they are being picked on a lot, that this is going to be how things are forever, but it won't be. I promise you. The grass is greener on the other side. It's so sad to have people come up to me at shows and tell me that they were thinking of suicide as an easy way out. It's such a selfish act and it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We tragically lost a member of the SIO family recently to suicide, because she couldn't handle the hands she was dealt in life. It was really hard for our band to deal with and honestly made me step back and realize that people are going through what I did every day.
If you are reading this and have those thoughts, remember you are loved. No words can take that away from you. Things will get better, and I can promise that one day, you having dealt with bullying will teach you so much character. You will have more substance to your life than the scum that put you down, guaranteed. Bullying can't be eradicated but there are things you can do to help lessen it. If you see it happening, stand up for the underdog, walk them out of that situation and talk to them. We need to look out for each other in these situations. Wouldn't you want someone to be there for you?
There is no line between me and you. Just because I sing on a stage doesn't mean I haven't stood where you stand. I've been ridiculed, spit on, beat up, thrown into lockers, ganged up on and even changed schools because it was so hard to handle. But I can say it has made me who I am today. With a strong will and someone to talk to, you will overcome it. Bullying is everywhere, but we can all do our part to put an end to it. Realize that you are no better than anyone else. Unite as a family, stick up for your peers and open yourself to anyone that needs to talk. These are small and easy tasks we can take on that will change the world. Find what you love, work hard at it, and show the world what you can do. You are strong and you are loved.