Thursday, July 20, 2017

Open Student Letter to Paige Rawl

Dear Paige Rawl, 

Bullying is a very hard thing to overcome. I've heard plenty of stories of kids not being able to overcome this situation; however, plenty of people have been able to put bullying aside and keep going through life. They say that every person will be bullied at least once in their lifetime, but what you don’t hear is that almost everyone will bully or hurt someone in their life, even if it’s indirectly. You don’t hear a lot about how bullying affects those people. Most teenagers who get bullied is through your ‘typical’ stereotypes and exclusion, which is probably what a teenager would think of as the worst thing in the world. As a teenager myself, it can be awful, but reading your memoir Positive has changed my point of view. I realize that there are many different ways to be bullied. Now I know that exclusion and other types of bullying, although they hurt, only hurt as long as you want them to. As you almost went to the all-time low and thought about something as horrible as taking your own life, you eventually made your way back to the top. You couldn’t of done that if you didn’t want to. In the end, it’s your mindset that decides if you let the bullying hurt you or not. As you say in your book, “If we can let ourselves, all of us, be united by the simple fact of having a difference, we will be bigger and stronger and more powerful than anyone who might otherwise make us feel small.” We can only control ourselves, not anybody else. In the long run, I believe that we pick and choose who hurts and makes us feel better. We just have to have the strength to do it and it takes a long time to get that mindset.

Positive has taught me three very valuable lessons, among others. The first one is to always be nice to people, to be friendly, and to stand up for people. When your friend stood up for you and helped you clean the drink that someone dumped on you off of your clothes, it really showed how important this lesson is. The second one is to dwell on happiness, not sadness. If I am in a bad mood or upset, I will do something to lift my spirits rather than to sit in my room and think about what went wrong today. When reading your book, you tried to hang out with your supportive friends, or listen to music, and compete in pageants. All of these things would distract you from the pain, but also you chose to do them to make yourself happy. The third is to always to remain positive. Throughout your experience I always saw little bits of positivity and hope within you. When I first started reading your book I always thought the title Positive came from being HIV positive, but I realized that either you or the people around you, influenced you in one way or another, to be positive and to have hope. Though your middle school experience left you miserable and depressed, you always hoped that the next day would be better. The joy that you found in other activities, like pageants and cheerleading, helped you not to dwell on the pain and to remain positive. 

Needless to say, this book has really changed my view on the world. You never know what people are going through and you should not judge someone by what they look like or because of others point of views. Just because it may be ‘uncool’ to hang out with someone or do something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hang out with that person or do what you enjoy. It has touched my heart, because I believe that people can overcome different obstacles and your words have helped me overcome some of my own. I, too, abide by the lessons (and plenty more) I’ve learned. Even though you went through something worse than me, and other people are going through different levels of pain from bullying like me and you, the pain and exclusion still hurts. Sometimes, I need to remind myself, but now I know that I’m not the only one feeling hurt from people hurting my feelings. Even though it will take me a long time to reach the mindset of not letting people hurt me, I know that I will eventually get there, because of you and I thank you for that.

Mia B.

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