At 13 years old I learned that the best way for me to face my pain and move past it was by using it to help others. Statistics from stopbullying.gov say that one in four kids in the U.S. has been bullied. Throughout fifth and sixth grade, I was the one. In fifth grade, I was constantly teased, kicked, and told by my classmates that I wasn’t good enough. The environment was so toxic it forced me to change schools. Then in sixth grade, older boys at my new school flung homophobic slurs and insults about my height at me nearly every day until I spoke to school administrators, who punished the bullies.
When it came time to choose a bar mitzvah project (which usually accompanies this rite of passage for kids becoming adults under Jewish tradition), I wanted to focus on helping kids like me. I also wanted to do a service project that would outlive a one-time effort. I decided to write a book for kids like me who have been bullied. I wanted to let them know that they’re not alone, they’ll get through this, and they’ll be stronger, kinder, and braver because of this experience. Last year on my 14th birthday, I published Bullied Not Broken: When the Bullies Don’t Win. My book includes 19 inspiring stories of actors, musicians, business icons, politicians, and artists, how they were bullied, how they dealt with the pain, and all that they learned. I also include my story.
Of course, researching the famous survivors of bullying and how they’ve triumphed gave me hope and confidence. But I still had lingering feelings from my bullying experiences. When I was writing, it caused an eruption of painful memories that I had pushed down for years. It forced me to acknowledge my insecurities that I carried with me everywhere. Once I completed the book, I let it all go. It felt like I had finally lifted a 100-pound dumbbell off my chest and flung it to the side. I was no longer held back by the words the bullies had flung at me. I was free.
I’ve been thrilled to know that what I wrote is helping other kids too. Since publishing my book in September of 2019, I’ve received many messages from parents, teachers, and heads of nonprofits about how it’s inspiring hope and helping kids deal with their pain. Knowing that I went from having constant anxiety from the bullies to turning my pain into a way to help people is one of the greatest feelings. Not only did the bullies not win, they helped me to empower others to be stronger and more resilient.
I know this isn’t the last time I’ll experience challenges and pain, but I now know that one of the best ways I can work through it–and triumph in spite of it–is to use my pain to help others.