I remember walking into Sacred Heart College as a 12-year-old, a year younger than everyone else, wearing the wrong shoes, a blazer too big and wondering how life would ever be the same.
I’d moved to Ocean Grove a couple of months earlier and was about to start year eight.
Born and raised in Ballarat my childhood was about the bush, pine cones, bike rides and black hill pool, then all of a sudden I’m in Geelong where it was about boys and fashion; the only thing I knew about boys at that stage in my prepubescent life, was that I looked like one.
I’d just finished year seven at Loretto where I had one of the best years of my life and then a few weeks later was unpacking everything in a town where I knew no one.
For the first three weeks of Sacred Heart I ate lunch in a toilet cubicle alone.
I’d go home, climb into an empty bath tub, fully clothed and cry asking why we moved.
Each day, I’d wake up dreading the fact when the lunchtime bell rang, I’d walk around as if I had purpose, looking for places to hide before I settled into the bathroom to eat my sandwich.
When you move, you rely on the kindness of others, of someone to reach out beyond their circle of familiarity, past the girls they’ve gone to kindergarten and primary school with, and ask you to sit with them.
More often than not they don’t and so you navigate the waters alone.
Eventually I did make friends, but I remember that feeling and it became a part of who I am and how I treat people.
Over my time working as a journalist I’ve touched on a few stories of teens that have killed themselves to escape the beast that is bullying.
Most recently it was 14-year-old Amy ‘Dolly’ Everitt.
As I researched Amy I looked at a photo of her perfect family unit, arm in arm, Dolly with her mum, dad and eldest sister and realised how their lives were shattered forever.
The tragedy about bullying is not the act itself, it’s that to the person being bullied, it feels like the end of the world.
Like there’s no way out.
If we can teach our children anything, may it be resilience and an innate ability to see beyond the present.
High school is a small part of your journey and whilst some have the stock standard time of their life, for others it’s hell and that’s ok.
If I could go back and talk to my 12-year-old self, sitting on a toilet seat, timing my bites between the entrance and exit of my peers, I’d tell myself to go outside and eat lunch in the sunshine.
To be brave and to be indifferent.
Like I was when I travelled to Lagos as a 21-year-old or when I rode the tube through London to sip pints on my lonesome, before I met girls I’d go on to live and travel with.
There is no shame if you’re being bullied, there’s no shame if you’re trying to find your feet.
You have to remind yourself in times of duress that happy people don’t destroy other human beings.
You are not always the problem and there is an escape but it’s not ending your life, it’s taking a deep breath and beginning to live it.
Turn off your computer, turn off your phone, listen to your dad’s bad jokes, play outside with your brothers or sisters.
Forget what it feels like to be lonely, or ostracised or ganged up on.
Dream about your future, about what you want to achieve and where you want to travel to and then do everything in your power to equip yourself with the tools you’ll need to get there.
Study, be smart, and if studying’s not your forte be ready to embrace whatever subject or topic that comes along and tickles your fancy.
Dream as big as your heart and mind will let you and then go to school with the knowledge that regardless of what happens there, you have a lifetime of adventures and experiences awaiting x