Wednesday, Feb 27th is Anti-Bullying Day. I hope you wear pink, for the right reasons.
Owning a business has given me a platform that is very unique. And I have chosen to use this platform as a positive influence time and time again. This is just another example of that. I’m going to get real with you here. I’m going to tell you something that I haven’t told a lot of people. Probably less than I can count on one or two hands. It’s a novel, but it’s got some important things, so settle in kids.
In grade 7, I was bullied. Not just a bunch of kids picking on another kid one day here and there, but singled out with 2 others by an entire two classes of kids. Mostly girls, but some of the boys too. Myself and 2 others were singled out by a group of kids for the majority of a school year. This was before cell phones overtook our lives (I know, hard to believe, right). These kids would do the typical name calling, rumour spreading, segregation. They took it to the extent of damaging our desks and lockers, homework, etc. They would shun us on the playground at recess. They had a sign they would make with their hands and scorn us as they’d walk by. It was awful. Undeserved and awful.
When you’re 13 years old, you think you can take on the world, so I never told anyone. We’d go to school, stick together just the 3 of us, deal with it all as it came up, and count the hours before the day was done. We’d go home and act like everything was normal.
The “ringleader” of this group of kids was someone who I actually grew up with, spent a lot of time with, considered one of my good friends. She moved away for a period of time, but then came back, and then this happened. I said the typical, “How can you do this to me? I thought we were friends,” line, but that didn’t elicit any halt to the bullying. I didn’t understand why it was happening at the time.
I remember one day in class, she opened a bottle of white-out and spilled it all over my desk, smearing it over all of my paper and textbooks, and the inside of my desk, wrecking everything. I got in the car after school crying, and I remember finally coming clean with my mom about what was going on. As any parent would do, she phoned the school, and the next day the teachers and principal were involved.
The teachers gathered all of us girls in the girl’s change room. They made us sit there and talk it out. I remember sitting there silent, in disbelief, watching this group of girls apologizing to each other, crying, but no one saying anything to the 3 of us who were at the heart of it all. Like they had done something to hurt each other. It was wild. The teachers made us hug it out, thinking that some type of group hug was going to smooth this all over and we could start new tomorrow. Truth be told, now that I think back on this whole event, this is probably where my discomfort with hugging came from. All of these people who I thought were my friends deceived me, and I’m supposed to hug them now? (FYI teachers, this is not an effective way of dealing with this type of problem, just so you know.)
I’m not telling you this story to elicit some kind of sympathy or that sort of thing. I’m actually telling you this story to tell you what happened later, … years later. It’s far more important. Bullying sucks, kids are stupid, but it never really changes as you get older. I cross paths with many people, and it still blows me away when I see it happening.
Some time later, after I had owned CrossFit FUNCTION for several years, I got a message on Facebook from that same “ringleader” girl, inquiring about CFF and wanting to join. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when that notification popped up on my phone. This is someone I actively shoved out of my life that very next day in grade 7, and here she was, trying to come back into my life, .. into my gym. I remember sitting there thinking to myself that I could actively choose to ignore this message and pretend that I hadn’t got it. I could avoid her all together and carry on with my life, as great as it was. It made no sense to me to bring this person back into my life, into my gym, after all of the hurt she had caused me years ago. That was something I could never forgive her for.
But I opened the Facebook message. And I started to reply. I invited her to join Foundations. I got her set up, accepted her payment, and expected her to show up.
I don’t think I slept that night.
You see, CrossFit changed my life. I know you’ve heard me say this several times, but this is one of those times that I can truly pin point it back to making a direct impact on. CrossFit gave me a mental and physical strength that I didn’t know I was capable of. It transformed my perception of how a female should look, and what a person can be capable of. It gave me a level of self-confidence that arguably nothing else in my life could provide me with, and that’s the key point to this life changing experience.
Most people that bully others are highly insecure about themselves in some way, shape, or form. They put others down to help themselves feel superior or better about themselves. Knowing this person – obvious insecurities – I knew that if CrossFit could change my life, and CFF could change the handfuls of my client’s lives as I knew it had – there was a potential to help her. And I would be doing her a disservice if I didn’t at least try to give her the option of making a change for herself and her life.
So I invited her in to my space.
She came. She finished Foundations. She stuck around for a couple of group classes. But she didn’t last long. And that’s okay; CrossFit isn’t for everybody and I recognize that. She came to a couple of my group classes that I was coaching. Seeing her name on my roster ahead of time sparked some incredible anxiety, but again, I was there to give her the option of help, and it was her decision whether to take it or not. That’s all I could do, and I realized that.
So this is the part where I call it, being the bigger person. There’s a lot of different ways this story could’ve played out, and I had a choice in it every step of the way. I will live with the way she made me feel in grade 7 for the rest of my life; that’s not something someone who’s been bullied like that can ever shake. But I didn’t need to “pay her back” and not provide her with the opportunity to at least try to better herself.
And arguably, I have crossed the wrong paths and fallen into that side of things along the way. I’m guilty of it, just like we all are at some point in our lives. I’m no saint. In recent years however, I have gained enough confidence and strength to strip the negative people out of my life and only spend my time with those that fill my life with positivity and growth. The thought of how I felt, and making someone else feel that way, is a sudden shock of sobriety and all I need as a reminder that that’s not the person I ever want to be, or associate myself with again.
So I tell you this story for two reasons:
1) Think hard before you say or do anything mean to someone else. For those of you with kids, if you wouldn’t want your kids to be treated in that way, don’t be a hypocrite and be the source of the problem for someone else. You have no idea how what you’re saying or doing will impact that person, or those around them. What started out as seemingly innocent things on her part as a 13 year old, affect me still, 17 years later, and will for the rest of my life.
2) And probably the more important point, and the reason I make this post;
Over the years I have heard people tell me that CrossFit FUNCTION is their safe place. I have also coined it as that outlet for myself. It’s my safe place, too. And as someone who has been through that, I can fully understand what a safe place feels like and can mean to someone.
I will do everything I can to not let that be compromised for you by someone else. I know what that feels like when you feel powerless and it’s out of your control.
I know what it feels like to walk out of my own building and have my safe place feel not so safe anymore. That’s an ugly feeling.
The hardest thing to do is to talk about it, and to ask for help. My door is always open. I’m as transparent as I can be with my experiences. I’ve been there too. Please talk to me.
I’m human just like the rest of you. We all have our stories. This is part of mine.