When I was a kid I stood out because I liked to write and loved art. I talked about different things than other kids, and I wanted to know “why” more than other kids around me. I saw people and things differently and was bullied frequently. So much so that I would try not to talk during the day time, keeping all my words and conversation for home. But I was bullied at home too, and in time I learned that the safe place to keep my ideas, and thoughts and dreams and observations was in a book I wrote in every day of my life.
In my journal I could be myself, and since no one would read it, I could be sure that I would never feel sad, or be made fun of for what I wrote there.
My whole life I felt like I didn’t fit in with everyone else. I have ADHD and a number of anxiety related disorders. I used to bite my nails until they bled and then kids would make fun of me for it. I started to do funny things to try to win friends, and some kids would dare me to cut my own hair and promised to be nice to me if I did. They didn’t keep their promises to “be nice” and after some time, I stopped trying.
I didn’t fit in because I used big words and I had an even bigger imagination. My nose was always in a book and that made kids call me a nerd and a geek. I read books as much as I wrote my stories, drawing pictures of horses with wings and pretty girls with long flowing hair and princess dresses. The kind of girl I wish I could be, instead of a kid that ate too many meatballs and too much Italian bread.
It took me a long time to figure out that being different was a gift. I just wanted to be like everyone else and because I was “different” so many bad things kept happening to me. I wanted to not be as smart, or as talented… I just wanted to be unremarkable, ordinary and normal so that I would not stand out. So that kids (and some grown up’s) would just leave me alone.
One boy used to sit on the bus with me no matter where I sat, and hit my arm over and over again and I would hide the bruises from my parents because I didn’t want them to know that I wasn’t liked by everyone or popular like they had been in school.
I am telling you this because I want you to understand that millions of kids have gone through what you have gone through. Someone (or a number of people) putting bruises where they hurt the most… on the inside. I know what that feels like, and how it feels to not want to go to school. I know what it feels like to feel sick to my stomach about recess. I know what it feels like to have people talking about me and saying things that are not true.
I want you to know that you are a creative. You aren’t like everyone else but something far more special, unique and rare. Your intelligence and creative flair is a gift and it is something that very few people have. I will tell you a secret… they wish they had your talent, your intuition and even your empathy or the way that you can put yourself into whatever you are focused on creating.
You aren’t like everyone else Noah. You are something far more and you will always be someone who makes people take notice. You have so much talent and kindness in you, which is also what makes it so hard to understand why someone would be so cruel to you.
I want you to know another secret Noah. The world needs more Noah’s. The kind of people who care and who love their family and friends. The sort of people who would never hurt someone else. The daring kind of people that would get on a stage and perform to make a crowd of people feel happy.
You are so loved by your family who sees the beautiful parts of you. They have raised you to be a good person which is why “bad people” or people behaving badly makes no sense to you. It hurts that someone would try to keep hurting you over and over again for no good reason. And even if they had a reason Noah, it would not be reason enough for them to make you feel the way they have.
It is wrong. They are wrong, and they have painted your eyes to see yourself incorrectly. You are not “nothing” and you are valuable. The world would be lost without people like you.
When you get older you will meet more people like you. I call them “the creatives” and they will make you feel very comfortable, loved and safe. They will feel familiar because they will think beautiful things, and sing beautiful things. Some of them will write beautiful things, always observing people around them for inspiration. And they will accept and love the creative parts of you and all the bits in between.
It takes time to understand that people who try to hurt you are people who are experiencing impossible pain inside themselves. So great is this pain that they are unable to process it in any other way, except by hurting other people. The truth is that after they have hurt someone, eventually… they hurt themselves too. It is hard to look into a mirror and not like what you see, and for bullies that is the source of their anger toward others.
Everything that comes out of a bully’s mouth is how they feel about themselves… not you. A not-so-smart kid will call you dumb. A kid that is only recognized for being “pretty” will call you ugly. A child that does not feel strong enough, or one that has been beaten, will raise his/her hands to you.
And anyone with a streak like that in their heart… is not worthy of being your friend or girlfriend. They are simply not good enough for you.
I didn’t let the bad guys in my life win. Be strong and brave, fearless like a pirate and surround yourself with a crew that appreciates and loves you for who you are. There is a lot to love about you Noah; you are one of the good guys. And us older “good guys” have your back.
Your friend in spirit (and crazy creative girl, nerd and geek, bad karoke singer and dog kisser).
PS: Did you know that some people were mean to Pirates too? That’s why they preferred the freedom of the open ocean instead of hanging around cities and towns. It’s way better being a pirate.
My dear friend Aria Appleford has created a Facebook page for letters and words of encouragement for her grandson, Noah. Visit Noah’s Ark to leave your message of support for him.