Something rather interesting happened to me while on winter holiday. I am fortunate to go away to Aruba with my family every December for vacation. This year the weather wasn't too great and we were stuck inside for many of the days. However, on our very last day of the trip it was a perfectly beautiful sunny day. The sky was blue and the water was bluer. And we were all enjoying our last day on the beach. My dad and I decided to take a walk along the beach. Earlier that morning I had bumped into some old camp friends, who told me that one of our friends was also on the Island, staying at a nearby hotel. Because of this, on our walk, I started anxiously looking down the beach at all of the huts for my old friend.
While I did not find my friend, my eyes did stumble on someone. They stumbled on HER. The girl who is the very reason that The Farley Project is being created. The girl who was my one time best friend while growing up, only to turn and create months and months of misery for me when I was a young girl. The girl who I've thought about and prayed to forgive for the past 20 years, but who I haven't seen since high school...
I froze. I started shaking. I of course looked up to the sky and said a familiar "REALLY?!!!!!"
I knew I had to go over. But what was I going to say? Was I going to be polite? Was I going to unleash 20 years worth of built up feelings and things that I never said? After a much needed pep talk with my family I mustered up every last bit of courage and started walking towards her. My entire body was shaking and I'm sure I had a rash on my neck. I approached slowly and simply said "HI." We made small talk for a while and then she asked what I was doing now, to which I looked her right in the eyes and said "I'M STARTING AN ANTI-BULLYING CHARITY." She replied with a smile and just said "good luck with that."
We made a bit more small talk and then I looked at her and told her that I'd love to get her involved in the charity, and get inside her mind a bit, as we are having all different kinds of people involved who have had experience with bullying situations. And then I walked away.
I went back to my family and was not entirely satisfied with the exchange. I wanted to say more, but did not want to do so in front of her family, and my nerves really got the best of me.
About ten minutes later she came walking down the beach and over to me, and asked if I wanted to talk.
So we walked. We walked and talked. The whole thing was completely surreal and as I looked at her I felt like I was 12 years old again. I felt 12 and I felt SCARED. I kept hearing a little voice inside my head say "Don't shrink. It's OK. You can do this, put your shoulders back and look her in the eye."
She kept saying how she did not understand why I blamed her for "other people not wanting to be my friend." And how she did not have the power to turn a whole school against me. She chalked it up to being a fight, however I remember things MUCH differently. This got me thinking that when we reach out to schools this year, we really need to reach EVERYONE. The "followers" that go along with whoever is doing the bullying, are really the ones who give the bully power. I truly believe that when kids are being mean, a lot of the time they don't even realize what they are doing and what effect they are having on their victims.
There was a defensiveness to her and a lack of compassion, however, she kept apologizing. I saw pain in her eyes, and on her face, which made me start to feel compassion for her. It was really interesting, for the first time in 20 years I stopped feeling mad at her and started feeling a little bit bad for her.
We were in the same sorority at different colleges and she said when I was in school I told some people at her school not to be her friend. While I don't specifically remember doing this, I do remember telling people to "be careful" of her. And if I did tell people not be her friend, or even to be careful, isn't that me doing the same thing to her years later? Why is that OK? It's NOT OK. For this I am deeply sorry.
She said how every couple of years, she hears "Oh, you are the girl who turned a whole school against Elissa" It's almost as if this whole thing has been affecting her life as well as mine.
She asked if I felt better, to which I replied "I will feel better when I can make sure this doesn't' happen to other kids. I will feel better when kids stop taking their own lives because they cannot face going to school another day."
The whole thing was surreal. As we were talking the waves were literally crashing up over our legs, it was almost as if the ocean was trying to wash away all of the past negative emotions.
When it was over I felt stronger. I felt as though something had literally left my body and I was left with a feeling of "BRING IT ON!" like I could accomplish or tackle anything.
I am open and ready to see what 2012 will bring and I will be forever grateful that I had that moment of confronting the past on the beach...
With so much love and light,