About a year ago my cousin was talking about how her daughter has mean girls in her class (we will get back to this) and my mom made a comment about how I had girls just like that in my grade school class. She said there were times I wasn't invited to parties or sleepovers and she wondered if it was because of my prosthetic leg. When she said it, I was a little floored. "I don't remember that," I announced. "People didn't exclude me."
I didn't live in the same neighborhood as a lot of the kids I went to school with, so it made sense that I didn't sleep over at their houses. It wasn't odd and it didn't hurt my feelings. I had friends in my own neighborhood who I spent all my time with.
When I got into high school, it took me about a year and a half to get a good group of friends who I hung out with in and out of school, but again, I never remember anyone outright being mean to me. Did it happen behind my back? Maybe. I just didn't know about it.
So to say I didn't fully understand the magnitude of what Hannah Baker went through when I read "13 Reasons Why" a few years ago, is an understatement.
However, that does not mean it didn't get to me. I can still remember the day I read it. I couldn't put it down. It was the first book I read in one sitting. It changed me so much, I remember questioning everything I had ever said to someone.
This book caused me to stop hanging out with friends because I realized after the book, they di
dn't care about other people's feelings. Or at least they didn't understand their snide comments, whether it was about someone we knew or even people we walked past on the street, were unacceptable.
And it's weird, I put that book on my shelf and didn't read it again since that first time, but it never completely left my mind. There has never been another story that has popped into the forefront of my mind during so many different occasions like this one. When I catch myself saying something I shouldn't, I remember the book and the girl in the story. When I hear someone else say something rude, I try to hold myself back from laughing because of the girl in the story.
To say I am perfect and never make fun of someone or wrongfully judge someone, is completely false. I am human and I make mistakes. But I would like to think this book has kept me from making poor decisions and has kept me from saying or doing things to hurt other people for no other reason, but to make me feel better. And I would like to think this book has also inserted a sense of kindness in me, as well.
People need to hear nice things or positive affirmations and I am a big believer in saying nice things. I try to say something nice to the people around me on a regular basis because for all I know, it's the only time in their life they hear something positive about themselves.
When I heard this book was being made into a series on Netflix a few months ago, I knew I was going to watch it. I knew I needed a refresher course in why we need to be kind. While I had forgotten most of the details of the story, I remember the gist of it - the butterfly effect. Small things, over and over and over, turning into big things.
I typed a part of this post while watching the series. It was in between the tears I was shedding because for some reason, watching the story play out before me, was even more earth shattering than the first time I was introduced to Hannah and the Baker's Dozen. I am not a sad crier. I am a mad crier. But this show is so fucking upsetting that I couldn't hold back the tears.
And it's not because I don't think it should be watched. I don't think it's disturbing because it takes suicide too far. It's not because it's too graphic. (All of these are reasons why I've heard people don't want to watch the show, or show their children.) No, it's not because of those things, it's because we live in world where a show like this is so important.
We live a society where teenage suicide is so prevalent, a society where kids, who have their whole lives ahead of them, have been so hurt and beaten down - mentally and physically - they can't see another way out.
It's upsetting that a lot of these problems can start with just one small, tiny thing that could have been prevented if someone would just be kind. If someone would have just thought about how that small, tiny comment can stick with someone and haunt someone until it turns into something bigger and bigger and bigger.
It is upsetting because there are times when I hear people make fun of other people and I don't know what to say. How to get them to stop. Why do we do that? One, why do we say those mean, dirty things? Two, why do we not say something to stop it? I'll never understand.
It's sad that my cousin's daughter, who I talked about before, is only 12 years old and has been dealing with mean little girls for multiple years now. It's sad that she is just one girl in one school out of thousands of kids and thousands of schools who are dealing with the same thing.
Why is it cool to make other people look bad? Why is that funny? Why is it 2017 and we are just now making a television show that so rawly portrays suicide and makes it look so ungodly uncomfortable that I was sobbing my eyes out because I knew - knew with everything inside of me - that there are people all over the world who have done and are thinking about doing what Hannah Baker did?
And how do we make it better? What can we do? It's so easy for me to say, it will get better with time. This is just a blip on the radar of life. But for kids who hear the jeers day in and day out, it's so hard to see past it. To see how it will get better. I don't think the solution starts with the children who are suffering. It's got to start before that. It has to start with talking to children about how to be kind. It's got to start with saying positives rather than negatives.
And I think there are so many people who think kids are just weak these days. They just can't handle it because they get babied, but guess what? That's bullshit. No one should have to handle hearing how dumb, ugly or slutty they are. Becoming unaffected, or desensitized to mean things is not a solution. That should never be the option.
For me, the solution comes one nice comment at a time. It may seem simple, or unrealistic...and maybe it is. But, I think it's also better than what we are already dealing with, what children and teens are already dealing with.
It was one of the last lines of the show that really got to me. It really clicked for me that this show is so important. I think it sums up everything I was thinking and feeling when I read it all those years ago and when I watched it just a few hours ago:
"It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better some how." - Clay, 13 Reason Why