When I set out to capture and produce ACMB Presents: Reality Bytes On BULLYING, a video piece in which mothers open up a dialogue on bullying in the wake of David Molak’s untimely death, I expected to be touched, enlightened, and empowered to act. After all, David could be your son. He could be mine.
But what I did not expect to feel as I learned more about David’s story was anxiety. But I did. You see, I too, was a victim of bullying many years ago. The feelings I thought I had buried deep within my soul had suddenly been unearthed.
I found myself wanting to talk to David. So, as many a blogger does, I began to write. Here is my letter to David, followed by ACMB Presents: Reality Bytes On BULLYING.
As your big brown eyes look down upon us from heaven, I often wonder what you think. Do you wish you would have chosen to stay on this earth longer? Or, are you resting in peace, watching the love, kindness, and anti-bullying movement that’s evolving here just days after your departure?
I so wish, David, that this outpouring of compassion and concern could have been shown to you much, much earlier. I wish your school could have had the ability to do more with the words heaved upon you outside of its walls. I wish the state had already put in place consequences for this type of contemporary bullying.
I don’t know the details of the berating attacks that caused you such tangible pain. I, like so many others, only know of the news reports and information shared by your family. I do know several people who knew you personally—like your pre-kindergarten teacher, who still has your class photo hanging on her wall.
While I cannot begin to understand the pain you suffered, I too was bullied in high school. Much like you, I did not have differences that set me apart from my peers. I was the cheerleading captain, a swimmer, and a softball player. I held multiple leadership positions. I was on the prom court. But none of that matters, because bullies don’t stereotype. If it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else. Likewise, it was never about you, David. Not really.
My bully was a sophomore, one year older than I—though in 1989 I never once called it that: “bullying.” Not many did, honestly. A “bully,” even then, was more of a fictional character, like the boy in A Christmas Story who stops Ralphie and his brothers on their walk home from school.
My bully did not like the fact that her (ex?)-boyfriend asked me to dance at the school dance. From that dance on, this girl told her friends she would make it her mission to make my high school days—quote—“a living hell.” And she was partly successful. For three years, this girl and several of her friends delighted in attempting to create an imbalance of power grown from fear. She took a dead frog from biology class and hung it on my locker. She created a nickname, much like the one assigned to you, David, and scribbled it on the wall in the girls’ bathroom. She used magazine letters to craft a threatening letter, which she posted, again, on my locker. She egged my parents’ house. She even somehow got into my car at school, took my bra from my sports bag, and hung it from the car’s antenna for all to see.
I can’t imagine what this girl would have done had there been Instagram as there is today. The idea of the supposed power social media would have given my bully both frightens and disgusts me.
David, you were very brave to tell your parents about your bully.
I, instead, quietly endured these attacks in front of my friends and classmates. I was never meek; however, I avoided the conflict. I grew up in a loving home that saw very little fighting. Over time, I did mention my pain to my parents, but I downplayed it so they would not consider going up to the school to discuss the matter. Anything but that. That would really but fuel to her fire, I thought.
I realize now that I should have gone to my parents much earlier. I should have welcomed the support I know they would have shown me. I should have gone to my school counselor and principal. Honestly, I probably should have gone to the police.
But that takes courage—the kind of courage you showed, David.
So as I think about your battle with bullying, David, I question what allowed me to remain in the same school as my bully. Why did I forge forward when heartbreakingly you and countless others do not? It is with deep thought and conviction that my now 41-year-old self believes this: Ultimately, it was my ability to recognize and believe with all my heart and soul that it was the girl—my bully—who was the one with the problem. As much as I loathed that girl, I also felt incredibly sorry for her. I believe she was psychologically and perhaps socially broken. I told myself she must have had something pretty terrible happen to her or lack some serious confidence to feel the need to bully someone to feel better about herself. I even prayed for my bully as I prayed for my own strength. You know what, David? I do believe God gave me the inner strength to be at a place emotionally and mentally that would not allow my bully to “win.” I use the word “win” because, to my bully, it was a game—a very sick game. And really, are there ever any winners?
Perhaps that’s where parents, such as myself, need to do a better job.
David, did you see me with four other moms this week, discussing bullying in the wake of losing you? Did you hear the mom who said that bully prevention must start in the home? Did you hear the mom of the little boy who is hearing impaired say that what she realized is that if a kid wants to bully someone, he or she is going to find a person and a reason, plain and simple? Could you feel our determination when we exclaimed that what we need to do, as parents, is to first model kind, loving, empathetic behavior? Our kids learn by watching us! Did you hear when we moms agreed that in 2016, we need to work harder to empower our kids by teaching them how to respond to conflict from an early age?
Yes, David, what is becoming of #DavidsLegacy, while bittersweet, is also powerful. It is certainly not the way in which any of us would have chosen to enter this fight against bullying. It is, however, a gift. Your legacy, David, is a gift that our community—our country—cannot afford to leave unopened.