TALKING IN MY HOMETOWN

When I married my husband, I moved away from the town of Ripley where I grew up into a suburb of Erie. I was more than glad to move out of the town I was bullied in. My parents still live in my hometown, and I only go there to see them. Otherwise, I have had little to do with Ripley. When Ripley’s librarian messaged me to speak and sign books at their author night, I was apprehensive. Would some of the people who bullied me show up? Would anyone even show up?

When I got the message about talking in Ripley, I called my mom. I told her my fears and she encouraged me to do the author night. She said, “You need to put the past behind you and show them how far you have come.”

I thought about how they said I couldn’t read, and yet I wrote a book. They were wrong about me, and I needed to return to my hometown and let my light shine. I also felt Ripley was the perfect places to talk about bullying and the damage it does to the victim. I messaged the librarian and agreed to do the talk and book signing. she was thrilled.

Speaking up against bullying is very important to me. For my book launch party, I thought about my speech and thought about what I would say, but I didn’t plan anything out. I spoke from my heart and everyone at the party was impressed. I figured this method would also work for the author night. The only problem is when I tried to think about what I would say, my mind went blank. I kept thinking about what it would be like if I faced the bullies. If they read my book, would they even recognize themselves (I changed their names for privacy)? Would any of them ever apologize to me? Could I face them after all these years?

The night before the talk and book signing, I had problems with my acid reflux and was up most of the night. I didn’t get to sleep until 3:30 A.M. Then I had to get up at 7:30 to go to work. When I got to work, I was exhausted. My fellow employees kept asking me what was wrong. As I fought to keep my eyes open and do my job, I wondered how I would be able give a talk after work. There would be no time for a nap. Would I get up in front of everyone looking groggy and stumble over my words? Would I make a total fool out of myself?

By the time we arrived in Ripley after a half hour drive, my exhaustion faded and was replaced with nervousness and excitement. I set up my books on a table inside the library and talked to the librarian. It wasn’t long before people started showing up. A retired store manager from where I worked, a few people from a church I once attended, some people I hadn’t seen in a while, and others came wondering in.

A woman walked up to me and said, “Do you remember me?”

I replied, “No.”

The woman told me she was the Special Education aide who had helped me so much when I was in school. It had been years since I’d seen her and didn’t recognize her. I had written her a note about the book signing, but I didn’t know if she would come or not. Seeing her lifted my spirits even higher. Then another teacher whom helped me a lot in school and who I’ve kept in touch with over the years arrived. Then my parents snuck in and sat up front. I felt more confident than ever to stand in front of everyone and speak.

The librarian introduced me and then the words just flowed smoothly from my lips. I talked about the process of writing my book and then I talked about bullying. I told them that bullying happens in our schools, online, in our communities, in our workplaces, and even in our churches. I talked about how bullying is a from of abuse that causes wounds others can’t see. I talked about the damage it did to me, and I read a passage from my book where I was bullied in my back yard. Then I opened it up to questions. Everyone had lots to ask.

I had woodburned leather bracelets that say, “Stop Bullying.” I urged them to stand with me against bullying by buying a bracelet for five dollars. Afterwards they came to buy bracelets and books. I signed the books while I talked to them. Many told me I spoke like a professional and were surprised that I hadn’t planned out my speech. I felt exhilarated. I couldn’t have been prouder of myself.

Bullying may never stop, but if I can help bring awareness to the harm it causes and save other children and adults from suffering like I did, then I will promote my book and speak about bullying wherever and whenever I can. We need to stand together to fight against bullying. Words and actions do hurt. Bullying is peer abuse and can be verbal or physical. Children and even adults suffer with mental health problems, commit suicide, turn to alcohol, and much more due to this abuse. If we stand up together, we can save children and adults from suffering its wrath.

Making my dream come true by publishing a book and speaking out against bullying helps me shine within the light of recovery.

You can order your copy of my book on the home page of this site. Just click on the picture of my book and it will take you to Amazon to order it.

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