I was wearing a crisp new uniform, a pair of shoes and entered the school that I would know as my second home.
I was excited but anxious about the challenge of making new friends.
I was 14 years old.
After the morning assembly, I walked into my new classroom. It was eighth grade. Immediately, I scanned the room to find some familiar faces from my junior school.
I breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank God, I am not alone.” But, I didn’t know that from the first moment I stepped into that new building till the day I graduated high school, I would go on to live the worst years of my teenage life.
I re-acquainted myself with these people. Facebook was new back then and it really helped me create social relationships because I suffered from extreme social anxiety.
People often told me that I’m a completely different person online compared to when they meet me in person.
Some months passed. And suddenly, a series of anonymous posts, pretending to be me, started popping up on social media.
A group of teenagers in my cohort started blaming me for it.
It got uglier with each passing year. By the time I was in grade 10, a group of people was just following me around school.
Whether it was language or my appearance, everything was a mockery to them.
I remember once someone came up from behind, threw water on me and ran off. All of this is just the gist of my experience.
I am sharing all of this that happened from 2008 onwards. Nearly 10 years later, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression because I never had the resources or support I needed back then.
I internalized the mean things said about me and stopped taking selfies because I was always worried about what people would think.
What you might see in Mean Girls or high school dramas was my reality along with so many other people at that time.
Today, I am in a different country, as an independent woman of colour, doing a job I am passionate about. But, not everybody can fight this uphill battle.
Several local organizations including Pitt Meadows city council, Foundry Ridge Meadows, Fraser River Indigenous Society, Maple Ridge Library and Ridge Meadows RCMP commemorated the day by wearing pink shirts.
A school kid in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. In support, two of his classmates wore pink shirts and since then, it became an anti-bullying symbol.
Today, as I interact with people for my work who question my credibility, I want to let you know that I will not be bullied ever again.
I will not let another person make me question my worth because I have worked extremely hard to build myself back up.
I think I am a survivor because I know of people who lost their lives because of the cruelty of others.
And, if you have a similar journey or story, I would appreciate it if you write to me so we can continue to create awareness, long after Pink Shirt Day is over.