I am lying on the playground, looking up at the other kids like they are giants. One kid keeps kicking me in the stomach.
Fifth grade was where school went wrong. Lunch is where the abuse started and continued. There was one kid who seemed to torture me for his amusement. He’d be the one hurting me the most, physically and emotionally.
I couldn’t defend myself, no one stood up for me, and it never stopped.
I felt alone, helpless and worthless.
I was in a dark place that year, crying myself to sleep, knowing it would happen again tomorrow. I wasn’t a tough kid and I didn’t have a big brother to help me, and my dad was always working.
My older sister was the one who encouraged me, even though I never told her exactly what was happening. She was an outcast, too, bullied because of her weight. Her love and support kept me going through really dark days.
But I still couldn’t stop the abuse during that entire school year. Finally, just a few days before summer vacation, my tormenter and I were called to the school office. Somebody had finally reported the bullying.
It was over now, but the damage was already done. I have forgiven my bully and those who encouraged him. But I still have flashbacks. I can’t erase that memory, but my life is better now, and I try every day to help and encourage other kids who are having emotional problems. My purpose in life is to never let anyone feel that they’re alone and hopeless. That’s my mission every day.
I’ve brought that sense of responsibility home as well. My parents taught me to always offer help to others and to never ask for anything in return. It just took me a few years to embrace that concept.
When I was 13 years old and my younger brother was 5, I realized that he was copying my life. I would make mistakes, and he would mimic them. I knew that I had to set a better example, to be for him the big brother I never had.
I was 15 when my baby sister was born. I raced to see her at the hospital. When I got there, I felt like I had just run the Boston Marathon. Seeing my mom holding a little angel, Alessandra, I felt incredible happiness – but I also began to realize that my role in the family was becoming more important than ever. I had not only a little brother, but a baby sister to help raise.
In college, I want to study psychology and filmmaking. Both these things are rooted in my desire to help others suffering from emotional distress. Videos can be a valuable tool in helping people understand difficult emotions and situations.
The bottom line is: I’ve been in a dark place myself. I want to help others climb out of that place.