Brynna’s and Sherri’s Letters

For those who have asked, we’ve put the PDF for Brynna’s Letter to a Bully on the site under RESOURCES. The same file is listed under Readers, Teachers, Students and Librarians.

It also includes the following letter from Sherri:

In the book, Infamous, a classmate terrorizes fellow students by spreading lies and posting a site that exposes everyone’s secrets. Brynna is the first and primary victim. Because of those lies, she is still, a full year later, having to deal with the fall-out. With the help of Nick and LaShonda, she finds a courage she didn’t know she had and she ends up writing the manifesto for the ABB. It’s excerpted here so that it can hopefully help those who are going through a bad time. Please feel free to share this.

If you’re the person in need, please hang in there. Believe me, no one knows your pain more than I do. I know what it’s like to be a kid who has no haven. To wake up every single day, praying that your whole life is nothing but one long nightmare and that today, you’re finally going to see that none of it was true… Only to be slapped in the face, literally and figuratively, the minute you open your eyes. I know the pain of not being able to tell anyone. That fear. That horror. The part of you that dies a little every day while you bleed internally and silently where no one can see. I know what it is to walk the halls of a school and be mocked for things that you can’t help: Your dark broken teeth that haven’t been fixed. Teeth that were shattered when you were hit in the mouth with a glass Coke bottle. Your unfashionable hand-me-downs that don’t fit. To graduate in a borrowed dress that is beige and not white because it was all you could get. To not have your diploma right away because you couldn’t afford the fee, or a class ring. Not even invitations for graduation. To sit in class every day while your stomach rumbles and gnaws, and to swallow air because you’re starving and you don’t have money for lunch, and breakfast is something you only see on TV.

My family situation was bad. The kids at school were worse, but some of the things that stung most were from teachers who mocked me, too. As a young woman and child, I kept thinking, “Why can’t you just leave me alone? Can’t you tell how much pain I’m in? Can none of you see that I’m barely hanging on?”

But then, I was good at hiding my pain. I had to be in order to survive. Let no one in. Trust none. Any information about you, can and will be used to torment you more.

I still believe it doesn’t have to be like that. When I was in eighth grade, my lifelong best friend (who became my friend because I fought a bully who was picking on her), asked me if I was afraid to have children. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll abuse them, too?” I was horrified. “I could never make a child of mine feel like this,” I assured her. “I wouldn’t do this to my worst enemy.” And I’ve lived my life by those words.

I wish I could say my bullies ended with my school days, but they didn’t. I was penniless and homeless a few years ago and I saw a side to people that I wish to this day I was still ignorant of. But through it all, I refused to let those “haters” turn me into one of them. I will not be that person. I will not lash out and I refuse to live their horrid life. As Socrates said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I don’t know what demons drive them to their cruelty, and I’m grateful that I don’t. Even though I’ve seen it firsthand, I don’t understand how anyone can laugh while they hurt another. How someone can take pride in their cruelty.

When I die and face my creator, I want to be able to say that while I might have stumbled and fallen a few times in my life, I never, ever lashed out intentionally at anyone. I don’t want to be one of those bitter old creatures who robbed me of my childhood and innocence. One who, when they died, people applauded. I don’t want anyone to curl their lips when they think of me and to say, “You know dead just ain’t dead enough.” When I die, I want to be like my older brother and have people smile with tears in their eyes and say, “Dang, I really miss her. She was fun. This world just isn’t as bright with her gone.”

Life is hard and there are no guarantees. There have been so many times when I wish I could go back to me in those hours that were so dark and that seemed to be unending and say, “It does get better, Sherri. I promise.” Because back then, I didn’t know for sure. I hoped, but that hope came with a high price as I questioned my intelligence and sanity for believing in something that seemed ludicrous. “After all you’ve been through, girl, how can you have anything left? What kind of stupid can’t let go when it’s obvious this is the best there is? They were right. You ain’t nothing but an ugly waste of space.”

But don’t give up. Don’t give in. Do not listen to them or you when your mind echoes their cruelty. Fight for your life and your happiness. Believe in yourself. You are beautiful and you deserve your dreams. You do, and if you keep going, they will come to you. I have been kicked down so many times and so hard that I swear I have a boot heel permanently pressed into my forehead. You can’t imagine how many people have come at me for no reason whatsoever. Even now, all these years later, I have a hard time sleeping at night. I hear those voices and their hatred. They are the demons that continue to stalk me, but you know what?

They lost. I’m still here. And in spite of them and everything they tried to take from me, I am happy. I have three wonderful sons who mean the world to me- boys who love me, flaws and all. And I have a husband that all the experts and critics told me I couldn’t have. He is a man in every sense of the word and he has held my hand through the worst imaginable nightmares. I am nothing special. Believe me, I know. I come from unbelievable poverty (my childhood home didn’t always have running water or heat or electricity and for most of my life I didn’t have a bed). I was that dyslexic kid who was mocked to the point that as an adult, I won’t do a public reading. It even manifests verbally. Because I was hit in the mouth so much as a child, I had a horrendous lisp that made three different speech teachers tell me that I would never have a job where I had to speak in public. I was mocked for my accent, my heritage, my poverty, my stupidity and my special needs sister. I was ridiculed because the police came to my house so much that I was on a first name basis with the officers.

But this isn’t about me. I only talk about my past now because I don’t want you to give up. No one told me that I had a hope or a chance. I found salvation in fiction. That was the only place where people like me survived and things got better.

Now as an adult, I’ve met plenty of others that no one talks about who don’t just survive. We thrive. We are normal. You can’t look at us and see the scars we hide. But we are here and you will get through this, even though you doubt it right now. A better future is there. I promise you. This is your life. Make it shine. Remember that no one can make you feel inferior without your permission. There are those who will always try to “keep you humble” or think they’re “telling it like it is.” But they’re not. They’re being mean. Resist the urge to return it. Find your inner peace and bask in the knowledge that you are better than that.

The buck stops here and it stops now. We can break the cycle. We must break the cycle.

Raise your fist to the ceiling and shout: I am human and I matter. This is my time and my life. I am beautiful in spite of what you say and think. And if you can’t see that, it’s your loss.

Then blow them a raspberry and remember that you might be down today, but tomorrow is another chance for you to shine and to dance like no one’s watching. Spend your time on the things that matter… making the most of your life. There will never be another person like you ever again.

We will all be remembered by the tracks we leave in the hearts of the people we meet. You can be a light in the darkness or you can be the demon you hate. The choice is yours alone to make. The consequences are yours to face.

As for me, I have seen where that bitterness leads, and it’s a bad, bad end. No happy person attacks another. There’s no need. And there’s no limit on happiness. Believe me, there’s more than enough to go around and I don’t want to hoard it. So if I have to spread something, I want it to be warmth and laughter. And while I may not help everyone, if I can reach that one person like me as a child and young woman who just needs one moment of escape, one tiny word of encouragement, then my life wasn’t the waste they told me it would be. And maybe, just maybe, I’m not that disgusting, stupid, broken buck-toothed dog they called me. Maybe I’m not invisible anymore.

So put on your swan hat and hold your head proud. As my older brother used to tell me, we are all Veterans of a Screwed-up World. No one gets out of life unscarred. But we do reap the seeds that we sow. Bitterness gives a bitter harvest. It takes strength and determination to drive out the snakes and keep the weeds from growing in our garden (they can be insidious and crop up when we least expect them). And though we hate it when it pours, rain makes the wheat grow stronger. So send me your storm and I will dance in the eye of the hurricane and laugh while the wind challenges me. Most of all, I will relish every second of every day I live and use those lemons not only for lemonade, but furniture polish and to scrape the grease off my dishes so that I can wash it down the drain and bid it adieu.

Love and hugs to you, always! May the best day of your past be the worst day in your future.