Last week, I saw a YouTube video that I have not been able to stop thinking about.
The video, titled “It Gets Better,” is Google’s attempt to highlight the “It Gets Better Project” spearheaded by media pundit and author Dan Savage. The project started when Dan and his spouse, Terry, posted a video in response to the recent rise in suicides among gay American teenagers. They talked about how they were both heavily bullied in high school but had an incredible time in college and after, found each other, fell in love and even adopted a son and started a family.
The message was simple: being bullied for being gay in high school sucks, but stick it out, because it gets better.
Dan and Terry spread the video to their personal networks, and soon, this grassroots effort became the “It Gets Better Project,” with thousands of other individuals and couples, including celebrities like Adam Lambert, Kathy Griffin and Lady Gaga candidly sharing their own personal stories with the same essential central message. Even President Obama took the opportunity to offer his sympathies for the families of those affected by the suicides and to offer advice to LGBT high school students nationwide suffering from bullying.
As I watched the video, I was reminded of my time attending middle school in New Zealand. Every single day, a group of older boys would tell me to go back to my country and make offensive remarks about my ethnicity. Add to that the fact that I was also obese and hadn’t hit puberty, and the jokes got even crueler. Things sometimes got really ugly with physical altercations that often left me hurt and bruised. I remember often hiding in some remote corner of the school so the bullies wouldn’t find me during lunchtime.
Bullying is one of the most horrible things you can ever experience in your life, because it crushes your self-esteem and makes you utterly powerless. It still pains me as I think about it. Bullying is also, unfortunately, not limited to high school and not limited to the LGBT community.
Bullying is real and present at even an accepting community like Stanford. I know personal friends who have been verbally and, in some cases, physically bullied by so-called friends, roommates, significant others, teammates and sometimes even complete strangers.
But you don’t have to accept any of it.
You don’t have to accept it because you can’t give them the satisfaction that they have gotten to you.
You don’t have to accept it because doing so will validate their claims over your mind, your body and most importantly, your self-respect.
You don’t have to accept it because you are an incredible, inspiring individual with a beautiful, rich life ahead of you that you cannot wait to get to.
It honestly does get better. Fast-forward a few months from New Zealand. My parents moved to New York City. My school was more diverse and a lot more accepting. I had always been shy, introverted and quiet, but I made the best decision of my life and joined the debate team. I devoted to it all my time and energy, gained much-needed self-esteem and confidence and graduated as one of the top debaters in the country. After I entered Stanford, I started exercising and eating better, gradually lost weight and gained a fit physique. I worked at free clinics educating others to make similar lifestyle changes and now run a nonprofit organization that is, among other things, working to expand such education to clinics nationwide.
I know it can sometimes feel excruciatingly hard and painful right now, but I want you to know that you are not alone. I want you to know that if you ever need someone to talk to, there are remarkable resources all over this campus (the Bridge and CAPS being just two of several). Most importantly, I want you to know that there are people all over the world who love you without even knowing you, and that once you get past this, it will not only get better, but amazing.
Please do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
With massive amounts of love and hope,
Vineet Singal ‘12