Youthlink Blog

Alex's Story - #NowImStronger

Going to school from Kindergarten to Grade 5 was a nightmare because I was severely bullied.

It’s been almost twenty years since I have felt that feeling. It was like the darkness followed me, enveloped me, isolating me. The fear flowed through my body, like the blood in my veins, with every beat of my heart. Going to school from Kindergarten to Grade 5 was a nightmare because I was severely bullied. Coming from a family with a Chinese background in a predominantly Caucasian school, there seemed to be more than sufficient ammunition for the bullying gun. I was physically, verbally and emotionally bullied for the way I looked, how I spoke, the way I dressed, and even the food that I ate! In the 1990’s my family did not have a steady financial income. As a result I wore my dad’s clothes regardless of how different, oversized and old they were. The food that I brought for lunch was different from everyone else’s. And, although I was born in Calgary, my family spoke several languages but Cantonese was the primary language in our home. Learning English as an ESL (English Second Language) student was extremely difficult. Having the difficulties of pronunciation and understanding fueled the bullying even more.

Throughout those 5 years of elementary school, life became a dark place where I dreaded the very thought of going to school and dreaded the thought of seeing the one person who caused me all this pain. I feared being around people who I believed could be just as scary as the bully. School was not a place of fun, support and education for me but rather, the only thing I experienced was hatred, negativity, fear and sadness. Every night I would come home and complain about not wanting to go to school, creating as many excuses as I could not to go. I felt like this situation, being bullied, was not something to bother my parents about. I felt it was weak to ask for help. I felt hopeless, isolated, afraid and sad. I wanted to ask for help but I didn’t know how or who to ask.

Eventually four boys at my school decided to stick up for me. These individuals went above and beyond, taking on a leadership role in protecting me … someone who felt like he didn’t belong, shouldn’t exist and was just a target for unfair, unnecessary pain. These individuals would comfort me when they heard of incidents that had happened or they would crowd around me in the hallway so that the bully would have a hard time approaching me. I quickly found out I was not as isolated as I thought I was. Friendship saved my life. I had four friends who stuck by me and helped me through the pain without me even having to ask. Through all that they had done for me, I began to feel like I belonged again and was able to become more comfortable at school. I began making more friends even though the bullying had not stopped but it began to have less of an effect on me. My confidence began to build and I was finally able to open up about these issues.

Real strength comes from not being afraid of asking for help when it’s needed. Real strength comes from standing up to inequality and unfairness in a respectful way. Real strength is being a friend to those who need it most. I am stronger because others stood up for me and cared.

Alex Hong is an educator at the YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre and dedicates his days telling his story and teaching elementary school kids about issues such as bullying, drugs, gangs, healthy relationships and online safety.

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