It was a defining moment for me... because of what I didn't do. As in, I didn't do anything. It set the precedent for the remainder of my years in school: Put your head down, grit your teeth, just get through it.
But Carleigh O'Connell took a different approach. This New Jersey teen recently went viral for taking a photo of herself standing on top of cement sprayed with graffiti that said "Carleigh's Ass," making a loud and profound statement to those who tried to bully her.
According to Carleigh, she is often mocked for her "big" butt and classmates spray painted the phrase on a huge rock to make fun of her. Instead of being angry or upset, Carleigh put on her bikini, stuck her "big" behind out and grinned for the camera. Her mom then posted the image on Facebook where it took off, garnering support in every corner of the internet.
My inner middle schooler cheered for her but the mother in me wanted to cry for her. Her own mom, Daryl O'Connell, wrote on Facebook: "So for me as the mom... I type this with tears in my eyes. Not tears of sadness or anger for I will never give anyone that is mean that much power. Tears of joy knowing that my daughter can face negativity with a smile and sense of humor. This will take her far in life. No perfect report card, high test score, athletic race or award could top the pride I have today."
In this day and age I think Daryl is right; learning to handle criticism and hatred with humor and class is something most of us adults could learn as well. Even though it's too late for me to stand up to my bullies, it isn't too late for me to learn from Carleigh.
If a picture says a thousand words, then this is what Carleigh's picture says to me:
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