Does your skin burn from invisible tattoos? Those bullying scars that continue to pierce your psyche? Are there times you look in the mirror and only see what others had hissed? Dog. Freak. If you’re like me and heard the daily taunts, felt the rising welts from rubber bands, or the swelling cheeks after meeting fists, then you might want to purge those memories.
“How?” You ask. “I don’t have a laser to remove every inked memory.” Counseling helps, I’d answer. As does a healthy life of purpose. Finding friends who really get you makes a difference. Surrounded by others who accept you just as you are, will help those marks to fade.
But sometimes all those things are just not enough. We need more. Such as the Burn the Bully happening at the 2017 Cuesta College Writer’s Conference I participated in recently.
The event was sponsored by Thirteen Reasons Why author, Jay Asher, whose New York bestseller chronicles the tragic suicide of a teen that has been bullied. Since it’s release ten years ago, Jay has been a champion for the voiceless victims of bullying speaking nationwide to teens to help them navigate through the pain.
This ceremony was intended to both raise awareness as well as be a coming together to heal from the scars of bullying. It was open to the public and participants wrote the name of a bully on a strip of paper and placed it into the fire pit. The fire and name burning was meant to release the bully and the memory to ash. Afterwards, volunteers gave hugs and affirmations.
It was strange. As I watched decades old wounds go from paper to flame, a lump grew in my throat. For a moment, when the fires grew, those words licked at my skin. But then, as the blazing bonfire waned, the pain dissipated with every wisp of smoke.