In ten years, my daughter will be 15. Her baby teeth, all intact today, will be long gone. She will probably be learning to drive a car. She might be giggling about a boy she likes. She will inevitably cry over a friendship lost through the self-evolution of adolescence.
And she will be the same age that Amanda Todd was when she took her own life one year ago on October 10, 2012.
That is more than I can fathom, far more than I care to imagine, and enough to drive any of us into the depths of fear, sorrow, and desperation. I see my own daughter, and I want to believe that she’ll never lose her baby teeth, let alone experience the atrocities Amanda Todd did at the age of 15.
Maybe time has worn away some of our shock over this story. It has been a whole year of news cycles on bullying since then, and our collective skin is easily calloused. But I have to confess: Last night was the first time I read anything about Amanda Todd.
I spent a year in self-inflicted ignorance, choosing to believe that her circumstances were exceptional, her story an anomaly, and that cyber-bullying was something being over-hyped, over-exaggerated, and over-played in the heap-it-on style of American news.
But last night, I clicked through a link. And Scott and I read these words:
“I’m struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply. I’m not doing this for attention. I’m doing this to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong. I did things to myself to make pain go away, because I’d rather hurt myself then someone else. Haters are haters but please don’t hate, although I’m sure I’ll get them. I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyone’s future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here aren’t I?”
Amanda wrote these words shortly before ending her life after being tormented by online predators, their bullying breaking her day after day.
My ignorance was selfish. When I choose to close my eyes and ears to the stories of those living through or dying from mental illness, bullying, and cyberstalking, I can act as if my reality is the only one there is, the only one that matters.
Seeing Amanda’s story for myself, as told by her mom, my reality was shattered.
Today was the one-year anniversary of Amanda’s death; it was also World Mental Health Day. In marking these events, Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, asked people to “Light Up the World Purple for Amanda and all the others we have lost to bullying and mental health distresses.”
So we did.
That was the best we could do today. To mark the day, to remember Amanda and so many others, even if only for ourselves. It is okay to start wherever we are; in fact, we must start wherever we are in order to make it better.
I now know Amanda Todd’s face, I know her words, I have heard her story. Ignorance is no longer mine. Today we wore purple. Tomorrow we learn more and say more and do more.
Because silence is consent. And we will not consent to this anymore.