Sometimes, we take our days for granted. We wake up, get dressed, go to class, go to work, come home, go to bed, and repeat ad nauseam. Most of us will continue to run through this cycle for years. But what about the people who don’t wake up one morning? What about the people who chose not to wake up in the morning?
Suicide is the second leading cause of death between the ages of 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. Of these suicides, an outstanding number of cases are linked to bullying—whether it be a direct result, or due to the psychological effects remaining from past trauma.
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As of 2006, October has been deemed National Bullying Prevention Month. It was organized originally by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to promote the education and awareness of the importance of bullying prevention. As somebody who lived through many years of bullying, it is refreshing to see others take the initiative to prevent anybody else from enduring the pain that I myself once suffered. Let me tell you a little bit of my story.
I was a very overweight child. At my heaviest point, I tipped the scale at well over 270 pounds, only standing approximately 5’10 at the time. I was intelligent, introverted, and had a hard time realizing that I was much more developed intellectually than my peers. Of course, at the time, that just meant that I felt like an outsider. I didn’t have many friends to speak of. My idea of having fun was going home after school, playing with LEGOs, and busting open a new box of Pop Tarts. This was an everyday occurrence between third and seventh grade. As time went on and my weight went up, kids were less and less friendly. In the tenth grade is when I finally decided that the world might be better off if I wasn’t around.
Luckily, I was fortunate enough to make it through and realize that support systems were within reach. Post recovery, I decided that I would take action on my long time interest of taking dance classes. Dance changed my entire life.
The studio was a place where I was free to come as I was, without the pressure or anxiety of living up to any standard set by anybody else. I took those classes to better myself, and in knowing that, I was able to reflect on myself and build myself up after being torn down by others for such a long time. Finding that freedom was a catalyst in forging a path to self-confidence and acceptance.
Pretty Hurts was inspired by all of this. I was ecstatic that I was able to find such a talented group of dancers who were willing and able to share my message: Be confident. Be proud. Be happy with yourself.
I asked the dancers to think of one word that had truly shifted the way that they looked at themselves. They chose used, fake, invisible, insecure, worthless, hopeless, and mediocre. Each of these words held a place in their heart in the same way that my experience held a place in mine. When they gave me their words, the rest came naturally. The dancers are all beautiful and extremely talented, and they made my job as choreographer a breeze.
It is my hope that this video is able to get to the right person at the right time and prevent them from making the huge mistake that I almost made myself. Nobody deserves to feel less than good enough. Nobody deserves to feel less than perfect. If Pretty Hurts is able to get this message across to even one person, I will consider the project a success. This month, and every month going forward, I would like you to stop and think about how you could take one second out of your day to improve somebody else’s. You never know how close somebody is to a breaking point, nor do you know how a simple smile may make the difference between getting the chance to say hello as you breeze by them in the hallway, or saying goodbye to them forever.