A Quick Thank You to the People that made me Great

In reading an article by Kristen Lamb this morning, the following paragraph stood out:

“Yes, the view from the mountain’s summit is breathtaking, but nothing grows there. The most growth happens in the valleys. Film is developed in the dark and so is character. When hurt, pain, loss, disappointment, frustration come our way we have a choice in how we view the situation. All of us have rough spots, and those setbacks, hurts and trials are the spiritual sandpaper that will shape us into a more excellent version of ourselves.”

This resonated with me strongly, and is reminiscent of my own (much shorter) life motto:

The strongest sword is forged in fire.

There are many people in my life who have been helpful, supportive, encouraging and friendly. I appreciate each and every one of them, and do my best to show my appreciation on a regular basis. Those supportive people (headed by my wonderful Husband) have helped me work out who I want to be, and what I want to do with my life. They’ve given me joy and laughter and a sense of belonging.

But the people who forced me to be Great — the ones who have forged me into a strong-willed, tough, self-confident person — are the ones who taunted, tormented, and bullied me. This post is dedicated to them.


Thank you to:

  • the kids who teased and ostracised me for having an Australian accent.
  • the kids who teased and ostracised me for having an American accent.
  • the kids who called me four-eyes, metal-mouth, and mountain-goat (because I was tall).
  • the teenage girls who ostracised me for wearing the wrong shoes and talking to the wrong boys.
  • the teenagers who sat behind me in every class for two years and threw pieces of paper and erasers at me for six hours a day.
  • the girls who played “Jo is icky” by pushing each other into me and then screeching about how they’d been tainted.
  • the teachers who refused to take any action against bullies without any “verified proof”.
  • the teenage boys who laughed at the idea of anyone dating me, and threw water over me whenever they saw me.
  • the boyfriend who spent all his Centrelink (welfare) money on computer games while I worked three jobs to support us.
  • the boyfriend who claimed to love me while emotionally and physically abusing me.

There’s no bitterness or sarcasm in this message of thanks. Once, I would have said I hated you. Later, I would have said I disliked you. Now, I find that (in most cases) I can look back without any feeling toward you at all.

You were the hardships that I faced and overcame.

You were the challenges that I triumphed over.

You were the fire that made me strong.

For that, I thank you.


Filed under Opinion, The Inner Geek

19 responses to “A Quick Thank You to the People that made me Great

  1. critters and crayons

    Well, that post is just freaking awesome, Jo. Thank you for thanking those bastards. Because I got to read THAT.

  2. I’m heartbroken to think of all those people hurting you, but it did make you who you are. I’m glad to hear it gives you strength.

    • Thanks, Tamara. Knowing what I’ve overcome in the past gives me strength every day. Setbacks are usually met with an attitude of: If I’m not going to let xxxx beat me, you’ve got no chance.

  3. ava

    Wow. What a strong woman you are Ms. Jo.

  4. Having the courage to face up to our fears and limitations as we navigate the minefield of life is maybe the most challenging aspect of growing up, and being able to recognize that even our worst experiences can benefit us, even in retrospect, is an acknowledgement that would help so many people in this world.

    Your narrative of insults and teasing sounds so familiar, I just wish sometimes that there was a way to educate our children without exposing them to bullies. We learn how to deal with adversity by experiencing difficulties and disappointment, but tormenting each other just seems so pointless and cruel. As a young person in school, I was different also and never understood why different warranted such attention.

    Knowing why these types of experiences happen still hasn’t resulted in very many effective solutions, and our schools need to work harder at changing the way we respond to bullying.

    Thanks for posting on such a timely and important subject….John H.

    • Hi John. Thanks so much for your comment. One of the reasons I wanted to post this was because so many people trot out “bad experiences” as an excuse for bad behaviour, where they could so easily use those negative experiences to their own benefit. (After the fact, of course.)

      As for schoolyard bullying, I have to disagree with one thing you said. While I agree that there needs to be more effective solutions forthcoming, I don’t believe it should be all left up to the schools. Yes, teachers need to act when they see it happening, but bullying is a more widespread problem in our society than we usually care to acknowledge. Kids emulate adult behavious. All you have to do is spend 10 minutes watching TV to see the type of negative behaviour that’s out there for our kids to watch and learn from. Politicians spend their time verbally attacking each other (on a personal rather than a policy level), sports-people smack-talk their opponents, and people who live “differently” are either villified or patronised.

      Asking schools to do more to stop bullying when so much of our culture is based on the more-powerful people deriding and denigrating the less-powerful (or less-vocal) people is like asking the farmer to keep his cows out of your yard after you’ve torn down his fences.

      As to how to fix it… I have no idea. Smarter people than me have worked on the problem to no avail, so I don’t think I’ll be solving the world’s problems today.

      • I guess what I was getting at was more about how our schools respond to the immediate circumstances as they occur at school. While the problem of bullying overall may require a larger response from our society as a whole and in the long term, as you pointed out, the specific response to the events encountered in the schoolyard itself need to be addressed when they happen. Your description of the response YOU received is typical and that needs to change.

        Changing our society and our politicians and sports figures won’t be of much help if there are still bullies in the schoolyard. I raised six children to adulthood and what they learned at home ended up being of greater benefit than what they learned at school in this regard. The best way to eliminate what’s wrong in the world isn’t changing the adults…it’s educating our future generations in how NOT to become like the adults on TV and in politics and sports…in my humble opinion.

        Your courageous acknowledgement of what YOU endured would make a great lesson for today’s students…You could write a book about THAT!

        With admiration…John H.

      • John, I agree with absolutely everything you just said. Sadly, for every one person like you and me (and all the other readers of this blog, obviously) who teaches their children about responsibility and the right ways to behave, there seems to be another half dozen who let TV teach their kids right and wrong.

        I know it’s been said of every generation since before the Common Era, but there are times that I really do worry about the world of our children and our children’s children.

  5. Standing ovation from me! It is painful to read, but i know it was worse to live through. You are my hero, and will gladly stand beside you and call you friend. You embody resilience and empowerment. Two tennents for success as a human being.

  6. Oh, Jo!!! PERFECTION. My family hates my ex-husband for who he is and what he’s done (nothing physical), and I always tell them, “You can hate him if you want. Hate him for me and hate him for Noah. I can’t hate the man who helped me create my son. I can be angry with him and hurt by him for me and for Noah, but without him I wouldn’t be where I am – and who I am – today.” You gave me the chills!! Amazing amazing amazing.


    • Thanks so much, Kim. I truly believe that embracing all aspects of our poast (the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly) is what enables us to move forward and find inner strength — and anyone with half a brain in their head can see that you’ve done both of those things. Kudos to you — kudos to us!


  7. Very true. A few years ago a teenage girl I know was berating herself for allowing herself to be manipulated by her first boyfriend. I told her not to be so hard on herself. You’re not born with the smarts and the toughness, you get them from having the experiences. i told her she’d do better in the future from having this experience, and she did.

    Important to remember in writing, too. If a character is tough and smart, they weren’t born that way. So, what have they survived to get there?

    • Great advice. I wish I’d had someone to give me that advice at different points in my life. You’re obviously a good friend to have.

      And that’s a fabulous note about tough characters in fiction, and something that’s easily overlooked.

  8. What an amazing post, Jo. And thank you for sharing Kristen’s link and your life motto.

    I can resonate with some of your experiences and absolutely agree that at the end of the day these things can make you stronger if you let them. It reminds me of the adage: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. I like to think that something positive can come out of any experience, even the difficult, painful and negative ones. Good on you for embracing those hardships; the strong, talented woman that you clearly are today is a testament to your strength and courage.

  9. Pingback: Monday’s Top 5 (Better Late than Never) | The Happy Logophile

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