Here at Shona, we are big advocates of writing to get your feelings out. When you get in the right mind frame, all those built-up feelings just transfer from you to the page. And the best bit? The minute you drop that pen, you feel a million times lighter! We encourage girls in our community to share their stories and experiences they’ve overcome. Sometimes, people prefer to stay anonymous, and that is totally ok. Shona is a space where we want people to feel heard and understood. So please, if you have a story you want to share and feel you could help others going through similar situations, know our door (well website) is always open for you.
I have tried to write this letter about 100 different times. I get to the first sentence and scribble it out, delete the note from my phone, or stuff the paper in the bin in frustration.
I always thought that you could leave bullying behind you in secondary school. Girls grow out of that catty behaviour and you find your real friends in college. No one told me this wasn’t true. I had to find out the hard way.
C, I was so excited. I had nailed down a great job straight out of college, in my hometown and I was so excited to start a new chapter of my life. Our families knew each other, I thought at least one person would have my back in this large new company. But my god was I wrong.
C, you started off so subtly, you had me doubting myself. Was I overthinking? Was I reading into it all too much? Of course, I was! You were loved by everyone! I was just being silly. But then, the sly digs would start. You’d lull me into a conversation and throw in a backhanded compliment that would make me feel two feet tall. You were smart though. You’d never do it in front of others.
I quickly realised how toxic the company and the environment we were involved in were. We were both stressed, exhausted, and frustrated. Instead of sticking together, you took it out on me. At 22, I didn’t expect that feeling of waking up in the morning with dread in the pit of my stomach, to return. I knew that feeling oh too well from years of bullying in primary school and I just felt ashamed it was happening again. Just another emotion to add to the current roller coaster I was on.
The personal attacks started quickly after. Never physical but you picked on everything about me. My hobbies, my appearance, my car, my lunch, nothing was safe. C, you made me cry every single day with dread and utter hatred of myself.
Within a month of this new job, the panic attacks started. I told no one after the first week. If I mentioned I was struggling, the reply from my family was “you just have to take time to adjust to a new job”. Little did they know I was going through hell and back. It got to a stage that each morning I would leave the house 15 minutes early so that I had enough time to cry my eyes out, then put the broken pieces back together, slap on a fake smile, and head into a 12 hour day with you.
C, I left because of you. I left myself vulnerable and open and you ruined me. I felt like everything was crumbling around me. But C, little did I know, you helped me make the best decision of my life.
This letter isn’t to scream at you, even though for a long time, I felt like screaming at you until I turned blue in the face, was the only way to make myself feel better. This letter is to thank you. Thank you for pushing me into a decision that turned my life upside down.
In a moment where I doubted and hated myself so so much, I made a decision where I only thought about myself. You taught me to always trust that little voice in the back of my head that is screaming so much, just trying to be heard. Turns out, she’s pretty smart and she always has my back!
In about 6 months of leaving you and the company, C, I somehow found myself at The Shona Project, surrounded by a community of the most phenomenal women I have ever met. The universe has a funny way of getting you to exactly where you are supposed to be. And you know what I learned at Shona? Hurt people are the ones who hurt others.
So, C, it’s taken a year and a half, but I want you to know, I forgive you. I don’t know if you even realise you did anything, but I hope you are doing ok. I hope you find peace with yourself and gather up enough courage to get out of that toxic environment and find a job you love, because my gosh, does it feel amazing!
Know that you are strong and that truly, we are good. Who knows, we may cross paths again in the future when you’re in a better place because I’d really like to get to know the real C.
You changed me for the better, and I’m forever grateful for that.
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