Three-Year Blogaversary: Resilience, Gifts, and Not-Quitting

I just received this notice from WordPress:

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This makes me smile, for just this morning, while strolling through the garden, I began composing my three-year blogaversary post. I thought the blogaversary was a few days away and that I was early–but here it is, today!

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While I was thinking of what I wanted to comment on about this past year, my heart kept turning towards some of the challenging points of my three-year involvement with SimLit blogging. Some of my friends and several acquaintances have been targets of cyber bullying through their blogging and involvement with the SimLit community. I’ve experienced some meanness, too.  When this happens, we often think, “Why stay with this? Why not quit?” And, indeed, sometimes, withdrawing for a while, to heal, rebuild confidence, and regain strength is the best strategy.

Over the past three years, each time I’ve considered whether I wanted to stay or withdraw, I’ve chosen to stay. This creative outlet gives me something that adds to my life, and I love the SimLit community.

During my first six months of blogging and being part of the SimLit community, I felt I’d found a niche. The community was small, friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse, and a little bit quirky. It seemed possible to read and keep up with all the new TS4 stories, and almost possible to get to know all the writers. We had fun, goofy, and inspiring collabs; we celebrated each other’s legacy births and weddings, and mourned the passings of each other’s founders, heirs, spouses, and spares. I was full of joy for nearly all of those six months: I’d found my place online.

During the second six months, I experienced a painful situation common to many bloggers and collaborators. I had a public falling-out with a close friend and collaborator that ended in a personal attack made in the comments on my blog. It was the result of a misunderstanding, and looking back, I wish I’d been able to handle the situation with more grace and skill. I don’t regret the post I made that brought on the attack, for I was clarifying misinformation about me, my beliefs and attitudes, and my approaches to game-play that had been publicly posted. It’s within our rights to clarify misinformation that’s posted about us. I regret my lack of skill in handling the situation: Causing pain to someone I love and admire is deeply regrettable, as is the loss of a friendship–or several.

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My own pain surrounding this event was sharp and raw around the time of the first Blogaversary celebration, during which we acknowledged many of the one-year-old SimLit blogs. I had come close to cancelling the event, and I seriously considered quitting altogether. I’m glad we held the celebration: I look back fondly on our enthusiasm as readers and writers. I’m glad I stuck with blogging. It was during my second year of blogging that I finished Goofy Love and started many other stories which have been gratifying to me.

During my second year of blogging, I learned cyber bullying happens in the Simming community. BullyOnline.org offers this definition of cyber bullying:

Cyber bullying is the misuse of communication technology (email, SMS texts, social networks, Internet forums etc) for conducting campaigns of hatred. The impersonality and distance between bully and target makes such technology an effective means to cause conflict and hurt.

Types of Bullying, from BullyOnline.org

One of my good friends has been the target of bullying through a Sims site that promotes these types of  “campaigns of hatred.” I was shocked to discover this site existed and dismayed to see the extent of harm that it causes. Each week, people are torn down by the hateful comments posted there.

What happened to that “friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse” community I fell in love with during my first six months of blogging? Could that still exist alongside a community that systematically tears down other people?

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And should I stay involved with a community that had these corners in it? Once again, I considered quitting.

Of course, even though I was just discovering this subterranean corner, it didn’t mean that it was new. It had been going on for nearly a decade and had been just as violent during the six months I thought the community was bliss.

During my third year of blogging, I learned that derogatory comments had been made toward me in the cyber bullying corner. It explained a lot: the shifts in attitude, the cold-shoulders, the unaccounted for spikes in readership on a few blog posts, as well as the dropping-off of readers. Sensitive people can pick up when feelings towards them change, even when there is no evidence at hand for what’s causing this. As I discovered these posts and comments about me, I noticed that they correlated with the times when I noticed these changes in attitude.

Online gossip and hate cause ripples, even when the targets aren’t aware that the comments have been made.

I didn’t feel safe. When I talk with others who’ve experienced these situations, that’s what they say, too: “I don’t feel safe.”

It makes us question why we stay involved. Even though I was able to think through the comments made about me and regain some confidence and resilience, I still questioned being involved with a community where this type of behavior happened.

I stay because I’m a Kindness Warrior. I fully believe that kindness is stronger than hate. I know that stories about love, mindfulness, strength, resilience, compassion, and bravery make a difference.

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I’m committed to keeping active in the official EA Sims Forums, to welcome newcomers, to encourage discouraged writers, to create and participate in joyful collaborations, and to create corners in the community that are safer, more accepting, more supportive, more welcoming, and that are brave enough to confront our behaviors, attitudes, and practices that aren’t safe, accepting, supportive, or welcoming.

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We don’t have to give in to hate or fear. We do need to take care of ourselves, maintain our boundaries,  and to surround ourselves with supportive, encouraging, loving people.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing about this during my three-year blogaversary: It’s not exactly a celebratory post. It is a resolution. It’s a resolution not to be blind about the hurtful things that happen. It’s a resolution to speak against bullying. It’s a resolution not to believe lies against others. It’s a resolution to have your back.

If you’ve been a target of cyberbullying in the SimLit community, I’m here to offer you support. I’ll believe you, not the lies told against you.  You’re not alone. Take the time you need to heal, regain your confidence and your strength, and when you’re ready to come back, I’m here to welcome you.

I hope other Kindness Warriors will join me. It’s our community: Let’s keep it a safe haven for diverse, lovely, quirky, creative people.

We are so much stronger than hate.

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If you have experienced cyber bullying, please tell someone you trust. You need support. You might also find these tips helpful:

Shift 10: Tough

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I am a freshman at Oasis Springs High. It’s really tough. But I’m here, I’m learning, and I’m gonna make it. I swear.

A lot of my questions got answered on my first day. For example, I was so scared that the school would have to report me to CPS. That’s why I didn’t give my real name.

When the office manager asked me who I was and what my birthday was, I lied about both.

“My name is Jazz,” I said. “Jazz Deon.” And I said I was born August 31. That’s the day I hopped the train to leave my old home.

Maybe it’s not a lie. Maybe it’s reinventing myself.

Then the office manager sent me in to see the counselor, and that’s when all my questions were answered. I got a pamphlet that explains all the school’s responsibilities and obligations. It was written for counselors, but Ms. Mae wanted to share it with me “for transparency.” The part I liked was that the school doesn’t have to report me to CPS for not living with an adult. I didn’t tell her I wasn’t living with a grown-up, though. I didn’t tell her anything. I just listened. Pretty soon she stopped asking questions when she realized I wasn’t answering them.

I also found out that Deon would’ve gotten into lots of trouble if I’d moved in with him, just like I thought. “Harboring a runaway,” or something. I’m glad I listened to my instincts on that one.

Anyway, I get free lunches, free clothes from the clothing bank, and free bus passes. It helps.

Ms. Mae gave me so many brochures. All the school ones had this written in tiny print in English, Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Somali on the back page:

Oasis Springs School District is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination based on disability, race, color, religion/religious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, or national origin. This policy will prevail in all matters concerning Governing Board, District employees, students, the public, educational programs and services, and individuals with whom the Board does business.

The part that stood out to me was “gender identity or expression.”

“Is this for real?” I asked Ms. Mae. She said it was. She also said the school has a non-bullying policy, so I should let her know if anybody hassles me.

“And you can use whichever bathroom you choose,” she said.

Great. Whichever I choose is a definition at a time when I don’t want to be defined.

And it turns out I didn’t even need my back story. Like I said, the counselor stopped asking questions, and the students didn’t even care. That first week, I hardly talked to anybody.

I did meet somebody cool. Darling Walsh doesn’t go to my school. She was there for the basketball game. She’s the starting small forward on the San Myshuno High Varsity team–the boy’s team. She’s tough.

I ran into her at the park on Saturday.

“I know you!” I said. “I saw you play! You’re awesome!”

She chuckled. Then she showed me video from the game, her three-point hook shot. Everybody at my school hated her when she made that, but I loved her.

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I asked her the same question that Deon asked me.

“What pronoun do you prefer?”

She said she’d like to choose “he” because it feels right, but she uses “she” for “political reasons.”

“See, I want girls to know they can play on any sports team they’re good enough to play on. You don’t have to be a boy to play on the ‘boy’s’ team. It shouldn’t even be a boy’s team. It should just be a team, and if you qualify, you play. You can do anything you’re qualified for. That’s my message.”

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I’m hoping we get to hang together sometimes, even though she goes to the other school.

There have been other changes, too. Deon got promoted so he’s a supervisor now, which means this other gardener does most of the work at the park.

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I don’t think he likes me, but Deon told him to be chill.

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I had no idea that school would be so exhausting. I’m tired all the time.

In history, we’re learning about sustenance cultures. It made me think about what life was like before I went to school. I didn’t even keep track of days, and I slept whenever I wanted, and when I was awake, most of my time was spent getting my next meal. But it had an easy rhythm, and it was free living. I wasn’t ever tired, and I was mostly happy, as long as I didn’t think about my past or future or what I was missing out on.

But now, I’ve been taken out of that. I’ve got to know what time it is. I get two meals at school, and sometimes that’s enough, and Deon keeps the lounge fridge stocked with yogurts and sandwiches for me. But I’m tired all the time.

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I sleep in class, sometimes, though I try not to. I sleep in the library at lunch. I sleep in the park when I get back from school so that I won’t fall asleep while I’m doing my homework. It’s hard t keep up with homework.

My grade’s a C. It shouldn’t be, because I was an A student back in middle school, but they can’t get my transcripts since they don’t know who I am, so I had to start in all the dummy classes, and I’m too tired to raise my grade.

I can’t be on the track team because my grade’s not high enough. Sometimes the coach lets me practice with them, but, honestly, I’m usually too tired to practice, and if I do, then I really don’t have time for homework.

I guess my quality of life has gone down, which is a weird thing to say. I used to be happy a lot, and I enjoyed talking to everybody that hangs out at the park. Now I mostly worry.

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But I don’t want to complain, even though that’s what I’ve been doing.

See, I know this is just for now, and I won’t always be a C student who doesn’t qualify academically for the track team. I’ll figure out how to keep a schedule and sleep and study and take care of myself. I’ve got to.

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