What was the main reason for writing your book “The Survival Guide to Bullying”?
Do you have any advice for people who are struggling with being bullied currently?
What is something you wished someone would have told you when you were being bullied?
People told me it got better. People told me it wasn’t personal. I don’t know why, but those statements didn’t do much when I was in the thick of things. I wish someone would have told me that they believed me, that it wasn’t my fault, and that they would help me get through it no matter what. When you’re bullied and you ask for help, there are times when people question you and blame you. I think one of the most helpful things is to just be an advocate.
What can bystanders do to help?
Speak up. Speak up. Speak up. 50% of the time if a bystander stand up for someone being bullied, they will never be bullied again. You have the power to change someone’s life just by speaking up.
What has been the biggest struggle regarding your bullying journey and using it to become an activist?
The biggest struggle and one that has taken so many years has been getting people to listen. Whether it be when I was asking for help or reporting bullying or when I was trying to publish my book - people are hesitant to do what is new and out of their comfort zone. I’ve learned that most people will say no or not listen, but if you keep pushing, there will be a yes.
How did you find your voice to speak on the topics that you do?
My whole life I’d have these urges to talk about different things that I saw, went through, or was exposed to. But I didn’t know to talk about them. When I went through the years of bullying, I used writing as a tool to save myself and heal myself. Through that process, I realized that through the written word, I could find my voice. I used writing as this tool of self discovery and so whenever I felt angry, conflicted, emotional - I would return to the pen. Ultimately, that is how I found my voice.
What do you think schools and parents can do to raise awareness about bullying?
Schools need to take bullying seriously and make tackling this issue a priority. When a student comes to you and says they are bullied, believe them. Take action. If someone doesn’t feel like they are being heard or believed, they shut down. This is what happened to me. After years of trying to report it and being blamed, I stopped reporting. The issue never went away, but only got worse, under the surface. Parents can have open and honest dialogues with their kids about these issues. Parents should show their kids that they are there for them, every step of the way.
What was the turning point for you to turn your experiences of being bullied and sharing it with the world?
I think the moment that changed everything for me was when I was a freshman in high school and a girl I had never met, who attended my old school, dressed up as me for Halloween. She posted it online and suddenly I experienced a cyberbullying attack like I had never seen. I hit a really dark place in my life mentally. In that moment, I started writing, just for myself, but about my experiences. A few weeks later, I saw a poster for an international film festival that was accepting short screenplays in a screenwriting competition. I wrote a screenplay about suicide and bullying, submitted it, and it wound up winning. I was the youngest person in history to win. In that moment, I realized the power of storytelling and I decided I wanted to share my story.
How can someone get started to help this movement?
Start on the ground level within your classroom, school and community. It can be as small as noticing someone sitting alone and sitting with them or befriending the student that is alone all the time. If you see something, say something - whether it be witnessing bullying in school or online. And remember that social media can terrorize or ignite movements. If it feels natural to you, start a platform online that talks about these sort of issues.
How did you move on from being bullied and gain confidence after?
Time, cultivating solid friendships, and therapy. That’s what worked for me at least. I spent years being terrified of getting close to people because I just didn’t trust people my age afterwards. I worked through it in my writing, I joined extracurricular activities and met new people that way, and eventually I went to therapy which totally changed my life.
Is there a quote/motto you try to live by? If so, what is it?
What message/word would you wear on your RP custom jewelry? Why?
Resilience. I think resilience is one of the most important qualities to develop in life. Whether it’s small like you had a bad day or are dealing with a major life issue, if you have resilience, it will help you get back up and keep going - no matter what.
Do you have anything you want to say to those who had bullied you in the past?
Words have power. More power than you could have known. As you move forward in your life, be kind and do not hate. You can never know how someone is suffering. You can never know the impact that your actions have had on me.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. I am addicted. I dream of my morning cup of coffee every day.
So many! Oprah is definitely up there.
Anything else you'd like to share?
You can find me at @aijamayrock on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. But I am most active on IG.