I grew up in a tight-knit Christian home. I was a very energetic, giggly little girl, because everything to me seemed perfect… until eighth grade. I had a big group of friends, but after a misunderstanding within my friend group, I began to be bullied. At first, I labeled it as “drama” because I couldn’t imagine that I would be bullied. It felt like, one day, everything just randomly flipped upside down. Even as the problem escalated, I didn’t believe that something like this could really happen to me. I just kept calling it drama, because I didn’t want to get my school involved.
In my freshman year, many of the girls who had been bullying me were on my soccer team. They would refuse to pass the ball to me. I got locked in a bathroom. If I sat by them, they’d move away and say, “Do you not get it? We don’t want you here. You shouldn’t be here.” They told me they didn’t want me on the team and one girl told me they wished I’d freeze to death. That’s when I really started to feel very sad.
I decided to talk to the girl who seemed to be the leader—the meanest of them all. I asked to talk to her alone and I said, “I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done to you. Can you tell me what I did wrong, and I’ll try to explain myself?” And she said, “You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s just what we do. It’s fun.” She told the rest of the girls and they all started laughing. I went to the bathroom and called my mom to pick me up. The girls banged on the bathroom door, laughing, so I waited for my mom in the pouring rain. We both cried on the way home.
What I’ve really struggled with over the past couple of years is the things they said to me: “You shouldn’t be here, you don’t belong here, no one likes you. You’re just not loved. You’re not someone who can be loved.” The school administration “tried” to help, and when nothing worked, they just said that I wasn’t being bullied.
I was sure my sophomore year would be different. But the bullying continued, and I continued to get sadder. My parents prayed with me every night. They sent me texts and Bible verses throughout the day. But finally it was too much. I was tutored until I was able to transfer. My new school was fine, but I wasn’t able to open up to my new friends there. I didn’t want them to know that I’d been bullied because I was afraid that it would change the way they saw me, that it would determine my worth in their eyes, too.
This past summer I was a camp counselor at Tuscarora Inn & Conference Center. As I was praying one night, the name of Hillcrest Academy popped into my head. I didn’t mention this thought to anyone else, but over and over again God confirmed that I should pursue it.
I was nervous about asking my parents if I could go to Hillcrest, because they had worked so hard to get me into a new school the year before. Plus, it was only two weeks before school would start. We filled out the application, and God just did one amazing thing after another to work out the details. When I found out I was going to Hillcrest, I had only 48 hours to pack.
Arriving at Hillcrest, I learned the theme for this school year was “20/20 Vision: Fix Our Eyes”—then everything clicked for me. This is how I had made it through those hard years of bullying. During those years, as I cried myself to sleep, I would pray, “Thank you, God, for what I do have right now in this time. I am very sad, and I want you to make this stop, but you have a bigger and better plan… and I’ll just have to wait for it. I know you’ll do great things. I am very sad, but I have you, Lord.”
In the school hallways, in the bathroom stall crying, I’d pray and talk to God. It’s shocking to think of how sad I was, but I knew I was okay. I’m so glad I had the hope I did. It scares me to think about all the people who are just as sad but feel they don’t have any hope. I can’t stress enough how important it is to fix your eyes on Christ. That’s definitely what helped me, and honestly, it changed my life to just fix my eyes on him in everything.
HAILEE MAY attends Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.