OWLS Bloggers: No “Squad” — Bullying in Kimi ni Todoke & The Friendship Blades I Wear
“We all have blades stabbed into our backs from friendships lost, broken, or completely in shambles. Some of these blades were made by other people and some were self-inflicted.” – Lyn
This month’s OWLS topic was requested by my fellow blogger, Lita. She wanted the topic to be about friendship and so, I created this theme called, “Squad.”
Although some people may like to be alone at times, we all have that one special friend or a squad of friends who we kick it and have some good laughs and fun with. However, there are friendships that don’t last a lifetime and usually, they end due to a falling out or a misunderstanding. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of the best friendships in anime and pop culture as well as the friendships that ended suddenly. We will talk about what a true friendship means to us, what we learned about ourselves and others through broken friendships, and our definitions of a “good friend.”
In Lita’s post, she talked about what the term, “friendship” means to her. For my post, I will be sharing some stories about broken friendships I had and how those friendships made me into the person I am today.
Ijime in Kimi ni Todoke & How It Relates to Me
The anime I selected for this topic is Kimi ni Todoke because, in the beginning, it focuses on school bullying or ijime in Japan. Sawako Kuronuma is ostracized by her fellow classmates because of rumors about her having creepy witch-like powers and being Sadako from The Ring. However, two classmates, Ayane Yano and Chizuru Yoshida, befriend Sawako after realizing that she isn’t scary but actually kind, smart, and adorable.
When I first watched this anime, I actually teared up in those bullying scenes due to the fact that it kind of triggered some personal memories of when I was bullied. Unfortunately, I experienced both sides of the spectrum: the person that got hurt and the one doing the hurting.
The stories I am about to tell you are from my personal life. These are friendship experiences I had and how such experiences made me who I am today.
My Youth and My “Squad”
When I was younger I was teased and bullied by my peers and so I had a difficult time making friends and trusting people. As a result, whenever I meet someone for the first time, I always have my guard up. Throughout most of my K-12 years, I spent most of my time alone—eating lunch by myself.
When I was in elementary school, the very first “friends” I made stabbed me in the back by saying, “We don’t want to be friends with you anymore.” They didn’t give me a reason when I asked why, and I knew I didn’t do anything wrong to upset them. They just didn’t want to hang out with me anymore and they ran off smiling while I was left in tears.
The bullying didn’t stop there. When I was in middle school, I despised riding the bus. I always tried to be the first one in line to get on because I wanted to pick the seat rather than asking someone if I could sit next to them.
I especially hated sitting in the back because that’s where all the “cool” kids sat. There were two significant moments when I was bullied on the bus. The first moment was when I had to sit next to a guy who didn’t know the definition of personal space and annoyed me. The second time was when another guy called me inappropriate names. The latter moment resulted in me crying and my mom had to get out of her car and talked to the bus driver. For some kids, they would be embarrassed having their mom involved, but for me, I wasn’t. She saved me. My sister wasn’t there as much to help me because she was in college at the time, but she told me just keep calm, mind my own business, and try to avoid them at all costs. And so, I endured it every single day of my middle school years.
It wasn’t until my 8th-grade year when I befriended a group of girls and had some real friends. However, we went our separate ways and grew apart because we went to different high schools. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I found my true friends and now, we are close as ever, more like family, for ten years and counting. Through my high school friends, I created my own microcosm and formed a concept of what I thought good friends are—I stick to this “ideal” regardless of what other people say or think. It’s good to have an idea of what a good friend is but this “perspective” came under fire as I got older and I learned more about the people I surround myself with.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college when I actually had my first ever misunderstanding with someone. My former friend and I knew each other for about one and a half years. Yet, things changed when she started hanging out with a certain new crowd that my other friend and I were skeptical about. It wasn’t that we were jealous but there was something off about them. (My other friend and I are really observant of people and can tell if a stranger gives good or bad vibes.)
And so, we all had a talk about the situation. Yet looking back at it now, what I thought was “helping her,” giving my opinions about her new friends, was more like being self-controlling and annoying on my part. I felt that she was spending too much time with her new friends and it was affecting her schoolwork, which she needed to focus on and get her priorities figured out. I truly cared for her but I was also blinded by my own “righteous” thoughts and best intentions that I didn’t see her side of the situation. As a result, our talks failed and we ended up being passive-aggressive towards one another. We were both trying to salvage a friendship that couldn’t be saved.
We grew apart and couldn’t see eye to eye. Our morals and values didn’t align anymore and that’s something we couldn’t compromise on. Our friendship ended and we were both at fault.
I realized that rather than salvaging it, I should have ended our friendship right then and there because it could have prevented some drama. We ended up hurting each other, much more than needed, to the point that our relationship could no longer be mended. Looking back, I wish that I could apologize to her properly for my actions and the words I’ve said to her but it’s too late. No amount of “I’m sorry” is enough and I don’t expect her to forgive me at all.
My “righteous” persona didn’t stop with that broken friendship but in fact, it ended some other relationships as well. It wasn’t until the summer of my senior year in university when I started to seriously reevaluate the person that I was and to be honest, I didn’t like it.
When I was younger, I was really shy and awkward with people, and I would always try to please others because I wanted to be liked and fit in. When I went to university, I thought I had a good grasp on myself and the company I wanted to keep in my life. I thought that I was a “good person” and always helped others in need. But I wasn’t.
Rather than minding my own business and rather than letting others make their own decisions, I forcefully molded people into what I think they should be which resulted in me losing some friends in the process. I realized this at the time and during my last year in college, I wanted to change that habit of mine. I wanted a revival. So rather than hiding from my past mistakes, I decided to make up for it and I worked on myself.
I started listening to others and gave advice only when asked upon. And when asked, I was cautious about how I phrase things so that I don’t sound too demanding or self-righteous. This change paid off when I got one of the best compliments in my life. It was a compliment that I remembered wholeheartedly. It made me feel good as a person and motivated me even more.
During the summer of that year, I got to know more about my housemate’s girlfriend (now wife) because she started visiting our apartment more often. In fact, I called her my housesitter because she was always there whenever my housemates and I were gone. Well one day, my housemate and his girlfriend invited me to go watch Monsters University with them. I accepted their invitation. When the movie ended and we left the theater, she said to me, “You know what, Lyn? You’re really cool and nice.” I had to take in what she said for a moment because she threw me off guard. I was confused and so I said, “What?” She repeated what she said and added, “Yeah, I always thought that you were mean and cold—that’s why I never visited the apartment before. But you know what? You are genuinely one of the nicest people I know and I’m glad we are friends now.” I told her to stop being cheesy but I thanked her for the compliment. I don’t think she knows how much her words impacted me (until now since I am writing this story). This compliment made me feel validated that I am a good person or at least working towards becoming a good person.
From Real Life Friends to Online Friends
And so, you would think that this was the end of all the friendship drama. It isn’t. In fact, I felt like all these experiences were leading me up to this situation that happened to me not too long ago. Everything I believed in and what I stand for was put to the test. It was like the universe was testing me, and this test resulted in me sadly ending another friendship. I befriended a few people online and there were moments when my morals and values were put into question but there was never someone who crossed that line until now.
A former friend of mine thought it was “okay” to do a live stream venting his personal relationship issues to his followers about a girl. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stop him in time because I just got back from a trip out of town and so I wasn’t really in touch with my blog and social media accounts. Now, he didn’t go into detail about the situation and he kept names anonymous but the whole purpose of this live stream was a bit too much.
And so I went into his live stream chatbox to tell him that it was wrong to do this. I exposed myself to everyone that was watching and also the people in the chatbox who were encouraging and supporting him. In that chat room, I questioned his motives and I told him what he was doing was morally wrong. I was that one lonely voice. I knew, though, that there were other people watching that stream who felt the same way as me but were too afraid to say anything, and so I became their voices.
I made the choice to stand up against my former friend and tell him that I didn’t like what he was doing. I put my friendship at risk because I knew that his actions were wrong—even if that person was at fault or you were both wrong, you shouldn’t have used a live stream to vent about your problems, especially when it involves another person. I felt embarrassed that my former friend could do such a thing: he humiliated someone even though he said it wasn’t intentional and abused his social media power in front of his followers.
I stopped talking to him for a few days because I needed to think. I needed to think about whether or not I should continue being friends with him and if I can look past his mistake. I read his apology messages to me but when I read them, I couldn’t easily forgive him because I was searching for a specific apology that will allow him to earn my respect once again. The apology, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I’m human,” wasn’t a good enough answer to me. It felt more like an excuse rather than a sincere apology.
After a few days of not talking to him, I decided to end my friendship with him. I sent him a message with my thoughts and reasons as to why I thought it was best to not be friends anymore. Yet, there was one specific reason I withheld from him: the apology that I was specifically looking for. When you are a kid, it’s okay for an adult to tell you what you did wrong because as a kid, you are too young to differentiate what is right and what is wrong. Yet when you are older, you can’t really tell the person what they did wrong because they should already have the common knowledge to know what they did wrong and realize why it was wrong. Their apologies would be more self-reflective and sincere. As for my former friend, I hinted to him what was wrong but never directly told him and looking back at it now, maybe I should have. However, when I hinted to him, he didn’t seem to see or care what I saw—he didn’t see what else he did wrong and why it was wrong. Also, if I were to tell him what he did wrong and ask him to apologize in a certain way, it would have been a forceful apology and not something he would have done out of his own volition. He would only apologize this way because I told him to. And to me, a forceful apology isn’t genuine, even if you tell them their wrongdoing.
Now when I told him I didn’t want to be friends with him anymore, he got upset and told me I was too cruel and he thought my relationships and friendships are “paper thin.” I didn’t budge nor changed my mind. I was aware of what I was doing and just like all the friendship blades on my back, I intentionally inflicted a blade into his back by doing so. Prior to making this decision, I have thought about it thoroughly and I came to the conclusion that I am someone that can’t compromise nor forgive certain things. I knew that if I accepted his apology, things wouldn’t go back to normal. I was sure we would end up being passive-aggressive to each other just like what happened to my former college friend. And so rather than let that happen again, I ended it. You may think that what I did was harsh. Yet looking back at some of my past friendships, I knew I was making the right decision for myself.
After we talked, he made a few more public apologies but they still weren’t the ones I wanted to hear. Yet since I didn’t hear the apology I wanted and I failed as a former friend to express it properly to him, I decided to write what I wanted to hear from him and to give myself some clarity. This is the type of apology I wanted to hear from him in some shape or form:
[Note: The following apology was written by me to serve as an example.]
“I’m sorry, Lyn. What I did was completely wrong and inexcusable.
First off, I want to thank you for being there at the live stream and trying to set me straight. You stood up for a complete stranger and I respect you for that. Even if I didn’t listen to you before, I appreciate what you did.
No amount of apologies could make up for what I did. I realized that I hurt my friends but I also did something much more than that. By doing a live stream, I normalize this type of behavior. I made it “okay” to vent about my personal problems to my viewers who aren’t involved in the situation. Now I didn’t disclose any personal details about the people involved or the situation but I still made it okay to talk “bad” about someone. And if someone were to do what I did, they may not be as considerate of personal information as I was.
Even if I were to say “I’m sorry” countless of times to the people that I knew who were watching the stream, it doesn’t make up for the people that were watching and were silent the whole time because they might have not seen my apologies and so, they still may have it in their minds that this behavior is okay.
I abused my power on social media and didn’t act as a role model for my followers. I can’t undo my mistake, and I’m aware that I contributed to much bigger internet issues like cyberbullying and the lack of privacy and security even if I didn’t intend to and because of that, I need to be more of an advocate and a role model. I can’t change what I did but I can use my experience as a way to be a better person and advocate to not do what I did to others.”
This was the apology I was looking for. Looking back on it now, maybe I should have tried harder to make him aware of the critical mistake he made. Yet, if I were to do that, his apology wouldn’t have come from the heart.
And so, here I am. Our friendship ended and we parted ways. I placed a friendship blade on his back, just like the many blades I have on me. These blades are reminders of what I’ve been through, who I am now, and who I will be in the future. I don’t regret my decision because I felt that it was the right thing to do from my standpoint. I also felt that the universe was testing me as to what I’d do after I had so many failed friendships in the past. And through this testament, I think I passed the universe’s test.
My Advice on Friendships
Now since you read all of this, you may be wondering what lessons you can gain from the stories I told. Well, here they are.
- In this world, not everyone is going to like you, and they may not have a good enough reason as to why they shouldn’t, even if you are a nice and considerate person and did nothing wrong to them.
- Friendships, like romantic relationships, require good listening skills and how you phrase your words to someone does matter.
- You shouldn’t be so self-controlling of others—just because you have the best interests of someone doesn’t mean that what you know is right for them. They have their own lives and they can make their own choices. For me, I started to do that. I decided to make decisions out of my own interests and what’s best for me, pulling myself out of uncomfortable situations and ending friendships if needed.
- If people make you change or question your values then sometimes you have to reevaluate your friendship with them and wonder if it’s worth your time. Over the years, I learned that I am not someone who can easily compromise my principles, it just isn’t something I feel comfortable doing. If that ever happens to you, listen to your gut and your principles even if it may be different from others because if you lose your values, then you will lose the respect and love you have for yourself.
- Now, this last piece of advice is geared towards befriending people online and the type of persona you bring to the internet, your online communities, and your social media platform. I emphasize to people that to some extent you have some power in shaping your online identity and how you project yourself to others. You can’t control how everyone sees you, but you can control your actions and language. While writing this, I thought a lot about the type of persona I’m crafting to you, my readers, by sharing some of my personal stories and experiences with you. I think when you were reading this post, you probably were thinking I’m no different from my former online friend. In fact, you might be thinking that I am using the same methods that my former friend did by sharing personal issues and contributing to the social problems on the internet. And you are absolutely right that I am doing the same thing, but the difference is that I’m rewriting the narrative. The lesson I want you all to come out within that section is to not be like us. Don’t be like my former friend and I. Don’t use your social media platforms and sites to talk bad about someone. If you are upset with someone, don’t use your media platforms to discuss it. If you need to vent, vent to your close friends or the people you trust the most because if you decide to share your life publically to everyone online, you not only get support from your followers but also you are naturally being judged by complete strangers as well. Don’t contribute to the cyberbullying issue but be an advocate against it.
Now, I thought about whether or not I should write such a post for OWLS but I believed I needed to address this issue rather than it being swept underneath the rug. I made mistakes in my past and I learned from them. I wouldn’t change any of those experiences completely because it made me into the person I am today and I like me as I am right now.
Overall, I hope that my stories about friendship had a positive impact on you. This OWLS post meant something to me. I am someone that values a “squad” and I don’t take friendship lightly. I ended friendships and I built new ones. I placed blades on other people’s backs and I have also put self-inflicting blades on my own back. I am who I am today because of the experiences I had over the course of my life so far and I wouldn’t change that because it taught me so much about what friendship means to me and also the type of person I am and who I want to become.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy reading and up next is Shokamoka and you can check out their post here!
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This was certainly an emotional post to read. Going through one’s personal rollercoaster with friendships certainly is difficult and I commend you on the post for offering it and reasons as to why it all happened to help others. Usually when friendships break apart we are unable to see their perspective until it is too late, we think what it is that we are doing is going to help them in the long run. Though sometimes the break is necessary if we see things that are against what we stand for. We grow up through hardship caused by others and ourselves and usually the hidden blades are our own that we realize have plunged deep until it is too late. We carry our crosses until the end, but to be able to learn from them is the goal all should try to achieve. Thank you for this post, it was a good one.
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This was a difficult post to write because I had to really think about what language and words I should use and I had to think about my readers and audience. It kind of sucks that I learned the lessons too late rather than at the time because maybe things could have changed. However, it’s better late than never. These are hard lessons to learn, but as long as we are learning, we are growing as people.
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That was an incredible read Lyn. It’s not always easy to open about the past cause there is time were wounds are reopened. It take courage to write a post that personal.
Our elementary and middle/high school parcourt were pretty much the same, it’s only once I was in what we call in Quebec “CEGEP” I was able to breath and not being anxious about which name I would be called. But what happened to me during before didn’t allowed me to really become friend with anyone, a part of be was still scared to be backstabbed once again.
Now I have to say I have more aquicances that I have friend….
Thank you for writing this post and sharing your story with us.
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Thank you. I was somewhat concern about what my readers would think but I am glad I wrote this post. I think it’s the best one I’ve written so far on my blog.
Yeah, it’s scary to reopen your past especially if you have some dark memories in there. But I had these for a while and rather than let these broken friendships destroy me, I used them as lessons to become a better version of me. And the people I have kept around in my life do like the “me” right now 🙂 So I’m doing something right.
I don’t mean to intrude but what is a “CEGEP”? It’s okay if you don’t want to say or explain it at all or on here (you can DM me on Twitter) but I’m not familiar with the term.
And I think it’s okay to be cautious when meeting new people. We were raised in a society where we have to be cautious around strangers.
welp, guess i gotta chime in. i really respect how you’ve framed this post and it’s a wonderfully inspiring set of stories. it’s great that you’re willing to confront the issue and cut things off when you think it’s warranted. it would be very easy to go through these kinds of experiences and come out with troubles trusting others, so it’s impressive that you’re willing to be open about it. and you’re right. i was totally thinking that you were doing the same thing with how you told the last story, and you beat me to the punch. well played. perhaps one day, i can reach the point where i can tell my story in the same way
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This was a difficult post to write because I had to really think about the choice of words and tone I wanted to use. I also had to think about the audience as well and what possible reactions I could have gotten. In fact, prior to publishing this post, I asked three people to read my drafts and let me know what they thought about it. For example, my friend thought the blockquote where I crafted an apology was written by someone else and so, I had to put a “Note” for clarification so that readers weren’t confused.
Also, I was fully aware that there might be some backlash and I also knew that I was going to write a “controversial” piece in some way. Yet overall, I am happy with the structure and the language of my post. I think it’s one of the best posts I’ve written so far on this blog.
LOL. I already had the conclusion in mind when writing about that online friend section. I was aware that I am no better than my former friend by writing such a personal story, and so, I wanted this story to be used as an example as to how we, bloggers and vloggers should act. We may not think we are that “popular” but when you decide to be a content creator, there is a standard that we are set to hold because we have followers and readers. We HAVE to be role models even if we don’t want to be.
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Sounds like you had a rough past. I’m sorry this happened to you. You are very brave for telling us about your past. You’re incredible!
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Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed this post 🙂
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I did enjoy it. I got to learn more about you. 🙂
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Really great post. Honestly, I think that the point about socail media in particular is so important. The sheer amount of hate that you see on the various platforms sometimes baffles me. I know that everyone needs t vent in the way that they feel most comfortable, but it can all snowball so quickly.
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Yeah, that’s why I have two lives: private life and online life. I don’t disclose a lot about myself online but the stuff I do tell are things I feel most comfortable in sharing.
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That’s probably a good way to do things. I too try to keep most private things off the net, unless it’s something that I think is really funny or particularly worth sharing. It jsut makes more sense that way.
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Hi thanks for postinng this