This original poem was read as part of a presentation on bullying prevention at St. John’s University. When I told the presenter, Ariel, how much I liked the poem, she introduced me to the author, Alexandra, her twin sister. Alexandra told me that she changed the ending after having a discussion with her mom. (Look for the explanation below.) After knowing the full story, I was even more impressed. Alexandra is a talented girl who wrote the poem; Ariel is a supportive sister who shared it in her class; and Denise is an awesome mom whose interest in her child turned a hopeless ending into one of inspiration.
What happens when you reach and no one is there
what happens when everyone’s expectations are unfair
what happens when all you face is disappointment
what happens when you’re the one they’re annoyed with
what happens when you can’t understand why
what happens when no one can hear you cry
what happens when you’re just a kid
what happens when you can’t figure out what you possibly did
what happens when your love isn’t reciprocated
what happens when you wake up to hatred
what happens when you realize you’re not free
what happens when you’re prone to just flee
what happens when they control your every move
what happens when sadness is a permanent mood
what happens when you want to just go away
what happens when no one wants you to stay
what happens when you finally give in
what happens when you don’t care if they win
what happens when now it’s too late
what happens when their remorse is fake
what happens when this is a continuation
what happens when it’s all over our nation
what happens when we realize lives are on the line
what happens when we start to fight bullying, one at a time…change happens
What was the original title and ending?
What happens when you finally give in, I’ll tell you what happens, They Win.
Alexandra explained, ” I decided to change the ending because my mother had challenged me when I read it aloud to her. She asked,
Well do you think their biggest concern at that point is winning or losing? These people are on the peak of suicide and I’m not sure someone would even think about who’s winning. It’s not about that. It’s not a game
… I really liked when she went back at me and questioned me because I think perhaps while writing that last sentence I was no longer expressing my initial reason for doing it, my initial passion. Although it was an effective ending punch line I wasn’t trying to express that people who take their life are weak and letting everyone win. I was writing it purely to show the harsh and sometimes fatal reality of bullying. I was writing to show the struggle of a victim. Often with bullies it’s about them, they take out how they feel on others. Bullies probably don’t wonder if that person had a bad day or maybe that kid might be going through something within their life. If I were to keep the ‘They Win’ ending, it would leave the lasting thought about the bully and that was not my intention.”
When asked why she thought it was important to challenge her daughter and take an interest in the poem, Alexandra’s mom explained it this way:
I feel it’s very important for me to take an interest in my daughter’s poetry because as a mother my role is to encourage my children in all that they do, and all that they are interested in. As far as the topic of bullying as sad as it is I think many people ignore it and hope it will ‘go away’. For Alexandra to write such a powerful and moving poem acknowledging the issue is amazing. I think many parents struggle with getting their children to open up to them. I consider myself lucky that my daughter wants to express her opinions and feelings and I would be foolish not to encourage and support that. I also feel many children’s talents are suppressed in school alone (by bullies) but also not fueled correctly by caretakers within the home. Negligence of any talent is a shame. It’s sad that some amazing writers, singers etc. go unnoticed and never have the chance to flourish.
Wow. We can all learn something from the poem…and a mother’s interest.