“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” I remember when that was true. And it’s true now, to an extent.

But I believe words can hurt, because I remember the day that changed everything. One word, five letters, in a comment on Facebook. (It was 2012, Facebook was the thing). August, 2012. But the story starts, really, December of 2011. When I left Georgia. When I left the only home I ever remembered.

It was just another day. Sort of. It was the last day of school before winter break, and it seemed like there was a party and a movie every period. I was sitting in 4th period history, with one of my best friends next to me. He knew I was moving that day, and we were savoring out last moments together. My other best friend was in a pizza party with her homeroom. She knew I was leaving, too. But she wasn’t there.

The call came that my mom was here to pick me up. I packed up my things, gave Tim one last hug, and walked out the door of the classroom.

The halls were empty, and as I passed her homeroom, I could hear the sounds of the party. I stood there for a moment, listening, before traversing the rest of the empty halls and walking out the door. I got in the car, and as my mother started to drive away from the middle school, I started to cry. All I could think of was that I never got to say goodbye to Megan.

Fast forward. End of July or early August, 2012. In Hinesville, we-they went back to school on August sixth that year, so, of course, there were complaining Facebook posts. “Ugh school starts soon,” etc. I was that one kid who was always excited about going back to school, and I was bored. I wasn’t going back until September. So, I commented on one saying “You guys are lucky! I don’t go back until September!” or something like that, I can’t remember exactly what I said.

I do remember what the other comment said. Not all of it, but one word particularly stands out.

The gist of it was “No one cares about you, b****.” I didn’t even know that person. They were a friend of a now former friend. The one word shattered what was left of my world. I was in a new place, alone, and suddenly it seemed like all my friends thought negatively of me. I never replied to that comment that I can remember. I cut ties with that person. I never told anyone what happened. I don’t remember crying about it, just being in a state of shock. I pretended everything was normal.

That was the last time I had any meaningful contact with my old friends. I moved on. They moved on. We changed. It comforts me to think that if they saw me, they wouldn’t recognize me. Certain pieces are the same, but overall I am a different a person.

I know how much power a negative word can over someone, because that one word had so much power over me. Still has so much power over me. I would never be able to cut people off like I did for that former friend. It’s almost too easy. I used to be very trusting. Now, you have to earn it, and it’s not easily given. I may laugh off insults, but those words leave scars almost as deep as that one in that comment.

I was so confident in who I was at 12. I never second guessed myself. Now, I’m more insecure than I ever believed I would be. I believe words can hurt because that single word shaped who I am today.