Those of  you that have read my book “Happily Broken: Discovering Happiness Through Pain and Suffering” know that I was bullied in high school. Not a fun experience at all. If you have been bullied, you know what I’m talking about.

You wake up every morning to go to school and immediately wish it was 2:59pm, when the bell that signaled school is over rang. You wish you would have woken up with a flu or some kind of contagious desease that would forbid you from going to school. Why aren’t there online high school courses anyway? You start wondering. Do I really need to get an education? Can I just wing it in life and see where it takes me without a high school diploma?

I once considered dropping out of high school so I can get a GED and continue on to college. I just couldn’t see myself finishing high school at Chaminade Julienne. The 4 years would be torture. 3 things stopped me from being a high school drop out and getting a GED to go straight to college.

1. My parents. Chaminade Julienne was a very prestigious Catholic school and my parents would ship me back to Africa to work on some farm and raise cattle if I dropped out.

2. I hate giving up! I have a resilience and persistence that sometimes scares me. If I gave up, I would never forgive myself. I would live with that for the rest of my life. A bunch of bad, I mean really really bad, bullies were not going to determine how I live the rest of my life.

3. My love of learning. I loved learning and I really liked my teachers. They liked me too, for the same reason some of the students hated and bullied me. I was different!

Because of this, I pushed myself every single morning and went to school. I even went back to school the day after one of the worst days in my high school life. Let me share with you just how horrible this day was….

It was a snowy morning and I was running late for school. The weekend before, I had completely shaved my hair and bought a wig because my hair was damaged. Damaged because I wanted to fit in! I had wanted really long hair, just like some of the African-American girls I was going to school with, yes, those that bullied me and didn’t want anything to do with me. Someone gave me the advice of relaxing my hair every two weeks to keep it straight and make it longer. So I did! Two months later and barely no hair due to too much chemicals, I shaved my hair off to start all over again. I decided to buy a wig, which I thought was very nice at the time, but not so much now.

On this snowy morning, I’m running to class and pass under a tree. As I’m running, I realize that my head is getting cold. I touch my head and realize my wig was not on my head anymore. I quickly look back and see my wig hanging on the branch of the tree, all snowed up like I meant to get a gray-haired wig. Guess what happened next, you guessed it! Laughter all around me, students looking through classroom windows, pointing fingers at me and laughing! I know its funny, you can laugh too. Really, you are allowed! How do you think I was doing at fitting in? Thanks for the “F” grade you just gave me…its a fair grade. I endured more bullying that day but I got up and went back to school the following day!

After so many attempts of trying to fit in, I decided to take another route. I decided NOT to try to fit in. This happened towards the end of the school year in my senior year. Students would make fun of me and I would just brush my shoulders off in their face….in my head ofcourse! I wanted to sit them down and tell them how much I didn’t care anymore, tell them I’m unique and they can live with it, tell them how much I had gone through in the past and how much their bullying was so insignificant compared to the real life struggles “out there”. I didn’t do any of this but I KNEW that once I got to college, I would turn a new leaf and be CLEMENTINE. Be the outgoing, people loving, funny and carefree woman I was created to be. And so I did!

When I stopped trying to in and pretending to be who I was not, I was so much happier. I was unstoppable and people around me wanted to learn more about my uniquess. I was invited to speak to conferences around the country. Some people even called me the “broke Oprah”. People loved being around me and I seemed to inspire them just like Oprah grabbed the attention of audiences! Below is one of the write-ups about me while attending college at the University of Dayton!

CLÉMENTINE IGILIBAMBE

fled war-ravaged Rwanda when she was eight years old. She lived in refugee camps in Zaire and then Kenya. She speaks six languages. Yet enrolling at a U.S. college still intimidated her.

Thankfully, she was enrolling at the University of Dayton, where a robust Center for International Programs helped to ease her fears. “Everyone here is so welcoming. Tutors helped with language and classes. The International Student Club helped me adjust but also let me teach U.S. students about being a student abroad.”

While pursuing a human rights and international studies degree, Igilibambe brought a piece of her upbringing to southwest Ohio when she founded a UD Afrika Club. The club allowed her to share her heritage — from native cuisine to beloved African dance — with students on campus. And with Igilibambe’s involvement in Student Leadership Council, World Youth Alliance and U.N. Agents of Change, she represents the student of tomorrow: ambitious, worldly and committed to transforming the world.

This is where I develop my passion for public speaking. Realizing that I was unique, didn’t have to be like everyone else and appreciating my past, I was able to find my passion.

So let me ask you a question. Are you still trying to fit in? Do you want to be like “everyone else”? Like your co-worker? Like your classmate? Be the same size as the models you see on TV? Have a six pack like the guy at the gym? Stop it! It’s not going to make you a happier person. Matter of fact, choose to be BOLD. Be different. Embrace what’s unique about you. Set yourself apart from the crowd then watch what will happen! You will be glad you did!

Oh…and yeah…get my book! You will be even happier that you did!