I was thinking about bullying last night while I was walking home. The sky was threatening to open up at any minute which would have resulted in my complete and utter drenching, so I’m not really sure what prompted me to think about it, but there it was. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out why my brain goes in the directions it does, so most of the time, I just go with it. I should have been concentrating on making double time to avoid getting wet, but no. Anyway, I got to thinking about my own experiences with bullying.
I dealt with my fair share of bullying when I was growing up. I never was in fear of my life or anything, but it happened. I was teased in pretty much all through school for being bad at sports, not having the right clothes, being too smart and for more or less not being a “normal” young man. Gym class was pretty bad. I became the expert of finding excuses to get out of P.E., until the school nurse figured out what I was doing and made it a habit of asking what class I was supposed to be in whenever I showed up at her office. Even classes that I would presume would be populated by fellow nerds weren’t entirely immune. There was one instance, during my freshman year of high school, where a guy that sat next to me in band teased me almost daily, although there were also days where he almost acted like my friend. It was just enough to keep me off my balance. He particularly loved calling me a “fag” and I tried so hard to not interact with him but I couldn’t not do it because we shared a music stand. I was never so happy as the next year when he quit band and I didn’t have to worry about him. I remember his girlfriend coming up to me and apologizing for him on more than one occasion.
But mostly, when I think about being bullied in school, I didn’t worry about walking down the hall and being slammed into a locker or having insults lobbed at me or a Slushee thrown in my face. I was lucky because a lot of kids in school actually took me under their wing because my father was a popular teacher at the school. Rather than being pummeled by most upperclassmen, I became friends with a lot of them, at least during the school hours. The more I thought about this, the more I feel like I might have overstated exactly how bullied I was growing up. But then I realized, I was forgetting about the biggest bully of all of them.
That bully was, and is, me.
I took everything that was ever told to me that was negative, every name I was ever called and believed it to be gospel truth. Long after the bullies were gone, I realized that I’ve been repeating everything they’ve said over and over and over again for nearly 25 years. No wonder it’s so loud. Even after all these years, I still find myself doing it. Nobody beats me up worse than me.
I’m not sure why it took me until 40 years of age to come to this realization, but I’m hoping to not waste anymore time with that.
My daughter is more or less a carbon copy of me when it comes to how she reacts to things. One of my goals as her parent is to make sure that she’s not 40 years old and still listening to every taunt and tease that’s been hurled at her (or will be in the years to come) and believe it to be gospel truth. Hopefully, I’m giving her the tools to be able to do that.