Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It Does Get Better

It is not something I talk about very often but all the news lately about kids getting bullied to the point to suicide has me thinking about my own past.

When I was in school, I was the kids that everyone picked on.  I don't really know why, it's just the way it was.  I was not really like most of the other boys, but I don't think it was a gay thing.  I am not now, nor was I then, feminine, in any way.  I liked to play with MatchBox cars and other boy toys. I was not good at sports and was always a little uncoordinated.  I was the last kid picked in gym class for every team.  I was the first kid to get hit when playing dodge ball.  

I remember being picked on all the way through school.  I remember being called fagot and many other names.  I don't think anyone actually thought I was gay, I just think that was a hurtful name and they used it.  In 5th grade I started playing the clarinet.  I remember that some of my "friends' from school used to think it was funny sneak up behind me and pull the latch on the case to watch the clarinet fall out in pieces onto the road.  I never thought it was funny.  

It was times like that, I preferred just being ignored.  That's what happened most of the time.  Almost no one talked to me.  

I remember walking through the always in middle school and high school and getting hit.  Occasionally I would get punched.  Not like a fight and I never resulted in injury beyond a bruise, but is was enough to make me scared a lot of the time.  

I knew the teachers knew what was going on.  I think the truth is, most of them just didn't care.  For them, it was just a question of statistics.  Within any large group of kids a certain percentage will be popular.  A certain percentage will be dorks.  A certain percentage will be jocks and a certain percentage won't.  A large percentage will just be average.  A certain percentage will be brains and a certain percentage will be stoners.  A certain percentage will be bullies and a certain percentage will be targets.  From their perspective it, someone had to be the target, it might as well have been me.  They did nothing to stop it.  Not one offered to help me.  Not one offered me reassurance that everything would be OK.  No bully ever got punished.

High school was a little better.  I had a small circle of friends I was able to hang out with.  That helped me some in school, and I was also able to hang out with them outside of school. When I was 16 I started working.  I got a job at a local grocery store and then later at McDonald's.  Most of the people I worked with did not know me from school, or they were from other towns.  They did not know I was the kid that got beat up every day.  I was able to make some friends.  

All in all school was hell for me.  I remember K saying many times that high school was the best time of her life.  I have heard that from others too.

Not for me.

There were several points when I did contemplate killing myself.  I determined the best way would be to run the car my dad's old pickup with the garage door closed.  I did not know how long that would take, but I knew that I did not have the courage to cut myself or hang myself.  I did not have access to a gun, and there weren't a lot of pills in the house.  The truck was the way to go.

My father's garage was large and I thought it might take too long to get the job done.  So I thought up ways speed things up.  I could take the vent hose from dryer and run it from the exhaust pipe to the cab of the truck.

In the end I did not have the courage to go through with it.  But I do know the feelings that can drive a teenager to that very dark place.  A place where is seems there is only one way out.

After high school, I went to college.  Only one or two people from my high school went to my college and since it was a huge school, I never saw them.  This was where my life turned around.  I was able to discover myself (mostly).  I was able to be myself (mostly).  I had friends.  People invited me to hang out with them.  It was like a whole other world.  

I made lots of friends in my dorm.  I joined a Fraternity.  I went to parties and did all the things that "normal" kids to in college.  I learned how to really interact with people and I developed real confidence in myself.  Going to college really did save my life.

I don't know if there are any teenagers reading my blog or blogs like mine.  I'm not sure I would have at that age, (There was no such thing as blogs then, or the internet for that matter.) but if there is even one, there is a message here.

It DOES get better.  Even as fucked up as my life has been over the last 2 years, it's is still a pretty good life.  If I had the courage to do myself in in high school when things were bad, I would have missed out on so much.  Hang in there.  It will pass and when you are out of school, things that seem important now, really aren't.

Of course I would prefer it if we could stop the bullying.  I really do.  But the reality is that some people will take advantage of someone weaker then themselves.  Today it may be easier to get a teacher or school administrator to listen to you.  With the internet, there are places you can go and connect with people who can help. There are places like this blog where you can read about an average schlub like me, who managed to make it out OK.

You are not as alone as you feel.  Keep your head up, even if you are trying to maintain a low profile.


fan of casey said...

Jim: This was a very touching post. Thanks for sharing your story. This experience influenced you to be the caring and thoughtful person you are today,

Anonymous said...

I was OK until 10th grade when we moved to a rural district. The kids there hated me and I hated them. I also got better grades than their star, Peter Q xxx. Funny how I still remember his name.

After a Chemistry class where 3 guys tried to pull me out of the room, I decided to leave school at age 16, 92 average.

Amazingly, my father, paid tuition so I could return to the public school that we moved from. I never felt close to my Dad, but I see that at key moments, he felt close to me.