(NOT THE) SAME AS IT EVER WAS

Robert Longo drawing. Once In A Lifetime, 1980

Robert Longo drawing. Once In A Lifetime, 1980

I do not condone bullying or believe it should continue for the sake of building character. This is speaking from my experience, where it is too late to change the past. This is how I have moved on and reconciled those parts of my life.

Bullying is a problem. It is damaging. It kills. This is merely my own story.

 

Like most nerds of yore, I spent my lunches on the periphery of the cafeteria. I hoped no one would notice me, and ate alone, quickly, trying to escape before anyone could catch me. In my youth, I foolishly believed bullying ended after high school, but 20 years after graduation I can confirm it does not -- I have been bullied on the Internet, in the workplace, and at the dance club.

Jerks exist everywhere. And the stink of nerd on me must be thick, because they keep coming for me, no matter where I am.

I still play some of the MMORPGs I was bullied on, even after having had to take a break because the treatment had become so heinous (like the 80's vocab?). But I took breaks, grew up, changed my life, and went back to both games to chill with friends. Because when it comes down to it, my friends are the real reason I play.

I've got some perspective about the maltreatment now: without being proverbially thrown to the ground and Internet curb-stomped, I wouldn’t have taken time away from either game to write a novel. Which means I wouldn't be a writer. Which means I wouldn’t have written short stories. Which means I wouldn’t be published. Which means I wouldn't have, at 37, found the one career I love more than any of the others I’ve done. 

Being bullied pushed me to re-examine my priorities. It made me think what was important to me — spending six evenings a week roleplaying online? Or doing what I’d always dreamed of but never thought possible? Two years later I can say I'm glad I took the break. And writing a novel is possible, was possible, and I did it, three whole drafts. I just needed someone to take away something I loved to show me I could.

Yeah, it’s kind of a shitty way to look at things, but sometimes you have to get pretty low to figure out what you want out of life. Bullies help you do that. Every time they ground me down to goo, I reassembled myself and kept going, a little more resilient than before. As an adult being bullied, every time I collected myself, I rose up higher and shone brighter where I thought they couldn’t reach me. And if they did, I just went higher up the next time.

It's the psychological, life-skills way of saying I developed a thick skin.

An online friend told me today one of those bullies has hit rock bottom from constantly circling that negative Bully drain. I can honestly, genuinely say I feel bad for her.

Keeping positive and not being destroyed by a negative attitude is a hard thing to do. But I fully and truly believe it’s what makes you successful. It brings people close to you and makes you happy in life. This is why I love surrounding myself with all my friends. They have great humor, good attitudes, and all move forward with life even when knocked down. 

Bullies are brought so low by the weights they’ve attached to their own feet. I have a heavy heart for them. They do this out of fear that no one will love them. They do this out of fear that they will have no friends unless they destroy what they fear. They take down what they do not understand, what they cannot comprehend, what’s different than them, what they see as threatening. Which is sad.

For the woman who's hit rock bottom, the news is disheartening. How can I see my friends succeed in so many places where she has not learned from her mistakes? Many of my friends have dealt with so many hard knocks, difficult situations, great trials of life, and they remain so positive and wonderful. They are true inspirations. I want this woman to succeed, but she hasn't because she never changed her behavior. She returned to the same path. 

Every time I got bullied in school for being too smart or eggheady, I studied harder and worked for better grades. Every time in the office someone challenged me or pushed me away, I ignored them until I got a job at the place where they all wanted to go. I changed my path. I did what I thought impossible, all because I was repeatedly challenged, repeatedly made to re-evaluate my choices.

I could have crumbled under the pressure, but instead I stood up for who I am. Because of that I am grateful. So thank you, everyone who tried to destroy me, I am more comfortable being me than I ever was.