Reading Time: 2 minutes.
As I am sure it is hard for many of you to believe, I was bullied as a grade schooler…as a middle schooler…as high schooler…and even as a Cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. I can remember as far back as 3rd grade when my closest “friends” would wait for me, and my trusty duct taped bungee corded trombone case, with rocks in hand. The last 100 yards to the entrance of General Billy Mitchell Elementary were my equivalent to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. With my trusty trombone in one hand and my hand-me-down Nikes strapped to my feet I would dodge left and right, up and down as a heavy barrage of incoming rocks flew directly towards me. The goal of the Germans…I mean my friends, was to hit my trombone case and knock it out of the clutch of my hands, however, more often than not they hit me. Once I was able to successfully (on some days) or unsuccessfully (on most days) navigate my way to the entrance, I was met by an eager group of soldiers/boys (the ones that had most likely missed me with the rocks) ready to push me into a large pricker bush, which was conveniently placed right next to the entrance. I would proceed to bounce in and out of that bush until the bell rang and we were all let inside; that bell was a godsend. Over time, I was able to adapt to these hellfire mornings by timing my arrival to about 30 seconds before the bell rang and than proceeding to sprint to doors in an effort to make it to class in time (I got real fast). Nevertheless, that dash was also a challenge, because more often than not my trusty trombone would find a way to break free from the duct tape and bungee cords and end up sprawled out onto the concrete. I often wonder if I would have been safer or “cooler” without that trombone…
My “friends” and I could tell you countless stories, about how I was bullied and picked on throughout my entire life, some of it maliciously and other times out of “good fun,” although I very rarely found it fun. It went even as far as sacrificing my two front teeth one rainy morning due to some “inadvertent” bullying. You can imagine how heart broken I was not having to carry my trombone to school until they were fixed.
Although getting picked on or bullied has its negative consequences, the positive that is born from it is often overlooked.
I truly believe I would not be where I am today without the help of my bullies and trombone. At a young age I was forced to learn to think critically, make wise choices, and be brave because my life, and the life of the trombone (what little was left), depended on it. My goal, then, was to find a way to be accepted. So instead of giving up and cowering in a corner, I did everything I could to stand out academically and physically amongst my peers. I worked harder and longer to ensure I could develop what limited talent (compared to my peers) I had, into something at least above average. Survival of the fittest, right? When I failed or succeeded, and people proceeded to tell me what I can’t do, or that I “sucked,” it made me work harder, and eventually achieve more.
It was not until very recently that the amount of positive feedback I receive began to out weigh the negative. And frankly, I am worried about how I am going to handle that shift. I thrive off of negative energy, because it is always my goal to find a way to turn it into positive energy; It truly has been the catalyst to all of what I consider to be my successes.
Although my goal to become “accepted” has long since past (result = unsuccessful), as I found it to be an idea (at an early age) which was truly unbounded, I have come to realize that it had a purpose during its time. Without bullies there is no acceptance goal, because everyone is equally cool, and everyone is safe. But the world does not work that way, there will always be someone faster, stronger, smarter, wiser, or richer than you, and because of that there will always be negative energy (it’s science i.e., protons and neutrons); it’s the balance. Bullies are a part of that balance, and will be to the end of time, so instead of investing time in finding ways to stop bullying let’s start investing our time in ways to overcome, grow, and thrive from it. Otherwise, we may find ourselves unprepared or unseasoned which could lead to getting beat up in a really bad way.
Life’s not about being safe or cool, its about taking risks, pushing your limits, making a difference, and carrying a trombone.