Monday, December 17, 2012

Doorman's Message to Victims of Bullying

Growing up, in nearly every phase of childhood and into my late teens, I sucked. At everything. I was put in the lower classes in middle school, where I got the shit kicked out of me on a regular basis. Sticking up for myself wasn't an option, because I was terrified of everything. This trickled into anything I did from then on out. I never applied myself when I got to high school, so my teachers were at a loss for what to do with me - a seemingly smart kid with an enormous world of creative potential. All the while I was getting bullied every day by kids that lived in my neighborhood.
I really can't pinpoint why everyone thought that I was such a turd. Fighting was never in my nature. My Old Man and brothers, on the other hand, are as tough as Irish gypsies. I grew up in a neighborhood where you had to show people that you weren't a pussy, and I failed to do so when I had my chance - so I got hell. Lot's of it.

Throughout the years, through all of the abuse, I had this recurring fantasy of grabbing the biggest kid in the crowd and tackling him to the ground. He would be caught of guard, and I would just start punching him in the the nose repeatedly till there was nothing left, till he was nothing more than a pulsating, bloody skull. I would stand up, dust myself off, and the kids would make a path for me. Then I'd trot into the sunset, never to be fucked with again. That obviously wouldn't have solved anything. But after hours and hours of getting slapped around, being called awful things, listened to kids say horrific things about my loved ones for the sake of a punchline, the fantasy overcame me - though, thankfully, I was always too afraid to carry it out.

Over the past few years, there has been a supercharged effort to stop bullying in this country. As someone who was bullied, I can tell you that it will never ever stop. The best thing you can tell someone who is being bullied, someone who thinks that they'll never be anything in this world, is that you have a decision to make when it's time to step into the real world - you can either let it break you and make excuses, or you could let it shape you and help you grow. I chose the latter. Yes, I'm writing this as a 28-year old doorman. But I'm a 28-year old doorman who wants something bigger for myself because I know that I deserve it. Had I not been bullied, I may be in a different place. Maybe a better place. Maybe I'd be worse off. Who the hell knows? What I do know is that had I not been bullied, I may not be as humble as I am today.

I was raised right, and come from an amazing home with a loving family. I know my blessings, and I count them every day. As a teenager, it's hard to see all that when the people around you don't deem you worthy of their respect. Sure, I had friends- my best friend then is still my best friend now. He was a popular kid. All the girls loved him, all the kids on the block knew not to fuck with him, and through plenty of different crowds of kids that came through the neighborhood, we always ended up sticking together. Had it not been for him, I would have had a much tougher time. He stuck up for me as much as he could, but I never wanted him to do that. As much as I wanted all of the abuse to end, I never wanted others to pity me. Sound familiar?

My advice to you, if you are someone who feels that they are a victim of bullying, is to understand that while people are telling you that it "gets better", you're ultimately going to have to make it better for yourself. Bullying does not end when adulthood starts. Sure, your co-worker isn't going to slap you in the face and steal your lunch to impress the rest of the office, but you will have to deal with the bully mentality- whether it's your boss, in-law, neighbor - whoever.  The key is to learn to respect yourself.

I don't take shit from people anymore. It took a very long time - well into my adulthood, in fact. And it wasn't because I learned how to fight, or I "grew some balls". It was mostly due to finding a sense of self-worth. In college, I took my first acting class. For the first time in my life, I excelled in something. Sure, I was adequate in a few activities, but I was never able to perform something at a high level like I could as an actor.

After preforming in my first college play, I was hooked. I couldn't get enough of acting and performing, which kept me motivated to do well in my classes. I had found a purpose, which helped me find self-respect. Those three or four strangers in the audience, commending my performance as "Tom" in The Glass Menagerie, finally provided me with a validation for this world. It gave me something to look forward to and a dream to strive for in the future, which I am still chasing (and always will) to this day. 

In some sadistic way, I'm grateful for having this happen to me. I'm not sure if I would have discovered my fighting spirit, and all I have to offer the world. I very well could have been complacent in my well-paying job as a doorman, and not had the motivation to work towards creating a better life for myself. I'm taking my shot, because I know I deserve it.

I don't consider myself a "victim" of bullying. I consider myself someone who was bullied, and overcame it. Strived because of it. Used it as a motivation. It wasn't easy. It really, really, fucking wasn't. But I did it, and so can you. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is something out there for you, and you deserve it, even if you feel like it doesn't exist. Take it from me, I was there.