Thirteen in the thick of a cornfield
I learned to fight, keep roads tied, and not chill
Never did change, stayed strange, hopped a train
My first chance I got out of Smallville
Life has it’s way of movin’ you on, don’t it?~ Kenny Chesney, Don’t It
My daughter asked me a question a few weeks ago. How did I deal with the bullies in school? Bullying has become a front stage issue. When I was much younger, it was tolerated as long as no blood was shed. Boys will be boys and all even though girls are sometimes much wore bullies.
Truth is, I did learn to fight. Most of the time I used words. Trust me when I tell you that using words is challenging, especially when you have an extensive vocabulary. I fluently spoke three languages…the Queen’s English, American and Sarcasm. Unfortunately, Sarcasm only works if you use words the recipient understands. Otherwise it just goes right past them.
I threw a fair few punches at school. By the time I was in Junior High, the pack of bullies drew immense pleasure from teasing me. My locker was broken into. I was tripped in the classroom. I was shoved to the ground in PE. So, I learned. I learned how to fight back. I shouldn’t have needed to, but the teacher’s didn’t stop the physical threats. So, I got suspended. Before school, in school, after school. I was a regular on the circuit. By eighth grade, we were back to just words.
By high school, I had learned to just avoid the bullies. Head low, mouth shut. Move along and stay invisible. By my junior year, I had checked out. I started attended college and working. Not much time was spent at the actual high school. My senior year I had 3 classes, including two teacher assistant slots.
To answer the question…I dealt with bullies by becoming a bully. Not exactly a proud moment when you realize that. Certainly not the advice I would give my child or anyone else. We are much more aware of bullying and it’s effects than we were thirty years ago.
I did pretty much what the lyrics above talk about. I didn’t grow up in Smallville, but I left when I was 22. I remember it felt good to leave all that behind and start over. And over. And over. In some ways, my nomadic lifestyle was a blessing in that I could look forward to a move and reinventing myself. By the time we settled, I had a much better grasp on things.
Yes, it took me until my early 30s to realize I could be me. So my advice to my kids? Head up, feet forward and keep moving. Soon, the bullies will lose interest. You will learn to focus on the good things around you and the bullies will fade into the background. Does this always work? No. But about 75% of the time you are able to keep moving.
That’s what counts…being able to move forward. Each day will bring fresh challenges. Head up, feet forward and you will meet those challenges. Life is messy. You don’t need to clean up everyone else’s mess. Focus on growing into the best version of you. That’s what I would say today.