David Rochester’s latest post addresses the taunting he was subjected to as a teenager. It makes for a compelling story and I empathize completely since I had my own dramatic struggles there too. No matter what, adolescence comes with plenty of challenges for everyone and we all go through that phase of finding our own identity with a certain degree of discomfort. Less for some, a great deal more for others.
It’s true that David’s story is an unusual one, but equally true that kids will find anything to hurt and humiliate whoever they consider different or an outcast. In my case, the fact that I was the new kid in class with every school year was reason enough to single me out and torment me. I was overly sensitive and prone to tears which didn’t help either, because once they picked up on that, kids enjoyed tauting me even more knowing they’d get a reaction.
It got really scary when, at ages thirteen and fourteen, in two separate schools, girl gangs had decided to make me the object of their bullying. I never got to know why exactly. Maybe I looked too innocent and “pure” for their liking. Maybe I was too good in class. Maybe they though I had a funny accent. In any case, what they were threatening me with was serious. Whether they actually intended to follow through on their threats and do me bodily harm or not hardly matters. They had me running scared and looking for ways to convince them I wasn’t a good target after all. The result of that was incredibly destructive and much worse than the threats themselves could ever be, since in my effort to change my image to that of a “tough” and potentially dangerous kid so they’d leave me in peace, I went way further than I had originally intended, and pretty soon that persona took on a life all it’s own.
To this day I can’t believe some of the things I felt compelled to do all in the name of finding social acceptance. Soul destroying stuff. But then, nobody ever dared bother me again after that. Maybe someday I’ll find a way to forgive the bullies, but more importantly, it’ll be good when I can finally and completely forgive myself.