Sticks and Stones
April 28, 2015 · Posted in Personal
Today is my 20th birthday; my 7,305th day on this Earth. That is 175,320 hours, 10,519,200 minutes, or 631,152,000 seconds. I have been through a lot in the past 7,304 days. There have been good times, and there have been bad times. I really wish that I could say that there have been more good times than bad, but that is unfortunately not the case. The happiest time of my life is during a period in which I can barely even remember. I have spent far too many years running away from who I am, and letting the words of a few individuals get the better of me. I have become so obsessed with the opinions of others that I lost my own identity. The fear of other people responding to me in a negative way has made itself at home in my mind, even when there has been no indication of that being the case. And the worst part of it all is that I have always blamed myself for allowing it to happen. I am not the only person who has fallen victim to bullying, and I always felt like I could have handled it better, but looking back at it now, I did the only thing that I could think of to protect myself. I crawled into my shell with the fear of being judged and tormented. I eventually built up a wall to separate myself from my family and friends. I let some people in, but only momentarily. I pushed away all of the people that ever cared about me. I was angry, scared, hurt, and confused. I write this not to dwell on my past, but as a way to turn the page and begin a new chapter of my life as I leave my teenage years behind. I am certainly nowhere close to where I would like to be in life. I know that the next 7,305 days will not be immaculate, but I look toward the future with open arms. And hopefully someday I will have someone to share that future with, hand in hand. It seems so far away now, but I am just like everybody else: I want to love and to be loved. The only difference is that the person I shall love will be another man.
Like most children, my parents preached the word of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. It is quite a lovely sentiment, but it unfortunately does not hold true to the cruel reality of the world that we live in. I believed in this statement, just as hard as I believed in everything that my parents taught me as a little child. Our parents only want to love and protect us, but they can only do so much. They want to teach us from their own life experiences and hope that other people’s children are taught the same. And for the most part, I believe that we are all are. “Treat others as you want to be treated”, and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” are a couple of other sayings that you have probably heard over and over again during the course of your life. That is why I find it so hard to understand why everything ends up going to hell. Now, I am in no way, shape or form implying that this happens to everyone. But it does not take everyone; it only takes one or two people to break a child’s spirit. And that is exactly what happened to me. The words of my mother and father still ring true to me, now more than ever, with the only exception being the one that I opened this paragraph with. Through my own life experiences, I have come to see “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words leave emotional scars that will never heal” as a much more accurate depiction of what growing up is like.
The bullying started in the sixth grade. At this point in time, I had no idea what the word “gay” even meant, so it really had no effect on me at all. It was not until the seventh grade when things got bad. I am not sure at which point of the year that it started or why. Looking back it at it now, it just seems like something that has always been, like closing your eyes to go to bed and waking up the next morning. Even after it stopped, I could still feel it. I was so used to hearing the word “faggot” shouted at me that I would hear it when it was not even being said; it did not need to be said, it was implied every day as I walked down the hallway. I was not sure why they were saying these things to me. I came to the conclusion that it was because I had almost exclusively female friends, which made me embarrassed to be around them. And when I actually started to get those feelings, I felt like there was something wrong with me. I was ashamed and disgusted with myself. It had been said to me in such a negative fashion for so long that I began to think of it that way. I wondered how they could have possibly known this before I even knew myself. And as stubborn as I am, I did not want them to be right; I did not want to give them the satisfaction of knowing things about me that I never knew myself. I pushed the feelings aside and eventually managed to convince myself that they were not real. But deep down I always knew that the endless lies I told myself were just that — lies.
At the same time, I was having problems in my own circle of friends. There was a certain individual in the group that seemingly made it their mission to destroy what was left of me and to this day, I do not understand why and I do not think I ever will. I used to be fairly outgoing and talkative, but became a lot quieter, even when I was with my closest friends. My role in our group conversations turned from a panelist into an observer. And that individual had absolutely no problem using it against me. I was told that I was not wanted in the group, that nobody liked me, and that I was nothing but a “stalker”. Now not only did I feel judged from people that did not even know me, I began to feel that way with my own friends. I started hanging out with them less and less, and it eventually got to the point where I would spend my entire lunch hour in the library by myself, acting as if I was working on some important project. But by the end of the ninth grade, things seemed to have been looking up; I was reassured that my friends did care about me when they stood beside me during the final showdown. I marched toward high school with rose-coloured glasses, hoping to leave the horrific events of middle school behind me. I met up with my friends on the first day of tenth grade and felt completely ignored; as quickly as I arrived was as quickly as they departed. We had several classes together that year, so we stayed in contact. But outside of class, we would rarely communicate. I went home for lunch every day because I refused to spend any more of my time at the library. The vibe that I got on the first day of school felt all too familiar to me and I did not want to go back to that place ever again. I spent the next two years barely saying a single word to anyone. When I was not in class, I was at home; when I was not at home, I was in class. My grades improved tremendously, as schoolwork became my sole priority, but I lost out on a lot of opportunities because I could not bare the thought of the past repeating itself.
This was very difficult for me to write; I have never really been one to express myself so freely. I have either felt as if my problems were of nobody else’s concern or as if they were not important enough to make a fuss about. I was always under the impression that it was just a part of my personality, but I recently came to the realization that it was a result of how I had been treated. I wish that I could finish this off with a “and he lived happily ever after”; I wish that I could say that everything is better now, but that is simply not the case. One thing that I can say is that I am still here today, and that is something to be proud of. I have thought about ending my life countless times. I have felt worthless. I have felt alone. I have felt ashamed of who I am. I have felt like I do not deserve to be happy. My heart knows all of these emotions to be untrue, but my mind tells another tale. I realize now that it is not my fault; I cannot hold myself responsible for how I react to the actions of others. It is unfortunate that I will never be able to get those years of my life back, but the only thing I can do now is to prevent it from affecting the years to come. It is going to take a lot of work, but hopefully I will reach my own “happily ever after” someday, whether it to be 80 or 7,305 days from now. I am taking the first step to regaining my happiness on my 20th birthday, and as I do that, I turn the page and start a new chapter of my life. It would be great to still have you by my side when the credits roll. Whether or not that be the case, I hope that you will find peace in your own journey. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, who you love, what you think, or where you came from, you deserve at least that.