Fell in Love with a Girl…
Photo courtesy of Meghan Nash.

Fell in Love with a Girl…

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

Last week, I wrote a really personal email to the Puttytribe about my experience being bullied in elementary school.

(A few people suggested that I post my story on the blog, but I kind of like giving the tribe a little something extra…)

Anyway, the basic gist of my email was that I’ve noticed a pattern. It seems that many people who are living interesting lives now, didn’t fit in when they were younger. This seems to be especially true for multipotentialites.

After sending out this email, I received a flood of replies and found myself with an inbox full of really personal bullying stories. (Case in point: if you open up first, others are likely to do the same.) Thank you to everyone who sent me their stories. They were incredibly touching.

Here is a story submitted to me by Mike Pumphrey. Mike isn’t a blogger (though he should be, and you’ll soon see why…) In fact, he keeps a rather low profile online. No Facebook, no Twitter. Just a quiet Puttypeep, lurking around the community and doing his thing. His response isn’t exactly about bullying, but I think it gets at an important truth.

Enjoy your online debut, Mike. I hope this is just the beginning.

***

Hi Emilie. This is in response to your recent email about being bullied. Brought up some interesting memories for me so I thought I’d share…

I wasn’t bullied too much in middle school, mainly just ignored by the bullies in favor of easier targets. I was weird but not quite weird enough to make it worthwhile for them for the most part.

I was, however, in love. For much of my middle school years I was hopelessly besotted with Jessica Warren (name changed for obvious reasons). She was stunning, with long blond hair, pale skin, doe eyes, and an smile that melted my heart. She seemed like she practically floated through the school hallways, such was my attraction to her.

But she was part of the Popular Girls. Not the Lindsay Lohan, Mean Girls-style popular, just the beautiful and charmed popular, the kind of girl who got whatever she wanted, where all guys wanted to get near her, and only the sports-playing, popular guys were able to.

Jessica and her two best friends (all equally attractive, but my heart always went to Jessica) lived in their own world, and I looked in on theirs, never being given a passing glance by any of them. Especially not Jessica.

High school was much of the same thing. As soon as we hit Grade 9, the three Popular Girls immediately and stereotypically began dating seniors, I think football players at that. Perhaps up until then, I thought that maybe if I could just get into a class with Jessica, and maybe sit next to her, we could strike up a conversation, then maybe she would see what a decent guy I am, and maybe we could go meet up at the weekend dance.

But in high school, I gave up my longing for her as hopeless. She was just too far out of my league, I thought. I also stopped having classes with her as I started taking advanced classes, so our schedules didn’t match up any more.

It was in high school that I had my first real friendships, and it was through these people that I was able to embrace my bookish-ness, uncool-ness, and unathletic-ness to be strengths instead of character flaws. I even started dating a girl myself for a time. Time, distance, and my self-acceptance led me to be able to look at Jessica differently, when I did see her again.

I looked at her as a person, and saw nothing. Nothing inside at all.

Her doe eyes, once a source of her beauty, looked empty and distant. Her beauty was still there, but it was of the statuesque variety. She didn’t seem unintelligent, just not really present, not there. Had I not noticed this before, or had she always been that way? This train of thought led me to an idea about people, personalities, and hardship:

Just as hardship makes us more dynamic people, the lack of hardship makes us just the opposite.

Jessica didn’t seem to have much of a personality, but that’s only because she was never forced to grow one. In some ways, it wasn’t her fault. Through her good looks and good genes, she was instantly validated by her peers. She didn’t need to change; she was perfect just the way she was. And so I think she stopped developing. But one’s preteen years seems like a catastrophic time to pause personal development.

Gazing around to my other peers, I noted that the most interesting, dynamic people were precisely those who had come through difficulties, developmental troubles, peer rejection, and the like. These were people who weren’t validated at a young age. They had to struggle, they had to fight, and because of this, they had to grow.

I’d like to think that I had Jessica all wrong, that I wasn’t giving her enough credit. Perhaps. Interestingly, by one account, I heard that her life took a turn for the worse soon after high school, where her grandmother got very sick and she needed to pause her life to take care of her.

I don’t wish hardship on anyone, of course. But then again, if my hunch is correct, I bet Jessica has likely become a more interesting, multi-faceted, and yes, an even more beautiful person because of it. And that’s seems well worth wishing on everyone.

***

What do you think?

Does not fitting in in your youth lead to a more interesting life as an adult? Do you know a “Jessica”? (Don’t we all?)

About the Author: Mike Pumphrey recently left behind pretty much everything to start a new life in Portland, OR.  He works to help people build more meaningful connections with themselves and with each other.  While some say the glass is half empty and others say the glass is half full, he believes the glass is too big.

22 Comments

  1. Eleanor says:

    I LOVE this post, especially how it’s a very different angle still related to the topic of bullying that Emilie had already presented. Thanks for sharing, Mike.

    I spent a lot of time in middle/high school wishing that I could be one of the popular girls – they always seemed to have it all. But a decade (and some perspective) later, I realize that “having it all” can be so..shallow. I struggled a lot in school and only truly came into my own in college when I learned to love things about myself that I used to be bullied about. Every challenge I’ve faced and overcome has made me stronger, even if I didn’t realize it at first. Hell, I’m still realizing how I’ve grown and learned from struggles that happened years ago. It’s a wonderful thing to discover that kind of faith in yourself. Anyways, this post really spoke to me so I figured I’d throw in my $0.02 :)

    I <3 Puttypeeps!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Eleanor,

      I know exactly what you mean. I’m so thankful that I wasn’t one of the popular girls. I know some of those girls now, and they often seem to still be petrified of doing anything outside the norm, following their own path, etc. Thank goodness I didn’t turn out that way!

      I much prefer being “popular” among weirdos and creatives. :)

      Thanks for the comment! I’ll make sure Mike sees this (he’s a little shy online. :)

  2. Janet says:

    Portland!! Have you met him yet? :)
    I want to meet him (and you!) next time I’m there!! So I agree that he should start blogging. I really loved reading his story. And it totally gave me the self esteem points too.

    “They had to struggle, they had to fight, and because of this, they had to grow.”

    I’ve always felt this way. Not necessarily having an easy life because I had to adapt to different cultures, living in the US and being bullied a lot for being different (being Asian) and having a funny accent. Also living with emotional abuse. Left me a quiet, withdrawn kid!

    And now, purposely choosing to go back to the Philippines in my adult life and having to adapt, again, to a different culture!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Janet,

      There was an asian girl in my 3rd grade class who was bullied for the same reason as you were. (So horrible.) Her name was Peggy and she and I were really good friends. We stuck together. Unfortunately she moved away and we lost touch, but she was a really cool girl.

      And yes, Mike is a good, new friend of mine! He sent me an email when I moved out here a few months ago and we’ve been hanging out. He’s a great guy, and also an excellent Clue player. :D

      Any idea when you might swing by PDX? Would LOVE to finally meet and hang out!

  3. Feliz says:

    Love this post (and the original puttytribe email). I didn’t think it applied to me until a split second ago when I remembered that I WAS bullied as a kid. I just got random flashbacks of crying as I ran home in the first grade. Maybe it was too horrible that I subconsciously blocked it from my mind until this post made me remember it?

    Anyway. I thought of my high school days and realized that I didn’t really stand out or struggle to fit in with a specific group at all. In fact, I spent my days floating around within all the groups – I hung out with the jocks Monday, the overachievers on Tuesday, theater geeks Wednesday, you get the idea. I didn’t specifically belong to any group 100% since the kids didnt like the fact that I would leave their group one day to hang out with the “other” groups, but they still welcomed me in here and there. Maybe sharing interests with such various groups of people were my early signs of being a multipotentialite – only I was doing it socially at the time.

    This was a refreshing topic, I appreciate Emilie and Mike sharing their experiences about it. My favorite part though was the bit at the end about Mike that says “While some say the glass is half empty and others say the glass is half full, he believes the glass is too big.” That just made me smile, haha.

  4. Emilie says:

    Hey Feliz,

    Your high school experience sounds kind of ideal, and definitely very ‘multipotentialite’! I’m similar with my friends. I’ve never really fit perfectly into one group. I tend to pick up random friends here and there. And I never keep one group around after the experience (school, a job, living in a particular city, etc.) is over. I just pick out the awesome people and stay in touch with those individuals.

    My friends do all have certain traits in common though. Most are creative, positive, funny and passionate about something. I’m actually quite proud of the caliber of my friends. They’re all so amazing.

    My friends in the the Puttylike community have turned out to be equally as wonderful. :)

    Thanks for the comment, I’ll make sure to pass along your thoughts to Mike.

  5. Kirsten says:

    I’m reminded of the few brushes I’ve had with the “popular” middle and high school groups since I graduated. Overwhelmingly, I thought they were shallow and self-centered then, and without exception, they’ve been shallow and self-centered when I’ve met them since. Perhaps I judge too quickly, but I think there’s more to personal development than hardship… I can’t quite put a finger on what, though, so I’ll leave off trying in this comment and chew on the issue for a while instead. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Kirsten,

      Your experience with the popular girls has been exactly the same as mine. They seemed overwhelmingly boring back then and they still do now.

      I think another part to personal develop has to do with support. Having parents who expose you to different ideas, culture, etc. and encouraged you to pursue your own wacky interests. That’s why I feel like embracing my multipotentiality now is kind of like returning to childhood. Violin in the morning, writing in the afternoon, going to dance class, experimenting with cooking, and so on. Childhood (minus the social hardship) was a very scannerly time. Pretty awesome.

      By the way, how is it that I’ve never seen your blog, Multiple Passions before? And now I see you’re changing it and launching a new site. Typical scanner. :P

      Ah well. I’m sure your new site will be wonderful too. Looking forward to checking it out.

  6. I loved this part: “Jessica didn’t seem to have much of a personality, but that’s only because she was never forced to grow one”

    I’m a believer that we grow out of necessity– it’s why hardships are SO important!

    I lost 4 family members in college. This sucked, but it also forced me to think deeply about my own life while others were partying.

    A lovely story! Thank you, Mike and Emilie, for being so transparent and sharing your stories!

    • Emilie says:

      Wow- I can only imagine.

      Hearing about stuff like that makes me feel incredibly grateful. But gratefulness is something we should all practice.

      Thank you, Courtney for opening up as well. <3

  7. B says:

    The strangest thing for me is to meet a multipotentialite-type who hasn’t had the type of awkward childhood that many others do- ie, maybe they had one year of going to a “normal” kindergarten, and their parents, after deciding that they didn’t fit in, sent them to schools more suited to their personality-type for basically the rest of their scholastic lives.
    This, to me, is the strangest thing- to meet a multipotentialite who was “sheltered” from the forces that gives many of us those feelings of “being different” that shape what we do with our lives.

    • Emilie says:

      Interesting. It does happen. And I wonder if such multipotentialites turn out the same as they would otherwise. I finally found a school of misfits and smart kids where I fit in in 9th grade, but that was after most of the damage had already been done. And even being in a great environment didn’t solve the fact that I was super moody/depressed. Teen years = not a happy time. Heh.

  8. Great story!! I love it. I think if you can make it through the other side of your struggles then you will definitely be a stronger person for it.
    It’s hard being a parent as you never want your child to suffer but at the same time you understand that sheltering them can bring just as many challenges to their life later on and prevents them from developing their own coping skills and building of character. It’s a fine line

    • Emilie says:

      Definitely. I think just being a parent who encourages their kid to be themself and supports all their kid’s weird interests, will probably raise a kid whose personality clashes a bit with the conformist mentality in elementary school. I think a bit of adversity is probably inevitable.

      Thanks, Caz!

  9. Jacquie says:

    Emilie, I am following your blog through Tim Brownson – life coach. This last post by Mike brought up some memories of my own, and I would like to comment on that. First, I always figured that I was “ok” looking when in school, but didn’t quite measure up to the beauty queens. I didn’t get asked out much, but had a few steady boyfriends. It was later in life that the “guys” at school told me that they were afraid to ask out girls who seemed out of their league, including me.
    I always admired the guys who were a bit “nerdy” or brainy..not the football players. But it seems that the brainy guys were too chicken to ask me out. I would have gone.. ;)
    Mike said something that made me pause. He said, Jessica would be a more beautiful person because of hardship that entered her life. I beg to differ…Jessica was always beautiful inside and out, but many including Mike failed to dig deep enough to find out her inner personality because he saw only the outer. He probably could have asked Jessica out and to his surprise, she may have done so. In fact, the depth of her spirit can’t possibly be conveyed by appearances alone.
    Mike has focused on outward beauty, and it’s his fault, not Jessica’s that she may at the time have seemed “superficial”. Perhaps, the beauty he saw, and not the inner person was his own perceptions and not reality at all.
    I’m just conveying some thoughts here and am constantly reminded..never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
    Love you blog!!!

    • Emilie says:

      Very interesting. You make a really good point.

      You’re right, if he had gone for it, maybe she would have surprised him. But maybe not. She did immediately start dating seniors/football players after all. That sort of implies that she’s not into nerds. But yeah, you’re right in that she was never given the option.

      It’s funny how when you’re infatuated with someone, it’s actually really hard to get to know them. This whole discussion makes me want to go watch My So-Called Life. :P

      Thanks for sharing, Jacquie! Great to meet you.

  10. Mike Pumphrey says:

    Hi. I just wanted to thank everyone here for your thoughts and kind words. It means more to me than you can imagine.

    – Mike

  11. Denise says:

    Umm… so where is this guys blog or novel ?? Sheesh… awesome writing!

    Yes, I do think not fitting in makes you more interesting as an adult.

    It’s like failing. The most successful people fail. A lot. If you’re not failing, you’re not taking enough risks.. yada, yada, yada… you’ve heard it all before..

    Anyways, I think being different.. failing… all that seemingly bad stuff contributes the greatest to your overall growth.

  12. Hilary Green says:

    Hi!

    I can identify with Mike’s piece and the rest of the comments too, but in response to Jacqui’s post, I just wanted to add that very often, you don’t see the hardships when you are infatuated and intimidated with people’s external appearances.

    I too flickflacked between being a misfit and floating between “crowds” at school. I have noticed, upon getting to know the “cooler” people that in most cases, the people who I always assumed to have perfect lives very often didn’t – there are skeletons (hardships) in most closets.

    But the essence of Mike’s post – hardships making you a more interesting and multi-faceted person – that I do agree with… if you allow the hardships to mould you in a positive way, that is!

  13. Jodie says:

    Hi Emilie!

    I’m brand new to the Putty World and so far I’m I love with it! This post really hit home with me. I was a brainiac band geek in school. I ran with the same bunch from middle school through the end of high school. Sure, the popular kids talked to me from time to time and I was well-known in school, but I didn’t belong to any group but the band geeks. We were all in the same classes together, practically all advanced. So, my little clique kept mostly to themselves all the way through school.

    But when I wasn’t with those kids, dealing with regular kids was harder. I was teased a lot and made fun of often. I was the ugly, red-haired girl who thought she knew everything to everyone else. I thought no one would love me…I remember thinking that a lot. I feel Mike’s pain because I felt that way about a couple of boys growing up. It took so long for me to look back and see those boys the way they really were.

    When I got to college, I finally started to feel normal – not like a freak as I’d been made to believe. I finally found my true voice and from there I blossomed. Since those days, I’ve steadfastly believed that the reason we’re put here on this planet is to learn from our daily trials. You can’t learn anything when the world fits perfectly into place. You only learn from the moments when life throws you curves – when life gets messy. You can only grow when you are tested.

    Most people have to deal with some sort of hardship in their lives. If we are paying attention, these moments can bring extreme clarity and purpose to our lives. We should embrace the hardships, the struggles and know that it’s the universe’s way of teaching us something we need to know.

    Thanks to Mike for sharing this insightful story. It truly touched me and brought a flood of emotions back into the fore.

  14. Lakshmi says:

    Hi,

    This is a post that many people can relate to. There is another point that came across my mind while I was reading this – the notion that ‘popular’ equals more beautiful. Some people don’t quite blossom until much later in life and many a time, the beauty (I mean both external and internal) of some folks never gets noticed because they might have not dressed cool, applied the right makeup, had a suitable hairstyle or maybe, they just had a lot of hormonally induced acne and big glasses with braces to boot.

    Teenage years can be very trying in this respect. Even as adults, we automatically consume whatever the media tells us – People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful…yada yada. My neighbor may actually have a really pretty face that is worth making to this list but if she is just the average mom in sweatshirt-and-jeans, she is probably not going to get more than a few occasional admiring glances.

    About Jessica, I agree with the other commenters, putting someone on a pedestal gets in the way of really knowing them well.

    It is a pleasant surprise to know that you and Mike are in Portland, OR. I live there, too, so am looking forward to meeting you both in person some day.

    And I must say, Emilie, you have an amazing repertoire of talents and accomplishments. I am inspired!

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