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.