For the longest time, I tried to be anything but myself. I know exactly when it happened as well. When I was young, around 3rd or 4th grade, I remember having that first feeling of not being good enough to fit in with other kids. I had my friends, but at the same time was made fun of for being different. I was different because I had problems understanding things and often my mouth would run off sentences that ended up not making sense at all. Others thought I was being slow and stupid – unfortunately, they also made sure that I knew it. I remember I stopped saying what I wanted to say for a long time and quieted down because I was afraid I was going to spit out something else dumb and get made fun of for it. I remember making that decision in my room one day. But it continued nonetheless. It wasn’t loving jeering either – they were the types of jabs that someone does to make themselves feel bigger and better than someone else. I think we’ve all felt that.
It all carried on through middle school. I just felt like I didn’t fit in. Sports helped – being part of a team. But in all, I just didn’t feel like anyone really had my back. There are some painful memories of being outcasted – some that I will keep close to the chest because they remind me to never make anyone else feel how I did. I felt disconnected. It was as if the world was moving around me. It wasn’t that I was moving against the current…it’s just like I was standing there facing the other way and everyone else was moving around me. I felt cut off.
Then I found music. Whenever I could, I put in my headphones. I remember my first CD player. In fact, I still have it in my old room. I remember that Eminem CD. I remember pressing play and closing my eyes and mouthing the lyrics with him to the beat. It helped me escape. His words, the anger….the fight in him – that fueled me. That got me going. It helped me feel like I could stand up for myself. And eventually I did. Eventually that skin turned into rock. That hard exterior would come back to hurt me though. I knew that everything on the inside was still hollow.
The years went on, and they didn’t get any easier. As you get older, the stakes get higher. The pains hurt a little bit more. And they did. I continued to change and morph myself into what I thought other people would like. It never worked. The problem with being anything but yourself is that other people always sniff b.s. no matter what. But I couldn’t just be myself. I didn’t know who that was. I was defined by things I did not by the type of person I was. I was one big reactive tornado. If you got in my path when things were raging inside, I either shut down or destroyed whatever was in the way. Most of the time, to save whatever I had around me, I just turned myself off…and continued to walk around feeling misplaced and alone.
I knew I was differently wired.
I found out years later as an upperclassmen in high school that I actually had a problem with processing . My performance scores for everything were in the 98th percentile, but when it came to processing, I scored very very low. Essentially, it would take me 3 times longer to process something than someone else. So it finally made sense to me why I had some problems in the past. But combine that with a general inability to get a grip on my mind and you have a walking disaster that continues to build upon itself. While you are trying to clean out all the hay from that gigantic heap that represents the perfect fire hazard in your barn…the side of you that you refuse to acknowledge, that dark side is secretly piling on more flammable material.
This process continued for years. I tried to figure my life out but I continued to drown from the pressure piling up on my shoulders. If you wait long enough, eventually something breaks. And it did. Originally I thought it was just the pile of hay that burnt down. But now, thinking back to it, the whole barn burned down. Everything. It was as bad as you could possibly imagine.
And that night defined the rest of my entire life.
But that night taught me something. You can’t be anyone or anything but you. You have to love yourself or else you’re a disaster waiting to happen. That “fire” in my life left me with an opportunity to rebuild things exactly the way I wanted them. For me, it was a blessing in disguise. I began writing what was in my heart and years later here I am making a life for myself and in general, happy as can be. But we shouldn’t have to let people get to that point of breaking down before they can truly learn what it’s like to depend on oneself. But how?
Bullying is a problem. But it goes beyond the word “bullying.” It’s about something more universal. It’s about a massive lack of love in our world today. And it starts with our children. I know there are children out there walking around with pain in their hearts because of what other people have said to them. I know they feel horrible about themselves. I know that they feel like they can’t fit in. I know that they are just looking for someone to love them and stand up for them and support them. I know this because I was there. I was that kid. That kid that walked around with a big hole in his heart knowing that something was wrong. That feeling lasted until I was 22. And I consider myself lucky. Because I know there are a lot of kids out there right now as I am writing this wishing they would rather not be here on this earth because of the things they have to go through every single day – and I consider myself lucky because I was handed an overflowing amount of resilience that kept me fighting, scratching, and clawing through it all. Some are not that fortunate.
We shouldn’t have to see our children walk around with the Black Dog nipping at their ankles. They shouldn’t feel like there’s no one in the world for them. It may not be the reality – that no one supports them – but the feelings are there and they need to be handled with care. The problem stems out of love. It happens because we are not loving each other enough. We aren’t telling people how we feel, we aren’t showing our gratitude, we aren’t taking the time out of our day to make in impact in someone else’s life because we are to focused on ourselves. We are focused on how many likes we got on our Facebook photo, on the party we are going to, on our upcoming gym session, on our problems – that for many of us, aren’t really even big problems at all. Thinking that “someone else will take care of it” or “I think they know how I feel” are just two examples of ways that we are massively disconnected with one another.
Never before in history have we been able to connect the way we can now – but at the same time – we have become more distant in a variety of ways.
So I’m making a stand. Not against bullying – because that will only create more bullying. But for love. Ridiculous, warm, outrageous, unconditional love for those around me. We tend to fight war, fight bullying, fight crime instead of stand for the positive. And for me, as I look back at the younger years of my life, I realize how important those moments where I felt really loved were. Those moments kept me going. They kept my eyes looking for light despite seemingly overwhelming amounts of darkness.
We have to put our opinions, politics, and preferences aside and open ourselves up to loving others just because they are here walking on this earth. Those type of actions create change. And you never know what your actions may do for another. They may just fill up another persons heart and be the fuel they need to love others themselves.
– Evan Sanders