Warning: this is a little self-indulgent, but get to the end and it’ll be worth it. Cool? Let's go then.
Okay, I’m not what you’d call a manly man. I don’t play sports, I’m not macho (thank god) and I’ve always gotten on better with women rather than men. Now, some of you will have read that differently than others. It’s not intended as an insult to any macho guys in a bromance who love sports. It’s just me.
Now, growing up, I was always like this too. The shy kid, never quite big or fast or strong enough to play with the other boys. While they were busy chasing girls, I just liked talking to them (the chasing would come later for me).
You may be noticing a pattern by now. Lil old me was always the odd boy out. Inevitably, I got bullied for it. The favourite was “gay” (yeah, it’s still an insult in some places, I know, right?), while “useless,” “spazz,” and “weirdo,” were common too. I also have a particularly easy last name to rhyme, which didn’t help.
I didn’t get beat up (very often), it was subtler than that. I wouldn’t be included in the jokes or plans, I’d be ignored, and of course, in typical school fashion, I’d be left out of the sports teams. Did it bother me? Yeah. Did I do anything? Kind of.
For reasons that would turn this article into a novel, I left school. Naturally, this heightened the alienation, but also made me a kind of school celebrity in everyone’s eyes. I enjoyed the attention if I’m honest, but even this was fleeting.
Made it past the boring backstory? Good, cause the meat of what I’m at getting at starts now.
Many years later, when I was about 19 and in my final year of college before going to uni (I’m from the UK by the way), I was walking home, headphones in, mutely watching the world go by, when some kids sped around the corner and nearly knocked me down. I admit I’m not above swearing at 13 year olds, so I did, just as the first barrage of their taunts hit my ears.
Why’d I do it and not just ignore them? A few reasons. I grew more confrontational as I aged, a symptom of my environment. I was already in a bad mood that day cause, life. I also think, subconsciously, I was projecting what I felt as a kid, towards those kinds of kids, onto them. Me and repressed emotions were old friends at that point.
So, whatever, right? No one was hurt, and I would’ve quickly forgotten it, but something awesome happened after that.
This kid, maybe 11 or 12, comes up to me—bearing in mind I’m nearly 6’2 at this point, broad-shouldered and looking particularly pissed off. He’s holding something, a file maybe, but I don’t remember that very well.
I remember the kid though. Kind of small for his age, blondie-brown hair and wearing old, but well-cared for clothes. There was so much more to him than that though!
You ever met someone who’s wise beyond their years? Smart in ways that seem impossible for them to be? That was this kind. How do I know? Cause of what he said after boldly walking up to me.
He asks me if I’m okay, and tells me those kids are jerks and not to pay attention to them cause they’re not worth it. This kid, I have no doubt, was bullied by them and taunted for, I imagine, many of the same reasons as me. He didn’t look like he fit in either. Like recognises like.
I could never truly say that I rose above my bullies. I left. Ran. Avoided the problem. But this kid had risen above. Actually, risen above! He’d looked them defiantly in the eye and said no. What’s more, he’d chosen to help people who they also hurt.
I’ll admit it, that revelation came, in the moment, came in the form of, “holy shit this kid’s great.” He told me to not let them get me down, and I replied for him to do the same, but my non-committal, “you too kid,” didn’t quite cut it, and I wish I’d said more.
I thought about it a lot on the way home and for days after and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Then, when lying awake in bed thinking about (cause I‘m a millennial and what even is sleep?), I figured out why it was so prominent in my mind. He was the kid I always wanted to be.
The strong one, the kid who stood up to bullies and defended all the other kids.
If you’re still here, I’m sure you’d like an end to my rambling, so I’ll be succinct.
If a little kid from the North of England can stand defiantly in the face of his bullies, and be so unashamedly himself that he’ll help total stranger, what’s your excuse? We could all learn from him. So, remember the lesson he taught, and remember to stand, and help others stand, in the face of bullies. Cause at the end of the day, we’re all just kids looking out for each other.