Sticks and Stones…

I’ve always been the type that showed little emotion. I pretended, often quite well, that nothing bothered me. But I was pretending. As much as we’ve all heard the old saying, words can hurt. Words aren’t just empty sounds floating through the air—they have power and meaning that become impressed in our minds and in our souls, sometimes for life.

When I was entering second grade, we moved to the other side of town, away from our friends and to a new school bus route. I became brunt of about 90% of the joking on that new bus—often by high school kids. Yes, I was 7 or 8, and they were 17 and 18. Life certainly isn’t fair, and I never expect it to be. But come on!?

The torment I endured on that bus certainly beat hardness onto my heart. (To this day, I won’t repeat some of the names, so don’t ask.) At that early age is when I started putting on a pretty good front, and by the age of 8, I knew I was always going to be the ugly kid, the fat kid, the awkward kid, the weirdo. I heard it every day, at school, on the bus, and sometimes at home. I kept up the hard front as much as I could, but as much as we’re told that if we stand our ground the bullshit will stop, it really isn’t always true. I played it tough and even made friends, but often they just fell in line with the others when they thought I couldn’t hear.

By the time I was in high school, the hardness was permanent. I did not make, nor want, many friends. The ones I had were almost accidental, and only one friend stuck around from childhood. And even they were kept at a distance. From my experience until then, friends betray you whenever it suits their interests. I had lived it more than once, so I stopped caring—or at least showing that I cared. I think I went through high school smiling just enough times to count without my shoes on. College didn’t change much.

I thought I found some happiness and self-esteem when I got to Delaware in 1990, but I hadn’t. Sure, I made a few friends and even dated a little. I was sometimes called “gorgeous” by a few folks I had never met. It was nice and made me feel good for a moment, but when I went home, I was still the ugly fat kid and figured they were just trying to make me (or my date) feel better. No matter the reality of it all, I was a hideous, foul tasting bit of something that the world wanted desperately to spit out. Sure, I had those days when things felt good, mostly when I explored the world and dabbled in photography. But at the root of it all, when I really had to think about who I was and where I was in the world, I was miserable inside. Not many people knew, but that little kid who was tormented on the bus and pushed aside in school had gone off to college, and he was floundering and dying inside.

Those words that I had endured 10 years earlier had stifled any potential I had inside, and I fell apart during my second year in college, dropping out after barely finishing my sophomore year. What saved me, ironically, was going home to disappear from the world a bit. No school, no crowds, no friends really. Just me, and work when I had it. It didn’t solve everything, but it kept me sane.

As I got older, I suppose looks mattered less, so I forgot about most of the ugliness. Most of the words and taunts left my memory. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it makes the scabs less prominent.  I eventually found happiness in keeping myself busy and learning new things. Ironically, returning to college was a big help. I was too busy to feel down, and certainly too busy to care if I was ugly or fat, no matter how many pretty college kids I was around. But some things remain.

I still struggle with insecurity about my ideas, creations, and my writing. I could never proofread my own college papers, or I would never turn them in.  I had to finish them the night before and submit them without even looking at them. My three readers here have NO idea how hard it is to even publish a blog. (I have quite a few unpublished “drafts” to prove it!) I still make lots of excuses and denigrate myself a little just in case something really does suck. (It rarely does.) But in some ways, I still feel the world is out to get me.

As much as I like to tell others “don’t give them the power anymore, just let it go,” I still struggle. Long ago, I absolutely and unconditionally forgave everyone who ever wronged me. That was something I had to do early on in college just to keep my sanity and to come to terms with family life. While I don’t hold grudges at all, I still don’t fully trust people. (Don’t take it personally.) There is just no denying that all those things I heard and endured still poke at my soul. Yes, they also made me the person I am, and that’s a blessing. But I am still fettered by those little scabs of doubt and hurt beaten onto my spirit.

6 Replies to “Sticks and Stones…”

  1. after i finished reading this a few times over i had to wait to make a comment. my emotions were flowing a bit too much…and i guess they still are.

    what you had to endure as a child, and then onto young adulthood, was a horrific thing. it’s a kind of pain that doesn’t ever go away. it may mellow a bit, but it never truly goes away entirely. it can scar you permanently, and you can carry it with you as baggage for the rest of your life. and those scars can be so much deeper and long lasting than any physical abuse.

    you talk about how you have put up a bit of a shield around you and your emotions toward people, and relationships with them. and that is totally understandable. going through all that you did, it is just a natural way for you to protect yourself from any future hurts.

    glenn, i’ve known you now for close to 6 years, and i just want you to know something. (you probably know it already, but i just have to say it again…)

    although i have never actually met you, i know how beautiful you are. yes, i always say how physically beautiful you are, and you know i mean that. but right now i’m talking about the beauty of your heart and mind. i can honestly say that i’ve never met a more beautiful person than you. from the very first encounter that i had with you, you have always showed me a kindness and caring that is overwhelming. you have been such a wonderful and compassionate friend to me. you’ve helped me through some very rough times. you were always there for me. and you know i’m so thankful.

    i suppose i just don’t see that shield that you’re wearing. to me your sensitivity, humanity, grace, and heart shine through so vividly to me.

  2. How on earth have we put up with each other for 6 years? LOL I guess because it’s just online time?

    And I think the internet is WHY you don’t see a shield. It has a built-in shield, so we can be ourselves more easily. At any given time, we can just not go online if some kind of drama or hurt is brewing…or better yet, I can tell someone to go to hell, and THEN go offline. LOL

    But this is why I’ve always told you I’m kind of a different person in “real life.” I suppose you’ll have to take my word for it… at least for now. LOL

  3. 🙂 okay, i’ll take your word for it, but all i know is that when i talk with you, you never fail to make me laugh, or feel better. that’s the glenn that i know….and i like him a lot. 🙂

  4. read this and really sympathised, my sister went through very similar experiences. I often try to adopt the ‘other people cant make you feel bad’ mantra, but sometimes its hard. thoughts 🙂

  5. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this since you became a part of my circle of “friends.” I put that in quotes because I can’t really know the random people that I come across on Google Plus. However, a few, including you, have kept my interest in the things posted in such a way that I feel some connection, even though; I may not know you all personally.

    In consequence, this blog has let me get to know you a little better. Being a little over three years since you wrote this, I assume not much has changed in your view. I speculate because I to went through ridicule throughout my teen years that left a few “scabs.” I never forget, and unlike you, I hold grudges. Contrarily, most people that ridiculed me are in my “friends” list on Facebook. I don’t know why.

    Thank you for sharing your story of your past and how you feel about it today. I often feel that I’ve withdrawn from those around me, new and old, that I find being alone is more fulfilling. In reality, I hate not opening up to others. I have so much to offer, but I don’t care enough to be assertive, in person.

  6. While a lot has changed in general—mainly a new career in a new state—everything above still holds true.

    Fortunately, I’m not timid and will speak to just about anyone about anything, thanks to two years of retail work in the late 90s. But some people still consider me introverted. For instance, I work hard on the job and am very proactive about getting things done. The people I work with most would have NO idea how knuckle-clinching a simple email can be for me sometimes. People I don’t work with often think I’m some quiet guy in the corner—mainly because I keep a work calendar here not a social one. I do not share my private life at work, either, due in part to my Southern upbringing. Hell, I’m selective about what I share online, though some may think it’s too much! 🙂

    I also disconnected from Facebook late last year—talk about a release! So I really get what you mean there. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why people would connect with me on FB having NO idea that everything about them now—usually nothing more than dogma they were trained to recite—is an affront to everything I stand for now. Why friend people without taking even a MINUTE to get to know them, you know? It was always: “Oh, we went to school together… *click*!” Yeah, no thanks. On G+, we all connect via our common interests and beliefs, NOT on archaic ideas of social obligation. So, I’m glad to know you there… even though you didn’t put a name here. 🙂

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