A recent discussion involved ‘how’ we get the way we are. Speaking in regards to myself, the following story came to mind:
I was only partially raised this way. A number of the conclusions I came to were forced upon me; not as a preached system of belief but as a response to or resulting from the unreasonableness of others.
It really sounds almost silly, but I seriously think the fact that I was entered into kindergarten half-a-year earlier than I should have and thus ended up in grade school a year early helped me think this way. The result was being a smaller kid and having to compete with others that were ahead in years to try to fit in. As a result I was drawn more to academic pursuits and was physically smaller than most kids. This made me seem nerdy and made me subject to teasing.
Being a younger brother didn’t help this much because older brothers are good at exploiting weaknesses to teasing and conditioning you to them – making you a preferential target for bullies at school. In 4th and 5th grades it didn’t bother me because I had a small group of friends I hung out with. But then my best friend’s family moved to Arizona. Most of the other guys in our ‘click’ were neighbors of his. Meanwhile, most of the kids in my immediate neighborhood weren’t the sort I preferred to hang around with. So I ended up pretty much by myself in 6th grade and it led me to step back from it and start to examine it.
I continued to do so after changing to junior high and pretty much faded into the woodwork. I got into music and on a fluke got into a semi-professional regional group known as the ‘Academy Singers’. (it was pretty much a scaled down, regional version of ‘Up with People’)
The group came to my school as a result of our choir teacher and the group founder made me sing a solo in front of the whole school. Everything changed!
That group had been brought to my junior high school before — that’s how I got interested in it in the first place. At that time, it was all high school kids. I was the youngest person ever accepted to the group at that time.
The year before, most kids thought, “Oh yippee, a school assembly to watch choir fags! Joy! At least we get to skip class.” Suddenly they got to see someone they knew performing with a bunch of other people close to their ages doing a good job — even if it was in doing something they themselves wouldn’t.
When told we were coming to my Junior High again and that I was expected to perform a solo, I wasn’t to keen on the idea. I hadn’t done too many solos up to that point and the only song I was working on at the time was “Always on My Mind”. (It was one of the few I saw at the local music store that I both knew and reasonably liked. Despite the fact it was originally made famous by Elvis Presley, the song was popular at the time as a result of nasally Willy Nelson – that didn’t make things much better)
I expected the bully types to boo or at least the general opinion of me by the majority of the student body as the ‘skinny, nerdy, choir boy‘ to lead to a less-than-enthusiastic response. Instead, I got a standing, screaming, cheering ovation from my entire school and blushed for the first (and one of the few) times in my life.
[I remember one event in particular. One of the dreaded rites of being bullied in Junior high was riding the bus. There was a group of ‘burn-outs’ that used to ride in the back of the bus and when they got bored, they’d look for people to torment. My bus was no exception and although I wasn’t necessarily the primary target, I was by no means exempt.
After singing that night, I got out to the bus and sat up near the front as I usually did. One of the more notorious guys on the bus came in, and when he saw me flopped down quite deliberately into the seat across the isle. He sat there for a good 30 seconds just staring at me. Finally I was just like “What?!?!?” He simply leaned across the isle and extended his hand shaking his head saying “Dude, that took balls!” I shook his hand, he got up and went to the back of the bus with all the other rowdies as per normal, and never bothered me again after that day.]
It took over a year for that to sink in, but I realized that people recognize achievement, especially when they can identify with it in some way. I didn’t seek popularity after that any more than I had before. I was still nerdy, I was still a choir boy. t changed my entire outlook and I no longer tried to ‘fit in’. I started to do my own thing. I turned what had previously been simply ‘fuck everyone else‘ into, “fuck everyone else, I’m doing is right!”
I continue on that course to this day.