It all started when he was a boy, he was never the coolest kid, ever the funniest. Wasn’t the best at sports, didn’t have a ton of friends. Sounds like a sad story? Not really.
This boy still enjoyed life. He had a great time with his family, he was a fantastic student (one of the best). Being a fantastic student was great for scholarships and other life opportunities, except for the most important of them all, friends.
During the elementary years this was never a big deal, kids are all friends with each other. No one really pays attention to anyone else. But then middle school came along and the boy felt like he had been hit by a truck. His whole life changed that first year of middle school, nearly every aspect of it. Everything except for that glorious brain of his. The dark side of this “condition” of his finally emerged from the shadows.
Being the student he was, he often became close to his teachers, much closer than everyone else. The other students weren’t oblivious to what was happening, it seemed like everyone noticed the staying after class and one on one conversations. That’s when the name calling really started to kick in. “Nerd,” “teachers pet,” “midget”: all daily occurrences. When called the names he would laugh and make jokes about it, playing along. Hide how he really felt on the inside, put on his happy mask and wander the halls day-by-day. He could only escape the relentless teasing by reading, writing, or anything else by himself.
He thought it couldn’t get any worse, but somehow it did. In the next few years his worst enemy hit, puberty. The smelly armpits, constant voice cracks, raging hormones. The strange part was it wasn’t him, it was everyone else. So what, the other kids were bigger, stronger, had deeper voices. No problem, right? Wrong. This always made the boy smaller, weaker, and the squeaker of the group. Friends that were once considered brothers to him turned on him and left, because he was different than them.
All the while the teasing continued. The pain from everything seemed to keep stacking on top of each other. He was still the teacher’s pet, still the nerd. Still the midget surrounded by towering giants that were “messing around.” Well it didn’t feel like messing around, it was more comparable to cramming the knife in farther that had been stabbed into his back for years now.
Friends and puberty weren’t his only issues now. He was in middle school now, where students had to try out for sports. He barely made the 7th grade basketball team, playing the bench more than the court. Spending more time reading than practicing lead to his skills to be a little weaker than others who were committed. Soccer didn’t have tryouts until high school so he was safe for now. The travel soccer team that he wanted to play on was too much money and the travelling was too much for divorced parents to handle. If he did tryout, he probably wouldn’t make the team anyway, he had accepted this likely outcome. He wasn’t an athlete, he was a reader.
So many hours were spent engrossed in a book. Any kind of book, just something to take his mind off everything else going on in his life. The books could take him away, to a better place, a place of no problems of his own. The characters always had conflicts, but were always solved happily by the end of the book. After a day or two he would pick up another book and learn about another person’s problems again just to see it solved a couple hundred pages later. His collection of all A report cards was keeping up with his collection of books as time went on. These stacks of accomplishments reached high while his self-esteem fell low. He tried to pretend it was okay, always acted happy. Plastered on smiles wherever he went. Not a soul in the world could see the pain.
Throughout 8th grade he continued to mill through the halls, took some crap from the same people, still got fabulous grades, and was still adored by his teachers. They saw something in him that no one, including he, could see. He just saw himself as a student who paid attention and did what he was told. There was always the lingering thought of “Why is this so easy?,” or why he had a college reading level in the 5th grade. Sometimes he liked that he got good grades.
Good grades meant good college scholarships, a promising future and so much more. But of course there is always a storm behind that silver lining. People, a crushing force that greatly outnumbered him overwhelmingly. There was nothing he could do, no where to go. Every turn, every class, everyday. People. People. People. A never ending threat with their crosshairs never seeming to move from him, and his heart. The words hit soft at first, like cute bubbles popping against the skin. Then the words became water balloons, sting a little, leaving behind their residue and then they’re gone. But over time the people and the words grew into bullets, pushing their way through and piercing any barrier that the boy had put up.
Then basketball season hit, and it hit hard. He hadn’t practiced all summer because he was too busy reading, or boating, or crashing his bike, or some other stupid thing. Bike crashing seemed to be a weekly occurance, if not more often. When riding he became distracted with all the fighting thoughts in his mind, he started daydreaming of how he wanted things to be and would end up not paying attention and finding himself sprawled out across the pavement. Only a skinned knee and a busted pride to walk away with. Even without practicing as much as he should have he considered himself to be a decent basketball player, apparently the coaches had a different mindset. He was devastated. For about 5 years he had been playing basketball, but that winter ended up being quite boring for him.
Since he didn’t have anything else to do he picked up karate for a few nights a week. While doing the moves he imagined hitting his enemies. Slamming his fist into their face. Smashing a knee into a stomach. Pounding a kick to the ribs. This helped him keep his cool during the rougher times and not have to deal with as much pain as his imagination created scenes of payback and revenge and an end to the suffering.
Life continued on for this boy. He made it to high school. He had heard so many bad things about high school, hard classes, swirlies, upperclassmen. It didn’t seem like he would make it through the next 4 years. When freshman year hit, the most miraculous thing happened. It seemed as though most of the other people had matured a bit over the summer, they no longer treated him like nothing. He was something for once. There was the occasional teasing every once in awhile but it wasn’t nearly as bad as before. He became emotionally stronger and more immune to the little problems in life.
Freshmen year he made some new friends that actually treated him as a friend. He was in a few advanced classes but they were still simple to him. Life started to look better. The end of the year finally came and an all A report card hit the fridge once again. Shortly after school got out this worst enemy finally hit him hard, puberty. For months he couldn’t finish a sentence without screeching a few syllables. Most kids would hate this moment in their life but deep down the boy welcomed these changes with open arms, he would finally be like everyone else. By the middle of sophomore year he had grown nearly 6 inches, nearly taller than his mom. His voice hardly cracked anymore and his voice was finally as deep as everyone else’s.
This year when he tried out for soccer they didn’t have enough people for cuts so he got on the team without any trouble. Every second of his life was devoted to soccer. Playing time was scarce for him and practice was the only way to change this. Friends and memories were made, he got better and finally fully enjoyed himself. He lost some friends in the beginning of the year but they were gone now, just a vague memory. Then the most outrageous thing happened, he landed a girlfriend. All those years and he finally found someone who actually liked him back. But reality struck shortly after and the high school relationship ended a short 3 months later. These three months taught him a lot and he thought of them as some of the best in his life.
The thing was, the boy finally felt better. He wasn’t picked on anymore, had friends, was finally good at something other than school, and got to have a girlfriend for a minute. Life was good. As a sophomore he knows it will continue to get better. Roadblocks will get in the way, but life will carry on. Fly on your dreams and embrace who you really are and life will be enjoyable. You might not be the “coolest” kid, or the funniest, or the best athlete, but your story doesn’t have to be sad. Your story could be like mine. I was a boy who had some struggles. But I overcame them and made something of my life. I started to stop caring what other people thought and moved on. I had a good life as a boy.