What? I write something that isn’t part of a comedy script or isn’t talking about The Amazing Race? If you’re here on this blog just for those two things, feel free to parachute out of here for this post. I am trying to write the occasional article that has nothing to do with either of those two things. So feel free to jump out now. Seriously. This is probably going to make you really bored if you keep reading.
Don’t worry, I try to keep this blog post as light as I normally do. In fact, there’ll be a joke about Eric Forman from That 70s Show in here at some point. No spoilers as to when the reference is made or what the exact content is, but good ol’ Topher Grace’s biggest role will show up in this post. Eventually.
Last year I spent four months backpacking in Europe. It was my first overseas adventure and decided to do it for many reasons:
a) I get to miss out on a shitty Canadian winter. Missing out on winter for 2016-2017 was awesome. Being here for 2017-2018 reminds me of how much I need to save up so I can go backpacking for six months again by the time November hits.
b) Too many people in Vernon make the same #FirstWorldProblem complaints every single day, give or take a hashtag. Everyone absorbs you into very minor issues or problems that have no physical, mental, financial, social or psychological impact on a person on a daily basis. Somehow it turns into this -huge- thing because, you know, Vernon.
c) Could I see myself permanently moving to Europe in the future?
d) I want to see a castle! Like, twenty castles!
e) I want to connect with my family heritage in Italy.
f) I want to meet new people in hostels and hear their stories. Make new friends.
g) I want the music, I want some of the booze, and occasionally I want to party. . .even if wanting to party leads to me being kicked out of a nightclub in Valencia because I was not behaving well, but that is not the point here.
h) Get laid
h) Letting go of things that have been bothering me from high school and university.
Part of what inspired me to pursue a life of travel can be found here. I wrote this right after I booked all of my plans to go backpacking in Europe.
People have wanted me to blog about my adventures and how it ties into my own personal growth. I only did one long blog post while backpacking through Europe and that post came at the very beginning of my trip. As my Facebook Memories loop back as to where I was a year ago and looking through my journal, I feel like now it is time to start opening up about the specific lessons I learned while traveling.
And nothing feels more appropriate than talking about traveling to my first city solo: Malaga, Spain, and how at the end of my five-day stay I overcame being bullied by S*** and M*** in high school.
Before tens of thousands of my weekly readers try to look them up and/or send them hate mail, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON’T. That’s not the point of this. Many of us who graduated together now have families and kids who are preparing to go to school. I think a piece like this will serve many purposes, including teaching our kids how to be better than they were.
Since I returned home from backpacking in April of last year, I saw somebody ask a question to people in the reality TV community if bullying from their youth affected them in their adulthood.
I was surprised by how many middle-aged men and women said they were still affected by it, and how it stopped them from pursuing a happy adulthood. It paralyzed them and they never figured how to get over it, they thought the people who did it never cared about who they bullied to this day, and how it took away from them any sense of self-worth. They are the type of people who search for an extreme quantity of escapist entertainment (e.g. Become glued to their TV set and invest all of their energy into fictitious narratives as real life fades as much as possible.)
As somebody who used to be affected by a lot of things and choosing to be intense into video games, reality TV, and other solitary activities, it really made me feel sympathetic for those who haven’t been able to move on to this day. Not only that but how little faith they had that their spirits could be lifted or try to get a fresh start at life.
Not everyone gets to be like me where one day you are playing Super Mario Strikers for twelve hours straight because you don’t know what else is worth your time to next being invited out to Hollywood by people you watch on TV because they think you are a nice and funny guy. Fast forward another two years later and now you are the person that people look to for inspiration, guidance, and to lift up their day.
I am a very lucky human being.
After reading through more stories of other middle-aged people online, it made me think of one thing:
WHAT IF THE PEOPLE WHO BULLIED YOU WERE TOO AWKWARD TO START A DIALOGUE WITH YOU OR DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO APPROACH YOU ONCE THEY REACHED ADULTHOOD?
Think about it. Once in adulthood, the people who acted like real assholes towards you when you were younger can only be real assholes today if they are in prison or have such a shitty life that word gets around town and think “damn, thank god I didn’t turn out like -that- guy.”
Well, there are always exceptions to the rule in the English language, but generally speaking, I hope I am right.
Therefore, I thought somebody like me could write a blog like this and be an example of how people can aim for closure on issues they had from their childhood.
Do you know why more middle-aged people are having a tougher time getting past trauma from their childhood more than any other generation? I believe I have the answer:
SOCIAL MEDIA ALLOWS YOU TO FIND PEOPLE WHO MAY KNOW OR WHO YOU ASSOCIATE WITH BULLYING YOU IN YOUR CHILDHOOD
I think about my parents and how they talk about high school. My dad graduated from high school fifty-one years ago, and I think he lost track with everyone he graduated with about forty-nine or fifty years ago. My mom knows a couple of childhood friends to this day, and that’s about it. Everyone else they communicate with are locals, friends through various people in the community, co-workers, and blood relatives.
Today, people in their 30s and 40s are regularly seeing updates from people on social media who they knew when they were teenagers. Every time you log onto the Internet, any negative memories you associate with any of them are constantly revived. For some people, it’s like *gasp* you never left high school. I am no doctor, but that has to be very unhealthy to have a chip on your shoulder.
Hell, it’s not a chip on your shoulder–it’s a boulder on your shoulder. What human being can handle boulders on their shoulders?
Unless you are that sonofabitch Atlas. How does he do it?! Somebody give him some Robxacet STAT!
The reality of us being able to move on from who we know in our childhood well into our adult years isn’t going to change anytime soon. So how do you get over it?
Well, for me, being able to let go of S*** and M*** bullying me happened when I was in Malaga, Spain. It was the very first bit of baggage in my mind that I was able to permanently empty out during my backpacking trip adventure. In fact, I think I found the exact moment it happened:
I wish you could see the back of my head and verify for yourself how on-point my manbun was that day aboard the Mirador Princess.
Don’t worry, you can go to almost anywhere in Spain for this type of beauty. And I ain’t just talking about my manbun! Go to Ronda if you are ever in Spain.
I hiked to the top of that thing.
That’s the view from the top of that thing. It was the first hike I ever did in my life, and I did it alone. This hike is more dangerous than it looks.
Prior to going on the Mirador Princess, I journaled about S*** and M***. At least once per week (sometimes more), being bullied by S*** and M*** at Fulton High School would hit my brain like a sudden jolt along with other things that hurt me in my childhood.
I still remember that first day of being in French 11. I was in the classroom and chose a seat at a table which I liked. There was enough room for two more people to join me. Eventually S*** and M*** come over to my table. I thought they were going to join me and I was going to make new friends.
I was wrong.
M***: Ummmmm, we’re sitting here.
S***: . . .
M*** (staring at me): We are sitting here.
PICTURED HERE: M*** doing her best impression of Gretchen from Mean Girls.
I guess you could say that would make S*** be like Karen from Mean Girls at the time then, but. . .I don’t know, a chunk of the traits don’t exactly match up.
In that moment I was reduced to the size of an ant. I grabbed my backpack, and moved to a lone seat. M*** and S*** had successfully bullied me and humiliated me. Since I went through all of high school without ever feeling like anyone had my back and having no one to really turn to, something like that really really hurt me. I thought I was getting friends, but instead all I got was hostility.
I was an easy target, and M*** and S*** went after me in that moment because they knew they could get away with it.
I felt like a target in the archery mini game of Wii Sports Resort.
I don’t think people knew too many specific things about me in high school, but one thing people did know is I was really good with any subject related to Social Studies/History.
I would avoid interacting with S*** and M*** until History 12. Guess who decided to sit behind me and my friend Jake in high school? A subject where I would get 99% when the class average was 62%?
O, y hello thar S*** and M***. How convenient for you guys to suddenly want to sit with me again.
Throughout the course, S*** and M*** magically wanted to be in a group with me and Jake for every assignment. I thought times had changed as a year had past since French 11, and that we were becoming genuine friends.
Jake has certain things about him which set him apart from the typical high school student.
S*** has certain things about her which set her apart from the typical high school student, particularly in terms of religion.
M*** also has certain things about her which set her apart from the typical high school student culturally.
I also have certain things about me which set me apart from the typical high school student. There wasn’t anyone like me or who I could identify with while at school.
I thought that and the guilt of what they did to me in French 11 was enough to elicit more than a ‘hello’ when I run into S*** and M*** in the general public, or to maintain some sort of loose friendship/acquaintanceship after History 12 ended.
But I was wrong. Nothing had changed.
They targeted me when they just wanted a fucking preferred seat in class, and one year later used me just to get a good grade at the very end of high school then cast me aside like some guy who has a combination of leprosy and lice.
And like 99% of us, I originally learned what leprosy was thanks to The Simpsons.
It bugged me for years that these were one of the things that happened to me. It was also tough for me to say anything about what happened because S*** and M*** aren’t exactly the most physically intimidating people. When you know what the general culture for gender norms and gender performance is, especially at an impressionable age, saying two people who are smaller combined than high school gym teacher Mr. Olson when he is on steroids is a tough thing to talk about openly.
I remember being angry about it for years.
I remember S*** and M*** having a close friend named Danielle who was notorious for being quiet, and made jokes at her expense just because she associated with S*** and M***.
I remember S*** getting a job for a few years where my sister was essentially her boss, and upon finding out I would trash-talk S*** to my sister a few times hoping S*** would feel a fraction of the pain that her and M*** caused me.
Then, when I was on top of the Mirador Princess, it hit me–S*** and M***’s actions weren’t able to stop me from an adventure that so many people in Vernon are afraid to do. In my first city in a country where English isn’t the primary language spoken, I was able to fend for myself, embark on a dangerous hike, make friends with complete strangers who I remain in contact with to this day, have dozens of stories from my first hostel alone, and a New Year’s Eve celebration in Malaga that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
All in five days. Imagine what the next three months of my life will be like and what other stress will vanish from me.
Because when you travel, the shit you hold onto from your small shitty town disappears. Something that happens to you as an individual loses nearly all of its power because the chains snap when your concerns go from “something that happened nearly ten years ago is affecting me” to “man, I hope I find a place to sleep for the night and don’t have my passport stolen”.
Since letting go of being bullied, I had left one thing to the side for the past year: When is the right time to communicate this to S*** and M***?
I was never in a rush to answer this question, and wanted to wait until the least selfish time to do so.
And today, that time has finally come.
S*** and M***,
a) I want this to raise awareness that as high school graduates send their children into the public education system, we need to teach our kids and any other youth we encounter to always look out for those who are being picked on or are lonely in class. Ask your kids specifically if any peer seems ‘weird’, and encourage your kid to talk to him or her. Away from any sort of mob mentality.
I never treated people that great for a lot of years growing up because I rarely felt positive vibes being sent towards me, and I know not everyone is going to experience the loving and uplifting turnaround that I have been so lucky to have gone through over the past few years.
b) My door is always open. You guys are always free to talk to me at anytime. I am sorry if you disagree with my methods of bringing this issue to light, but I thought this was the best way to help educate the public, inspire others, and also be personable at the same time.
c) Since I probably learned much more about you than you ever did about me, I wanted to give you a very brief rundown of my social experience in high school:
i) I found a tough time finding any specific group I could fully identify with in school. While everybody could find something for them during things like Diversity Day, I was stuck not finding anything during Diversity Day each year for me to assign myself to.
Unless it’s like Phil Keoghan carrying a Survivor torch while riding on an ostrich carrying poker chips, and Donkey Kong running after him for some reason. For some reason Alex Trebek and Amerie are there too.
ii) I found gender performance and gender scripts to be very difficult. Because of how our young boys are taught, they are extremely forced and pressured to follow a very specific script in male-only situations.
This was extremely uncomfortable, fake, and awkward growing up. That is why my only friends in high school who I ever spent a significant amount of time with were women and LGBTQ men (they weren’t out of the closet yet, but they were once high school was over).
And because gender performance and gender scripts force women and LGBTQ men isolate certain aspects of their culture from others while growing up, this only led to me being very isolated.
A heterosexual male who only feels comfortable hanging out with women and LGBTQ men. . .
I was essentially the James Van Der Beek of Fulton.
And have the upper body strength of Eric Forman. In gym class I would lose arm wrestling competitions to other people despite me using my dominant hand when they were using their non-dominant hand.
It is kind of funny, but the first time I ever had to hang out with -only- a straight male who wasn’t one of my siblings was when I was in Hollywood hanging out with Justin Scheman two years ago. We quickly met up with our friend Krista, and I remember at the end of the conversation Krista and Justin were talking and were about to split up.
Justin was going to do an activity which is typically out of my comfort zone (no, nothing illegal so chill), and Krista, who was roughly the same age as my sister and was the person in my childhood who I clung to in situations whenever an uncomfortable alternative arose, immediately became the person I wanted to cling to in that scenario just because she was representing my sister in that scenario.
Krista dropped an “ummmm, no you can’t be here for what’s about to happen next,” and I was pushed out of my comfort zone as I hung out with Justin.
It was the first time in my life where I had to hope that being around a straight male with no women present wasn’t going to be a super obnoxious gender brodown like what I absolutely avoided in my youth.
“Like, am I just gonna be stuck here discussing asses and titties with Justin Scheman for the next two hours? Dear God, I hope fucking not.”
Luckily, Justin isn’t like a chunk of the dudes I was stuck going to school with in Vernon, so that never happened. It actually ended up being a fun couple of hours as we killed time.
iii) I could name all six women in the Pussycat Dolls in the tenth grade, and also be able to name all members of N.W.A. And the reason why my hair was frequently awesome even during the days when it was short is because it had hairspray in it. That’s why when you touched it the top of my head felt like a freakin’ porcupine.
Yes, there are members beyond Eazy E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre.
iv) Veronica Mars may or may not be my jam.
Well, the first two seasons of Veronica Mars, anyway.
Otherwise my answer would be Ke$ha as being my jam, most likely.
As somebody who is in his mid-20s now, and being in the position that I am, I can’t help but feel that I have some responsibility to promote positive change within my community. I know by this time tomorrow I’ll go back to being the guy who jokes about butts and quoting Nicki Minaj lyrics when it is inappropriate, but hey, sometimes I just gotta help the people grow and do my part.
Or post screencaps of the capital S-Fresh N-Double O-P D-O-Double G zee. Snoop Dogg is dope. And I ain’t talking about that Chronic.