Why Being Bullied Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me
In a society littered with bullying, disregard, and strong opinions, it is without doubt that many 21st-century youth share difficulty in finding acceptance among their families and peers ― particularly if they are similar to me and identify as a gay man.
December 2001 was when I comprehended my attraction to other men. I felt inverse about my sexuality and questioned how people would distinguish me as I matured. My story began in 2004 when I entered high school in South Windsor, Connecticut. I recall the first day of school like it was yesterday, I was fearful, faced with the burden of growing to a new level of education, conquering tough homework assignments and the inevitable task of building new friendships. From bulletin boards on the wall to a room of new peers, everything seemed so distant and unfamiliar.
It wasn’t until halfway through my freshman year when I began to socialize and make new friends. I was always observed upon as different ― in fourth grade, I was diagnosed with Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), a condition that involuntary forced my mind to process words differently. Standard classrooms had to be modified for me and teachers had to speak into a microphone in order to magnify their voices so I could understand every word that was said. More often than not, I would miss important deadlines and misinterpret information said by teachers and fellow colleagues.
To my surprise, my new friends supported my struggling transition to high school and included me in many extracurricular activities. But there was one thing that my peers didn’t know about me — I was attracted to the same sex. I hesitated to tell them in fear of humiliation and embarrassment. Oftentimes when comments about cute girls would be made, I would turn my head and act like I didn’t hear them. Little did I know, these new friends would turn into my worst nightmare ― having lifelong effects on my career, goals, and dreams.
Through engaging in light conversation with my friends, I began to be bullied. I was called every insulting name that one can think of. “Who does this faggot think he is and why did God make him so gay? You should just go and kill yourself so people don’t have to listen to you!” These confrontations still reckon with me today. In detail, it wasn’t just verbal bullying — I was harassed, punched and kicked on a daily basis. The only thing that protected me from being locked in my own locker was my cumbersome body. Just because I attended a school in an affluent community, my cries for help were silenced by threats and fears from other classmates. I often thought to myself how someone can put me down so low to make me feel like I am worth nothing. In reality, this is society today. Often, youth, especially those in high school, feel the need to put each other down to make themselves feel important. I can assure you, high school is not how it use to be back in the ’70s and ’80s. Bullied youth, even those who are at the top of their academic class can become distracted, losing sight of their future and achievements. It is a silent plague that fills schools, even claiming the lives of innocent students who fall victim.
My marks were below acceptable and every university I applied to exclude me. My childhood friends boasted about being accepted to elite private institutions and their parents stood behind them like a proud trophy. I desired to reach out to them and beg for help, but my arms were never long enough and the feeling of detachment became real. Feeling low with myself, I accepted my only option — to attend community college for two years. This would allow me the opportunity to prove my existence. To my surprise, this was the best decision I made.
After high school, I became passionate about entrepreneurship. I met new friends who I felt safe with and my college professors encouraged me to be the best I could be, despite my rocky past. After all, I was free, endless to create my own goals, manage my own time and study subjects that interested me. I didn’t have anyone to answer to nor did I have to face humiliation and ridicule for everything I did. I knew that college would be a place where I would thrive. I was passionate and determined to show the world that I was not sorry for being bullied.
I began to research others who were bullied. To my surprise and after a few Google searches, I started to realize that perhaps I was never the problem. I was quick to get home from college that evening to share my findings with my family. From learning about jealousy and praying on those who are weak, I began to tailor the research to fit my own life. It wasn’t long before I began to paint a clear picture in my head about what had happened to me.
Of course, this didn’t come overnight. By this time I had attempted suicide several times and had spent many evenings crying. Depression would come and go. Suicidal thoughts hovered over me like a billowing cloud. It was evident that the physical and emotional scars from high school served as constant reminders of my worthlessness. It wasn’t until I opened up to one of my professors about my traumatic past and shared my findings. I was reassured that I was never the problem and that I had a promising future ahead of me, filled with success and learning, love and meeting new people. I was excelling in business school and was happy to surround myself with students that also wanted to better themselves, not because they had to be there. Everything started to fall into place. I never was the problem.
See — I wasn’t your typical high school student. I was a caring individual and would constantly go out of my way to assist others. I had a loving family at home that provided me with shelter, love, and food on the table every night and most prominently — embraced my sexuality. I was encouraged each day to do my best and was raised to know that two wrongs don’t make a right. As a millennial, jealousy remains a large issue in today’s society. Many communities are plagued with students who see no future for themselves. Perhaps those who bully see others as a threat.
In reality, bullying brought me closer to those who I cared so deeply about, and those who encouraged me to do my best. I learned self-acceptance and grasped the notion that I was the captain of my own vessel. If I wanted to make something great of my life, I had to look into the open ocean, where anything was possible.
Last year, I had the opportunity to publish my third book about the unfortunate events that I encountered in my younger years. I continue to navigate my own ship and sail the open waters, steering clear of threats that may lie ahead. I am not sorry that I was bullied and I refuse to accept condolences. Those who are bullied are stronger than they were yesterday and if you continue to steer your ship into the open waters, you too will find your own acceptance in everything you do.