Every day in 7th grade I was mercilessly bullied for my appearance. My mother, a single parent, nearly worked herself to exhaustion each day by working 3-4 jobs while splitting enough time between work and home life to make sure my brother and I kept our grades up in school. She tried her best to keep those smiles on our faces that seemed to fade away each day. She kept the roof over our heads though everything around us seemed to be collapsing. By only making enough money to pay for our necessities, she could not buy us the latest shoes and clothes every few months.
Other kids noticed my lack of fashionable expression, but one kid, in particular, noticed this very well. He was a sharpshooter with his words and each day I was the bullseye lined up right in his scope when I entered the classroom. Every day I woke up with anxiety filling every corner of my mind. Seventh grade was absolutely devastated nearly every aspect of my life and that experience left an imprint of hyper self-awareness, frustration, depression, and deep seeded anger.
Recently, my mother moved to a new house and there was a rickety, old shed that looked like the wind had been kicking its ass for some time. Since the shed did not match with the vision of her new home, she requested I put it out of its misery. I gladly accepted and the next day, I grabbed my sledgehammer, ax, and blasted my Led Zeppelin playlist and went to work! I swung that ax and sledgehammer with the worst intentions and it produced a satisfying level of destruction. Hours passed and my giddiness only grew.
Have you ever been in a peaceful place in your mind and suddenly it is disrupted by a barrage of unsolicited thoughts? A blitzkrieg of negative thoughts rushed to every part of my mind while dismantling my inner peace in the process. My mind returned back to 7th grade and I was reliving those days of torture. I saw myself as that helpless kid in the corner wanting to rush out of the classroom. I wanted to step in front of that helpless kid and release my frustration and anger on anyone that hurt him, but I couldn’t. The more I relived those days in my mind, the more I wanted vengeance, so I swung harder and faster at the shed. Wood and nails flew into the air and crash landed on the ground below. Hate and anger energized me and this was only day one.
It took me seven days to knock down that damn shed and at the end of it all, I was more mentally exhausted than physically exhausted. Each day, I went back into that classroom and re-experienced the terror. I looked my bully in his eyes each day for hours on end never breaking a stare. I wanted to tear him down the same way I tore that shed down.
After the unbalanced shed crashed to the ground, I went inside for a warm shower and to get some rest. My level of mental fatigue was at an all-time high. I felt like I just went through 7 exam weeks in a row. As I laid on my bed, I said to myself, “Hey, let me see what this guy’s up to. He’s taken so much of my time already.” I got on Facebook, no results. I tried Instagram, still no results. On to Google, did not find anything. I tried re-spelling his first and the last name got nada. But then I added “Richmond, VA” to the end of the newly spelled name and I finally get results.
The first result I see is an obituary result. My chest tightened and my eyes widened as I saw his face and read the words of his obituary. It was, in fact, my 7th-grade bully. I knew it was him, not just by the name but by his eyes, as I have looked into his eyes many of times long after 7th grade. According to the obituary, he was shot and killed over 4 years ago.
A rush of mixed emotions flooded my mind but a life-saving thought floated safely through the storm of emotions, “Is your hate for him and reliving those terrible times in your life bringing you closer to who you want to become?” Yes, on the outside I used him as a catalyst to tear down that shed, but truthfully I was the one that was torn for so many years. The scars did not heal even after a decade and a half later. The wounds were still fresh. After hours of playing ping-pong with my thoughts, I decided to let go and finally move on. I used anger and hate to fuel me but I realized that hate is not a sustainable resource to rely on.
I made this decision because moving towards who I am becoming is a lot greater, more satisfying, and more inspiring than who I told I was. It also did not make sense to me to have this boiling, almost never-ending hate for someone that wasn’t alive anymore. There is no way that he could feel my hate even if I spent each day wishing for payback. For so many years, my hate had turned inwards.
That day, I gave up living in the past so I continue creating my future. I encourage you to continue to pursue your greatest version of yourself. The journey to pursue your higher sense of self is between you and you. If your past is consumed by hate, anger, and depression, each step will be haunted and your journey will be filled with endless roadblocks and dead ends. If you do not let go to grow, you will continue to tear yourself down like that shed in my mother’s backyard.
Photo Credit: Edward Fielding. “Creepy Old Shed In The Cemetary Poster.” 2018. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/creepy-old-shed-in-the-cemetary-edward-fielding.html?product=poster.