Being a kid isn’t easy. Sure, as adults we look back on our early years and reminisce about how easy it all was.
But when it was happening it didn’t seem easy at all.
We were still very new to this world and new things were coming at us from every direction every day.
Being shoved into elementary school is one of those new things, and when you first get there, it’s downright shocking.
I remember thinking about how loud everyone else was all the time.
I remember being super empathetic towards other kids, like when they got their feelings hurt, or especially if they were crying.
You could say I was a quiet, sensitive kid
Of course, at the time I didn’t think there was anything wrong with this.
That is, until things started happening…
The cooler kids started picking on me. They pushed me around, called me names.
But I didn’t really care about all that. I wasn’t a small kid, so I knew I could fight back if I wanted to.
Don’t get me wrong, I was scared, but not of them. I was more scared of losing and then being made fun of.
Getting my ass kicked didn’t bother me
Of course that’s what lead into other things.
Soon, those cool kids attracted more cool kids to come push me around and call me names.
Again, this didn’t bother too much, except when they would walk away and laugh at me.
That bothered me because they did that in front of the other kids in the class.
The pushing and name-calling sessions typically happened out of sight, behind the cubby wall, or in the bathroom.
But when they were done, they would walk back out in plain sight and rejoice in their accomplishment, laughing and high-fiving each other.
This bothered me.
It bothered me particularly when they did it where the girls could notice.
“Oh hell naw!”
The praise they gave each other for picking on my poor sensitive little ass was not the only praise they got though.
As all cool kids, these cool kids were loud. They told jokes, they raised their hands, they didn’t seem to have a problem putting themselves ‘out there.’
For this, they received attention from teachers and other students. But mostly from girls.
Introvert, sensitive, quiet, it doesn’t mater. When you’re a little boy you want the attention of the girls in your class.
So I started forcing myself to speak up
Of course the cool kids did not like that.
The pushing and name calling got worse.
But, I was prepared to fight back. And I was going to be loud about it. After all, “that’s how you get attention and praise.”
I remember being scared to hit this one kid. But he pushed me and pushed me.
So I hit him in the stomach.
He doubled over for a moment, but then he laughed.
So did the other kids who were cheering him on.
Then he hit me in my face so hard I saw a flash of light. It wasn’t the first time I’d been hit that hard, but for some reason it’s the most memorable.
Seeing that I wasn’t making much progress, I decided to really give it to him.
I drew back and nailed him in the ribs.
This time I could hear the wind leave his body.
I felt bad.
Then he came at me and slammed my face into the cubby holes. It was brutal.
I was crying like a maniac
I wanted to break his jaw, but being a sensitive little kid, I didn’t want to hurt him, so I didn’t hit him in the face.
I had never hit anyone in the face. I was too afraid of hurting someone.
A shot to the ribs seemed more humane.
My cousin and I used to fight constantly, but I was always big enough to wrestle with people and throw them around to get them off of me without hurting anyone.
But this kid wasn’t going to let me get away with that.
I was going to have box this kid like I’d seen on HBO.
So I did.
I hit him right in the face.
I hit him so hard I hurt my own hand.
“That was stupid” I thought. “I hurt my own damn hand.”
The kid ran off crying and told on me.
I got in a lot of trouble. But I also got attention from the girls in my class.
The teacher seemed to know my name from then on.
Kids still messed with me, but I had friends now too. Other kids wanted to hang around now.
“That wasn’t stupid at all…”
That is when I realized the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
That’s when I started forcing myself to be extroverted.
I really hated it. But I did it for years, decades even.
Soon I would find myself in bars, and at parties, forcing myself to be extroverted.
Eventually, I needed more. I was having trouble forcing it, and “no one likes you when you’re not entertaining them.”
So I did what came natural…
I started experimenting with drugs
It was perfect! I didn’t have to force anything.
I could just drink a few beers, pop a few pills and suddenly I was the guy everyone came to see.
“What’s that officer? Oh you want me to quiet down. Well, I’m sorry, my so-called friends came for a show. So guess what? Now you’re part of that show.”
To you, this might sound like an extreme example. But trust me, this is the toned down version of the story.
This is exactly what we are teaching our kids now too. Without even realizing it.
I don’t have any real solutions for this problem (yet). But I think awareness is a great starting point.
So if you have kids — nieces, nephews, whatever — try to think of this when you examine their behavior.
Telling them “you have to speak up to get what you want” might not be the best course of action.
Maybe the squeaky wheel shouldn’t be the only that gets the grease.
If you’re greasing one wheel, it’s very likely that the others are close to needing grease too.