Annie Lane: A note on coping with bullies and hardships
Published 5:50 pm Friday, December 2, 2022
Dear Annie: This letter describes my life experiences with bullies and how I managed to succeed. I was a scrawny, pimple-faced little kid growing up, had a weak voice, got fists shaken in my face while being held to the ground several times, was held underwater in swimming class and nearly drowned, was mocked for not having a girlfriend until my early 20s and was always the last person to be picked for a team in gym class. Living through all that, I never wanted anything to do with sports or extracurricular activities. Much of the mockery came from the sports jocks and guys bigger than me.
Once I graduated, I swore I’d never have anything to do with class reunions or sports, and I haven’t. I’ve heard that those individuals “are different people now” and that I should attend a reunion to see for myself and maybe show off some of my accomplishments. I feel the saying “A leopard never loses its spots” applies here. I’m in my early 70s now and am mostly over the pain, embarrassment and frustration. Even so, now and then, I wouldn’t mind unfortunate things happening to those people who made my life unbearable. Mostly, I get over those ideas of revenge quickly and resume the latest book, project or movie I’m consuming.
Just in the past few years, I’ve learned never to take any abuse from anyone. I’m a gentle person, dislike violent movies or TV shows and I no longer put up with abusive people. I’ve learned a lot from various autobiographies. Many famous people were abused but managed to do quite well in spite of it all. But the scars never go away totally. I’ve read many books and learned a lot. My wife, daughter and I have traveled the world and met famous people, and I’ve had a great retirement.
Instead of totally withdrawing and being sad about my experience as a pre-teen and teenager, I pursued activities and hobbies that didn’t involve school, sports or winning. Instead, I like to learn. The activities in my youth were physical, but they involved just two or three other people. I am quite healthy now. I turned my hobbies into a very good career.
My advice to young people in a situation similar to mine is to pursue activities to increase your knowledge and mental abilities (reading, writing, grammar, critical thinking, etc.) and to keep up your physical health. By far, the best video I’ve ever seen is “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen,” read by Baz Luhrmann and available on YouTube.
To those in relatable situations: I know EXACTLY what you’re going through and probably how you feel. I have good friends with values the same as mine. I have nothing to do with bullies. Life has a funny way of evening up the “score” — it just might take a while.
— Been There, Survived and Prospered
Dear Been There: I love the happy ending, albeit with a difficult beginning, to your story. I, too, have seen the video you mentioned and find the advice enlightening and wise. As children and young adults, it’s quite universal to feel lost and alone like you did, especially among bullies and those who bother us. I admire your high-road approach and your reminder that this too shall pass. It speaks volumes about your character and heart not to stoop to the level of those who brought you down, but to rise above and conquer your adversities. Thank you for sharing.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.