Essential Trauma

I made a quip in my last post about missing out on the “essential trauma” of watching The Lion King as a kid. It was a joke, but I got to thinking about that phrase, essential trauma. I realized that I have had a lot of that in my life.

I was talking with my sister the other day, and she said that one of the things that frustrated her about me when we were younger was that I projected an air of not caring about anything. Now, there’s a part of that that’s true. I didn’t care about what I wore or if my hobbies were acceptable to anyone else. But it isn’t entirely true that I didn’t care about what people thought in general.

I think the reason I wore the mask of not caring about anything was because I was bullied when I was a kid. My softball team when I was in middle school made my life miserable. They didn’t like me because I got our star pitcher kicked off the team by reporting her to the coach for threatening to knock my block off. I didn’t know at the time that tattling would make everyone else hate me.

Also in middle school, my youth group treated me like garbage because… I don’t really know. I guess I was just different. Most of the people in my youth group went to the same school and did all the same things. I was taller than average, nerdy, shy homeschooler who liked reading and drawing. Most of the time, the other kids in my youth group just ignored me. It was better than teasing, I guess, but it was still an incredibly lonely time for me.

So I acted like I didn’t care. I tried to convince even myself that how they treated me didn’t matter to me. It did, but I can only recognize that now, years after the pain has lost its freshness.

It wasn’t until late high school and even more in college that I finally “came out of my shell.” It took so long to be able to feel like I could share who I was with people and not worry about being treated like dirt because of it. I can say that I care about things now partially because I know I have friends who will care about it with me.

I wonder how my life would be different if I’d missed out on all that bullying, that essential trauma, when I was younger. In a way, that kind of treatment has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m probably stronger than I would have been without it, but I’m also more cautious and still, after all this time, more guarded with my emotions.

Thankfully, the bullying wasn’t the only thing that shaped who I am today. I’ve met amazing friends and mentors since high school, and they’ve helped me become more free to be myself. Because of them, I’m not afraid to meet new people or try new things. I’m not scared of showing that I care anymore.

So if any of my friends are reading this article, thank you. You may have no idea the impact you’ve made on my life, but thank you for being in it. You’ve been the essential blessing to drown out the trauma.

And to those who made me miserable… I hope you changed. I don’t know, because you weren’t worth keeping in touch with, but I hope you learned to build others up instead of tearing them down. And I hope I’m the only person you scarred with your callous actions and biting words.

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A tale of two songs: “How to Save a Life” and “Oh My Dear”

*Obligatory “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. My bad; I have a life now. Yes, I think it’s weird, too.” statement*

I’m not sure how many people are going to know these two bands or songs, so I’ll post the videos for them just in case. I’ll be analyzing Tenth Avenue North’s “Oh My Dear”…

 

 

…and The Fray’s “How to Save a Life.”

 

I happen to have both songs on my Spotify list, and the other day, they came up one after the other. I realized how similar they were to each other. Or rather, that they were about the same situation, but taken in opposite directions with different results.

Both songs start out with the protagonist of the song having a friend who has some secret sin and needs to repent. But the protagonist of each song deals with confronting this person in completely different ways.

First, I’ll look at The Fray’s song. The song begins by the protagonist inviting the friend to talk about his issues. It’s obvious from the beginning of the song that neither party wants to be there. The protagonist feels an obligation to confront his friend. He’s not doing it out of love.

As the song continues, the protagonist starts to wonder why he came. The friend isn’t listening and even worse, the protagonist isn’t listening.

The protagonist tries to “slip past” his friend’s defenses, but he isn’t interesting in listening to any reasons that he may have for doing what he did. All the protagonist seems interested in is telling his friend again what’s he’s been doing wrong. Which he apparently already knows.

The song ends with the protagonist telling his friend that he can either “drive until you lose the road” or ditch all of his other friends (personally, neither of those sound like good alternatives to me). As the chorus plays one more time, the protagonist wonders where he went wrong and realizes that maybe he might have kept his friend if he had taken the time to listen.

The song is beautiful and sad and paints a completely different picture from the one in “Oh My Dear.” Even with just the names of the songs, you can start to understand what makes these two songs so different, despite similar subjects.

The first song refers to the friend as “a life.” The term is cold and clinical, which is basically the approach that the protagonist takes to dealing with his friend’s secret sin. But in the second song, the friend is called “my dear.” This person is someone special to the protagonist, and he talks about loving his friend no matter what. This, I think, is what makes the difference in the scenario that follows.

From the beginning, the protagonist is more patient and caring with his friend. Instead of calling up the friend to confront her, he calls up just to talk. In this case, it’s the approachability of the protagonist that makes the friend want to reveal her secrets.

The protagonist of “Oh My Dear” goes to extraordinary lengths, walking for miles in the snow to personally talk to his distraught friend. And when he gets there, he doesn’t try to run down the list of things the friend is doing wrong. He listens, patiently.

He holds his friend as she shakes and reassures her that nothing she has done will stop him from still loving her. He tells her that he isn’t going anywhere until she gets everything off her chest.

And she does. She tells him the secrets that have been eating her up inside, and instead of offering judgment, he offers compassion. He stays up with her all night, because he knows that that’s how you save a friend’s life.

It’s a lesson that the protagonist of the first song learned too late (and if you read between the lines of the music video, tragically too late).

I love these two songs because I think we can learn a lot from both of them. The truth is that life can be messy. Sometimes, patiently waiting won’t be how you save a life. Sometimes, people need tough love.

But more often than not, I think, learning to listen is the better option. In our loud, judgmental culture, offering to quietly listen might just be what a friend needs to be able to confront what they already know they’re doing wrong.