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.