Sunday, December 4, 2011

A 'Wrong' of Passage

An awful lot has been said about bullying these days.  It's in the news, activists are rising up, kids are crying out... it's all over the place.

I'm no stranger to it.  I thought I'd post my own thoughts and experiences on the issue.

Bullying comes in a lot of forms.  These days, you tend to hear about it a lot from gay kids who are getting threatened and beaten up because they're different from the bullies.  Ostracizing doesn't resolve anything either, rather it tends to breed more problems.  It's only another kind of bullying.

In junior high school, right around when I was 12, I got into a band you may have heard of, named KISS.  In school at that point, I wasn't terribly popular.  I was just an normal average kid, and up to that point I wasn't picked on a whole lot, although girls were particularly cruel very often.  Yeah, that hurts, just recalling it.  These things stick with you forever.  But I did have friends.  The problems came when I entered junior high at Queen Elizabeth School, and I happened upon a KISS record called "Destroyer" via my friend Darren.  He let me borrow the record, and I took it home and caught on to it.  Here are these guys in costumes, seven feet tall, makeup hiding their identities (no one knew at the time what they looked like without it), spitting blood, breathing fire, drums rising to the ceiling of the arenas, bombs going off... they were real-life superheroes.  The perfect escape mechanism for kids looking to immerse themselves in a different world for awhile.

I used to draw pictures of KISS in art class, draw their logo on everything I owned, and proudly proclaim my allegiance to the KISS Army.  But punk rock was on the rise at the same time.  There was a sect of kids who were into it, with the Ramones, The Government, Devo, The Monks, tons of others, all with their rebel following.  They weren't just pro-punk, they were anti-KISS.  I would get punched, kicked, ganged up on, have my hair pulled, pranks played on me, called names, it was continuous.  Other kids would look on and laugh at the fun being made at my expense.  This made me absolutely hate punk rock.  And I hated going to school, and it made me question myself.  It made me wonder if there was something wrong with me because I was being picked on so much.  It stuck with me so much that I developed a complex and withdrew from people.  There were other things that went on in those days that brought me through some very, very dark times.  But being bullied did not do me any favors.  It's a wonder, in retrospect, that it actually didn't push me over the edge.  What these bullies didn't know, was that I was sexually violated... my dad was an alcoholic... I lived in a poor home... and I was beginning to hate myself for being on the outside, feeling I wasn't good enough to be on the 'inside'.  I spent a lot of time alone in tears wondering why I even had to exist.  Being bullied was the opposite of what I needed.  I needed support instead.  But then, who doesn't.

I never had a serious girlfriend until I got to grade 11, bearing in mind I failed a couple of years in junior high because of all the distractions.  I neglected to mention that I was hit by a car three times up to that point, between grades 7 and 9.  I nearly got killed two of those three times, when my head went through a windshield once, and another time my skull crashed to the pavement, sending me into a coma and the hospital for two weeks.  Now, looking back, I wonder... how many kids get hit by a car even once?  I got hit three times.  I don't know if subconsciously I even cared to be around anymore.  When kids are bullied, they wonder where they're even wanted or needed at all.  I know I did.  It goes deeper into the brain than a lot of people who aren't bullied realize.

Everyone is built differently.  There are success stories, where kids overcome being bullied and lead storybook lives.  There are a lot of those.  But then there are other stories where kids go down the wrong path, look for an escape in drugs or alcohol, and hang with the wrong crowds.  Many of those will wind up in jail, or dead.  There are also those just like me.  Modestly successful in life, but silently simmering underneath, not able to break through that barrier that exists between myself and the social world.  The confidence seed never did blossom for me, or those like me, and likely never will.  When the program was being written in those innocent years, the corrupt file tagged 'ego' prevented a lot of the rest of it from working.  'Ego' was a file corrupted by a virus, named 'Bullying'.

The point to all this is, that there are kids out there right now who are enduring the same kind of bullying, or worse.  A lot of people are fighting back, finally.  Bullying is no longer a 'rite of passage' in life.  It's unacceptable.  It always was.  But it's done now.  It's over.  This can't be allowed to continue anymore.  I have a child of my own now, and she was bullied in the same grades, in the same school, as I was growing up.  Right now, I call out Queen Elizabeth School here in Moncton, to shape up and protect the kids who are calling out for help.  Not only that, but don't just treat the symptoms, treat the problem.  What about the bullies themselves?  I'd put money on the idea that they come from broken homes and are abused themselves.  They are also kids, after all.  Who's writing and corrupting their programs?  The cycle must be broken.  This is the generation that is stepping up to make that happen.

Sadly, bullying doesn't just stop in school.  It goes beyond.  I've been in workplaces in my recent past that have brought back those dark days just a little too vividly.  I especially need to call out Vail's Dry Cleaning here in the city.  I worked with people who were taken advantage of, degraded, and bullied by management there, and it still goes on to this day.  Despite making a report to my job counselor, whom I sought out because I was failing with interviews after I left Vail's due to my crumbled, near-non existent confidence because of the aforementioned management, nothing has been done or, I fear, will be done about the way that company treats people.  To this very day I feel the ill effects of the mistreatment from that job.  I'm not the only one.  There are dozens and dozens of others.  No kidding.  Kids look to adults for help when it comes to bullying right now.  Where do adults look to?  I had nowhere.  Thankfully, I wound up with a job that is the opposite of that kind of treatment which I have right now.

So, where do we go from here?  Is the notion of standing up to bullies and beating them at their own game the way to go?  Do we become a monster to defeat a monster?  Or do we try to understand the problem before we attempt to fix it?  When a car breaks down, we don't just get rid of it.  We bring it to a professional to restore it.  If we can do that to machines, why can't we do this for our fellow men and women, boys and girls?

I'm thankful to be sitting here, in my very modest house, with my more than understanding wife and daughter, because I know things could have been far worse.  They probably should have been far worse. It's not fair to think, though, that someone else should ever have to go through this kind of crap anymore.  It's time to evolve.

Thanks for dropping by.  I hope you take something from this entry.


  1. Let me begin by saying that I have been bullied in the past and now I am the way I am because of it. I do understand anyone who feels the way they do when they are bullied and what's worst is that it was people that were supposed to protect me. I for one am pretty tired of hearing about bullies and people being bullied. I am not saying I don't care I am saying it is time to step up for those who are being bullied and tell the bullies no more. I know Mike says that I am understanding and I put up with him but you know what I have and always will stand up for anyone who has been bullied because I was there.


  2. Bullying pisses me off. It plain just pisses me OFF!!!! What pisses me off is when a parent has been told that their child is a bully and they do absolutely nothing about it. That's because they are bullies themselves and are somehow sickly proud of their bully-of-a-child. That's sick to me. I've been bullied, and my husband has been extremely bullied. As adults, we have forgiven those who mistreated us however let me tell you... If we were back as that young boy/girl again, I can certainly tell you I would have made the kids sorry they touched me. Maybe that wouldn't solve anything, but the fact that they got away with it just wasn't right. Some day soon we will have a child of our own and the subject of bullies will be a tough one to have with our little one. But, like you & Janice our little one will certainly grow up in a very loving home :)
    I sound sort of angry just now don't I? But I'm a lover - until someone pisses me off then I shit on them.
    Love you! :)

    Mrs. Richard :D (hehehehehehehe

  3. Whoa, incredible story Mike, One most people would never share, and in my book the fact that you are willing to share it say alot about how you have over come the past and that says alot more about you than you probably even realize. You are simple amazing!!

  4. People are generally a product of their environment. You grow up in a house and see your drunken father beating your mother and your mother puts on a brave face than that is your normal standard whether you are a guy or a girl. You have 2 choices to make as you grow up and older to emulate or to learn from. I would say most people emulate which is sad to say. There comes a point and time in our lives where we must “man” up so-to-speak, we need to stop look in that mirror and ask ourselves that question “Do I like the person I have become”. Tough one that is for sure, when it comes to dealing with bullies it is a difficult situation and really depends on the person involved. I was bullied from grade 7 to grade 10 in a private school, it got to the point that I would not use the bathroom all day for fear of getting beat up, shoved in a garbage can, dunked in a toilet, etc. For me it never stopped until I faced my enemy and stood up to him but that is not to say that works for everyone. I wish there was a magic pill that would stop it, I wish there was a simple solution but there isn’t. As a parent of multiple children I understand first hand that everyone is not created equal, my oldest is so passive I fear for her as she gets older as she doesn’t have one mean bone in her body and could quite easily be taken advantage of. My younger one – well that is a different story, I think if she gets crossed someone will be sorry! Lol

    Appreciate you sharing your story Mr Cook and although I have known you for a long time some of this info is new to me. All I can tell you is that despite the difficulties of your upbringing you sit in a place right now that millions of people in the world are envious of. You have a roof over your head, you have food in your cupboard, you have a wonderful wife and a great daughter and your house is full of love. At the end of the day you can’t ask for much more than that!

    Keep your stick on the ice my friend and don’t be a stranger!

    Jean Guy Rubberboot