Excerpt from chapter 13.
There is a lot I don’t share on here anymore.
When I started this blog like 10 years ago, I prided myself on transparency. I thought it was daring to tell people my address, or how much money I made that year, or even the size of my penis. I liked being an example of how vulnerability is strength.
I still do - but to a point.
I have made mention of the people who have outright stalked me. Showing up at my apartment late at night or early in the morning, and truthfully, that shit doesn’t bug me all that much. If someone thinks what I do is that awesome that they would take the time out of their day to find where I live, show up, and brave the embarrassment to say hi or shake my hand - well fuck, the least I could do is sit down with them over coffee. And let’s be real here for a minute, you can’t really creep out a creep, right?
But then there are the darker aspects. Those who dehumanize me because they don’t see me as a person but as a person with which to practice online target practice. Again, fine. I can take everything you can throw. I rarely mention it because I don’t want to give those abusive people the airtime they tend to thrive upon.
I will say this, with the bullying comes a certain confidence. See, you either grow some thick skin, or you sink into a crying depression. And I don’t have time for that shit. Or maybe I do, but I would rather spend it eating hot dogs and petting cats. It’s not about building walls to keep people out, it’s about learning to take a punch in order to allow people in.
Most people you meet are good people. Gay, straight, Christians, Muslims, black, jew, etc. You get what I’m saying. Most people are good people, meaning they’re not going to cut in front of you at the grocery store, they’ll pick up your phone if you drop it, and they will hold the elevator for you. And that’s saying a lot because I live in the heart of a pretty big city known for it’s indifference.
So what am I getting at?
Bullying will never go away. We can do our best to educate people, our children, friends, co-workers, as to how their thoughtlessness and spite impacts us and those around us but it’s a truth of life - there will always be assholes of every shape size and color and we need to learn how to take a goddamn punch. Should we have to? Absolutely not. We shouldn’t have to play victim our entire lives. People should have enough intelligence and care to respect one another. But the truth is, there are a shit load of bad parents and terrible adults out there who left their kids with a million questions and even more insecurities. And there are few things worse than confused and angry kids who grow into adults.
Here’s a quick story:
Recently, I was sitting on my couch when my phone rang. It was a random number that I didn’t recognize. Normally, I wouldn’t answer but I guess I was feeling especially adventurous that evening. This is something how that conversation went down.
Unknow Caller: Is this Chris?
C: Yes? Who is this?
UC: Wait, like Hey Chris? *background giggling*
C: *Heavy sigh* I suppose. Can I help you?
UC: Did you know you’re a faggot?
At this point my eyes light up. Whereas, years ago I would have snapped and began screaming, I was almost delighted to have the opportunity to actually talk to my bully. The following is not verbatim, but went down something similar to this:
C: Holy shit, I wish I was. I would be out banging many dudes instead of sitting here on this couch playing Call of Duty.
UC: *More giggling and whispering* So you wish you were a faggot?
C: Do I know you? Will you tell me who you are or if we have ever met?
UC: Fuck you, faggot.
C: Yeah, that’s what I figured. See, you know who I am and since you have my phone number, which is significantly more difficult that finding my address, I find it odd that you wouldn’t just come over and say these things to me instead of hiding behind an anonymous phone call.
UC: Your dad molested you. Did you like that you faggot?
This took me aback. I get called a “faggot” every Cubs season, but this person knew enough about me to have either read my books or my blog to some extent. But it only shook me for a two-count.
C: What I find tragic, is that you’re such a coward that you couldn’t ever say these things to my face. In fact, my address is easy to find. I openly invite you and everyone in the room with you to stop my my apartment right now or at any time of the day to say this to me. But because I know you won’t, I want to tell you a little about you. See, I might not know who you are specifically, but I know you. Strong and compassionate motherfuckers wouldn’t call someone and mock their sexual abuse. I have known cowards like you my entire life and I know people like you turn into vapid and insignificant losers that no one loves because you don’t love yourself because if you did, you wouldn’t have made this call.
UC: *Mumbling and covering up the phone* I still think you’re a faggot.
C: We’ll that’s all fine and good but I want to see if you can come up with something better. Bring it. You got me on the phone, I want to hear the worst of what you can say to me. Here’s your opportunity. I will even stay quiet and listen to you.
C: You’re blowing your chance, man. Here I am. Do your worst.
For every one of you who has had to stand and take it - who didn’t have the words at the time and went home and replayed the events over and over in your head while staying awake well into the early AM - you made it. For every one of you that kept your head up or didn’t let the tears fall until you were well out of ear-shot - you made it because you are one tough motherfucker. And for every last one of you who took the punches, got up, dusted yourself off, and smiled because you knew you were better than those motherfuckers - you are my heroes.
That thick skin is what got you here so don’t let those fuckers win by forcing you to put up a wall. Leave it down. Because a bully is driven by jealousy and their sole desire is to stomp out the love they see in your heart. So leave your heart open as a giant “fuck you” to everyone who thought they could take you out because most people in this world are good people and they shouldn’t be punished by the actions of a handful of shitty people with bad parents.
Because the biggest “fuck you” to those insecure assholes is a smile, two swear fingers, and a tough motherfucking heart.
And if whoever called me is reading this:
644 W Wrightwood Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60614
One of my favorite things I’ve written.
Each one of us was born with some thing or some one doing it’s best to hold us back. None of us are immune. Whether it is the racism that holds back your skin, the sexism that holds back your gender, the churches that guilt us of our sins, the absent parents, the social anxiety, the work bully, the constant looming depression, the parents who squandered away our opportunities for a higher education, the neighbors who have marginalized our lifestyle, or your self-diagnosed ADHD - all of it is a liability to the progression of us as people.
It’s important you understand that every last person you walked past today is suffering from some from of disability. Large or small, whether you see it as valid or not is irrelevant - because to them, it is legitimately holding them back from the person they believe they can be.
That being said, our spirit, our souls, our character is based upon how we handle these impediments. Our world view is based upon how we handle these things and our interpretation of how others handle theirs. Just because I could get past my parents separation, doesn’t mean that my neighbor should just as easily.
This is important to understand when you quickly judge the relationships of others. Just because you handled a break up well doesn’t mean that your best friend should, or even could, handle it the same way. Your parents may have instilled within you better coping mechanisms. Just because your friends do well in school doesn’t mean that you should be held up to the same standards. Your teachers may not have spent much time making sure you understood your education. And just because you happen to be progressing at a faster rate than your neighbors doesn’t mean that you’re better than them. Because you are still a good example for them. Everyone learns at different rates depending upon the extent of the disabilities we carry.
So what am I getting at? Stop comparing yourself to others and others to yourself. Understand that people should be judged upon one premise - their willingness to fight against those disabilities.
Sometimes you fight and you swing and you get knocked down and you feel like what’s the fucking point. You look in the mirror and you’re getting older and fatter and uglier and you don’t have the fire you once did and you figure what’s the fucking point so you go turn on the television and fade away for the night in a crumb-filled couch of sitcoms and laziness. Unfortunately, I understand. It’s easy and completely reasonable to give up the fight. Especially when we see most of the people around us do it every day. It’s easy to bury our heads back into the sand, ignore what truly matters in the world, and numb our brains with sports and racists jokes until we go get fucked up on the weekends. It’s what our neighbors do. It’s what our parents do. It’s what our friends do. It’s what we see while we waste time staring into a television. It’s on our screens and it’s singing us in to a terminal laziness. One that shies away from anything that causes any real thought or effort.
And that is how most people handle their disability.
More accurately, they give up the fight.
And that is when I judge you.
Because I don’t care how far you’ve come, I only care that you’re still moving forward.
I don’t care that you are out of shape and can barely run to the end of your block - I care that you laced up in spite of how people will perceive you.
I don’t care that it has taken you twice as long to get the terrible grades you get - I care that you keep waking up and shoving your face in a book you don’t understand.
I don’t care if people make fun of your elementary art skills - I care that you made an Etsy store because you have faith that someone out there will think what you do is cool.
All I’m saying is don’t stop. Just don’t fucking stop.
Define your own success because you’re the only one to which it truly matters. Even if it is just to succeed because your friends or your family or your teachers said you couldn’t. Fuck them.
Because while we all have a head full of insecurities and damages - not giving up is the best free therapy you’ll ever get.