This week I have been thinking much about bullying. Today we attended an assembly led by a parent of an 11 year old boy who killed himself after being bullied. Also this week my son was involved in a bullying incident, but through our help and encouragement he learned how to deal with the situation in a more independent and positive manner.
As a free thinker, a fish that swims up stream and a non-conformist, I know first hand what it is to be bullied in school…and in life for that matter. Would I change it? I suppose not. I have discovered that being treated unfairly by others, being “picked on,” was indeed hard as a child and as a teen, but there is something to that experience (I feel) which makes me a better writer.
I am not condoning bullying at all. It is horrible. It is a sociological plague that claims the life of children all over the world. Sadly, one in four school age children have a plan for how they would kill themselves, and this statistic echoes that there are many people suffering with this alarming fact. I am, however, somewhat grateful to the experiences I had as a young person and it helps me to create genuinely powerful conflicts and some frightening villains for my novels.
I know what it is to lie on a playground in a fetal position as six boys kick me until I have a concussion, and the shame of lying to my mother, telling her I was hit in the head with a baseball bat because the batter stepped too far back when he swung at the ball. I know what it is to have a high school senior ride the bus home with me so that he could beat me senseless simply because my foot was too close to his leg on the bleachers. I also know what it is to be so consumed by anger that I would buy combat boots and wear them to school so that I could use them against those who would dare pick on me, to listen to punk music and feed on the anger of the musicians who hated the world.
It is a good thing I found writing.
Writing has allowed me to escape the bonds of my life and soar through the skies of my imagination. Possibly this is why I gravitate toward science fiction so much. Possibly this is why I am such a fanboy. Possibly this is why I write about underdogs and losers who are truly heroes. The pain of my past has informed my writing to some degree, and I suppose it has allowed me to dig down into the human condition better than if my life were perfect, if I had been captain of the football team or the prom king. It is a good life. A life not surrounded by “marshmallow people”, but encased in the loving embrace of a life that is real.
Television life, movie life is a sham. What people want in their fiction is reality. Yes, we want to escape, but when we see that our shining heroes have a normal existence it makes them more interesting. This is why Alan Moore’s The Watchmen landed the Nobel Prize for Literature.
So bring on the pain. It makes things so much more interesting.