My Daughter and I were driving around on a beautiful sunny day, chatting away about her school and friends when she brought up an interesting subject. She was talking about kids being mean to each other, and she asked me, "Daddy, were you ever bullied?" Her innocent little question brought a quick sting and opened up a gate that I had on lock down for quite some time. I took a quick gulp and replied, "Unfortunately, yes honey. When Daddy was younger I was bullied, but it's ok because now I'm a better, stronger person." She smiled and we carried on a different conversation. Days later I'm still thinking about the contents of that question, and how I had to think back about what happened to me as a kid/teenager. I normally kept those feelings restrained, thinking back on what happened to me was too embarrassing and hurtful to ever really want to confront. I've hit punching bags countless times, ran a ridiculous amount of miles, drank a lot more alcohol than I should have all in an effort to erase those feelings of being bullied. I've had friends that truly know me say that at times, they can still see the hurt and pain in my eyes. Even though all these years have gone by, it's still tough to get over, but I'm making my peace with it.
Growing up, I was a runt plain and simple. I was short and incredibly underweight. I can recall a specific moment in the 2nd grade where a schoolmate hounded me relentlessly about my weight. I would go home and cry and hate the fact that I was so small. Finally one day after taking in more insults, I turned around and broke his nose. That ended his snarky remarks, but he was not the only bully to take shots at me. My Mother styled my hair in a different fashion as a kid, and for a while I had to sport a rat tail. One day an older kid came right up and pulled it and shouted, "What a f****t!" The effects of those words were just plain terrible, I trembled with how awful it felt to be insulted in such a manner. Junior high and high school were no better (I'll spare the details on that), seeing as how I graduated from high school weighing no more than 110 pounds soaking wet. Later in life I finally bulked up and put some much needed mass on my body, but the damage was already done.
Until recently, I spent the rest of my time out of high school loathing myself. I hated my appearance and really had no confidence in anything that I did. No matter what I did in life, I always just saw that skinny little kid that was the prime target to get picked on. For awhile I tried to use that rage to be productive; distance running, playing music and writing songs. It helped a bit, but ultimately that hole in my soul just could not be fixed. I began boxing with a friend and fell in love. He began to show me MMA and I was in heaven. I felt quick. I felt fast. I felt strong. I felt powerful. I could walk with my head and shoulders raised high and proud. Through all of the practicing and working out, I felt my demons being exorcised. I felt relief that I could accept myself and not have to worry about what others thought of me anymore.
I watched a recent episode of TUF and could see something in Uriah Hallthat only someone that had been bullied could spot; he had been a victim at some point and will wear that scar for the rest of his life. No matter how big and strong you become, that pain never goes away, you just learn how to deal with it and manage it better. You feel the need to stand there for others when they can't defend themselves. This is something I put in my little brother's head, and the same for my daughter. I taught them to never allow themselves to be picked on, and to defend those that need it. My Daughter asked why do people treat others that way, and I was at a loss for words on trying to give her an answer. All I could say was, "I don't know why sweetheart, I truly don't know." I'm learning to move forward through talking about it and definitely MMA has helped a ton, but it's just still such a wonder how these things can affect you for so long. Do we ever let it go?