I’m decades past being that fat kid with the big smile pictured on the left, but it happened. And I figure if it’s happening to me – now standing six feet, six inches tall and at a very healthy weight – then I may always have to deal with it.
I know I’m overreacting. The incident that has me writing really is just a small matter. I was working out at the local gym. It’s usually pretty crowded in the free weight room. There’s usually a good mix of ages. Among them was a trio of men training together. They’re about 5 years older than me. I’ve seen them before. They’re loud and seem to always have a good time. One guy looks like a grey haired Fred Flintstone.
He was on one side of the cable-weight machine doing seated cable rows with his buddies watching and joking around. I was on the other side doing cable crossovers. I was in the zone. Concentrating and listing to the music in my headphones. CRASH! “Fred” drops the huge stack of weights he was pulling. It shakes the whole machine and shocks the hell out of me.
(Quick aside here: I hate weight droppers. Really. I know Olympic-class weight lifters ‘have’ to drop weights. But seriously this is a neighborhood gym and you are no Olympic athlete.)
So I look over. That’s it. I didn’t sneer. I didn’t say anything. I just looked. Then I go back to finishing my set. Thankfully the music in my ears muffled the bray of laughter and taunts. But the tone of it gets through. And it’s too familiar. I continue. Ignoring. Fred does it again. CRASH! More laughter. Then as each of his pals rotate on the machine they all do the same thing. Hoping to get a reaction out of me. But I stay frosty. Do my work. Then move on.
I was done. I completed my workout and left the gym and went home. But part of me felt like I was running away. I felt 10 years-old again. Trying to out run a pack of bullies. It sucked. Worse, I had nightmares that night, which led to a morning of painful retrospection and this blog post.
I suppose you’ve guessed already that I ‘was’ that typical fat kid who got picked on. I didn’t get beat up a lot, but the constant intimidation and harassment took a toll. There was usually always at least one bully in my life, even at college, where the dorm floor bullies called me “lard-ass.” It made school a horrible experience at times. I nearly dropped out of college.
After my sophomore year things changed. I credit my turnaround to my Uncle John. I was able to spend most of one summer staying on the family farm in Missouri. I learned a lot from him about hard work, character, strength and drive. I hope to elaborate on that sometime. He deserves it. Bottom line is I changed.
So I get back to school, focus on schooling and getting in shape. I lost 100 pounds and graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism. I went straight from an internship to a four station, two state, award-winning career that didn’t end until I wanted it to.
Still, I’m haunted by bullying. I’m not sure I will ever escape it. I guess I will just have to deal with it along with everyone else who attracts the attention of bullies. And no. I will not stop going to the gym. Yabba Dabba Doo.
Leave a comment if you’ve been touched by bullying.