Tag Archives: teenager

How I Dealt With A Bully (And Why I Don’t Recommend It)

Should You Confront Your Old Bully?

Bullies suck. I think most of us can agree on that. Those who don’t probably haven’t been on the receiving end of a bully at some point in their lives. They’re the lucky ones. Most of us can’t rely on that kind of luck.

Now, before I go any further, I want to make clear that this isn’t some generic anti-bullying PSA. There are already way too many of those and even if their intentions are good, they don’t always send the right message.

That has been my experience with these campaigns. They claim to understand the dynamics of bullying. They offer a list of responses and recourses, some of which are more helpful than others. Some are downright counterproductive. They all miss one key detail.

Every bullying situation is different.

Every bully is different.

Every target of a bully is different.

The dynamics behind every instance of bullying is different.

In short, not every case of bullying plays out the same way and there’s no one proper way to deal with it. Not every bully is Biff Tannen and not every victim is George McFly. One well-placed punch isn’t going to completely rectify a situation. Just ignoring it won’t rectify it, either.

With that in mind, I’d like to share another personal story about how I dealt with a bully. It’s not nearly as dramatic as you might see in the movies, but it worked out in my favor for the most part. In fact, to say it worked out might be a bit of a stretch. You’ll understand why when you hear the details.

This incident played out when I was in the 9th grade. It was not a good time for me. I was depressed, socially awkward, and had pretty much no self-esteem. I also had a bad attitude that made me fairly unpopular and an easy target. In hindsight, I think it was only a matter of time before a bully found me.

For the sake of this story, let’s call this kid Don. He was no Biff Tannen, but he was a real asshole. This kid was my age, but he was behind the curve when it came to maturity. He and a bunch of like-minded friends liked to goof off, screw with people, and do their own thing. They weren’t exactly caricatures from 80s teen movies, but they were close.

As it just so happened, Don rode the same bus as I did. In fact, he got off at the same stop that I did. He lived less than two blocks from me. Due to that proximity, he took an interest in me. He started teasing me and asking dumb, embarrassing questions. Sometimes he did it on the bus. Sometimes he did it in the middle of a class. Whenever he did it, I hated it.

Me being the immature, self-loathing kid that I was, I didn’t deal with it very well. I often tried to tell him off. I cussed him out. That only seemed to encourage him. I never tried to fight him, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.

It also helped, somewhat, that I wasn’t in good shape and would probably lose that fight. Don was no athlete, but he was bigger than me and willing to do dumb shit to win. I had no advantages, whatsoever.

I still wanted it to stop. I had enough problems in my life. I didn’t need to deal with Don and his antics. I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with it. I got some advice from the adults in my life. They often told me to just ignore him and avoid him. If he ever laid a hand on me, then I should go to a school administrator. I didn’t want it to get to that point.

Unfortunately, ignoring Don didn’t make him stop. If anything, it encouraged him to keep doing it. He didn’t get bored. He just saw someone he could tease and get away with. That wasn’t something the anti-bullying PSAs told me.

At some point, I had to respond. Yelling at him wasn’t working. Trying to politely ask him to stop wasn’t working. This was an immature knuckle-head who wasn’t going to be reasoned with. If I was going to respond, it had to be very blunt and very effective.

It finally came to ahead one day on the bus. We were waiting to leave to go home for the day. Like he had before, Don decided to move up to my seat and start harassing me. I don’t remember what he said. I just remember he wouldn’t go away. He kept asking me these dumb question and teasing me when I didn’t respond.

He just would not stop and he would not leave. I was tempted to punch him in the face, but I knew that probably wouldn’t pan out. If I threw the first punch, then I would be blamed for everything. I may have been young, but I knew how school politics work.

Finally, I decided to respond.

I didn’t punch him.

I didn’t break something he had on him.

Instead, I just looked at him with as much hate as I could muster and I spit right in his eye.

At that moment, Don’s goofy and immature demeanor disappeared in an instant. He turned away to rub his eye. I wasn’t sure if he was crying or anything. At the time, I honestly didn’t care. I didn’t move from where I sat. I just remained where I sat, waiting for a response.

Eventually, I got it. He tried to spit at me too. He missed, only hitting my ear. After that, he left and went to the back of the bus with his friends.

That was it.

That was the end of it. Don never talked to me ever again.

Now, I do not recommend anyone do that with a bully. Spitting in someone’s eye isn’t as bad as a punch, but it still counts as assault. Had Don gone to a school administrator, he could’ve gotten me into a lot of trouble. However, he didn’t and I think I know why. He would’ve had to explain why the situation got so heated and since he instigated it, he would’ve gotten in trouble too.

Even so, I’m not proud of what I did. I didn’t feel better about myself. I doubt Don felt better, either. Had there been more witnesses or had someone reported us, it could’ve gotten much worse. At the same time, I could’ve handled that much better, even for a moody teenager.

Again, do not take this as advice for dealing with a bully. There’s a good chance it will not work out as well as it did for me. I got lucky in this case. Don’t expect to get that lucky when dealing with a bully.

Also, Don, if you’re reading this, I apologize for spitting in your eye. However, you were still a huge asshole.

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When (And Why) NOT To Be An Optimist

In general, I’m a pretty optimistic person. I have an overall positive outlook on life and the future. I’d even go so far as to say I’m excited about what the future will bring. My posts about sex robots should be proof enough of that.

However, I wasn’t always optimistic. In fact, anyone who knew me in high school or middle school probably saw me as the antithesis of optimism. I was always so dire and bleak with my outlook. I rarely had anything good or positive to say. I put myself down all the time and tried to bring the rest of the world with it.

It was not a healthy mindset, to say the least. I’m very glad I got out of it.

At the same time, it has given me some perspective. Having been on both extremes, I know what fuels that kind of thinking. I know and understand, to some extent, what leads someone to have that mindset.

Overall, I feel like having a positive outlook is more beneficial. That’s to be expected. When you’re more hopeful and optimistic, it tends to bleed into other aspects of your life. Optimism tends to attract optimistic people and those people are generally good for you. I certainly wouldn’t have the friends I have now if I’d remained so negative.

At the same time, there is a limit to optimism. There does come a point where being optimistic can be damaging, in the long run. I’m not talking about the kind of optimism that’s outright delusional, either. I’m more referring to the kind of mindset that makes someone too oblivious to the world.

I think that’s something people do struggle with. That might be a hard thing to say in wake of a global pandemic, but even before that dampened everyone’s spirits, it was easy to get caught up in that mindset. It often goes like this.

If everything seems to be going well, then why bother changing anything?

If things stop going well, then you try to get back to that particular mentality.

If what you do doesn’t work, then you double down and try even harder.

What made you happy and hopeful worked before. Why wouldn’t it work again?

This is a mindset I can attest to. When I was in college, my overall outlook improved. I got a lot less negative about the world. I got better at making friends. I even dared to be hopeful about the future.

Then, I faced some challenges. It was often small or minor. A girl I liked didn’t like me back. A class I took didn’t go well. My favorite team starts losing or I get into a fight with my roommate. It was very stressful, but I thought just maintaining a positive outlook would help work things out.

It didn’t. I won’t say it didn’t help at all. It just didn’t help as much as I’d hoped.

The same thing happened when I got anxious about my health and body image. As I’ve noted before, I did not have good health habits in my youth. I didn’t start regularly going to the gym until I was almost 30. Before then, I thought I just needed to rebuild my confidence and remain hopeful. I now know that was incredibly short-sighted.

Just having the right mindset is barely the first step. At some point, I had to make a more concerted effort. I had to work, grind, and struggle to get to where I wanted to go. If I had just stayed entirely within this positive mindset, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now, health wise. In that sense, being too positive worked against me.

This is the trap of overly positive thinking. Sometimes, if you’re too positive, you’re less inclined to put in the extra effort and make a meaningful change. Whether it’s about your health, your social life, or your politics, too much positive thinking can become an excuse to not change or do anything different.

That’s rarely healthy. That’s also why a little regular introspection can be a good thing. It’s something that’s encouraged by professionals who are far smarter than me on matters of psychology. If you need further details, check out this piece I found from Psychology Today.

Psychology Today: Positive Thinking Isn’t Always the Best Way to Go

When we suffer pain, rejection, disappointment, loss, disease, or another catastrophe, happy talk, whistling in the dark, or putting on a happy face do not work. Every cloud does not have a silver lining nor is there a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.

Because the world is filled with all sorts of unhappy events, from not getting that dream job to losing a best friend to cancer, thinking only positive thoughts is delusional. Trying to maintain a happy face while tragedy engulfs us is unnatural, akin to trying to laugh when our hearts are breaking. Like Pagliacci, the clown who was intent upon making others laugh while tears streamed down his cheeks, we shortchange ourselves when we fail to deal with negative events and emotions.

I’ll sum this up by offering one last bit of insight.

Life isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. Things do generally get better and assuming the worst tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, just being positive is never enough. At some point, you have to make the effort. It’s often strenuous and frustrating, but it’s wroth doing.

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A Personal Story (And Perspective) On Daylight Savings Day

It’s that time of year again, at least if you’re in these countries. Daylight Savings day is upon us. It’s not a holiday, nor a means for major celebration. It just means that this weekend, we can all look forward to an extra hour of sleep.

Honestly, after the year we’ve all endured, an extra hour of sleep is literally the least we can hope for. I’ll gladly take it.

Now, I don’t have an opinion on daylight savings, why it’s observed, or whether we should continue observing it. That sort of contention is just not worth my time or anyone else’s. Instead, I’d like to take a moment in these last few days before we fall back to share another personal story.

It involves high school, but I promise it’s not nearly as awkward or angst-ridden as some of the others I’ve shared. This story is more an observation than a personal account and one I think is more relevant. Say what you will about teenagers and young people in this current environment. They do have issues and they’re worth highlighting.

To appreciate this story, I need to offer a little context. While I was in high school, the last week of October was uniquely difficult. It wasn’t just because the weather was getting colder, mid-terms had just wrapped up, and the holidays were still too far off to warrant excitement. Much of the difficulty, in this case, had to do with sleep.

It wasn’t so much about getting enough of it, which is a challenge in its own right, as it was about waking up. I lived in a school district where high school classes started at 7:20 a.m. If you weren’t in your first period class by that time, you were late and you could get in trouble. That might not have been an issue if you lived nearby. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky.

My family lived on the boundaries of the school district. That meant I had to take the bus to school, which wasn’t too big a deal. However, in order to get to school on time, the bus had to pick me and my classmates at 6:30 a.m. to make it on time.

Now, I know some people are already rolling their eyes. We had to be at the bus stop by 6:30 in the morning. Why is that such a big deal? There are people with jobs that require they wake up even earlier.

To those people, I have a simple message.

First off, we don’t get paid to go to high school. We’re forced to, by law. Second, we were teenagers. We’re not exactly used to night shifts at the salt mines. We’re still going through puberty, trying to transition into adulthood, and dealing with plenty of awkward feelings along the way. Have some goddamn sympathy.

With that in mind, take a moment to appreciate what it’s like the week before we fall back with daylight savings. You wake up at 6:00 a.m. and it’s still nearly pitch black outside. You can still see stars in the sky. You can barely see any hint of the sun.

If you’re a functional adult who is used to early mornings, it’s no big deal. If you’re a teenager who’s several steps away from being that functional, the world is basically asking us why the hell we aren’t still sleeping. Our collective response is the same. We have no choice. This is what we have to do, by law, to get to school on time.

Make no mistake. Waking up this early and standing outside when it’s still dark out is jarring to a teenager’s mind and body. The last week of October was just the most pronounced. During the first weeks of school, you could at least depend on the sun coming up, which helped wake you up. By this time, however, you had no such benefit. It was still dark out and it stayed dark until you got to school.

This is where my story comes into play. It’s not just one particular incident on one particular day, either. For the entirety of my high school career, this sort of thing played out every year on the last week of October. If I were to catch up with my old classmates, they’d probably share the same sentiment.

It went like this.

We wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for school. It’s pitch black out.

We take a shower, eat some breakfast, and gather our things. It’s still pitch black out.

We go out to the bus stop at about 6:25 a.m. It’s still pitch black out.

The bus arrives, we get on, and we settle in for the ride. It’s still pitch black out.

For the entire trip, we’re all only half-awake. Nobody talks. Nobody socializes. We just sit there, try to keep our eyes open, and get whatever sliver of rest we can before we arrive. Most of the time, the sun is just barely starting to rise when we get to school.

I know it’s not the most harrowing story about high school, but it does stand out and it wouldn’t be at all possible without daylight savings. It’s because of that time shift that it’s still so dark out in the morning on that final week leading up to it. An adult may see that as a trivial detail, but from the perspective of tired teenage minds, I assure you it isn’t.

I try to forget a lot of things from that time in my life. I’ll never forget those early morning bus rides on the last week of October. They always had this strange, ominous feel to them. Setting aside the ambience, the impact it had on me and the rest of my classmates was distinct.

Being out at that bus stop when it was still so dark and riding to school before the sun came up just put everyone in a drowsy, lethargic mood. Riding to school in that environment wasn’t just quiet. It was dead silent at time.

Nobody said a word.

Nobody talked, socialized, or screwed around.

It was just too dark and we were all too tired. You think packing a bunch of teenagers in a bus is bound to create something rowdy and decadent? Well, when it’s that dark out and that early in the morning, you don’t have to worry. When you’re still tired, you’re not going to have the energy.

Now, that did change to an extent the following week. Once we set the clocks back, there’s usually daylight outside when we go to the bus stop. That does make a difference. In fact, it makes a big difference. There’s even some science behind it.

I was still a miserable high school student, but at least it easier to stay awake when the sun was out. I also noticed that once we had some sunlight, people talked and socialized more on the bus. It was just less depressing overall. Being less tired will have that effect.

In hindsight, I’m amazed that we all functioned as well as we did in those conditions. The science is also catching up to the sentiment. More and more people are uncovering the negative effects of having high school start so early. Teenagers may be immature and dumb at times, but they’re still human. If they don’t get enough sleep, they’re not going to function well.

A lack of sleep has all sorts of negative impacts. Add the rigors of adolescence to the mix and you’re just going to make both much worse. It’s something I find myself contemplating every year in the days leading up to daylight savings.

We have a lot of problems in this world and teenagers have a lot to deal with. Nobody can do much of anything if they’re too tired or sleep deprived.

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The Moment I Knew Puberty Began For Me

In life, there are certain moments when you know you’ve reached a certain milestone. Sometimes, it’s obvious. From the first time you drive a car to the first time you kiss someone who isn’t your mother, they stand out in your memory. It’s not always pleasant. Some moments are more awkward than others, but they mark a major change in your life.

Going through puberty is one of those things that generates more awkward moments than most. I challenge anyone to recount their transformation from kid to adult without at least one part being awkward. I’ve shared a few stories from my youth, some being a lot more awkward than others. I can laugh about them now, but they marked critical points in my life that have only become more relevant as I’ve gotten older.

For most of us, there’s no one single point when we know we’ve entered puberty. You don’t just wake up one day and know that you’re a teenager now. All those crazy mental and physical changes don’t happen all at once. If they did, few of us would survive the process with our sanity intact.

That said, there are some moments that, in hindsight, mark a particular point in your life when you realize that this transformation has become. You’ve crossed the point of no return. You’re becoming a teenager now. Eventually, you’ll become an adult. It can be daunting, but it’s a part of life.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a particular moment that still stands out to me after all these years. It’s a moment in which I realized that I wasn’t a kid anymore. Puberty has begun and there’s no going back. At that moment, it was just a strange realization that I discounted. However, over time, it became a turning point.

It happened while I was in the fifth grade. It was late spring. We had just come back from Spring Break. The weather had finally gotten nice enough to enjoy recess without heavy jackets. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was just glad I could stop dressing in layers.

On this particular day, though, it was very humid. Coming back from recess, everyone was a lot sweatier than usual. Being kids, we didn’t care. We were just glad to get outside and away from book reports. I don’t remember much else about what happened that day, but I can vividly recall what happened the moment we returned to class.

As soon as we sat down at our tests and my teacher got to the front of the room, she made an impromptu announcement that will forever echo in my memory.

“You all, stink.”

I swear I’m not paraphrasing. That’s exactly what my teacher told us. She was an credibly blunt, straightforward woman. She didn’t mince words and this was one instance in which they couldn’t be sugarcoated.

She took a good five minutes of class time to give an impromptu lecture on how much we smell. She wasn’t polite about it. She just said in every possible way that we really smell and we need to start using deodorant. Past teachers have told us we smelled before, but never like this. It was the first time in which I became mindful of body odor.

I was really taken aback by this, as were plenty of classmates. Keep in mind, we’re all just 5th graders. We still see ourselves as kids and not teenagers. Some were more mature than others, but we were still kids at heart. I certainly felt that way. After this, however, that changed.

When I left class that day, it started to sink in. I was going through puberty. At that point, I knew what it was. I’d taken a health class. My parents also told me about it, too. I just didn’t think it would happen for another couple years. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw a kid. Now, I took note of some very real changes.

Body odor was just one. At the same time, I started noticing acne and body hair. It was very subtle. It didn’t happen all at once, but after that day, I became much more aware of it. By the time I got to middle school, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was a teenager at that point. That fateful day in the 5th grade was just the first time I realized it.

I’ve come to appreciate that moment more and more over the years. I still had many difficulties, as most kids do when they become teenagers. Some were more manageable than others. I probably could’ve handled it better, in hindsight. However, it’s still remarkable to think that it all began with that one fateful day.

Do you have a day like that? Is there one particular moment in which you realized puberty had begun for you? If so, please share it in the comments.

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Birthday Reflections: My 20s Vs. My 30s

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Recently, I celebrated my birthday. It didn’t involve an elaborate party or some special event. It wasn’t just another day, either. I went out of my way to make it special, as did my friends and family. By the standards of a man in his 30s, it was a good birthday. I didn’t need much. I just needed a day that made getting older feel less daunting.

As we get older, our attitudes towards birthdays change. When we’re young, birthdays are this big event that we go out of our way to make memorable. As kids, it’s an excuse to have a big party full of cakes, presents, and birthday checks from generous relatives. As teenagers, it’s another year gone by and another step closer towards greater independence.

Once we enter our 20s, however, things get trickier. We start to see birthdays less as events and more as formalities. By that time, most of us have other pressing concerns beyond which cake we want and how we’ll spend our birthday checks, assuming our relatives still send them. That experience may vary, depending on your circumstances. For me, my 20s was a strange time and it showed in how I celebrated birthdays.

These days, I feel like I’ve achieved just the right balance when it comes to birthdays. At the same time, each passing year has helped put what I went through in my 20s into a clearer perspective. You can’t always see the forest from the trees when you’re young. It takes years of living, learning, growth, success, and even failure to truly appreciate how your life changes.

I found myself appreciating that even more this past week. When I look back at how I was in my 20s, I see just how far I’ve come. Ten years ago, I was in a very different place. I had just graduated college. I was still paying off debt, searching for a steady job, and trying to establish myself. It was not a smooth ride, but it was not as difficult as it could’ve been.

It helped that I had a supportive family who helped me transition from college to the adult world. It helped even more that they let me move back home and live rent free until I saved up enough money to pay down my debts and move out. They helped make parts of the transition easier, but I still made it harder on myself in way too many ways.

In my 20s, the memories of high school were still fresh in my mind. On top of that, I had broken up with my college girlfriend and I still hadn’t quite recovered. I also had a long way to go in terms of refining my social skills. At that time, I was still very socially awkward. I avoided parties and large crowds. I had a hard time striking up conversations. I also lacked confidence, poise, and vision.

For the most part, I treated adult life in my 20s the same way I treated college. In my defense, that was the life I’d gotten used to at that point. I treated work like going to class. I only ever saw work as a means to a paycheck that I could use to pay down my debts and pay my rent. When problems came up, my first instinct wasn’t to solve them. It was to find someone else who could.

In some cases, I held myself back. I clung to the less burdensome life I had in college. I relied heavily on friends and parents to help me with things like taxes, car repairs, and finding quality health care. Again, my family was awesome every step of the way and didn’t berate me for relying on them so much. However, at some point, I had to grow up on my own.

That process didn’t really pick up until my late 20s. That was around the time when I finally caught up in terms of social skills. It was also the same time I gained more professional and career experience. I no longer saw work as a means to a paycheck. I saw it as a part of a blossoming career. Compared to how many others in their 20s have struggled, I was considerably lucky.

Once I made it into my 30s, my outlook changed even more. I stopped looking at things in terms of when I got my next paycheck and started making plans for the future. I dared to set bolder goals for myself. I also dared to learn more skills that hadn’t interested me before. Something as simple as inflating a tire on my car or fixing my garbage disposal became a real endeavor.

At that same time, I also became more health conscious, both physically and mentally. I’ve noted before how unhealthy I was in my early 20s. Back then, it wasn’t unusual for me to create entire meals around bowls of cereal drenched in chocolate milk. The most I did in terms of cooking involved hot pockets and burritos.

Again, in my defense, that was what I’d gotten used to in college. It certainly wasn’t healthy and that showed in my appearance. Even though I was young, I wasn’t exactly fit. I had no muscle tone and a less-than-toned stomach. I also avoided exercise to the utmost. My hatred of gym class in high school somehow followed me into my 20s.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I can safely say that I’m more physically fit than I was when I graduated college. I’ll even go so far as to say I’m more attractive. I can see my ab muscles. I have biceps that are worth showing off. I can run for three miles with ease and I go to the gym at least twice a week. I also eat much better than I did in my 20s. I can actually cook a healthy meal without relying on a microwave.

It may not sound like much, but all those little things really accumulated once I hit my 30s. It didn’t happen all at once. It was a process, one that allowed me to become a functional adult that I’m proud to be. I’ve built a good life for myself. I have confidence, good health, a great family, and a strong support structure that brings out the best in me.

It even showed in how I approached birthdays. In my 20s, birthdays reminded me that I’m getting older. In my 30s, they affirm that I’ve grown into a man that I’m proud of and I want to keep growing.

Every now and then, especially around my birthday, I find myself contemplating what I would’ve done differently in my 20s, knowing what I know now. With each passing year, however, I realize that there’s not much I could’ve done. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I feel like I had to go through that awkward transition period in my 20s. It made me a better person, in the long run.

Now, as I near my 40s, I look forward to seeing the kind of person I grow into. I also hope to meet that special someone along the way. Until that time comes, I feel like I’ve got a healthy attitude towards birthdays and most other things now that I’m in my 30s. My 20s were fun in many ways, but I don’t miss them.

I’m excited about my future. I’m hopeful about where life will take me. I don’t doubt for a second that who I am now will be very different than who I am in another 10 years. Hopefully, by that time, I’ll be able to share more reflections about that journey. Only time will tell.

Until then, to all those who helped make my birthday special this year, I sincerely thank you.

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