I don’t remember much about my childhood. Most of what I know comes from stories I’ve been told by my parents, old friends and family. I repressed it to maintain what little grasp of sanity I had transitioning into adulthood. I don’t much understand it, and the reasons why are not an easy subject for me to talk about. Trying to recall what happened always brings out the worse kind of emotions in me—hate for who I was, and the fear of lapsing back into someone I no longer recognize.
I was born an outcast. From the moment I first opened my eyes to present day, it hasn’t mattered how much I’ve fought to be otherwise, I had no choice. I’d been born without a voice. Without the rebuttal, “of course you were born without a voice! Babies don’t talk.” Let me clarify—I wasn’t so much born without the ability to speak as every newborn ever birthed, rather I was born with a lesser capacity for speech as everyone else.
Imagine when you talk your words are scrambled in a wide array of sounds of vowels. Your brain naturally goes through them and organizes each aspect into a workable communication device via a subconscious state. I’m quite the opposite. I consciously order each element of verbalization in a way that can leave me mentally exhausted, unprepared for longer conversations and severely limited in my adaptability after I have practiced what to say.
The result has always been a mixed bag of terrible, and it’s taken everything I was, everything I am, not to give up. Society considered me an “undesirable” for years. As a kid, I experienced cruelty from children and adults who saw me as less than a human being (they made their thoughts no secret). Only my mother truly knows what I went through during those years, and even then, I’ve hidden a lot what happened from her to this very day partially because I’ve chosen to forget them. That’s really the only choice I had. This isn’t an article about how people like me should be pitied. Notions like that sting worse than any rock thrown at my face—that false sense of humanity where they felt bad, only to turn away when I needed their support most. At least, with those who wanted to break my bones, followed me home and threaten to tie me to a tree and set me on fire as if I was a witch practicing black magic, I knew exactly where they stood.
This is the story of my early struggles:
I have a lot to say and nobody who wants to listen, so I write it here.
Scars from my life run deep—some are physical, memories from absolutely horrible moments trying to step into a wider society. Most are mental scars, which have also left the most lasting impact on my personality and demeanor.
One of the earliest memories I can remember is that of betrayal. Someone had befriended me when I was young, gained my trust. She’d play with me, laugh with me. That may seem quaint, but for me, at the time… I cannot describe how it felt. We were friends for a few months at most before her motivations became clear. This person I thought of as a friend, told my secrets to (I had made progress in my speech to this point), had done it all just to laugh at me with everyone else, and be the one to lead the charge. I wish I could say she was the only one, but I eventually caught onto the pattern and started sitting alone, refusing to speak to anyone in my limited capacity for a long while after. I had told her everything I was afraid of, and she used that to make my life a nightmare for years—because now everyone knew how to target me and provoke the strongest reactions.
My ability to fight back proved limited. I was still unable to speak with any sort of clear voice as I do now. A few people could understand me, but not enough to translate my meanings in an accurate context. I was a small kid, skinny, without a strong enough voice to fight back or even call for help… Oh, teachers knew what happened, but they often ignored it or, at worse, defended the very kids that lined up to kick me into the ground. “They didn’t do that,” I was once told, as I was bruised and bleeding after a particularly bad beating on the playground, although not the worse. They just cleaned me up and told me not to tell anyone. Even more often, they punished me for slander against “model students.” Eventually, I decided to sit against the wall of the school during recess, behind the bushes, where others couldn’t find me. I’d bring a notebook with me and write about knights and goblins, fairytales and how I liked a certain girl. Looking back, I felt safest at school behind those bushes. Nobody bothered me, teased me, punched me or laughed whenever I tried to speak. It was a world they could not penetrate, for a short while.
What amazes me today is how so many people say that the only way to deal with bullying is for the victim to fight back, then they wouldn’t be a victim anymore. I laugh, because I tried that. When the odds are stacked so astronomically against you, fighting back would be like trying to take on a pride of lions by yourself, barehanded. In my experience, the bullies were never the “life at home is hard” kind often portrayed in movies. For me, it was always the most popular individuals among my peers. The ones most untouchable because even the teachers will do everything they can to protect them over some skinny boy that cannot speak two sentences without stumbling half his words.
There were times my life was darker than what I should tell here. But imagine living your life every day in fear at the one place you are supposed to feel safe outside of home. Think of the consequences of a kid (myself) stepping off the bus, only to find a group of kids waiting there having beaten me home, forcing me to run away and take a hidden route through the backwoods so I can find safety inside my house.
I learned from a very early age the world hated me. Others couldn’t understand me, therefore I was a freak, deserving of ridicule. From elementary school going into middle school, my experiences only worsened.
I propose a challenge to anyone reading this—in what manner, do you think, would you go about teasing someone for the mere fact that they were born? Strange thing to ask, I know. After all, each one of us was born into this world at some point. In middle school… they found rather creative solutions for that very question. I’d find notes stuffed in my locker every day for years describing various ways how I would be mutilated with a hot knife and the parts fed to my cats. And every note would say these gruesome ways of dismemberment would come on April 5—the day of my birth. In the months leading up to my birthday, my peers always kept hounding me by saying “happy birthday” in never ending waves. I am not certain how many were in on the notes or what they said, but I knew at the very least the person who wrote them had started this trend. I once told a teacher and it was explained to me that it was just “kids joking around,” so they did nothing about it.
It certainly didn’t feel like a joke to me.
Every year for so many years, I dreaded the weeks leading up to the day. It’s important to note again that it was children doing this, and these were very real events that happened to me and only a few people know about. I never told my mother about the notes. At the time, I felt trapped. That the only way to stop it was to let them happen and, if they came to fruition, then nobody would care. Understand that I was very young at this time, and my mental state was already fractured by years of this abuse. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. Every time I called out for help I was ignored or laughed at by the very people who I asked. The few times I did go to teachers at the school, it always backfired, making the situation ten-times worse soon after.
It hasn’t been easy to write to this point. I feel doing so will open up a wave of judgement that will come from the people I have grown to love—my friends, co-workers, classmates.
I almost didn’t survive those years. Parts of me certainly haven’t. I felt society itself was intending to crush my spirit. I lost my faith in God, lost my faith in humanity and the good in others. I thought, outside of my family, doing the right thing was just another lie people tell to make themselves feel better about who they are and not because it’s the actual right thing to do.
It’s because of these events I never learned how to be human until much later in my life—and even now, I have only just begun to figure things out while taking on a lot of hard lessons in the process.
Thinking about it now causes my hands to shake, so I will leave it there. I’ve come to understand for myself that our lives are defined by the choices we make. Exactly who we are doesn’t have to be a symptom of our circumstances, but our decisions. I’ve followed that philosophy for the last few years with only the occasional hard bump in the road. I hope my experiences can make me a better person. Every day I face challenges that make me want to go home and bury my head in the sand, but I choose to laugh at them instead. I survive off making others laugh and smile, a bright spot in the day.
I have a long way to go… I still have trouble recognizing the subtle social ques others give off, but I’ve learned to see a few of them. Not many, but a few. To the people who’ve become my friends in recent years, putting up with my antics and somewhat detached nature, I appreciate every one of you. I really do.