How important is it to have friends in life? Robert, who submitted the story below, shares his feelings on the loss in his life and what he might have been had he been surrounded by friends, instead of bullies. I am about to give a talk about what we “bring with us” when we show up in front of people. How are the things that happened to us in our past influence what we show to others in the present? It’s a question that I share to consider as your read Robert’s story and think about how we all treat each other and what that does to us. ~Alan Eisenberg
It wouldn’t have been so bad if I had been raised in a different neighborhood, or was sent to a different elementary school. The problem had more to do with WHERE I was raised than HOW I was raised. Middle class parents all across America raised their children the same way my mother raised me. The problem is, we weren’t middle class, and once I left the safety of my home, I was surrounded by people who didn’t care anything about middle-class values. It took until about 4th grade before I noticed that I was really the only person in my class, and definitely the only boy, who got good grades all the time. And it took about as long to realize that the other kids didn’t care that they didn’t get good grades. This wouldn’t have been a problem if not for the fact that for some reason, they DID care that I got good grades, wasn’t good at sports, and wasn’t aware of the right clothes and music. It would have been nice if they minded their
own business instead of bothering me every day.
I wish my vocabulary was more advanced, or that my mother was more understanding. It was some time during the 5th grade that I had gotten tired of the teasing and bullying enough to where I asked her if she could put me in another school. Her answer was that she was not going to pull me out of a school that goes up to the 6th grade while I was in the 5th grade. So I was stuck for another year and a half, knowing exactly what I was going to face every day, feeling like nothing I could do would make it stop, not a new haircut, different clothes, trying to do better in gym, nothing. What I needed was to be around different types of people who didn’t consider you weird just because you were smart. I knew that there were places where if I were there I would be more normal and more accepted, and I wondered why I couldn’t be in one of those places instead of where I was. It was every day, multiple people, nonstop. And because it was elementary school,
we stayed in the same class all day, so there was no escape as long as the school day was going.
I thought that once I got to high school that I would be away from the types of kids that picked on me in elementary school, because you had to pass a test to get into my high school. But one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood was getting to high school and finding out the same types of kids were there too. So I resigned myself to just getting through high school and college would be better. For most of high school I just went to school and went home and didn’t talk to many people. It wasn’t like getting teased every day, but I still hadn’t figured out how to make friends.
When I got to college it started to become obvious how much I missed out on by not having friends. I missed all the hanging out and dating, so I was behind and still don’t know how to catch up.
I thought I would be able to get my social life handled once and for all when I graduated college. I expected to land a decent job, get my material situation taken care of, then embark on how to have a social life. Little did I know I would be sending hundreds of resumes, not getting any interviews, and having to settle for part-time and temp jobs. That isn’t why I went to college. I went to college so that I could leave my past behind, instead I am stuck living with my mother in the same neighborhood more or less than I grew up in, hoping this second stint in college will finally open the door to some kind of career success, and finally having the life I deserve.