For the regular readers of this site, this is a first and has been building up for the last several months. Some years ago, I wrote a story called “Me As The Bully”. When I wrote that, I would have no idea that the child I referred to 30 years prior to would grow up and read his story here and then that would facilitate an opportunity for us to reconnect, close the gap of years and close the door on the incident referred to in my story. But it’s more than that. This was the first time I could ask and hopefully have a second opinion about my story and how that time affected a life other than my own. I am lucky and happy to now have the story, which is quite different than I could ever have imagined, be written by the other person in my old story. He has added his story below and his feelings and opinions about how these years have affected his life. I am forever grateful to have others that “get me” as well and are willing to share their thoughts and feelings as well. Thank you, David. ~Alan Eisenberg
Juneteenth is coming up and my family and I plan on spending it in South Carolina. A couple of years ago, my extended family and I, with myself in charge, attended a Juneteenth celebration in Newport News, Virginia. As a Hebrew (and Passover fanatic), I identify strongly with African-Americans and their identification through their path of freedom from bondage.
I have been the recipient of a lot of “understanding” from people of all backgrounds and economic levels (pale and not , foreign and not). I have been very lucky to have met so many people who just seem to get me. I have parlayed this in many ways and have followed paths that others have not.
Well this Juneteenth I will be celebrating another special milestone in my life, the launch of my new business. This was a 2 year path that ended with a crescendo in my discovery of a forgotten, yet presently applicable, part of my past. An instinct to fight, to hold others off, and to defend.
I kind of matured slowly.
I had blanked out the incident that I’m a part of that Alan tells the story of in his post called “Bully Incident#24: Me as the Bully (1979)” and I understand why a bit more now after reconnecting with Alan. It was the very beginning of the days I dealt with bullying in 1979, just as Alan was getting ready to move away. I always remembered Alan (but not the specifics of our interaction or the bullying incident at our Hebrew school) and felt like he was dangerous and maybe someone I didn’t want to know too well. It seemed to me that he was in his state of weakness at the time due to the bullying he endured.
It was only 30 years later at the culmination of my high school reunion where I found out Alan was publishing stories on the web about bullying in Lexington, MA. I then looked it up and there I was in his one story of a time in Hebrew school where I was the victim. Interestingly, when I found and read the story the first time, felt exhilarated. No embarrassment but not a great recollection of the incident. While I didn’t remember the tacks in the chair action exactly at that time, I have a vague thought that in the state I was at that time in my life that it did affect me and that I might be more aware of it than I realize even today. my What I do recall of that time, though, is that the realization that there was no safe social place for me, including religious school.
Within less than a year of this time when you and the other kids put the tacks on my chair, my life kinda sucked. I did deal with bullying as well by the kids in Lexington, MA. But also, what happened was every so often i would meet an outsider who would protect me socially. Over the next 6 years I became much stronger. Yet that time in my life taught me some strange survival skills that I incorporated into my professional life as fixer of sorts. In the end, I would help companies that have operational or financial distress.
So I hardly ever felt like a victim. More a participant in a moral battle. My question that I asked Alan in his story (“Why Did You Do This?”) was surely designed to make him and the other kids that did it stronger so that he wouldn’t look at me as a victim.
My finding out about Alan and this story he wrote, along with his whole website also coincided with my helping to heal my one of my best friends from his long-term suffering from bullying, and also a series of interactions within my work life in general, that brought me to think hard about Alan’s mission and good work. I also thought about how Alan put himself out there on this site and his personal exposure along with all the risks that go along with doing that. That has helped me come to terms with my own decision of leaving big law and the dysfunctional situations that I am quite good at surviving now due to my rationalized flight and fight instinct that I developed through my experiences with bullies in my past.
So now I have chosen my own path (which by the way I was very reluctant to choose) and now can focus all my energy on my own path. Bottom line is that throughout my life and especially during 6-8 grade in Lexington, MA, when Alan was there, I realized that I had some “mark” that those with wisdom saw in me. Adults who are smart and anyone who understands how to view things from the outside saw that mark and “got me”. They always got me and have always helped me, especially an African-American judge and Vietnam Vet that gave me a chance, where others would have not. They “got” me! It has made me live a life that seems so easy and lucky. Now this brings us to the present. This Juneetenth I continue on my Journey of Freedom with a view from the outside to help those on the outside get inside (but never myself getting too close).