I can’t actually promise anyone it will get better. And I think it would be, with the lived experience of my life, disingenuous to try. And I’m not going to lie to anyone: it doesn’t always get better.
But it does get… different. That might not seem like much, especially when you are on the low side of down, but it means everything to me.
Bullies are trying to exert their power over someone else. I’m not entirely sure why that feels good for some people – though I sometimes think it is to make up for a lack of power in other areas of their lives, I tend to shy away from pat, universal answers. Sometimes people are just cruel people.
That doesn’t go away when you’re an adult.
But here is what happens: When you’re playing an RP game, and you first start out, there are these enemies at the beginning of the game who seem impossible. All you’ve got is, like, a flashlight, if that, and you don’t know where you are or what to do. You fight those enemies and sometimes they wound you gravely and you limp along avoiding other fights until you find something that will heal you. You repeat the process, and you level up.
You keep leveling up until, when you go back and fight those early monsters, they seem like a cakewalk in comparison. The enemy isn’t changed at all – they are still the same low-hit-point ridiculous monsters they were at the beginning of your campaign. But you have changed. You’ve survived in spite of them and sometimes you even get to deliver a hearty fuck you in the midst of it all.
That’s very satisfying, I’m not gonna lie.
One thing that happens is simply time. Being a pre-teen and/or a teenager is one of the hardest things you can be. Both because you are figuring things out for yourself (which is sometimes the most awesome creative process ever and sometimes excruciatingly painful but in either case it’s kind of like creating a whole new reality) and because you don’t have a lot of personal agency. When you aren’t 18 yet, at least in the United States, your power is limited. Bullies try to take it away from you and it isn’t like you have a lot of options for response because everything is too dependent on adults taking action.
But time passes and your personal agency really does increase. Being a legal adult shouldn’t make such a difference but especially if the environment of your young adulthood is part of the problem, just getting out of high school – and out of someone else’s house – can be the biggest relief in the world. At that point you have more direct – and legal – control over your choices and what you want to do with your life.
Of course, that doesn’t mean things are magical unicorn double rainbow okay. Because, as you level up, you sometimes run into bigger and meaner monsters. Your toolbox for dealing with them gets expanded and your own hit points increase. You get a sword instead of just a flashlight. You are, almost always, at a level where you can beat these enemies. And if you aren’t, it really is okay to step away from the fight and look for some health packs or a healer or something. Because there’s no shame in taking care of your self – in fact, that’s pretty much your job number one. Not because other people won’t do it (sometimes, in fact, other people will want to take more care of you than you want taken!) but because it is important that you be able to do it when no one else is around and it’s just you and your flashlight and a bunch of nasties.
It gets different and it feels easier at times and harder at times. Brick by brick, that suffocating feeling of pressure on your chest lightens up a little bit. The moments of relief come more often and last longer.
And, more than that, you aren’t so alone. There is something inherently hopeless about feeling alone and powerless. You meet other people, though, other people who are a lot like you, and it makes some of that bleak loneliness go away. It means there are extra hands to lift those bricks off your chest, extra hands to hold the flashlight steady, to go on quests with you until you find whatever it is that you’re looking for.
Sometimes it’s hard to find those other people – but I promise you, we’re already around you.
There isn’t anyone else like you; that’s the really, really cool thing about being a person. It’s not about being a special snowflake – it’s about every individual being truly that, an individual. You are the only you there is. And that’s amazing.
When I was a pre-teen, I had a bulletin board. And behind some stuff (I remember with particular clarity a little pennant with a pink pig made of felt that I’d made in some kind of home economics class), written on a scrap of paper, I had the number for a local suicide prevention hotline. I spent a lot of time alone as a kid but more than just the time alone, I felt alone, as though there was simply too much between me and any hope of being more in control of my life. I don’t share this lightly – I don’t think my family ever knew and it isn’t like I’ve ever told anyone. But I posted the number because I knew, even then, that decisions made when I was at my worst probably weren’t the best decisions I could make. And something so permanent, well, that wasn’t a decision I wanted to fuck up. I didn’t really want to kill myself. What I wanted was relief. To make it all stop, just for a little while if at all possible. I had enough respite, in the form of family and books (oh, books, you have saved my life so many times), so that it never felt like the only possible option but I’ve never been so close to ending my own life as I was at 10 and 11. As I’ve said before, I’m stubborn and I’m contrary, so it felt like just surviving was kind of sticking it to the people who wanted to make me hurt and fearful, too.
It’s okay to be afraid. Monsters are scary. Not wanting to fight them doesn’t make a person a coward.
It gets different. It gets different every day. You get more practice and you level up and you find items to help you and friends who sometimes literally save your life.
Eventually, I think, we’re all together going to score enough damage on the big boss, the big bad, to take it down for good. And that will be an amazing day. We aren’t there yet – but maybe that’s where things do get better: there are more and more of us working to change the world and make the world better.
There are always going to be bullies. But their powers don’t change. Yours will.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized
. Bookmark the permalink
. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post
or leave a trackback: Trackback URL