If there is anything I regret about my childhood it is the lack of kindness I showed other people. Compassion is a currency. Spend it.
Hi. I'm old. My skin looks like pale beef jerky and I have the eyesight of a radish. I'm a bit out of touch (are you all still pegging your pants and burning scented candles in remembrance of Kurt Cobain?) to the world you live in — but I really want you to hear what I am going to say.
I remember how hard it is to grow up. Being a teenager can suck sometimes. It's like prison, but with worse cafeteria food. Some of my most horrifying encounters took place when I was being run over daily by The Puberty Bus. (trademarked) My teenage years were marked with acne, awkward social encounters and making *mix tapes for whatever lucky lady I was stalking.
*REFERENCE: A mix tapes in what dinosaurs used to use to seduce other dinosaurs through a carefully assembled song list that probably featured way to much Phil Collins.
I was a God-awful teenager. I was horrible at school and even worse at sports — so it made fitting in a serious shit storm. In all stages in life we seem to like to divide each other into two groups: Winners and Losers. I'm not sure who gets to decided which people belong in which group or what criteria they use to make those decisions. That game of Winners and Losers is often at it's most intense during junior high and high school. The only thing I knew back then was I didn't want to be a loser.
You hear Donald Trump talk a lot about who is "a winner" and who is "a loser". He must have really enjoyed High School because it doesn't appear that he has left yet.
The only took I had in my social kit when I was a teenager was I could (sometimes) make other people laugh — so this was the device I used to help me stay in The Winners Circle. If I made the right people laugh I would be able to bask in the glow of their glow of popularity and hairspray for another day. More importantly it would keep people from thinking of me as "a loser."
The problem is the easiest way that I found to make my peers laugh unfortunately was to be funny at the expense of other people.. Making fun of other people was for me the quickest way to keep the target off of me. I used my humor for evil a lot of times. I became a bully to some because I was afraid of being bullied myself. At the time I felt like I was just participating in "The Law of The Jungle". Kill or be killed.
Actually, I was just being a coward.
I was a serious dickhead to certain people. Keep in mind that this was back in the day when it took work to be an actual dickhead. You had to work for it. All insults or belittlement of other people that I wanted to put out there would have to either be done in person or at best scribbled on a urine soaked bathroom wall. There were no message boards. There was no social media. Back then if you were hell-bent destroying somebody's reputation you would have to put some serious hours of foundation.
I can't imagine what kind of a dickhead I would have been with the technology that you all have at your fingertips. You have the ability to ruin somebody in under a minute. It is a terrifying power you guys have. You have the nuclear codes and at any moment you can log in and create a virtual apocalypse for somebody you don't like. People can start rumors about somebody and then that rumor grows into a perceived truth. Every day, on some sort of message thread word-monsters are being created — and those word-monsters can eventually lead to bloodshed.
In the past few months it seems like Wyoming has been experiencing a bump in teenage suicides. In many cases the cause of the suicides has been attributed to online harassment and/or bullying. Racism. Homophobia. Gossip. Sexism. Slut Shaming. Religious Intolerance. These (and many of their ugly cousins) are things that can breed with ease behind the safety of a keyboard. It is much harder to grow and promote those awful things in person. Being cruel is easy under the umbrella of anonymity. In many cases a blinking cursor can be like a loaded gun.
As a parent of two teenage boys I can think of nothing worse than my kids being made to feel so small that they to disappear forever. Be kind to each other. There are no winners and losers when you are a teenager. You are all battling the same anxieties and demons. Don't be a coward like I was. The words you use on other people are like little seeds. They grow and they grow and they grow. Words matter. Be kind. Please be kind. I understand that it's easier to be a dickhead — I know that it will offer a few moments of instant gratification — but don't do it. You were born for some many other things than to be cruel. Taking away somebody's hope — somebody's will to live — is the worst thing you can do.
Suicide is a silent scourge in our world. We only talk about it through hushed whispers when somebody in our community takes their life. Sometimes we have a national conversation about it when a celebrity dies from it — but that discourse usually fades away once Kayne's wife snaps a couple photos of her booty.. We need a spotlight on this because the shadow of death is growing daily. Suicide is extinguishing so many bright lights. Help fight it. Don't be part of the culture of bullying.
Explore compassion and embrace empathy instead. Show mercy to a person who you could destroy. Their life might depend on it.
Thanks for listening to this old man who smells like arthritis cream and Just For Men. If you need me I will be in my basement making mix tapes and working on my Miami Vice fan fiction.
There's more where that came from!