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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Looking Through The Kaleidoscope #500: Being a Bully is a Statistic...The News is Making Me Sick...

It's my 500th post! Or 16th if you are counting. The "#500" just seemed cooler. What's in a number?

I'm used to the idea of bad news being on the news all of the time. What I am still not used to is the fact that a good chunk of this bad news has to do with bullying. To be more precise, the tragic end-results that are coming from it. How many more child suicides do we have to have before the hammer falls?

Many times Jamie has spoke about her very poignant and important experiences with bullying. I have only mentioned mine briefly in Kaleidoscope's public forum. Like Jamie, I was bullied as a child, however I feel it was never to the same extreme as her. I was constantly picked on for being skinny, and in that sense smaller than other people. Being tall didn't exactly help matters. I was still skinny, and therefore considered weak. I don't think I'm weak, and I think a part of me back then felt the same way back then. But according to bullies, the stick-like arms don't lie. I don't think I ever was able to move past this until my first year of college. I was once again an outsider, being one of two Rhode Islanders in my freshman class, but everyone was an outsider. Even those who lived in the Berkshires were embarking on a brand new experience, and all they could bring to the table was themselves, or at least who they chose to be at that particular time.

I've actually explored this a bit not too long ago. I took part in a solo-performance class while pursuing my MFA. This class focused on varying aspects of the craft, and ultimately led to an autobiographical show that we put together. Right away, I knew who I wanted to model my show around in terms of format: the late, great Spalding Gray. For the theatre kids reading this, Google him. He paved the way for a lot of solo theatre that is around today, and his work holds up strong. Now came the content, and with only 26 years under my belt, this autobiography is not much of a read. I didn't feel that there was something in my life (at least the span of my life being observed) that warranted much of anything. It's been a mixture of ordinary in the sense that not much has happened, and in the same way blessed that I haven't had much experience with trauma (knock on wood). So what do I talk about?

Part of the process was recollecting and observing our own memories, and through this process I was able to string together some themes. I found repeating patterns in my life that revolved around various things, but one of the aspects that really stuck out was this sense of social hierarchy in our younger years, and the fact that we don't make the decisions in terms of this hierarchy. Someone else makes the decision for us. The frustrating part is that I couldn't find out who this someone (or group of someones) was. The self that I explored knew two things for sure: someone made the decisions, and I wasn't that someone. And at that point, I had my show. I sat at a table, had a few props, and told my stories. Through these stories, I tried to paint a picture of a hidden society within our childhood, and most of us our peasants. If you wanted to know where your place was, just look at where you were sitting at lunch. If you even had a seat.

When I think about who Kaleidoscope is trying to reach right now, it made me think of this show. It also made me ask this question: if every bullying victim's experiences are unique, then how can we reach all of them in one message? It's like I said before, both Jamie and I were bullied, but the experiences, on the outset, seem like night and day. The dawn was thankfully the same: we both came out stronger in the end. So where is the constant? Where is the constant within all of these victims?

If I had to guess, I would say it is control. The victim only has so much of it. They have a degree of control in how they respond to the bullying (I say "degree" because I don't think some reactions are made rationally or by "choice"). With bullying, I believe that the constant is that, at the end of the day, whether we can take the punishment or not, we feel that someone else is in control of our lives.

Maybe the message should be something along these lines: you are in control of who you are. It is your identity, and no one has the right to tell you that it is wrong or against the laws of nature. Yes, we may feel that certain sides of us aren't ready to blossom, but that's alright to feel that way. Somewhere, there will be someone we can trust in, and we can bloom for them. It might take a while, but it will happen. No question. If you feel the need to hide, hide in plain sight. What I mean to say is don't let the ignorance of others constitute your identity. Just because one person can't accept something doesn't mean that everyone else will follow their lead. I am fully aware that there are many factors in this very sensitive subject, and we can only do so much at a given time. But whatever we are allotted to do at that given time, give it everything you've got.

Don't let bullying take your identity. Take it back.

In the words of Garrison Keillor, "be well, do good work, and keep in touch."

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What's your favorite fairytale?