We were all kids at the time. We were just a bunch of kids living in a small town, no better or worse than anyplace else. We were the middle class.We were the average (at best.) We thought we knew what we were talking about. We thought we knew what we were doing. Then again, so does every kid.
We were aching to be more than what we were and eager to feel electric. We were eager to dare the edge and anxious to be young, to be crazy, and wild.
We were all looking to find our identity. We were trying to understand why life happens the way it does because the world was still a new place to us. We were drawn in by fascination.
We were drawn to the older crowd and the wilder kids. And when I say we, I mean us, the younger kids. I mean us, the kids looking to find our sense of identity. We were the good kids and the bad. We were the punks in training.
When I say we, I wholeheartedly believe that anyone that felt lost, anyone that struggled, anyone that was angry or confused; when I say we, I say this in a truly interchangeable way. I mean we. I mean us. I mean the kids that were just trying to figure this world out.
Although names and places, times and fashions might be different—I swear, I heartily believe in the idea that the emotional base is what relates us all together. So when I say we, I mean us.
I mean me. . .
I was drawn in by fascination. I was drawn in by the stories of tough kids and bad kids. Their stories made them out to be superstars, like cowboys, rebellious and strong, or at least this is how it seemed to me.
Then again, I was small. I was so little. Too weak and too thin, especially when compared to the others my age.
Of course I was impressed by the bad kids. Why wouldn’t I be? They behaved in a way that mirrored my feelings.
I was frustrated. I was angry. I couldn’t figure anything out—and what I mean was; I struggled in class. I felt uncomfortable in social settings. I was always afraid of an attack (so to speak) and what I mean is; I was always afraid that there was something wrong with me, which could be exploited and leave me as a social target.
This is why I always wanted to be like the rebellious ones. I wanted to be like the kids that didn’t care. They were free to say and do what they wanted.
I wanted to be tough and to be feared so no one would ever dare pick on me. When I saw what the crazy kids had, I wanted this too by any means necessary.
I wanted the name. I wanted the popularity, or wait, no.
Better yet, I wanted the notoriety. This way I could feel protected behind my mask. I could be shielded by my rage, and otherwise untouchable.
I could be the class clown. I could make people laugh. And why not? If I make them laugh then maybe people would be attracted to me. If not, I can yell and I can scream. i can learn to cut people with my tongue. I can learn how to verbally assault as a means to protect myself. but whatever I did, I knew I had to learn to make it quick. Otherwise I would find myself in front of the social firing squads and face a character assassination.
I will advise you here and now that going further, names, descriptions, and facts will be changed and altered to protect the less than innocent (including me.)
I explain that certain aspects will be changed; however, there is nothing fictional about what I will explain in the upcoming paragraphs.
This is not to depict us as cool or glorify our behavior. We weren’t gangsters or rock stars or even a fragment of anything glorious. We were all just a bunch of kids.
We were insecure. All of us were. All of us claimed to have our own rebellion as if to be unique. We swore we were different but yet none of us were ever brave enough to be, think, or openly act different than anyone else did You can’t do that because that is social suicide.
We were all just looking to survive the socialized structure of our environment—
Dario was a good kid. He grew up not too far from my house. Sometimes he lived with his grandmother. Sometimes he lived with his mother. Most times, as young as he was and the kid brother to another well-known tough kid, Dario was out somewhere, running around, protected by the suburban streets, jumping from one back yard to another, mischievous as they come, and a warning sign of what is yet to be.
Dario smoked cigarettes at 10 or maybe 11. Unless you were a girl, Marlboro Reds was the popular choice of the crowd. Most of the girls I knew smoked Marlboro Lights.
Some of the tougher girls smoked Reds. They were the hang-around girls like Ellen, Ally, Bella, and a few others that stayed out passed the late night hours.
And me, like I said, I was the small one. I was always trying to seem bigger. I tried to act tougher. I tried to be cooler. I always did more to prove myself. I also paid more consequences. But hey, as I saw it, at least I earned my stripes.
To me, this was like finding a loophole in the rules of popularity. I might not have been strongest or toughest or best looking—but at least I found something to make me stand out.
At least I found something in my mind that stood me out instead of leaving me faceless and unknown, or worse, unremarkable and forgettable.
Everything was about the image. No matter what crowd you chose to hang around, everything was about what you wore, how you looked, and how you spoke.
As I saw it, everything was an act. And you had to act as if. You had to say and do the right thing; otherwise, you face the loneliness of social leprosy. You had to be cool. You had to find a way to pull off your trick.
Whatever your angle was, you had to be smooth about it; otherwise, social hyenas (and social climbers) would laugh while they picked you apart and leave your bones cleaned and exposed.
I tell you this is pack mentality at its best. This is how others kept their names from the gossip mills and the rumor factories. They kept themselves warm by using others as firewood. Sure, this was mean but being mean beats being alone or worse; being mean beats being victimized.
We are taught about government and politics at a very young age. These are not lessons we learn in class. We learned these lessons in the schoolyard. We learned them in the bathrooms. We learn them in locker rooms.
We learned about the different levels of government when learned about the different stages of cool.
We learned about politics when we learned about the different echelons of popularity. And no one wants to be at the bottom.
No one wants to be the lowly peasant or unpopular. Each and every one of us had our own little kingdom to defend.
We all had our little castle. We all had our own territory that we had to defend; otherwise, we would find ourselves invaded.
And me—yeah, I was a little prince. Sure, I had my own little kingdom. I called this place my bedroom. This was the only place I cold ever really be me.
I am not sure if my words alone can express this sentiment accurately enough, but my room was like this living breathing source. My room saw it all. My room saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is where I would retreat after the daily battles. This is where I’d go to talk to myself freely. this is where I wept and where I dreamed.
I had two windows in my bedroom. One window faced the front of the house. The second of the two windows lead to the side of my home. This window opened up to the roof above the garage. I used to climb out this window and climb on to the roof of my home. I would sit on the peak of my house and watch the world I grew up in. I would think here. I would light a cigarette; blow the smoke up to the winds as if I were one of the defiant ones. I sat up here with Ryan a few times. He talked about his time in jail.
I had posters on the wall. I had a stereo. I had a television. I never had anything extravagant here. But whatever I had was mine. This was all I had. This here was the wealth of my kingdom, which was otherwise poor. But somehow, I don’t think I was the only one too feel this way. others felt this way about their life. I know they did.
Ryan was one of the first I knew to be arrested and taken to jail. Of course this was a terrible thing but somehow, there was something “Cool” about this, which gave Ryan his name. This made him crazy. He liked to carry knives. He liked to talk about stabbing people. Ryan was much bigger than me but one night on the roof, Ryan drank too much of my gin.
He opened up. He let his mask slip. As big as he was, Ryan was no different from me. He was just a scared kid. Insecure about everything and tired of living the way he was.
“I swear to god,” he told me.
“:Sometimes I just think I’ll slit my wrist and watch it all go away.”
I never dared tell anyone about what I had done to me. I almost did that night. But I didn’t.
I tell you my bedroom was witness to it all. To this day, whoever the homeowners are, they have no idea what secrets are buried within those walls. They don’t know about the paraphernalia that is probably still buried beneath the floorboards. They’ll never know about my mirror confessions, which are the times when I would be there, intoxicated and babbling like a madman, trying hard to rehearse my behavior in the mirror so I could pull of my trick.
My room saw me almost die; it saw me try to kill myself in several ways. This is where I euthanized myself in tiny pieces, one day at a time.
This is where my fascination for a life of craziness took a turn. This is when I learned that the life I was trying to find was all a lie.
Nothing was cool anymore. But no one ever talks about this part. instead, they preach about the behavior and the drugs like it works. But it doesn’t.
I was chasing something. I was trying to find an image. I wanted to find an identity so I chose one that mirrored me best. I chose a mask that I swore would protect me. And then one day, I brought home a packet of heroin. And why not, right?
This was the ultimate mother of all substances. I wasn’t a little teeny-bopper kid anymore. I wanted to play man’s games. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to sniff the line and find myself coasting the wave of something untouchable and weightless. I wanted to feel that sense of almighty peace—to be gone but yet here, but yet, wherever I was, none of this matter because I could have been anywhere and I wouldn’t have known a thing. More accurately, I just wanted to be free.
It was all a lie though. In searching for my freedom, I signed up for indentured servitude. The high did its trick but the cost was more than I bargained for. In fact, you never stop paying. Not really.
And I was warned about this too. Everyone knows the warnings but none of that works. Schools focus on the warnings. But all the warnings did was turn me onto new ideas of my so-called salvation.
I remember they had speakers come to our school once. They were kids that went to rehab at a young age. They were supposed to come in and talk us out of under-aged drinking and drug use. This was to dissuade us
But no. Not me. I heard their stories as more of an informational piece. I wanted to be high. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to feel like I was separated from the world and separated from the social governments that ruled over the crowds and circle of friends. I wanted to suspend my fears and insecurities. Besides, there was a certain amount of street cred one gets if they go away. I didn’t see the speakers as kids with a problem. I saw them as kids that were trying to be cool.
When the speakers came in, they never discussed why they did what they did. They never discussed another way to overcome the personal weaknesses and the secret vulnerabilities.
They just explained their behaviors. This was not a deterrent to me. No, this was more like an instruction to a game that I was unsure how to play.
I think of my friends like Tommy. I think of Dario. I think of Warren. I think of a girl Flora. I think about Mikey. I think about Rocco. I think about Pete. I think about Billy. I think about Brad. I think about them and the list could and does go on. They are all dead.
I think about the friends that still struggle. I think about the ones whose lives are not what they planned it to be. I think about their charisma and how it seems removed from them now—burnt out, like brain cells, dead from the life. They were all warned too, but yet, look—they’re outcome is all the same.
Why is it that we focus on symptoms instead of exploring the source of the problem? Keep in mind, I am far from the only one with sad stories. By now, we all know someone that struggled or is still struggling with life.
And what if heroin is not the thing? Forget the opiate epidemic for a second.
What if it’s eating or drinking or what if depression is that thing that keeps you locked in the room. What about those kind bedroom mirror confessions? What about their rehearsals of what to say? Are we really so different?
When I was a kid, I figured there was nothing tougher than being a kid and feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
When I was a kid, I figured bullies only exist in schoolyards. I figured the games would stop once I moved out on my own.
I thought once classrooms stopped then real life would begin. In all fairness, none of my most impactful and valuable lessons happened in class.
I mean sure,
I learned to read and write, add and subtract. I learned what happens when
water gets too cold or hot. I learned about math but I have never used algebra.
Earth science is what it was and so was history but when I’m on the job, no one
cares who the 13th President of the United States is.
Sure, I learned in school.
I learned that bullying and the social lessons were a training ground of the future to come. I never learned how to defend myself properly. I never learned about my own personal wellness. I just learned to protect myself at all times; otherwise, social hyenas and social climbers will laugh as they pick me apart and consume me down to the bone.
Of all things I learned in school; I really wished I learned how to live and not be swayed by all of the above. And I mean . . . it’s not like I went to class much, but you know what? I’m sure if I went to this class once, I think I would have gone back again. I would have even paid attention. I might have even taken notes.
Of all things I wished I learned in school when I was a kid; I wished I learned how to live and navigate through life without placing so much importance on things that kept me sick.
What did you learn?
What was your classroom like?
Better yet, think about the cafeteria in your school.
Think about the separation of crowds, which is no different than the separations of government.
This is where we learned about the different echelons of cool. This is really where we learned about politics and popularity.
What did you
Better yet, what will your kids learn?
Think about it . . .