Growing up I was constantly bullied. Getting tripped in hallways, shoved into lockers, random punches in the back from the strongest kids was my life. Honestly, what hurt the most was the name calling though.
The pain of name calling is very different to that of physical abuse. Being called four-eyes might be funny to some but hurtful to others. Hearing yourself called beaver boy is something that makes you feel tiny. Instead of crying in public I’d hide wherever I could. You might have been in a similar situation at one point in your life. It is also possible that you experience this today.
I am here to tell you that it gets better, and happy endings do happen.
“Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down” — Tom Petty
I was bullied and I am human
For the four years of high school, I was picked on to no end, like when other students would knock my glasses off my head as I walked down the hall. I quit the baseball team after the verbal abuse from my teammates became too much to handle; the day I quit, my ex-teammates were waiting for me in the parking lot with bats in hand. In the cafeteria, I was shoved off the bench and had applesauce dumped down my shirt. This was what I came to expect every day.
The last straw was when a bully decided to put his ketchup covered food on my head. You know those stories you hear about when you are young where a child is trapped under a car and the mother finds the strength to lift up the car and get the child out? Adrenaline really is a crazy thing. The bully was larger than me (weight wise) and I somehow picked him up, threw him on the lunch table, put him in a headlock and started punching his head. The bully became the victim.
Was I sorry? Well, yes and no. I was fed up with the endless abuse by so many people. I held it in for so long. I did not talk with my parents about it. Teachers did not listen or take action when they were informed about it. So all of that lack of care and the dirty, half eaten slimy food on my head was that final trigger.
So I snapped, and that was my first suspension ever. I became the abuser and got the punishment. What did the bully get? Nothing. He was in school every day following that fight. That made me feel even worse because I knew I did not start the fight. I knew that I was the real victim and nothing (at all) was being done. I continued to lose my patience and started acting out against the bullies. I threw everything I had in myself, and into the things I did for enjoyment.
Music, hockey and eventually photography. I began writing music for the punk bands I was playing in. Eventually one band became a hardcore, scream style band and guess who took his anger and frustration out in screams. Yes, me.
At one point during high school I started to feel the effects of being bullied. The pressure was immense and I was already struggling in school due to my undiagnosed (at the time) dyslexia. It’s a mild case of dyslexia, but it was not until that point that I found out that I was always dealing with it.
Eventually I began taking more action than before and without getting into the nitty-gritty of that one last situation, I can tell you that I was expelled for fighting back. I almost missed my graduation, but thankfully the school agreed to home school my last weeks of high school as long as I went to talk with someone.
So you could say that the bullying I received in high school shaped my life in some ways. I have thicker skin now. I learned valuable lessons and know when to fight for something or to walk away. I try my hardest and do not care what others think. I help people who need it. I teach people who want to learn. I was bullied, but I am successful at what I do with my life.
I still play music, and in fact after high school I attended Berklee College of Music for a short while. Eventually I realized that music was not my future career and switched to photography. However, I continued playing in an amazing band called Fairmont, who still plays and records music today.
Whenever I hear music like Macklemore’s “Same Love” I think about how much I was bullied. I am not gay and that is not why I was bullied. But it still hits home because haters are haters. Bullies are bullies. Music can heal, inspire, educate, and make your mind wander into day dreams where bullies do not exist. Music is powerful. So is photography.
I mentioned that I am dyslexic and it is something I have dealt with forever apparently. It was not until late into high school, when I started talking to someone, did I get tested for it. Turns out that all my struggles in all of my classes except music and gym, were related to being dyslexic.
Yet somehow I was hired to be a full-time blogger for an amazing company who makes WordPress photography products. The craziest part of getting hired is how it happened. I did not apply for the job. In fact, I was not even looking for a new job. One day while heading out to dinner with my wife, I received an email asking if I was looking for a job. Turned out that my boss was keeping an eye on my blog, social media and photography. He loved what I did and thought I was the perfect voice for the company. The rest is history.
If you are wondering how I get by writing for a living. I spend a lot of time running spell checks, using grammar specific checker tools, have coworkers proofing, my wife red penning and so on. I stay true to myself, speak my mind, and write how I speak. I learned that I can elaborate more when I write how it sounds in my head and not write in a formal way.
I am a color blind photographer
My biological father passed away when I was two years old and so I never had the opportunity to know him. As it turns out, I am just like him or so my family says. I know that he was color blind with the same severity as me, he was a hobbyist photographer, a lover of Johnny Cash’s music and so much more.
My father and I both have what some do not consider to be color blindness. Basically, when two similar colors are side-by-side, they look the same to me. For example, dark navy blue and black are one. Brown and darker oranges are one color as well. This really made it difficult during school when I had to paint with color or when in the darkroom processing color photographs.
I had to learn how to adjust, to see contrasting colors that are not alike and to know when to ask for assistance. To this day I continue this process. Whether it is in photography or what I am wearing, I always think about the colors and ask for help. I also use expensive color calibration tools like the ColorMunki and ColorChecker Passport which is the safest way for me to make sure that colors are how I want them to be in my photographs. Adapting to your own disabilities and situations helps you grow as a person and as a photographer.
I am successful where I am today
In this article I have talked about 3 reasons that I could have easily failed in my career, and in many things in life. I am color blind and dyslexic and yet I am a full-time writer and a freelance photographer. I have been published by two eBook publishing companies, Flatbooks and Peachpit Press (division of Pearson Education). I learned from all the bullying I received in high school and grew thicker skin. I still would not wish it on anyone and I do wish everyone would just get along.
Every day during the week around dinner time, my wife and I sit down and watch the Ellen show. Her jokes, charm and enthusiasm towards everything good and positive is infectious. At the end of almost every episode Ellen looks right at the camera and says “Be kind to one another”. Ellen Degeneres changed the world and hopefully one day her words will make an even bigger dent in the bullying around the world.
Until then I want to encourage everyone who reads this to keep going. Keep fighting for yourself. Learn from what is happening in your life. Move beyond the bullying. Figure out how to do what you love when you have a disability. Be passionate about it and show that passion off. Be successful.
And for all the bullies out there who may (or mostly not) reading this, I recommend viewing this video:
Thanks for reading,