Monday, August 15, 2016

Confessions of a Bullied Kid/Adult

In memory of Daniel Fitzpatrick and all the bullied people of the world
We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common - which is - we all want to be happy. Ellen DeGeneres

It is Monday, August 15th, 2016.
August 15 is the 228th. There are 138 days remaining until the end of the year. 
There are 84 days to the election. This is a tough blog for me but one that needs to be written.

Life isn't always sunshine and rainbows.

There’s a shocking, devastating story about a boy that exploded on social media a few days ago, and for very good reason. 
13-year-old Daniel Fitzpatrick told in his own words about what happened in school that led him to take his own life.This past week, 13 year old Daniel Fitzpatrick took his life in Staten Island. He was bullied relentlessly by five guys in school that made his like a daily hell. 
He says that his teachers and the adults around him did nothing. As I heard this, my heart broke. This was not just another news story. These tragedies have become far too common in our country.
It was/is my story. It is the story of so many that I know and have known over the years. Some of what I write today, may be repetitive, but I feel that it needs to be told. 

You may feel that he, me, or "fill in the blank", is not part of your personal circle, that it doesn't affect you.  
I have known several people in my life who have committed suicide. That is another blog topic. Today, I want to focus on bullying and our bullying kids. The title for today's blog comes out of Daniel's suicide note. I think of Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life. Where was Daniel's Clarence? Some angel did not get his wings because Daniel was failed by the people around him. He says this bullying went on for about five years. Oh My God! I wish I could be there to put my arms around him and try to get through this. I
Me as an innocent child not knowing what the future holds
beg all of my readers, if you see someone being bullied, please step up to the plate. Intervene. Do something. 

Here are some ways you can make a difference when you see bullying:
  1. Don't join in or watch bullying. Bullies love an audience. ...
  2. Stop any rumors. If someone tells you gossip, don't pass it on to others. ...
  3. Stand up for the person. ...
  4. Tell an adult. ...
  5. Encourage the bullied person to talk to an adult. ...
  6. Offer support.
I know this might seem strange, but when I look at childhood photos of me, I sometimes get sad. I was bullied from a very early age and the fantasy world of movies, music, and the theatre got me through it all. I also had big dreams. I was going to go beyond the borders of my existence and I would show them all. No matter how bad it got, I was going to get out. There are a few names that, even today, as I think back, the pain is still there. Why? What makes a bully? Why does one feel that they need to be superior to everyone else. Also,
with my Dad and my sister
when there is a bully, usually there are others that gravitate to the bully more so than the victim. 

It started for me when I started school. I was very myopic. It was ages before I got glasses and could clearly see the world. My myopia was made fun of
Guys would walk over and knock my books out of my hand and when I kneeled down to pick them up, I would be kicked over. I had some guys who forced me to eat dirt. I was called derogatory words that I didn't even know the meaning of.

My parents used to leave us with a baby sitter and her son who was bigger and older than me used me as a punching bag. 

Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. - Roald Dahl

I begged my parents not to take me back there. My dad's response was to learn to fight back. My mother was indifferent. His mother laughed it off.
It continued throughout school. As I got older, I realized that I could use humor to diffuse the pain. 

I started doing lunchtime concerts on the front steps of our high school. I would mimic the shows that I saw on TV the night before and the kids and teachers loved it...although there were
still those that made the taunting worse. When I was thirteen, I had an aunt say to me that she wished I had never been born. I don't really talk about this much out of respect to my family, but it was around this time that the biggest bully in my life was my father.
My father was an alcoholic and my teen years was the time when his drinking was the worst. My father was not a social drinker. He didn't go to bars or drink with a few friends (outside of a few cousins of his that he drank with from time to time). 
His drinking was behind closed doors. When you live in that environment, life is always hanging in the balance. You never know when, where, or how his next outburst would take place. As the
oldest, I was the brunt of his anger. I tried to talk about it when I was in my thirties, but he laughed me off and said that I had imagined it all.
I loved my father and I have no anger or bitterness towards him. As an older man, I realize that he had a disease. He also struggled to provide for a wife and four kids. He did the best he could. 
Strangely enough, I think it was a gift. If I had come from a nurturing background, I don't think I would have stuck it out when I first came to New York. No matter how bad it got here (and my formative years were rough), I never felt like I had anything to go back to. I had to forge ahead. To me, there was no other alternative.
But even as an adult, there are other aspects of bullying that I have encountered. 
I arrived in New York on August 5th, 1979. I had a place to go. The person was from my hometown. His father was prominent in our school system. He had even designed the lighting for a show that I had done with our local theatre. He led me to believe it was his own apartment and that he had a company that I could work for. THAT opened the door for my entree into New York. Unfortunately, they were all lies. Not only was the apartment not his, but he had two roommates! One of them was OK with my being there, but the other hated me from the first moment she lied eyes on me. I could stay there as long as I agreed to do the cleaning and laundry (I
was also paying rent!)
I was three weeks before I found out that it was a sublet and that I had two weeks to move. We all did.
Also, as far as the job, that was a lie as well.ewas a temp! I got my first NY job as a messenger in the Wall Street area of NY. at $6.00 an hour. It was 1979, but still! 

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. Make sure you're proud of them
Quote found on Twitter today

A guy that I was working with had just lost his mother and was looking for a roommate. Someone was looking after me!

I want to back up for a moment. At my first audition in New York, August 9th, I met a woman who became my New York Auntie Mame. From the moment we met, her eccentricities drew me to her. We were almost like Harold and Maude. She took me under her wings and introduced me to all of the landmarks of New York. We remained friends as I began to acclimate myself in New York.
As I began to make friends on my own and to branch out, however, she became insanely jealous.
She had one friend, during my early formative New York years, that said some very hurtful things "innocently" that hung over me for a long time like a dark cloud hanging over my head. 
Over the years, I have been taken advantage of by those that I have trusted the most. I have been the victim of innuendo and gossip based on "feelings" that have been based on nothing. One thing I have learned in my lifetime is that I have no control over that. All that I have control over is how I react to it. I try and rise above it. It is not always easy. And now, we have social media. There are people who feel safe and secure behind their keyboards and screens saying horribly cruel things about others. I have read things that make me question humanity. My personal philosophy is that if I've offended one person, I've offended one person too many. I try and always be aware of that. 
We live in a bullying culture. Every reality show is based on bullying. Someone is going to be kicked off the island, or fired or made to feel 'less than'.

Our comedies are about put down humor. Comedians say horrendous things about others and because they are comedians, it's "allowed". One well known comedienne constantly says, "That's what we do."
It has seeped into this year's election with one of the candidates exhibiting all the attributes of what defines a bully. Donald, please note children are listening. Young Mexican and Muslim kids are being told that a wall is going to be built to keep them out. We need to celebrate our differences rather than dividing each other.
A few years ago a campaign was launched, It Gets Better. 
We need to drive this message home constantly.
I saw Florence Foster Jenkins last night. A film I highly recommend. There is a moment in the film in which columnist of the day Earl Wilson wrote a very hurtful thing about Jenkins in the New York Post. Spoiler Alert: Wilson goes to Jenkins'
Florence Foster Jenkins Credit: Getty Images
concert at Carnegie Hall. After her first number (as depicted in the film) and rushes off to attack her in print.
He asked her husband,“Why?” “She loves music,” said St Clair Bayfield, a minor actor who had been her secret common-law husband since 1909. “If she loves music,” said Wilson, “why does she do this?”
WHY did he have to be so cruel with his column? Go see this film!
I would also like to commend my friend Carly Ozard in her brutal honesty in this article in which she discusses her own bullying. Click HERE.
I didn't write this blog to elicit sympathy. It is part of the landscape of who I am. It has shaped who I am today for better or for worse.
Now, I have a five day request to all of my Facebook and Twitter friends: Spend five days focused on others rather than posting selfies and things about yourself. Let's ALL support each other. Daniel Fitzpatrick, you will always live in my heart.

School bullying statistics in the United States show that about one in four kids in the U.S. are bullied on a regular basis. Between cyber bullying and bullying at school, the school bullying statistics illustrate a huge problem with bullying and the American school system. Read MORE.

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Dolly Gallagher Levi!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
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Richard Skipper,

1 comment:

  1. I am a few days late, but this is beautiful and very true. I was bullied terribly, and my daughter has been encountering the same thing. It was not until this past school year (9th grade) that a school took it seriously and took steps to alleviate the problem. You get to the heart of it here:
    "A few years ago a campaign was launched, It Gets Better.
    We need to drive this message home constantly." And, I would add that we should never underestimate the value of kindness.