Life can be tough for a kid that’s a short twerp. I was always one of the smallest kids in my class, so I was an easy target for bullies. Not only was I small, I had glasses and crooked teeth. For good measure I had a mop of hair and didn’t dress particularly well. When I was in grade school, I was what the kids today call “A hot mess”.
I survived being a gawky twerp in elementary school. The daily bullying became occasional bullying and I started to tell myself “things are going to get better in the future”. Then my dad dropped a bomb!
He told me we were moving to another state. I was going to have to start middle school in another zip code. I was devastated and my only thought was, this will give a new set of bullies some fresh meat to abuse. I had heard things about middle school and none of them were good. Once I got my dad’s news I wanted to find a cave in a far off land and hide in it.
I thought I was too small, too thin, too gawky and much too unsophisticated to be accepted in Junior High. The bullies there would eat me for lunch and spit me out at a bus stop. To add insult to injury, I was moving to a suburb of Chicago. These kids lived near a big city and had probably seen it all.
I lived in Kettering, Ohio and a good day for me was collecting enough pop bottles to buy a new pack of baseball cards. Not what you would call a big city skill. Negative thoughts kept swimming in my head, guys would abuse me, girls would ignore me and the teachers would be lucky to see me (because I was so small). That cave I was thinking about kept looking better and better.
My dad told me things would work out when we moved and I tried to believe him. We moved in June, just a couple of months before school started. We had quite a few kids in my new neighborhood and as luck would have it I met one named Tom. He was a good guy and in a neighborhood filled with girls he was thrilled to have another guy living nearby. He didn’t care if I was a twerp!
We became immediate friends and this helped my confidence. He briefed me on the middle school, the town of Glen Ellyn, what people did for fun and more. He made me feel comfortable about living in a new state. Tom also agreed to walk to middle school with me every day once school began. My neighborhood friend boosted my confidence. Tom was smart, funny, athletic and likeable and he made me feel all of those things about myself. He treated me as if I were like him. A few times I discussed my flaws with Tom. I discussed being a twerp with glasses and crooked teeth. He replied “so what, I have red hair and freckles”.
He reminded me to focus on the good stuff about myself and to remember what made me great. Tom told me I was one of the funniest people he had ever met. He also taught me something very important. He taught me to just be myself and use my strengths.
When I started middle school, I heeded Tom’s advice. I used my humor to meet new friends and I made fun of myself first. Once the potential bullies saw that, it became useless for them to pick on me. Although I was the new kid in town, I decided to run for student council. I made a hilarious speech and my classmates loved it. I won a student council position. I was still a Twerp, but now I was a Twerp with an Attitude!
I survived Middle School and when I reached High School I even tried playing a sport. I may not be the most athletic guy because of my size, but no one sees the size of your heart. I have a big heart and it has always told me not to give up and to believe in myself. I wanted to play football or basketball but I took up tennis. My heart and the rest of my twerp sized body worked hard and I made my high school tennis team. I met friends playing tennis and my doubles partner said the same thing Tom did. He told me I was very funny and I had a great attitude. I still enjoy playing Tennis
To this day, when I feel small or others try to make me feel like a lesser person I remember Tom’s advice “be yourself and use your strengths”. I use my humor, creativity and zest for life to meet people and be successful. It’s been almost forty years since middle school and I live back in Kettering, Ohio. Recently, my wife and I met Tom and his wife when we were up in the Chicago area.
When we met it was as if Tom and I were back in middle school again. We laughed and had a great time. Tom and I reflected on how blessed we were to have such great wives and kids. We talked about how good life was. We reminisced about the good old days, but we also celebrated how far we had come. We toasted to our successful careers, great families and even our pets! As we glanced over at our wives, I’m certain we both thought the same thing “Not bad for a twerp with crooked teeth and a red head with freckles”!
Their will always be people who will bully you. It’s a sad part of life. Today it is easier than ever for bullies due to social media, they don’t even have to face you. Bullies make fun of your size, appearance or any flaws you have. They do this to feel better about themselves.
We all have flaws. Besides being a twerp, I am blind in one eye, have a hernia the size of a golf ball and I have a bump at the end of my nose. A bully may call me the world’s shortest Ogre, but who cares!! Thanks to my friend Tom, I am reminded that I’m the best when I’m being myself and using my strengths and talents. No one sees my inner strength or heart. As long as I have those I’m capable of anything.
Our strengths, talent and motivation make us successful in life but our inner strength and heart help erase life’s negatives and eliminate the bullies we encounter!