The Lasting Effects of Bullying

The Lasting Effects of Bullying
© 2017 By Randy D Pearson –

In the span of less than a week, I received word that the two boys who bullied me in high school, over 30 years ago, have passed away. This news dredged up a slew of memories, many of which I had buried long ago.
The first thing I realized is that the news of their passing did not give me any amount of pleasure. I’d outlasted the people who made my junior and most of my senior year hell. However, it’s not as if a curse has been lifted, or a weight removed. I’ve had no interaction with them since just after high school. Two men, who had moved far away from their hometown and lived their lives to the fullest of their abilities, are gone from this world. Dead before they turned 50.
I posted about their passing on social media, adding the fact that they had bullied me. Some of my classmates were well aware, while others had no idea. A few even commiserated, either having been bullied by them as well (which I hadn’t known, being wrapped up in my own situation), or from their own personal experiences. A couple of them were shocked. “Weren’t you friends?”
We were, until we weren’t. In fact, one of the boys was my best friend through grade school and even in 9th grade. Then, in my sophomore year, my parents moved me away from the school I had attended since 2nd grade. I spent the year begging them to move me back, and did so for my junior and senior years. However, the old saying ‘you can never go home’ has some basis in fact, as the bullying started soon after I returned.
Back then, in the mid-80s, people weren’t ‘bullied.’ They were teased, picked on, or messed with. No one thought it much of a big deal, just kids being kids. You just dealt with it. I never told my parents, or the teachers. I just changed my routine, coming to school as close to the first bell as possible, and hiding out in the band room after school, “practicing” my tuba, until it was safe to walk home. Sometimes it worked, but not always. In my senior year, I took a shared time college-prep class in a neighboring city, so I could be away from my high school as much as possible.
Their deaths have forced me to relive some of these events, though when my wife asked me what exactly they did to me, I am hard pressed to remember most of the details. I have effectively shoved the individual incidences so deep into my subconscious that I would need a team of psychologists, or perhaps archeologists, to extract them.
However, I am all too aware of the lasting effects of their actions. I have always had great difficulty in trusting others. It takes a lot for me to let someone past my defenses, so I have very few close friends. Up until recently, I had a serious issue with intimacy. My relationships were mostly short lived, lasting only months or even weeks. It took me until the age of 45 to trust someone enough to fall in love and marry. I became much more introverted, preferring my own company to that of others. Being bullied fundamentally changed my personality, affecting me for the next 30 years.
These days, parents and school administrators are much more aware of bullying. Most schools have programs in place to detect and stop such behavior. But we know kids will be kids. If someone wants to bully, they will find a way. With social media, it is easier than ever.
My bullying, overall, was not physical. Unless I’ve buried these memories as well, I don’t believe I was ever attacked, other than spitballs. However, the mental bullying – the name-calling, the tormenting, the fear – left me with life-long internal scars.
Have I managed to live a good life? I’d like to think so. I have a fulfilling job, a few close friends and many casual ones (remember, letting people in is a serious challenge for me), and even a couple of novels on bookstore shelves. Would I go back and change it if I could? Ultimately, I’d have to say no. Those occurrences have made me who I am today. But up until recently, it’s been a lonely existence.
I want to take a moment to talk to the current generation of bullies. If you are bullying people, know that your actions will have life-long ramifications. Take from a nearly 50-year-old man – the actions in our teenage years will last, deep inside, for a lifetime. They do not go away. They become buried, they become part of the tapestry of that person’s existence, but know that they will linger, somewhere under the surface, forever.
If you are being bullied, know that it does get better. I realize that last paragraph (this entire article really) will scare you, but it’s not as bad as I make it seem. Everyone deals with their issues in different ways. I never had therapy, and perhaps I needed it. It took me a while, but I turned out okay. If you can get help, do so, the sooner the better.
I outlived my bullies, I have quieted my demons, and I will continue to live the best life I can.

Spotlight on Author – From Crystal Miles Gauthier’s Blog

Back in July 2015, I was interviewed by blogger and author Crystal Miles Gauthier. Here is the interview:

Spotlight on Author Randy Pearson

Randy Pearson DC Cover - 2nd Edition - LargeWhen did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I date my first interest in writing, or at least in storytelling, back to age nine. As a birthday present for my father, I concocted a carton book called The Adventures of Marvin and Randy, with us on a pirate ship traveling the ocean. At age 13, I joined the Journalism department and became News Editor of the Wee Panther Paper, DeWitt Middle School’s Xeroxed newspaper.

However, I quickly realized making up stories intrigued me more than did reporting on them. At an early age, ideas would pop into my brain. One of the earliest stories I wrote was an assignment for English class. We had make up a couple-paragraph story, and I would’ve had a 4.0 on the assignment had I not written three pages instead of three paragraphs.

How long does it take you to write a book?

My first novel, Driving Crazy, only took around five weeks to write, but I had no job nor wife at that point. The one I am presently creating, Trac Brothers, is apparently nine months old already, but only writing for a few hours on weekends has considerably delayed production.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Unfortunately, my day job (Payroll Specialist for a series of charter schools) is very demanding, and I wed my sweetheart a year ago May, so my free time is quite limited. When I write, I prefer to have a several-hour block of time available, to get into the flow of the story. Weekends tend to be my best time, so I get up early on Saturday / Sunday, drink my coffee, and go down into my “man cave” for the day. I prefer my old desktop computer on a desk facing the wall, window blinds closed, so I can focus on my next story.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

While many writers I know can write with, and even prefer, a lot of noise, I have to have complete silence when I write. I lock myself in the basement (so to speak), no TV, no radio, and get into my story’s world.

In addition, I find I have to write the entire story in my head, from beginning to end, before I can commit it to paper. If I try to write the story before it’s completed in my brain, often times I become stuck before reaching the end. Once the idea percolates around my noggin for a few days, I am ready to fire up the computer.

How do your books get published?

Driving Crazy was initially self-published. In 2010, my writing group, Writing at the Ledges, used a book manufacturer in Grand Rapids, MI called Color House Graphics to print our anthology, Small Towns: A Map in Words. They did a quality job at a reasonable price, so I decided Driving Crazy would go that same route. I also created the eBook version using Smashwords.

In 2014, at the suggestion of an author friend, I submitted my completed novel to Tate Publishing, and they accepted it. Driving Crazy is slated for nation-wide release on June 16, 2015.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I have a strong “what if” type of mind. I constantly find myself examining the events after they occurred, and thinking, “That was okay, but what if this had happened instead?” Before I know it, I’m writing a story in my head. I have missed the endings of so many movies due to something that happened on screen triggering my “what if” brain, and off I go on my own adventure.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I should preface this question – Until recently, I’ve been strictly a short story writer. The ADOS in me (Attention Deficit – Oooh Shiny!) wouldn’t allow me to stick to an idea long enough to turn it into a novel. Driving Crazy, in fact, began life as a long (13000+ word) short story written in 2001. In 2010, at age 42, I expanded it and turned it into a 63000-word novel.

As far as non-novels, if we don’t count the cartoon book for my dad or that story from my grade-school days, I would say I wrote my first short story around 1984. At age 18, I would often stay up until 4:00am writing on my Atari 400 home computer. (Google what the Atari 400 looks like, and you’ll be impressed I was able to type on that small membrane keyboard!)

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Though I enjoy reading when I’m not writing, I tend to have the same ADOS when it comes to my entertainment. I have at least a dozen books with bookmarks in them. Other than that, I try to spend as much time as possible with my new wife and stepdaughter, as well as family and friends. I watch a small amount of TV, and play entirely too much Candy Crush on my tablet.

What does your family think of your writing?

My wife adores that I’m a writer. In fact, we met in our favorite bookstore (EVERYbody Reads, in Lansing, MI) when I was doing a book signing event. I even proposed to her in that same bookstore. Wendy’s an avid reader, so I always try to create stories that she enjoys.

The rest of my family, Mom, brothers and sisters, etc, all think it’s cool that I’m a published author. They come out to my events from time to time and enjoy listening to my readings.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I find it surprising how complicated it can be to create an entire world – believable characters, interesting dialog, entertaining situations – all while keeping a solid narrative throughout the story. Driving Crazy (and most of my short stories) flowed easily from my mind to my fingertips, but with Trac Brothers, I found I had to write out the entire plot before I could start creating the story. Since I found I’m not an outline guy, I wrote a 6-page synopsis, along with a character list and a location summary. It’s not fun to get 30,000 words into a story and think, “Now where was I going with this?”

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

So far, Driving Crazy is my only novel. However, long after I’ve written other novels, I highly suspect it will still be my favorite. The characters are so much fun and the story is near to my heart. I still laugh out loud reading some of the scenes!

If we also count short stories, Driving Crazy will be a close second to The Morning After, a story about a man who wakes up on his front lawn sans trousers, and has to retrace the previous night’s events to locate them.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

The main suggestion I always give writers is to join a writer’s group. Having a like-minded group of people with which to share my writing really helped me to evolve. While you can give stuff to friends who will say, “Oh yeah, it’s good,” having people look at your work with a critical eye and offer constructive criticism is the only way you can grow as a writer. Find a group in person or online, and if you can’t find one, create your own!
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Every so often, I’ll get an email or Facebook post. Most people are generally positive, telling me how hard they laughed at a certain scene or enjoyed the book as a whole. However, whenever I see the realtor who sold Wendy and me our house, he always looks at my wife and says, “After all the things he did in this book, I can’t believe you married him! Have you read this? Oh my goodness!” I can’t seem to convince him that while Driving Crazy’s Jay Naylor is loosely based on me, it is a work of fiction. So when he says this to us, we just look at each other and chuckle.

Do you like to create books for adults?

My primary audience is adults, and I do prefer writing for that age group. While I don’t have much swearing or “adult situations’ in my stories, I like not having to think too much about how I write my stories.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story has to have interesting and believable characters. While I prefer a plot that is at least plausible, I find I can suspend disbelief easily enough as long as the characters stay true to themselves. Writers should never “force” a character to do something that is opposite to their nature or just utterly stupid. (To this day, if someone mentions the movie Jeepers Creepers to me, I get angry at the idiotic things the two main characters do throughout this movie. No one would ever do what these people do! After a while, I found myself rooting for the serial killer.)

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

As a young boy, I wanted to be a baseball player, specifically a pitcher. However, my talent (and my height) didn’t make that dream a reality. I also had aspirations of being the next Charles Schultz, as I spent much of my youth writing hundreds of comic strips called The Weirdos, staring Hic and Bunyan. Since I wasn’t a very good artist (despite having a painter and commercial artist as a father), I slowly started writing stories. And here we are!


Experiencing Common Ground

Experiencing Common Ground (2010)
(c) 2015 By Randy D Pearson

With a corn dog in my hand and music in the air, a smile overtakes my face as I stand looking out at the Sand Bar. From my perch on top of the large, concrete bowl, I can see the band members’ legs and feet. But due to the tarp keeping the sun from beating down on their heads, I can see nothing above their torso. It hardly matters, since I don’t know the name of the band and wouldn’t know their faces if I could actually see them. All I know is, it’s a hot, glorious day here at Common Ground, I have a plastic cup filled with Newcastle Ale in my right hand, a thick, tasty corn dog in my left… oh, and my phone is ringing. Read more