I can’t believe I almost let a 15 year old jackass ruin my life.
When I was in 9th grade, my English teacher walked to my desk and praised me in front of the class for a creative piece I wrote.
She said I exhibited a strong writing voice, a solid command of language and encouraged me to keep writing.
I smiled and as she whirled away the jackass who sat behind me called me a faggot.
That was 22 years ago.
Sure, I was an impressionable, insecure 15 year old, however 22 years later I still remember.
I still remember how slants of morning light sliced through the drafty classroom windows, how a couple kids laughed, how my teacher did nothing and I remember how the insult knifed through the stale classroom air, stabbed my eardrums, ripped down my throat and for many years, slashed at my soul.
For an embarrassingly long time I allowed the insult to cement a fear of writing in me. And by fearing writing I was failing to acknowledge a vital part of my identity.
In 22 years, I’ve learned that it’s easy to believe the insults. It’s easy to let others write your story. It’s easy to let someone’s opinions of you become your excuses.
And I have learned that the easiest way to ruin your life is to allow other people’s opinions of you become your reality.
See when others foist their judgments upon us and we accept those judgments, we lose faith in our own ideologies, we lose faith in ourselves. We become afraid to forge our own truths. We become victims of our own lives.
Yet when we find the courage to seek out our own truths, choose to live by our own code we find the empowerment we’ve been looking for. We become the person we were meant to be.
Here’s little secret–there’s this private moment, just before I publish an article, when my heart quickens, my hands shake, a hot rush of insecurity rips through me and my mind runs.
What if I didn’t express myself clearly?
What if they laugh at me?
What if they don’t take me seriously?
What if I missed a grammatical error? And what if you find it? What if you tell that jackass from freshmen English class? What if he calls me and insults me and my often wild and liberal use of, commas?
But then I settle myself and think about how many stories went unwritten because of one comment 22 years ago.
So I smile, roll back my shoulders, tell that jackass to go fuck himself and publish without fear.