There is an onslaught of media attention on bullying.  This is my story.



You tell someone they are a loser long enough and they begin to believe it.  A harmless comment from a mother or father, friend or family member, stabs and leaves wounds, that untended can fester and infect the soul.

My mother always told me I was different.  My father didn’t want me to be different.  My siblings were indifferent.  Being the youngest in the family I never felt so alone.  Why couldn’t I be like everyone else?

When I was really young my best friend was Mike.  I guess we were 8 or 9 years old.  Mike is now a successful attorney with children of his own.  When we were younger all the kids liked Mike.  He was funny and knew how to get all the attention he needed.  And quite frankly I’m not even sure why he wanted me as his friend because I was nowhere near like him.

FEMALE VOICE:  You kids get back inside, recess is over!

Mrs. Collins, my 7th grade teacher.  She liked me.  She never liked Mike, thought he was a smartass.

He was.

I was meek and understated and Mrs. Collins liked that.  Kids didn’t.  It seems that when you’re popular with teachers, you’re unpopular with students.  Perhaps that’s when it all started.

VARIOUS VOICES:  Teachers pet!  Suck it up!  Schmoozer!

Why are you all looking at me that way?  That’s what they said!  O.K.  I admit the kids didn’t really say schmoozer when I was young but I always thought that name was more original.  I’m not sure at what point being a schmoozer became a hindrance instead of a help but I’m thinking it was when I started playing little league.

VARIOUS VOICES:  Get him off the field!  Why is he still in the game?  Put Ernie in!

Ernie.  That was a popular kid.  Good athlete too.  And when it came to game time I knew he should always be playing.  But whenever our team would be up 10 runs or more, they’d put us in.  Us.  2nd string.  I actually should have been 3rd string or not on the team at all.  I was a horrible ball player.  I was terrified.  I was afraid I’d strike out every time I got up to bat.  I was afraid a ball would be hit to me and I’d miss it.  And God forbid they’d put me in to pitch which happened once in awhile.  And the only reason the coach put me in was my mom raised such a fuss.  She even threatened to have him thrown out because he was chewing tobacco in front of us kids.  Believe me.  I got picked on a lot because my Mom got involved with my little league team.  I didn’t want to play ball but it made my dad happy.

YOUNG GIRL:  Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you.

That was my mom’s favorite quote.  And I will say that even as a young man I agreed with it on the surface.  I believe in that motto, even back when I was a young kid.

I guess early on I could almost handle having horrible things said to me on a daily basis.  As I’d walk down the hall in high school…someone would knock my books out of my arms, trip me, put ‘kick me’ signs on my back, and slyly, quietly call me gay, mo, fag, loser, or queer.  I tried to let the words roll off my back as my mom would put it.  But my God, four, five six years of this abuse really started to take a toll.

WOMAN:  Mr. Smith, Paul is a gentle young man who doesn’t believe in fighting back.  But these horrible boys who are treating him this way must be punished.

MAN:  What exactly would you like me to do Mrs. Glodfelter?  They say nothing happened.  Now It’s more than likely that Paul is telling the truth but it’s his word against theirs.  And they haven’t physically harmed him in any way.

My mom again with my high school principal.  She always thought she was helping by coming into school and taking matters into your own hands.  But in reality, it made things worse.

MAN:  You’re such a Mama’s boy!

I guess looking back…I really was.  But was that a bad thing?  Here I was a freshman, non-athlete, with very few friends.  My teachers loved me.  The students didn’t understand me.  Well perhaps some did but I didn’t know that then.

Quick poll.  You’ve read my story for a few moments now.  How many of you had the thought, God this guy should just get over it.  Or perhaps, this guy thinks HE had it bad, at least he didn’t get harassed so much that affected his life that much.

Well it is true that there really isn’t much action in my bullying tale.  But ask yourself this.
Does a young person have to be hit, physically threatened or attacked to create some sort of awareness nowadays?

I was tripped, laughed at, smacked in the back of the head too many times to mention, had my locker set up so many times that I started not even using it.  Hurtful words.  Years and years and years of insanely hurtful words.  And if I was better at ignoring it, the damage was done.  I was a marked  young man.  Now people don’t have to say anything.  They just have to look at me…through me.  Snickers. Hurtful, demeaning, under your breath laughter as I’d walk by.  It didn’t matter what I did.  They didn’t understand me…so they tried to hurt me.  And it hurt.   All I was trying to do was be myself!


I never ever, ever, ever said those words to anybody in high school.  I’m not sure why.
I never stood up for myself.  Stand…up…for…myself.

Maybe standing up for myself was as simple as staying the course…continuing to live my life… always doing what I felt was right despite the fact that it was out of the norm and wasn’t the popular thing to do.  There were only 5 guys in our entire high school chorus.  Five!  And in a school with about 400 guys I’m pretty confident there were more male students who could sing.  Perhaps they didn’t join because it wasn’t cool.  That’s so sad.

I did have my redemption though.  My senior year I was cast as the lead in my high school production of Godspell.  I was J.C.  And it was a great experience.  After seeing a rehearsal, my high school principal asked us to do a performance for the student body.  I was terrified.  But we did it.  And after the performance I remember walking out into the hallway after the show and one of the high school football players who had bullied me for years came up to me and said, “Hey you were really good.  I kind of see why you do this stuff.”

At that point in my life, I was redeemed.  All of a sudden it didn’t matter that I was different.  And for many years that experience fueled me.  Foolish.  Foolish.  Foolish.

First of all….why did this bully’s approval mean anything to me?  I write this today as a 47-year old adult.  And it still baffles me.  You’d think after years of abuse, when he walked up to tell me I was good I should have just spit in his face.  But his accolades made me feel good and that really ticks me off.

20 years later I see my main bully at my high school class reunion.  I’m not sure why I went but honestly, not everyone in high school was mean.  And for me, what once was a skinny, six foot two, one hundred and fifty pound young man was now a stocky, six foot two 225 pound man with a 7 inch ponytail and a leather jacket.  He didn’t even recognize me until he looked at my name tag.  All he could say was,

MAN:  Paul Glodfelter?  Holy shit man, you got big.
Followed moments later by,

MAN:  Hey man… I was kind of an asshole in high school.  Sorry about that.

No apologies needed.  Really.  No apologies needed.   I told him it was good seeing him and that was that.

My thirty year class reunion is this year and if they have one, I’m thinking about going.  I’m not sure I’ll see Bob there even if I do go.  He’s no longer my bully.  For that matter neither are any of the other people who abused me in high school.  They are now just, people I went to high school with.  And I am still on stage acting, singing and doing my thing.  Synopsis of my story?

I was bullied.  But what does it all mean?  What causes someone to bully another human being in the first place?

The truth is…I have a lot of empathy for Bob my bully.  He hurt me.  He really hurt me.  I’m here well over 30 years later and I can still recall those painful moments.  But I always think, what made him do all those things?  If I was raised to follow my heart and that everything is possible, perhaps he was taught to fit in, work hard and always try to outdo the other guy.  Acceptance versus Competition.  Uniqueness versus Conformity.  I just don’t know.

There are still people who hate.  There are still people who loathe themselves so much that the only way they can make themselves feel better is by abusing others.  And that’s sad.  But I don’t have to be that way, and I will not.  I forgive Bob and everyone who picked on, bullied and abused me through my life.  And that forgiveness makes me free.  Free to be me.

Have you ever w…

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Have you ever written when you have no idea what you’re going to write?  I feel compelled to write this morning but instead all I’ve been doing is reading all the things I’ve written in the past couple of years.  Compulsion.  Inspiration.  Positive thoughts.

My goodness there is way too much negativity in the world.  Even the fact that I wrote that sentence could be construed as negativity.  But noticing and feeling the drain of non-positive energy is different than dwelling on it.  Well, I think that’s true anyway.

Let me switch my thinking for a moment.  I chose to feel empathy for those who see the glass as half empty.  Isn’t that at the root of so many destructive thoughts?  Lack.  Don’t get me wrong, something inside of me still wants to help others who are down and depressed.  And I certainly have no problems ever giving my ear to listen.  But instead of judging and always trying to come up with a solution to their so-called “problems”, I should just smile and give them as much love and understanding as possible.  Right?  If someone asks my opinion, I’ll certainly give it, but I’m not longer going to give it  unsolicited.  I think that only breeds more negative emotions…like resentment.

But since this is my blog let me say this.  Life is beautiful.  Even in all it’s dysfunction beautiful people and things lie everywhere.  And we can choose to look at them if we like.  Yes, it’s so difficult sometimes.  That job we were  hoping for didn’t come through, the pipes burst in our home, our car broke down again, we lost someone we love, our marriage is breaking up, we’re having problems with our kids…my goodness, there are always great excuses for us to be down, pissed off, impatient, forlorn, introspective, and unsure of our place in this life.  But there are just as many reasons to be happy, satisfied, joyful and at peace with our lives.  We need only change our thoughts to change our lives.