Written By Jose Chavez @JoseChavezComic
I tried to make this quick but when I write at 1:30AM I can’t help but be a bit wordy. Forgive the grammar and the redundancies.
Recently while at a comedy show, I ran into my childhood bullies. Like, insult me til I cried, pushed me to the floor, hit me and make me want to kill myself as a kid type bullies. Pretty sure they recognized me as I did them. Their faces had obviously aged, wrinkles setting in, tired eyes and facial hair. Though they were all grown up, certain attributes had been burned into my brain and that was all I needed to know it was them. And like a flash of lightning, my mind immediately took a trip down memory lane, passed the abandonment issues and straight to the meat of the defining moments of my childhood ages eight through fourteen.
I always told myself if I saw them as an adult I’d give them shit for what they did, maybe throwing in a punch or two. How weak I felt in the wake of their constant mockery and physical aggression. When they gave me a nickname that stuck with me until I was fourteen that was so childish but hurtful not because of what it was but what it represented. How little things like eye contact with others was a challenge or a hug from people made me feel like a nervous wreck. And the long term repercussions of being unable to speak to new groups of people without fear of getting bullied again and an inability to have a normal social life for a majority of my life so I never really felt like I was finally free from the pain they inflicted. Not having a strong male influence in the house I felt like I had no one to turn to when it came to the abuse, other than my notepad, of course. I was a typical emotional kid and it felt like the social norm so I let it be and accepted that this was just how it was. And seeing them now as adults, all of those memories came rushing back.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t bite my tongue, I just chose to process the moment.
I saw them, and they saw me. They were at the comedy club, which is essentially my turf. We were surrounded by my friends, none of which knew the situation since everything I was processing was kept internal. I took some boxing lessons at 17 and while I’m not in the best shape I’ve kept up with some strength training. Initially so I wouldn’t be bullied again but now mostly because age and health… stupid aging process. I had every opportunity to use my newly acquired verbal skills (from dealing with hecklers and performing comedy in general) and I said nothing. Well,not nothing. I was feeling great. Like, I had an amazing week of shows, personal life and professional life was in order and I just had myself a nice rum and coke which loosens me up after a set. People were talking about my shows at other venues and how they enjoyed my comedy in front of these former bullies. I was making people laugh in conversation, which isn’t my normal thing. Usually I’m more quiet and let the conversations flow around me. I can honestly say that when I saw the bullies and was in the right place, the right time and the right frame of mind I came to a conclusion that I didn’t even know was capable; I didn’t give two shits about them or what they did.
I wasn’t angry at them. At most I felt a little MEH about the whole thing, which caught me off guard after all those years of building myself up with knowing what I would say to them. I always thought I needed closure, like a moment where I’m on stage, see them in the audience and yell at them saying “I MADE IT YOU FUCKING PIECES OF SCUMBAG SACK OF SHITS NO FUCKING THANKS TO YOU!!!” or something a little more PG. Instead I got something better. I had a moment where I was so powerful, so centered and in the middle of getting positive feedback from audience members that I literally felt NOTHING. I guess not needing any closure was the closure itself. An apology from them does nothing for me and me telling them how I am now no thanks to them does nothing for me either. They owe nothing to me now; the me from back then would love to hear the “I’m sorry” speech from them but that’s not who I am. Not anymore. They can take no credit for who I am. I’m not strong because of them. I’m strong in spite of them.
Life rewarded me with a family that loves and supports me despite my constant jokes. I’m pursuing a path that gives people a night of laughter to wash away most of the crap they deal with while allowing me to let out anything and everything that I feel in the moment. I didn’t have a voice for a long time because of my tormentors and comedy gave me an even stronger voice. I’m happy, even with the depression that I struggle with at times I’m still genuinely happy. I can’t recommend this path for everyone when it comes to confronting your bullies and some people would probably have liked to have faced them with more aggression and say what I would have said had I not been to busy living a great fucking life. It’s my life and I chose to keep living it, despite the opt-out option that I had considered many times over the years. All I can really say is the best way to move on and show your victimizers that they didn’t win is to just be. EXIST, and move forward. There’s a slight chance that they feel remorse or that they themselves were acting out because they had their own trials. Either way that’s not my concern nor should it be yours. I’m going to end with a roughly paraphrased quote from a great comedian, Thai Rivera. The subject matter was more for the LGBT community but the message is the same when it comes to dealing with bullies. It’s not that “It Gets Better” but that “You’ll Get Stronger”.
I feel pretty fucking strong right now.