It’s a funny world sometimes.
I just had the strangest reminder/memory (thanks to a Vokle session Daniel J Layton was doing just now) of a good ten+ years back at high school. Daniel’s pointed was that when he left high school, the things he was bullied for there [he didn’t specify but I believe he later referred to his camp behaviour, love of stereotypically effeminate things like Whitney Houston, Spice Girls etc] became the things girls loved him for at college. And I remember having that experience too when I went to college. You see, I have a whole bunch of people from high school on here (Facebook), and if you added me then I’ve obviously taken that as you’re interested in what I do and who I am now, even if back then you weren’t.
A lot of people were absolute jerks to me, and I was probably a jerk in my own right but I remember it being a lonely experience for a long time. I picked up a harsh nickname very early on that had no merit, and it literally tortured me for years 7 to 12. Of course in September 2002, sixth form (year 12), I made friends with Nick who has been one of my very best friends from then on. He stood up for me like I’d stood up for other people who’d later turned their back to remain ‘in’ their groups. And in time, other people realised that I was someone who was actually more than worthy of time. Still people held some childish grudge and in turn, I’d reciprocate because that was school. Then I left and went to college, and everything felt better.
Like, immediately. I mean, I’d already developed a pretty tough skin. And whilst I was far from an intimidating figure [I’m not exactly tall, and I was a pretty skinny, if not fast person], I knew how to stand my own when needed. But I didn’t really need that at college. I could be funny without someone needing to stomp it down for the sake of keeping me down. I could try new things, talk to new people, approach whoever and be this completely free person.
But still in the back of my mind I remember thinking and worrying that if I ever got particularly successful or famous, those who used to bully or just casually be mean day in and day out (and believe me, up until Year 11 it was pretty continuous) would find me and would tell the world how looked down upon, how disliked I had been by random groups of people. I mean, when Nick and I had first become friends, I remember a boy came up to him and literally said “Why are you friends with Jon for?” to which Nick replied “What does it matter to you?” and walked off. They didn’t like Nick and I building our own little world of happiness without care or concern for them. So I had that fear, still.
It used to worry me to not want to be a success. I think part of what I enjoyed about America and my early fascination and attraction to the country was how disassociated it was with school. I first started going to America without my parents in March 2004.
I left secondary school in August 2003 (year 12), I travelled up and down the country in November 2003 with a semblance of inclusive identity (within the Linkin Park fan group). With people who perhaps considered themselves outcasts, or maybe just were mutually passionate about something that I really enjoyed. I never felt like I related to the music but I liked the delivery and the noise. And I liked the people. I mean, I was this confident, happy, entirely overly-enthusiastic yet mellow guy. And I was loved.
I met people, and the more I met the more I realised how many went through this kind of stuff growing up. But I never particularly opened up about my experiences because all these other souls were far less healed than I felt, and I wanted to save them. I wanted to save everyone. The other day I reminded myself that you can’t save everyone. You can’t afford to emotionally or financially, but you can try to make the world a better place as you go.
So in 2004, I flew to the States with Vanesha, a friend I’d met casually wandering around England in November 2003. A friend whose only knowledge prior to meeting in Glasgow that November was that our driver had been hospitalised without letting us know, and that I’d guided the two others I was travelling with as we began getting trains, buses, coaches and cabs around the country. And the only other thing she knew was that we were fans and she could help. So she took our cases from place to place. And she would sit and listen, and smile and offer an escape from the two companions I was travelling with as they worried about how we would do the next thing. While I, calm as a duck, just enjoyed that I was away and around people who were passionate.
I went to America with that stranger. And I had a whale of a time. Americans loved me. I had no history here. It was addictive, I must say. Jeanne’ll attest to how much I loved having the ‘fan’ like communities over the following years. How I thrived among meeting people and helping out at these events (such as going to Germany with Cheryl so we could see some shows and engage with crowds of strangers because YOLO [for real]).
And I went back and forth to America many times. I dated some Americans, who I still like to consider good friends now. We weren’t, for a terrible while after the break ups, but I think we’re stronger now than then.
And each of you have been a pillar of sanity for me as I buried the memories of school bullies. And I was growing older but not confronting it, forgiving it, forgetting it. I was just hiding it somewhere without an X sign for someone to find at a later date. And newer friends have been made since. And I still try to be the person who will introduce myself to new people and invite them to meet the people I am with. To make my friends interconnected when possible. To not bear grudges and to hopefully get most things sorted quick.
So I’m not judging anyone on here for what we did as kids. I’m just aware of how it made me feel then, and just aware that I haven’t ever really talked about it nor even visited the memory of it since. And I wanted to correct that, if for a short second.
And know that on the whole, I am happy now. I’m a lot more mended and put together. I’m more successful, and I’ve failed many times in many side projects. My passions have always been somewhat intense, burning candles at both ends ‘til there is no wax left to melt, no wick to light. And then I have moved to the next.
But really, I’m not afraid to be successful. And that’s the main thing to take away from this. Because for so long, I was. Life gets better. It gets better, and as Tom Ridgewell says, you get better at dealing with it too.
So have this block of honesty. Because not many people are honest on the internet any more. Bullshit baffles brains - a mess of information that hides what you’re not saying, behind lots of easily avoidable things that you are.