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  • Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

  • So due to tornados and broken airplanes and a chain of events too complicated for my exhausted

  • brain to unravel, I have visited airports 9 times in the past 100 hours and I am very

  • tired, and recently I unexpectedly found myself alone on a train in New York, the city where

  • Brotherhood 2.0 began for me, and also the city where earlier this year we played a sold

  • out show at Carnegie Hall, a dependent clause that I will get tired of saying when never.

  • So anyway, there I was on the train blinking a lot, because my eyes desperately wanted

  • to be closed, and I kept thinking about this tumblr message I had received earlier, from

  • a middle school student, who is currently attending the very same school that I attended

  • in 7th grade, and who has one of the same teachers that I had.

  • The message read in part: Ms [name retracted] and I were talking, and she told me that you

  • were a quiet, unique and miserable boy in middle school. She also told me that you were

  • bullied because of your awesomeness.

  • It didn't feel like awesomeness at the time of course, at the time, I was just miserable.

  • I mean Hank, you'll note that this teacher didn't say I was a good student, because I

  • wasn't. I wasn't merely a nerd, I was, or at least I felt like I was, a stupid nerd,

  • which is like the worst kind of combo. I take that back, pizza combos are the worst kind

  • of combos, they are an insult to pizza.

  • But anyway, I almost never think about middle school now Hank, but the message really forced

  • me to remember it, and also I was on a train, which inherently makes you kind of nostalgic.

  • So yeah, it's true that I was miserable, and that I was bullied. In fact, I would often

  • fantasise about hurting my bullies, or holding a gun to their heads and making them apologise,

  • making them feel as scared and powerless as I felt. But of course, that isn't the way

  • forward.

  • I realise now that the people who bullied me were not evil, they were kids, living with

  • their own fear and pain, some of whom were dealing with trauma and abuse that I never

  • even could of imagined. Now that doesn't justify their behaviour, but it does help me to understand

  • that it really wasn't about me. Their treatment of me was not a reflection of my value as

  • a human being, and while it was very difficult for me to feel anything but miserable in those

  • days, in retrospect I survived middle school because many people in fact were quite kind

  • to me. My parents, teachers, fellow nerds and even popular strangers who wouldn't stand

  • for bullying.

  • We decide collectively what kind of behaviour is acceptable, and while The Lord of the Flies

  • would have you believe that like adolescents always descend into mere cruelty, my experience

  • of social orders has been much more complicated. I've found that sometimes, often even, kids

  • are capable of tremendous kindness and generosity, in fact that's been the hallmark of the nerdfighter

  • community for more than seven years now, and I'm proud to be a nerdfighter in part because

  • I wish so much that I could have been one in 7th grade. There are always nerdfighters

  • in Our Pants (link in the dooblydoo) who will listen to you if you will also listen

  • back, and that is truly awesome.

  • Right so anyway Hank, there was this moment onstage at Carnegie Hall, during the soundcheck,

  • when John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats said into the mic: "this is a message for

  • sixteen year old me, not only did you survive, you are playing piano at Carnegie Hall". Now

  • I'm not going to tell you that like everyone who has a tough time as a kid ends up at Carnegie

  • Hall, but the idea that those years have to be the best of your life is just ridiculous.

  • So to the young woman who wrote me, to myself, stranded far from home in an endless string

  • of airports and train rides, I call up the great Robert Frost quote: "The only way out

  • is through". You will get through. I will get through.

  • Hank, I will see you, hopefully from Indianapolis, on Friday.

Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

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On Middle School Misery

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    大雄 posted on 2014/02/09
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