When I was in the sixth grade I wrote a paper that was chosen to be read aloud at an all school assembly.
The theme of the paper was to write about a lesson we felt individually captured the essence of a recently completed school wide drug abuse education program.
Some of you may remember D.A.R.E? Drug abuse Resistance education.
It was a pretty big deal back then. A local police officer would come in once a week or so and lecture to us on the evils of drugs and why we should never partake in such wrong doings. Marijuana was the main topic but other illegal substances were covered as well. I don’t remember ever talking specifically about what made drugs so bad, just that we needed to say no.
No, no, no. Just say NO! I think there may have been a police dog mascot or something? I seem to remember stickers featuring a gruff looking dog saying “No!” but I could be mixing that up with some other animal imparting life saving advice to Americas youth.
I don’t remember much about the whole program, just that drugs were bad and killed people and we should just say no. No, no, no to drugs.
The entire middle school was asked to write about their experiences within the program and try to capture that one thing that stood out to them. That important piece that ensured we would never in fact turn to crack in our times of solace.
I wrote my paper, handed it in and forgot about it.
When my teacher told me that they had chosen my writing as one of the papers they wanted to share at the assembly I was shocked. It is always a validating feeling;being chosen. What she neglected to tell me was that I was going to have to be the one to read it.
In front of the entire middle school.
Wearing a D.A.R.E t shirt that was at least 2 sizes too small.
Three papers were chosen. One from each grade. 8th, 7th and me.
I tried getting out of it. Trust me. I begged and pleaded and told them I was sick. I may have cried a little. But the show had to go on. What had we learned about saying no to drugs? Share children, share.
This experience was the beginning of the end of my public speaking career. I had to go first because I was the youngest. I looked out at all of the people and kind of lost my shit. I could feel myself shaking and I knew my face was bright red because it felt like it was on fire and the tremor in my voice made it sound as if I was crying as I was reading. The shaking progressed to the point in which I couldn’t hold the paper. I tried to read as fast as possible so that this hell could just end and started running the words together like they were all just one long sentence.
It was so, so, incredibly bad. The worst kind of embarrassment for a sixth grade kid.
That might have been the end of it.
But let me introduce the bane of my sixth grade existence.
I won’t use his actual name. We will call him Lamey. Lamey Sloopy.
Lamey sloopy went out of his way (we didn’t even have classes together) to torment me about how shitty the reading of my paper went. He stalked me in the halls purposely to reenact my performance, the shaking and all. He was never satisfied until his squad of goon shit friends all had a laugh at my expense. This went on for weeks.
The bullying wasn’t so bad. I was used to being an outsider. What sucked was that my paper was good. I knew it was. And because my fear had kept me from delivering it confidently my message had become a joke.
I never got over my hatred for Lamey Sloopy. I probably never will. I have a terrible habit of holding a grudge for far too long.
I’m thinking about all of this tonight because tomorrow I will be reading something I wrote publicly. The piece was awarded second place in a writing contest and the winners have been invited to share their work.
I’m freaking the fuck out. I’m having anxiety to the point that I’m making myself sick. I know I can do it but I never quite got over Lamey and his attempts to make me feel inferior due to his own feelings of inadequacy. Things like that stay with a kid. What if I do the same thing? It’s entirely possible that I will. I will look out in the crowd and imagine him there, mocking me. Waiting to corner me and make jokes about me for the entertainment of others.
Or I could own this shit. In is honor. Read this writing like the bad ass I know I am and finally let my burning hatred for Lamey Sloopy go.
Because after all, that was almost 30 years ago. I do believe it is time to let that shit go.
This one is for you Lamey. I release the power you have held over my confidence after all this time. Even though you probably had no idea I was still holding on to how your dickish actions affected me and in fairness to you there were many other contributing factors that led to me hating sharing my writing. Or even trying to write.
But still, this one is for you. Thank you for teaching me at such an early age that people suck but that their suckiness isn’t worth holding me back. If anything, it gives me fuel to fight that much harder.
Cheers Buddy! I honestly thank you for helping me become the wary and anxious yet amazing warrior bitch I am today.
Just say no to doubting yourself. And to drugs…