By Paul Jarvis
Below is a message to my teenage self. I spent a lot of time in high school being picked on and bullied and although I’ve moved past it now, at the time it was tough to deal with. I’m older now and don’t claim to have any advice about bullying in schools, but I do know what I wish someone had told me 20 years ago.
High school really doesn’t matter. If anyone tells you it does, they’re living in the past because that’s when they peaked or they’re referencing a movie that isn’t based on anything factual. The grades don’t matter, the people don’t matter, school doesn’t even really matter. All that does matter is how you move past the experience. And you will. Not easily, but you will.
It does get better. You may not be good at high school, but you’ll eventually be good at other things. The hours spent writing and drawing in your room every day will pay off. Your introversion will become a tool for imagination and eventually lead to creating some amazing things. Being different will come in handy in so many ways as you get older. You’ll eventually figure out how to use it to your benefit on a daily basis.
You aren’t alone. You’ll learn to recognize the other weirdos who don’t really fit in either. The other people who also aren’t great with other people. It’s a secret club, and you’re in it. There are a lot of members and you’ll find enough of them.
You’ll move on. Literally, you’ll start a new and better life far away. But you’ll also stop thinking about being bullied on a daily basis. It’ll never stop being important, but it’ll stop consuming you. Initially though, you’ll use the anger and frustration and channel it into making something of yourself.
Continue being yourself. Because it’s important work. Because who you are resonates with others. Your voice will be listened to and respected if you use it honestly.
Being picked on won’t stop. Even in your 30s people will sometimes try to bully you, call you names and threaten your life. But you’ll know how to deal with it better. You’ll outsmart them every time, which is pretty awesome. By dealing with every situation in a way they don’t expect. Without throwing a punch or stooping to their level. You’ll get pretty good at standing up for yourself and getting respect. You’ll even learn how to stand up for others, on a regular basis, even if it’s not a popular road to take.
And you’ll be happy. Life won’t ever be perfect, but it’ll be pretty fucking awesome. The older you get the more content you’ll become. With yourself, with the way the world works and with others. Contentment won’t make you complacent though, and you’ll always have a fire under your ass to make things, to do better and to keep learning.
So don’t stop. You’ll get through this and you’ll end up stronger.
Paul Jarvis is a designer who likes writing (or vice versa) and has worked for himself since the 90s. You can follow him on Twitter @pjrvs.
He’s currently writing a book called Company of One, which is being published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and edited by Rick Wolff.
His courses—Creative Class, Chimp Essentials and Grow Your Audience—have been taken by more than 10,564 paying students. His writing has been talked about by everyone from Ashton Kutcher to Arianna Huffington. He’s worked with clients, such as Microsoft, Danielle LaPorte, Mercedes-Benz, Marie Forleo and Warner Music. Oh, he’s also got more tattoos than you.