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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The 12-Year-Old, The Bully, & The Baritone Solo

Cuz I feel like I'm 12 years old
And I feel like I'm in the cold
And I feel like I don't know where I am
And I feel like I'm left behind
And I feel like I'm last in line
And I feel like I'm 12 years old
And my dog just died and my bike's been stolen again
                          -Kim Stockwood

The above lyrics were written by Canadian pop star Kim Stockwood, and it was released a few years after I actually turned twelve (I was actually closer to eighteen).  But the lyrics are actually true to form over how I really felt about being twelve.

Well, minus the dog dying part.  I never had a dog as a pet.

But to say that being twelve years old was hard would be an understatement.  You see, twelve was the age that I entered that difficult period known as puberty.  At twelve, it was like everything that I had known about life had been completely blown up.  My face was covered with zits, my voice was kind of a cross between Ralph Wiggum and Michael Jackson, and I was getting hair in places that well...yeah, we're not going to go there.

As if the changes in my physical appearance weren't enough to deal with, I also had to deal with some really big challenges in school.  It was hard adjusting to seventh grade.  We had no recess, more homework, mathematics with numbers, and science projects to put together for the school science fair.  And, as you'll read about in this space, I had a lot of trouble with handling classroom stress...especially when you consider who was causing me the stress to begin with.

But before we get there, let's see what was happening in pop culture.

Now, remember when I said that not every year would be represented with a snapshot?  Apparently 1993 was one of those years.  I couldn't find a single picture that was taken when I was twelve years old - though given that I was smack dab into puberty at that age, it's possible that I destroyed every single photo from 1993 ever taken.  Don't worry, you missed nothing.

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/1993
"That's The Way Love Goes" - JANET JACKSON

Believe it or not, this is the first of TWO Janet Jackson songs that hit the top of the charts during one of my birthday weeks.  But this one is definitely the better of the two.  I seem to remember listening to this one a lot.  It was very different from her "Rhythm Nation 1814" years, but in a very good way.


Does it make me a bad person if I admit that I've never even heard of this movie, let alone seen it?  Though, it does have a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  I may give it a whirl.

"60 Minutes"

Oh, sheesh...not again!  For the record, #2 was "Home Improvement" and #3 was "Seinfeld".

So, 1993 was the year I entered seventh grade, and already I was at a disadvantage.  It all began when I was in grade six, and I was having a lot of problems with some of the kids I went to school with.

In particular, four boys who were in the same grade I was.

Because I don't believe in slandering people online, I will not reveal the names of these four boys in this blog, but I will say that these four boys were a pain in my backside for several years.  What made it really uncomfortable was the fact that two of these four boys were once friends of mine, and I had invited them to birthday parties, and other fun things.  I don't know what it was that made them turn on me, but whatever the case, it doesn't really matter.

These boys used to do everything from making fun of how I looked, to calling me all sorts of nasty names, to spreading half-truths about me to other kids, to chasing me around the playground with balloons threatening to pop them in my face knowing full well that it was a sound that I did not like.

Basically, they were bullies who thrived on getting attention, even if that attention was negative.  And unfortunately for me, they were a lot more popular in school than I was - at least that's how it seemed to be anyway.

So, when I discovered that all four boys just happened to be in my class for seventh grade, I was bracing myself for the absolute nightmare that followed.  And yes, next to first grade, seventh grade was a year in which I would have loved a do-over.  I would have transferred classes, and I would have done everything possible to get away from those four boys, and yet nothing happened.  They spent the whole year making my life hell, and I really had no choice but to take it. 

That's not to say that I just sat back and let them bully me the entire year.  I stood up for myself, and I stood up for myself often.  I even shoved one of them in the coat closet one day when I got tired of all four of them ganging up on me when I was trying to hang my coat up, and got an indoor suspension for my troubles.  Sad thing is, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  But, it also went to show me just how stupid our school's rules really were.

I mean, giving X's to people who misbehave so they could have a public display of who the angels and devils of the school were?  Did they really think that was a good idea?  Come on!

But, of the four boys, there was one who was a really nasty piece of work.  He was definitely the ringmaster of the psycho circus that these four boys represented, and he was definitely mean.  If I didn't know any better, I would say that he orchestrated the entire display of bullying towards me just for his own amusement, and I honestly believe that there was something completely wrong with him in that he took pleasure in other people's pain.  He was the one who blew up the balloons to chase me with in hopes of getting a reaction.  He was the first one to laugh at my misfortunes whenever there were any.  And he was definitely the one who caused me the most stress during my seventh grade year.

I think what really caused our rivalry to come to a head was the time that we were doing a spring concert, and the seventh and eighth graders were set to play at this concert.  Our finale involved playing the song "Ash Lawn Echoes", an instrumental piece that had a brief solo involving two instruments - a baritone, and a flute.  And as part of my seventh grade music class, we had to practice this song over and over again.  After all, there were two concerts planned that day.  One in the afternoon for the rest of the student body, and the evening show, for the parents of the students.

Here's the kicker.  I played the baritone.  I was the only seventh grader to play the baritone.  And guess who happened to play flute in our concert band.

You see where this is going right?

I honestly don't know if this was planned or not - it wouldn't surprise me if it was, but the day before the concert (when we were to put on the show), he and I got into a really big argument in the music room as we were preparing to perform at the show, and he said some really incredibly hurtful things that shook me to the core.  Mind you, looking back on them now, I think it was absolutely ridiculous.  But as a 12-year-old who was still trying to get used to puberty, everything was completely out of whack, and I was left so upset by his words that I refused to play at the afternoon concert.  I stayed behind in the music room, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me.  And you know, with the way that I had been hurt, I almost skipped the evening concert too - you know, the one that all the parents attended? 

But you know, something inside of me told me that I should go to the concert anyway.  In fact, I think I had a talk with the music teacher, who by then had known that something was up when I just didn't show up at the afternoon concert, and he gave me some words of encouragement.  I wish I could remember what they were, but I knew that the bottom line was that I should just forget about what this boy was saying and doing, and that I should just get out there and show my stuff.

I suppose if you look at it, it was a good thing that I did show up to the evening concert.  You see, eighth grade baritone player completely blew the concert off, leaving me as the only baritone player in the whole concert band - meaning that I was the only one who could play the baritone solo.  Talk about PRESSURE!

To make matters even more stressful, the ringleader of the bully group was there - and he kind of issued a half-hearted apology where it started off with "I guess I should apologize to you..."

Um, no.  You're either sorry or not sorry.  Clearly he was not sorry, and clearly he had probably been spoken to by the music teacher as well in not quite the most pleasant of manner.  Whatever, wasn't buying was he was trying to sell, and I basically nodded and said okay just to get him off of my back.  Besides, I had a solo that I had to play, and I wasn't letting him ruin that.

And when we got down to playing "Ash Lawn Echoes", and I had to play the baritone solo, I played that solo perfectly.  It was me and an eighth grade flute player, and we rocked that solo.  It was beautiful.  And, after I played the solo, I looked at two faces in the concert band.  I saw my music teacher, and his smile just wouldn't go away, he looked so pleased. 

And I saw the face of the boy who tried so desperately to get me to stay home for the concert...but he couldn't see mine.  He was really trying hard not to meet my gaze at all.

I think that said a lot more about his character than anything.

Yeah, twelve years old was a really difficult age to navigate.  However, year thirteen was a little bit better.  I guess you could say that part of the reason for that had to do with discovering a skill that I never really knew that I had - and made me realize that maybe I wasn't such a klutz in sports after all.

You'll read that story tomorrow.

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