I was 12 years old and I was being bullied by an older kid. He was 13 and he kept making jokes about me, pushing me around, kicking me and pretending he was about to punch me so I would flinch – showing the world my fear. I had a small group of friends and one of them defended me a couple of times –which was embarrassing for me. They would ask me: How can you accept this kind of treatment from that guy?
My older brother was very different. He excelled in various sports, and was part of a group that everyone considered to be the leaders of his school. Sadly, he went to junior high in a different school; and I was ashamed to tell him about my pathetic situation.
I endured the entire school year; patiently waiting to graduate so that I could switch schools – hoping to lose the bully in the switch.
Luck was not on my side. Not only was the bully in the same school I was in; he was also part of the same class! After one month, his vicious attacks started again. My brother was now in his last year of high school; in that same school. So, taking advantage of my only opportunity for salvation, I told my brother what was happening. After I was done sharing my story, almost crying, I awaited his response. It was the first time I had asked for his help. But 3 years of torture can break a person’s pride. I knew my weakness would embarrass my brother – given his popularity. What followed shocked me even more. My brother sighed and told me: Ok, I’m going to help you. My heart was beating so fast that I could feel my veins pulsating in my head. I felt a mixture of relief and peace.
Then, solemnly, my brother said:
“The best help I can give you is to tell you that you have to solve this by yourself; I won’t always be there, so I better teach you now. Next Friday after school you are going to fight him. I will be there with my friends, be we will stop the fight only if you are bleeding and on the floor. Even if you lose, you gotta lose with class. That way, even if you lose, everybody is going to respect you. They will think it twice before messing with you. The important thing is that they know you’re not afraid to throw back some good punches. Make sure he will always remember that messing with you will come at a high price from now on.”
I wanted to drop dead. I felt completely abandoned. I felt so stupid for asking my brother for help. Now I had forced myself to a fight I would surely lose. All my arsenal of self-help came from Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi. I had never fought before. I didn’t practice any sports – so I didn’t consider myself to be strong or agile. To make matters worse, the other kid was older and taller than me. How could I be so immensely stupid? Fuck! Being a kid, I hadn’t read Deepak Chopra or Wayne Dyer. I was lost. I cried every day that week in the shower.
The fateful Friday arrived and at the end of the day, by some kind of mental Facebook or telepathic Twitter (no “social media” existed at the time), half of the school was awaiting for my appearance. I knew I had to do this. Some girls, friends of mine (apparently), even tried to talk me out of it – which only added to the pressure. If girls were watching, I had to go down with class for real!
Life went into slow-motion. I made sure my brother was there to stop this craziness as soon as I was on the floor bleeding while I walked decidedly up to my rival. I yelled – Hey you! I’m tired of you! And I threw a punch to his face. I put all my weight on it. Fortunately for me, it landed right on his nose. And with that punch, he started bleeding profusely. He was paralyzed and so was I. He stood there bleeding in pain; and I stood there confused – especially because part of me wanted to help him stop the bleeding. Then, the whole school cheered: YAYYYY! Baduy finally did it!
I left the scene quickly. I didn’t want my trembling to show. I went home, took a shower and was left in a kind of numbness. My life had just changed.
I got acquainted with having no choice, with facing my fears, with punching back and with getting comfortable with the uncomfortable; something I re-learned many years later in Yoga class.
Soon after, I got my first real kiss my first girlfriend.
That same lesson has helped me through tough times in my life. It helped me survive a divorce that left me feeling hopeless, it gave me the confidence to ask the girl of my dreams out on a date – and now she is the woman of my life. Sometimes you gotta throw back a couple of punches, even when you know you are going to lose. You will be surprised. Try it.