A couple weeks later, I was stepping off another plane, this time into the arms and embraces of my immediate and extended family. I had been given a medical discharge. An honorable discharge.
I limped as I walked, nursing the sudden back injury that medicine couldn’t explain. The doctors had recommended I use a cane until my back healed. Instead, I opted to walk with the assistance of one very special metal baseball bat.
I buried this memory as quickly as I could and I kept it buried for many years. I never made mention of it until I wrote about it in my Bullied. The Forgotten Memoirs. series on my blog, which few people ever read due to its depressing nature and overwhelming length.
A reporter for The New York Times flew out to interview me shortly after I shared it and asked if it was true. Of all the stories he had heard and read about me, he was hung up on this one the most. When he interviewed my ex-wife, he was more curious about her knowledge of this story than anything else. Had I told her about it? Had I ever mentioned it at all? Was I making it up to get blog traffic or attention? Why had I never told anyone about crippling myself with the baseball bat, including her?
The reason was simple enough. It was the craziest thing I had ever done in my life. And I don’t use the word crazy lightly. I had to be mentally ill to take a bat to my own spine, or at the very least I had to be temporarily insane. And, you know what? It’s embarrassing to be crazy.
As I wrote that story out, and for the first time really thought about what it all meant, what it pointed to, and what lessons were learned, I was sad that I buried that secret for so long. In truth, it wasn’t actually crazy or insane. It wasn’t even embarrassing. It was the very real truth of what a high-pressure society and subculture will do to otherwise normal people.
I learned that people will do drastic things to escape the corners we paint them into.
People long for happiness. We all do. It’s the one thing we strive for most during our short time on this Earth. They also strive for authenticity. The further we get into life, and the closer we get to death, the more unsatisfied we become living lives that other people order and push us into.
I don’t know why we believe we can dictate to others how they should be living their lives, what they should be believing, and defining all that is so black and white.
When we put heavy pressure on others to do what we think is right because we are afraid of how their actions will reflect on us, we will often push them into extremely dangerous circumstances.
And who wants that? I sure don’t. I’d rather you push me into a giant bowl of Crème Brule instead. At least getting myself out of that sticky mess would be a delight.
Dan Pearce, from my book: The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man
Last Chapter: The Mexican Kids in the Trash Pile
Next up: The Potato Cannon Incident
If you would like to start from the beginning, or catch up on a missed chapter, you’ll find all the chapters I’ve published so far by clicking here.
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