13 very bittersweet years.
As a kid, I was always bullied by people. You know, those 6 year old guys who were stupid, ugly and shaved? I never instigated, but somehow I'd end up being a punching bag. To make matters worse, things weren't all that great at home either. My father is a chronic alcoholic, wife beater and he abused my siblings and I verbally and physically almost daily. I still remember the "present" he gave me on my 7th birthday - he beat me to a pulp.
If you think it couldn't get any worse for me, you should think again. This next one is like pouring salt into an open wound. It was a place I hated..no, abhorred - a place I had to go to 5 days a week.
I studied in a boys only school where there were a lot of teachers that had MAJOR issues. They were so messed up that they'd beat us students. Let's look at a list of some the casualties I suffered back in 1st Grade :
Beaten with a 300 page arabic text book over the head? Check.
Whacked so hard in the chest that the wind was literally knocked out of me? Check.
Smashed left and right for being absent and for not knowing I had to produce a leave letter? Check.
Had my ear nearly wrung off for continuing to write with my left hand? Check.
Slapped on my birthday for not answering a question correctly? Check.
Beaten with a thick, steel ruler for talking? Check.
Hit so hard in the face that my lip broke? Check.
Told I was a bastard because I didn't stand "properly" in line? Check.
My classmates suffered similar fates too. The tears we cried, the scars we bore, the pain we endured - none of it were enough to convince these tyrants to leave us alone. Parents weren't happy and regularly came to school to yell at those teachers to leave their kids be. We'd have peace on such days but towards the end of the week, the teachers would regress to their old ways of beating the living daylights out of us.
The rules back then in Dubai weren't the same as the rules in the West. It is only recently that schools have been given strict rules regarding abuse. A teacher can now lose his/her job and can even do time for hurting a student. If they can't hurt you physically or verbally, they'd hurt you back by butchering your marks in exams.
[Note : Not all teachers were bad. We'd have some really great teachers who never hurt us. They were like those rare zephyrs in a smouldering desert. We were free to be kids around them.]
Why wasn't school like in the movies? A place where you could go and learn something? What I learned in school never equipped me with the tools to survive in this world. All it taught me was to be in a rat race. School was an institution were I was forced upon a useless "syllabus" that never satiated my curiosity. Instead of having our strengths developed, we students were forced to become generic individuals. I've seen some of my friends go back defeated to their home countries because their dyslexia was seen as an aggressive form of laziness.
Going back home was like heaven compared to the hell that was school, even if coming back home meant I had to deal with a violent dad. At home, I was free to watch movies, read books, listen to music and most importantly - play video games.
Life is so much easier when all you want to be is a Pokemon Master
Movies, books and music were great but they couldn't offer me direct control. All I could do was sit and watch. Dammit, I needed to do something! Videogames gave me the freedom that I was denied in movies, books and music. My father could be at his absolute worst, but it wouldn't bother me a bit because I'm not home then. I'm in Midgar, busy being a radical. I'm in Spira and about to play some blitzball. Teachers could threaten me with expulsions and suspensions, but I didn't care because I was not in this world. I was in a world beyond where these people had nothing to threaten me with! Videogames were my escape from madness. I could be whatever I wanted in these worlds; I could live in the shoes of people who were trying to make a difference, regardless of the sacrifices that they have to make.
["If you don't get good marks in your boards, you will never get into college!" - One of my friends failed in his Grade 12 exam. He later wrote his compartment exam and passed it. He's now in college and he's doing mighty well.]
Fortunately for me, by Grade 5, my pituitary glands went into overdrive mode and I became a 5"9 giant. My classmates barely made it to 5". There wasn't even a student in Grade 10 that was taller than me. My bully problems came to an end. You know that saying right? "The bigger they are, the harder they HIT!" There was one bully who later even became my friend through Pokemon Red! He has helped me numerous times even after all that.
I've never had bully problems since then. Problems at school and my dad still remained. And though I had to put up with both of them almost daily, I had the strength to endure it because that's what I learned from my video game heroes. With a little soul searching, determination and perseverance, you could manage any problem. Hell, you could even save the world.
It's amazing how videogames can connect with so many people. I remember my friends and I were standing outside the class during recess. We had all been beaten with a duster for talking in class the previous period. Though we were still wincing with pain, we managed to laugh on how Kid Buu attacks with his butt in DragonBall Z : Hyper Dimension. When my friends would come over to my house, we'd play tag team matches in SmackDown VS Raw on the PS2. We were all so engrossed in what was happening on screen we didn't have time to worry about the pressures of life. Heck, we didn't even want to worry.
When Ryu got cut down by Doku, it wasn't Ryu that got cut down. It was me. When Crono and the gang learned about Lavos, their problem wasn't just theirs - it was mine. When Team Embryon had to emerge the victorious tribe so as to ascend to Nirvana, their dilemma was mine! I could project my pain on screen and make them metaphors for what was going on in the game. I could release my anger, my sorrow without fear. I wish I could sit all stupid teachers down and show them that there are other ways to vent other than beating up students.
There were times where I would lie down staring at the ceiling desperately wishing for a way out of what I was going through. I'd close my eyes and think of the many gaming worlds I've been in. I could see planets, cultures, places and people that I've never seen. Videogames have helped me more times than I can think.
Tidus' love and hate for his dad mirrors mine
When I was younger, I thought I couldn't live without video games. I'm not like that now. I've realized that running away is not an effective means to put an end to your problems. I've learned how to stand on my own two feet and learned how to face problems head on. Videogames have been my crutch during my formative years but not now. I'm deeply grateful for what videogames have done for me but it's time for the training wheels to come off.
I'm now 19 years old. I still play videogames, though this time it's for entertainment rather than escape. It was only through them I learned how to deal with problems in life as they come. Life is better with college being more enjoyable and peaceful than all my years at school. Sure, my dad is still the same (going to take him to rehab) and I still feel the pain when I look back at my childhood.
But it's all okay now. And that's all that really matters.
If you're reading this, I'm Still Alive and well
Very, very nice. It's not what happened to you that made you who you are, but rather how you survived. Your life reminds me of mine, but sadly I still carry a deep and smoldering rage inside me. I've slowly become quicker to get angry and my good side grapples constantly with my bad side.
I have never seen the real you until I read this. You have a very interesting story, very epic I should say, I almost cried ;) Luckily I haven't experienced being bullied but I feel sympathy to those who have experienced it. Bully is the worst thing that you can ever experience in a school, there are those immature students out there that will give you the worst nightmare. School should be a great time for learning and yeah I agree, college is better than the previous years we had, our classmates are matured and there are no bullies ;) I love to hear that you and your bully classmate have formed a great bond with each other. I hate the fact that people sometimes misinterpret games as one of the worst leisures and entertainment. Cause they fail to realize that gaming can sometimes make positive effects in our lives. I mean look at you now fend, you are a ranger here, a good writer, contributor here. I don't think people will think that in a way, gaming helped you and me, to become a better person. I learned my designing skills here so I can say that. After hearing your story, I can say that you are such one of a heck great gamer and person for overcoming your problems and building your life from a bullied individual transformed into a person with courage and greatness. I salute you man :)
wow, would not have expected that back story from you, given the conversations we've had. I'm sorry that happened. Bullying can occasionally turn a bad situation better just by opening your eyes to something else, like gaming :)
@pokecharm True :)
Bullying was the least of my worries compared to my other problems. I'm playing Persona 3 FES now and I can't help but smile because at midnight, the school transforms into a huge skyscraper like structure called Tartarus :D
The devs went through similar problems too lol
In a word: Damn. I'd run away from both home and school.
Not to be insulting, but, one of the things I've noticed about religious societies is their often repressive and abusive nature. Dubai, being Islamic, seems to fall into this. Of the most restrictive religions, Islam and Catholism tend to rank the highest.
Your dad's drinking problems probably stem from being expected to live up to unrealistic concepts of masculinity. Same for the school teachers. Of course, when that's the only world you know, it ends up becoming internalized. Then, it dictates your relationships with others -especially "subordinants".
@nate1222 My dad's drinking problem is not because of that. My dad was a Senior General Manager in one of the top construction companies in Dubai earning a 6 figure salary. He had respect, money, status, a beautiful wife - heck, he had everything a guy could wish for
The story of how he started drinking is really depressing. As a child, the workers used to make him drink so that he'd fall asleep and during that time, they'd nick things from the farm. He was only 8 at the time.
I've read reports that children living in abusive households tend to be like their abusive parent(s) when they grow up. My siblings and I are living proof that such things aren't always true. None of us drink, or behave anything like our dad. I've made it my life goal that what I endured will never be a problem for my future family. What I was denied (a peaceful life) I will gladly give. My grandmother's greatest fear was that her son's children would turn out to be like him but all that fear was put to rest when she learned that none of us have drank, even socially.
As for religion, not necessarily. I've seen plenty of abuse in other countries. Even in India, which is a secular nation, there have been cases of abuse. Besides, most of our teachers in Dubai were Hindus.
My dad is now 66 years old and with his kids being over 6" tall and in the prime of their youth, is surprisingly very tame. Verbal abuse remains but physically, it's over. Leaving home was never an option for me so I learned to deal with it. I didn't fight fire with fire unlike other people. Most people make others go through the same pain they've endured. Not me. If I went through hell, I'd do my best to make sure others avoid the same fate as me.
So your dad's issues were more personal than sociological. Interesting.
In the US, alot of the chemical dependency issues we come across are sociologically triggered. Often, those from religions and subcultures where hyper-masculinization (male dominance) are valued are highly prone to drug or alcohol abuse. The chemical dependency is often a coping mechanism for the stressors associated with their cultural or religious expectations.
America being a highly stratified society to begin with puts many Americans in the red.