Killyourstereo.com continues its new column based component today where we give musicians freedom to offer a unique, personal and individual voice.
Today, I Killed the Prom Queen guitarist Jona Weinhofen offers the second entry in his monthly column.
The musician touches on a serious and sensitive issue – bullying.
Read Jona’s thoughts below:
Bullies…we all know one. Most of us have been bullied in some way, and some of us may have even bullied others at some point. The sad reality is that bullying in the school yard playground is more than just one or a few people having a laugh at someone else’s expense, it is an action which can cause psychological damage and can literally change the direction of one’s life path.
I was bullied throughout both primary school and high school. I attended several different schools due to my family moving frequently. In my youth (and still to this day) I had always wanted to be different to everybody else, and stand out in some way as an individual. My parents supported my choices as an individual, and constantly provided me with positive words of advice and encouragement giving me self-confidence as a youngster. Luckily I have always been a fairly outgoing person and did have high self-esteem, characteristics which not everybody shares at a young age.
When I began attending a new high school at age 14, I couldn’t have been more different than the other kids at the school. I moved from the countryside to a city school. I listened to dance music and some nu-metal, they were all listening to punk rock. I had long blonde hair and wore baggy clothes; they were all surfers and skaters. I had decided from a very early age that I didn’t want to drink alcohol, or smoke or do any drugs, partly because I didn’t want to follow the trends and partly because I didn’t like what it did to certain people. I was as alien as could be.
I immediately began to experience the effects of being bullied because I looked and acted differently to the schools status quo and certain people wouldn’t accept this. I was called a girl because of my long hair and worse names like ‘faggot’ and ‘pussy’, just because I was the new kid at school who was a bit different. I attended my first high school party and an untrue rumour soon spread out of nowhere that I had hit a girl. A bully had started this rumour, knowing it would spread quickly and turn a lot of people against me. I was physically abused and beaten up by this bully at the party and at several parties to come. This behavior frequently occurred for around a year.
Luckily for me I had made a couple of friends who were similar to me in their fashion and musical taste, and most importantly, that they too didn’t want to follow trends. We banded together, and with these friends I started my first band in high school and strangely the band became quite popular in our area. In complete irony, some of the people who used to bully me became fans of the band, and being the accepting person that I am, I eventually even became friends with a couple of them.
Young people can often lack the life experience and common sense to know how to act like decent human beings to one another, and it is unfortunate that this period of our lives is a massive learning experience for everybody. Many of those who bully others, are probably having problems of their own, either in the home, due to their upbringing, or perhaps were bullied when they, themselves were younger.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have overcome being bullied throughout their youth, and certainly aren’t as lucky to have supportive parents and friends. My message to these people is to never EVER lose hope. Be stubborn, use this negativity and channel it into something positive like I did. School is just one small part of your life and there is so much living to be done beyond those years. Let me be an example to those who are struggling with bullying. Maintaining my individuality throughout my youth was one of the key factors in helping lead to my successful career in the music industry. I have played in 3 different bands touring the world and performing in front of thousands of people.
The kid who was once being beaten up, being called horrible names and constantly abused by some of his peers for being ‘different’, has now grown up, living a happy life with others looking up to me and following my example. There is no reason you can’t do the same!