The Bullies Are Always Wrong

As a former theater/choir kid who wasn’t exactly a model of popularity growing up, I believe it is very important that you watch this.

I made my contribution to the anti-bullying sentiment three years ago with a song called When Consequences Come. I wasn’t made aware of this issue because it’s a popular internet celebricause, I’ve been spending my entire adult life repairing the damage done by my childhood peers. I actually invite you to download the song- for free -and share it with anyone you see fit.

  ♫ PLAY  | ⇓  DOWNLOAD

Believe me, I know we can’t shield our children from adversity; we certainly don’t want to create a generation of wusses with no tolerance for hardship. But even as a high school kid, objectively knowing that none of the crap I went through would last long, it certainly didn’t make tolerating it any easier. Every day my self image eroded under waves of teasing, pranks, and cold shoulders.

The thing about self image is that coral grows back faster.

Every time I climb on stage, I don’t feel like a piano rock god. I feel like I’m standing in front of the class in my underwear, expected to give a dissertation about particle physics. In a foreign language. I feel like I’m being judged, like I’m still being picked last for softball, even when I can see everyone in the front row wearing shirts with my name on them. It’s high school all over again- I see the few real close friends I’ve made, and everyone else is just waiting for me to fail.

Mountaintop Every. Single. Day. I start at the bottom of a mountain labeled “you’re not good enough” and every day I have to climb as high up as I can. It’s a mentality that grew from a daily routine of being looked down upon by the kids with the Gap clothes and new Playstations and any noticeable skill at football. I made matters worse back then by trying way, way too hard to be liked. The teachers called them Attention Getting Devices.

Because I did have safe communities- my family, my church, my real friends -I didn’t harm myself or anyone else. I even managed to parlay my attention getting devices into something resembling a career. I goof around, try to be funny, and more and more of you seem to actually accept and support that.

I’ve turned my inadequacy into a weapon now, sharper than the knife I used to carry in my pocket to school. Every album I release, every concert I perform- they’re all exercises in climbing to the top of Mount Not-Good-Enough and smashing it to the ground. My music is a C-130 full of dynamite that I use to level this damn mountain that, somehow, keeps getting rebuilt the next morning.

But at the end of a good show, when you see that smile on my face as I walk to the CD table to shake hands with people, that’s me planting the flag on the smoking pile of rubble. It gets a little easier each time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katecallahan Kate Callahan

    Thanks for posting this. I was lucky enough to have some of my bullies realize they were wrong and apologize, but it’s still a struggle each day. Just know that your work is awesome enough that I use your music as an example for my students, because of the awesome ideas and messages. And this particular song is one of my favorites.

    • http://matthewebel.com/ Matthew Ebel

      I’ve actually had people admit they were dicks to me in high school (not that I wasn’t a petulant asshole myself), but I’ve found that it does little to undo the damage they did. They still get to go back to their lives built on higher self-worth and popularity while the rest of us are still peeling off the scarred layers one day at a time.

      I really need to make a second, smaller post about how a lot of the bullies really don’t ever change… Talk show hosts, asshole bosses, Mitt Romney… some people have built their entire lives and careers on the principle that anything they can legally get away with is fair game.

  • http://twitter.com/LadyRowyn Space Marine Rowyn

    I have been meaning to say — this will sound corny, I’m sorry — how glad I am that you decided to make a career of being a musician, and not take some safe easy job where you could collect a steady paycheck. I am one of those people who has a hard time picking favorites of anything — movies or books or whatever — but I have had a favorite musician ever since I decided to see if that guy who did “West Corner of the Park” had any music for sale, and found Beer & Coffee.

    So thank you, for all those hours of wonderful of music.

    • http://matthewebel.com/ Matthew Ebel

      Well thank YOU, ma’am. Oddly enough the WCotP was where I used to escape to since I could BE anything or anyone I wanted there. It was a lot easier to fabricate an image than accept who I was in reality. I still love the escape, but I can’t live there quite the way I did when I was in college. ;)