Mocked in Your Calling
Nothing hurt me as much as when they made fun of my voice.
Nothing hurt me as much as when they made fun of my voice.
Junior high is not an enjoyable experience for anyone. Well…near anyone. My friend Josh had a great time because he was tall and tan and could play football. And he didn’t have zits. And his teeth were perfect (his mother was an orthodontist).
My experience was different than Josh’s. Maybe you can relate. Mine was filled with awkward growth periods, unreturned affections, and questionable fashion choices.
Oh…and the teasing. Did I mention the teasing? You name it. Kids get teased for it. Too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, too developed, too underdeveloped. You name it, kids can find a reason to tease you for it.
My cross to bear? I had an incredibly high voice all throughout junior high.
I was what you’d call a “late bloomer”. My voice didn’t change until my freshman (sophomore?) year. Which, if you’re keeping score at home, means I sounded like Mickey Mouse until I was 14.
In case you were wondering, this does not bode well for a young man amongst his peers.
The teasing was what you would expect. Nothing savage. Just cruel. But I remember days when I wouldn’t want to speak. It was just easier than enduring another “hey Mickey!” taunt.
Mercifully, Mother Nature kicked in and I had my very own Peter Brady moment. I dropped down a few octaves and could join my classmates in being miserable because OH MY GOSH JUNIOR HIGH IS MISERABLE NO MATTER WHAT.
When I look back on that timeframe, I realize something: We are mocked in the areas of our calling.
See, these days I do a lot of public speaking as an entrepreneur. (In fact, I’m supposed to be packing for a trip right now!) Workshops, keynote speeches, webinars, podcasts, Periscope, interviews…my voice is a huge part of how I earn a living.
Before starting my business, I was a pastor at a Christian church. I spoke nearly every week for close to three years straight. There is something about creating reality with your words that just does it for me.
I love speaking and talking and talking too much and generally having people listen to what I have to say. (HA!)
And yet…for the longest time, speaking was a source of significant pain for me. Both literally and figuratively.
When I got to high school I was not what you’d call “athletically gifted”. I tried sports. I really did. But I was given the legs of a newborn gazelle. You think I’m joking but I’m not.
Just look at this amazing laundry list of athletic accomplishments!
In 1994 my football coach belly bumped me out of frustration. Like King Hippo in Mike Tyson’s Punchout. I couldn’t read the X’s and O’s on his little chart. I was like a football dyslexic. Everyone else got it, but it made no sense to me.
I got a concussion in 1996 playing on the football practice squad. I was so relieved because it meant mandatory time on the sidelines. I got to pretend I was tough and I played but everyone knew neither was true. Including me!
In 1998 at the pinnacle of my football career (i.e. practice kickoff return team) I tore my ACL after a maniac on our team named Eddie slammed into me so hard I saw two globs of snot rocket from my nose upon impact. It was in slow motion. Though the bodily fluid was different, I knew firsthand the meaning of “slobber knocker”.
(To his credit, Eddie tried to pick me up off the turf. “C’mon man…get up, Wise!” I tried but when I looked down at my leg it resembled a soft pretzel you’d get at the mall. Twisted. Gnarly. Gross.)
Although the ACL injury sidelined me for good, I’d been fostering a different interest all through high school.
See our school had a radio station. It was amazing. 100 watts of POWER emanating from an old broom closet in Valley High School. I walked in one day in 1994 and hardly ever left.
I loved it. Every part of radio. I loved having a show. I loved connecting with people who listened and called in. I loved the music. I loved my fellow radio staffers. It was an activity I finally connected with.
It was the first time I remember thinking to myself, “I was made to do this!”
But high school isn’t void of bullies. Valley was no exception. Being on the radio meant you were halfway between jocks and the band folks. You weren’t super popular but you weren’t likely to get shoved into a locker.
(Sidenote: the meanest thing I ever saw happen to a band person involved a starfish and those corn chips shaped like Bugles. The arm of a starfish looks a lot like Bugles. One time some football idiots convinced this lovely, nice boy named Ryan to eat the dissected starfish arm by telling him it was a Bugle. He ate it. And then did what you’d do if you ate a starfish…vomited everywhere. He had to go the nurse. She gave him crackers and apple juice. That’s not going to help, lady.)
My social status protected me from the mid-level bullies. But there was one heinous, soulless individual who had no interest in adhering to social mores. His name was Jason and I am positive he was sent from the pit of hell to torture me.
He used to come into the radio booth, swipe the microphone from my hand, and literally hit me over the head with it.
This happened on multiple occasions. He would smile and laugh. His teeth always had Cheetos stuck in them. I think he needed to eat a big lunch in order to fuel his torture. Each time he did this it left me shook up.
I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a Sennheiser to the dome, but let me tell you: it hurts. While the physical pain stung, the emotional pain went even deeper.
The one spot I felt safe and here was this meathead bully barging in and ruining it. Bullies are bullies. But why did this one upset me so much?
Because it wasn’t about the bullying. I was being mocked in my calling. That’s what went so deep. He was reaching in and taunting me in the most personal way possible.
Think of the areas in your life where you’ve been:
Chances are good you’ve found an area central to your calling.
When you look back on your life, what activities have you found the most enjoyment in? I guarantee you have likely experienced considerable pushback in those places as well.
Maybe it’s not a bully. Maybe it’s a:
Well-meaning family member questioning your abilities
A friend who doesn’t “get” your calling like you do
A co-worker or boss who dismisses the place where your true value lies
Whatever. If you are reading this and have a pulse, 1.) Congrats! 2.) The areas in which you’ve been mocked are some of the most important areas of your life. I promise. They are the central parts to your story.
While navel-gazing rarely helps anyone, I want you to look back on your life and pay attention to the pain. The mocking. Listen to it. If only for a few moments.
What do you hear? The message that comes back is the truest part about you. However faint or dulled. It’s why you were put onto this planet. Listen to it. Nurture it. Grow it. But whatever you do, don’t let the bullies win.