Nothing hurt me as much as when they made fun of my voice.
Junior high is not an enjoyable experience for anyone. Well, nearly 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. Mine was filled with awkward growth periods, unreturned affections, and questionable fashion choices. Maybe you can relate.
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. Kids can find a reason to tease you for anything.
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 (or was it my sophomore?) year of high school. 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, but cruel. I remember days when I wouldn’t want to speak because of it. It was easier to stay silent than to endure another “Hey, Mickey!” taunt.
Mercifully, Mother Nature kicked in and I had my very own Peter Brady moment. I dropped down a few octaves. It didn’t exclude me from being teased anymore, but it did free me from that particular torture.
When I look back on that time frame, 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!) Through workshops, keynote speeches, webinars, podcasts, Periscope, interviews, and more, 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.
Different School, Same Problems
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.
Thankfully, after trying and limping away from football, I had something significant to turn to. I had an interest I’d been fostering and a school capable of delivering.
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.
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 and his teeth always had Cheetos stuck in between them. I think he needed to eat a big lunch in order to fuel his torture. Each time he did this it left me shaken 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.
I was in the one spot I felt safe and here was this meathead bully barging in and ruining it. Bullies are bullies, and I knew that, so 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.
Your Experience, Your Calling
Think of the areas in your life where you’ve been:
Chances are good that 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 coworker or boss who dismisses the place where your true value lies
Whatever. If you are reading this and have a pulse, first of all, congrats! 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.