About two feet six inches. When I was about eight years old, a future inmate inhabiting the body of an eight year old boy and two of his future cell mates met me in the street after school. They cornered me on the sidewalk and the ringleader punched me square in the gut. I’m not sure how child bullies operate these days, but back then, at least this one, wanted to be sure I understood why he was pushing my eight year old uterus waaay back into my spinal column. In class earlier that day, I, usually very attentive and alert, put my head on my desk. My concerned teacher asked me what was wrong and when I told her I had a headache, she immediately chastised the entire class, focusing in on the future inmate. That one, seemingly kind act on her part, led to my first memorable encounter with a bully.
To this day I remember the physical pain and the embarrassment of being beaten up in the street. I remember the emotional hurt associated with being bullied despite having done nothing wrong. And I remember, even at that young age, thinking through my tears “this boy is going to end up in prison someday.” Fast forward thirty years and I remember having the same feelings about one of my really bad bosses. Although much less sure that he’d end up in prison, I recognized him for the thuggish little boy he really was, picking on his employees, blaming others for his mistakes and wielding his power like a rock hard fist. At about five-six, the major difference between him and my eight year old tormentor was about two feet, six inches.
As adults, the pain of verbal bullying and the emotional hurt suffered at the hands of bad bosses while not physical, can be just as painful. Unless you’ve had to deal with a really bad boss, it’s difficult to imagine the toll it takes on your well-being and piece of mind. Until I grew the thick skin of three time really bad boss survivor, my tormented days filled with bullying bosses would end with sleepless nights worrying about what the following day would bring. It was a vicious cycle in which I lost sleep, hope and self confidence. It wasn’t a complete loss though. I did manage to gain weight (not so good), an understanding of bullying bosses (good), and the strength to deal with other bullies who would eventually cross my path (really good). I realized a universal truth about bullies – their bullying behavior had much more to do with them than with me.
Although it would be sweet revenge to say that my former bullies ended up fired, in jail and/or penniless, the truth is, most of my bullies are probably exactly where I left them. My playground tormenter might be in high school now, and I know for a fact that his bad boss counterpart is still tormenting souls and crafting harebrained schemes to hide his incompetence. Thankfully though, I’ve moved on. Gone are the days when an unkind word or ill conceived plan would send me reeling for days. But the memory is still there. And believe it or not, I’m grateful for it. The memory serves as a vivid reminder of a painful position I never want to be in again.