Monday, 22 January 2018

The Moment That Never Came



Tonight I watched the first episode of SAS: Who Dares Wins, which is a show where various very fit guys get put through a condensed version of special forces training out in Morocco. The training is tough and on the first day alone, 4 guys dropped out from an intake of 25. By the end of the episode the number had risen to 6 or 7.

The thing that struck a chord wasn’t the beastings, the discipline or the physical exertion. It wasn’t the psychological evaluation and it wasn’t the fact that being just physically fit wasn’t enough.

It was that recruit number 4, one of the guys who voluntarily withdrew from the course, a boxer named Adam, was flagged as a potential risk even before he quit because he had written in his 500 word application essay that the most satisfying moment in his childhood was when he laid out a bully who had been tormenting him for years at school.

During a boxing match (the first tasks the recruits got) Adam picked the next biggest guy in the group as a partner. Only problem was that Adam is 6’ 8” and the other guy was 6’ 3”. Adam is a professional boxer and he made no bones about beating down his opponent. Drill staff stopped the fight after 2 minutes and later stated to each other that Adam appeared like he had something to prove, even though he is ranked 15th in the British Heavyweight leagues and should therefore be comfortable with himself by now.

Calling Adam in for a chat, they ask him about his childhood and it turns out that he was bullied almost constantly from 11 to 17. When he punched his playground nemesis in the face the other lad lost 4 teeth, blood spurted and he was “stretchered off, job done”. Adam had stated to camera earlier on that he regarded this moment as “biblical” in its significance in his life and he then evolved into the huge, hulking fighter that he is now.

After a pause one of the drill staff says “sounds a bit excessive to me” and the other asked him if he believed revenge was the way forward.

As much as I wanted Adam to make it through, he quit later in the same episode and the drill staff who accepted his numbered arm band (the method of quitting is to take it off and hand it over) said “I think you’ll regret this and it isn’t physical, it’s lack of self belief”.

The thing that got to me though was that, although Adam couldn’t make it through the special forces training due to having a lack of mental stamina, he was still bitter about his childhood experiences, even though he had a moment that I would have gleefully killed for.

To whit…he punched a bully so hard that the bully lost teeth and went to hospital.

To as recently as this morning I have spent my life feeling bitter, twisted and angry about the bullying I experienced as a child and later as a young man. I was specifically told at the age of 4 that hitting was wrong (after having been told 3 days before that hitting was just fine if it was in retaliation).

This mind fuck was enough to neuter any sense of self confidence around throwing punches and while I had from that day until the age of 46, an inbuilt reluctance and phobia of fighting, the rage and frustration remained constant as I grew up. 

I was also told that every bad thing that happened to me was my fault and that other people had been abusive because I had “made them do it”.

The list goes on. 

There was never that Eureka moment though, when I managed to finally summon the power of Greyskull to whup a bully’s arse and send them flying into a wall with their teeth rattling around. Never a Back To The Future (part 1) reckoning where McFly Sr. manages to thump Biff so hard that it completely changes the future and makes him the happy, confident businessman and Biff the guy who cleans his car…once Marty finally gets back to 1985.

I always imagined that, had this moment ever come, I would be at peace now. When Simon Tayler gleefully punched me around in class one day and bust my nose open in front of everyone…had I broken his neck then I would have either gone to prison or been committed but I would have hurt a bully.

If when Mark Allen used to let my tyres down on my bicycle (while smirking as I impotently screamed at him to stop) I had stabbed him in both eyes with a sharpened screwdriver, then maybe I would have had counselling for years but I would have caused my tormentor pain.

And if when, in later life, I got a job with a piece of shit company where my supervisor Barbara Bellis had nothing but contempt for me and bullied me in every way except physically…well maybe if I’d socked her in the jaw then I’d have a criminal record 23 years later that would prevent me working as a teacher…but it would have felt sooo good at the time.

My feelings of injustice and desire for revenge have festered and bubbled for decades. I realised a few years ago that it was mainly due to there never being any resolution to these stories. I got hurt, the people laughed and smirked, I never got justice. 

But what I had always imagined was that, if the situations had played out differently, and I had summoned the strength to do that massive, jaw breaking, rocketing uppercut to the bully’s chin then I would be absolved of all my negative feelings of resentment and vitriol.

Seeing Adam tonight I realised that wasn’t the case. On his application form to take special forces training (albeit for a TV show where the line “go and see the medic” is uttered after anything involving physical injury or when someone quit) Adam had put that his strongest childhood memory was hurting a bully so badly that he put the guy in both hospital and potentially a dental surgeon’s office. He clearly relished this memory and was still pained by the memories of what he’d gone through as a kid. 

I have not only fantasised about hurting bullies I’ve dreamed of killing and torturing them. I never actually wanted to do this but there was a time when I would have traded 10 years of my life for the chance to make a bully suffer the way Adam did. To do something that would make me realise I had the power to stand up for myself once more, and I’d see that glorious fear in the eyes of playground predators when they saw me

But it never came.

I genuinely believed until tonight that my ongoing war with my memories was due to the stories not playing out the way I wished they had. Problem is that, even if I HAD disfigured one of my tormentors…I would still have been bitter (and would probably still BE bitter) about the fact that these things happened in the first place.

Adam came across as a nice enough bloke but being hugely tall, hugely muscled, hugely scary and a competent fighter….he still wasn’t at peace with himself. His demons still haunted him and he hadn’t moved on.


I never got that moment of punching down a bully. Adam did. Now I realise that it probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference anyway.

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