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The Fisher of Stories


Contrary to popular belief, I was not always this cool.

She insisted on being in my lap while I drove my huge ocean boat.

There was, for instance, the time this picture got snapped.

That camper is bangin.

When you factor in that unfortunate hip placement, the pigeon toes, and the fact that my family couldn’t always afford the “brand name” clothes, it all equaled me getting picked on for most of my childhood. Some, especially today, would call it getting bullied.
When the eighth grade came and went, I hit a growing spell that would eventually leave me around 230 pounds and 5’11”. So when I came in my freshman year, I was a good deal bigger than some kids. But I still had no confidence, and still spent a lot of time getting picked on.
My sophomore year came, and I got a car, a job, a girlfriend, and a new best friend, Kid Funk. The combination of those things sort of brought me around in the confidence department, and that’s when I decided I’d had enough of the bullying, and started taking up for myself.
I can remember a kid who had picked on me for a while hitting me in the arm in the middle of class, and I stood up, wrapped him in a headlock, and wouldn’t let go until the teacher eventually threatened to send me to the office. I can remember a kid throwing a doughnut at my car windshield and me putting the car in park, grabbing the kid around the neck, taking a can of pop from someone, and dousing his head with it. In short, I was sick of it, and I liked putting people in headlocks.
This is not to say I didn’t take advantage of my newly found confidence. I can also remember putting a kid in a trash can – repeatedly – and body slamming a kid onto a table in a classroom. So I wasn’t completely innocent.
But I also remember the day my love affair with the underdog began. The day when I stood up to someone, and walked away feeling better about myself. The day when I decided bullying wasn’t really right for me.
The kid I rescued was really kind of scrawny. He’s still a good family friend to this day, and I know his younger brother reads this blog, but I don’t think he does.
He was, and still is, very smart. He was a little on the dorky side, and small for his age. A late bloomer, if you will.
I rounded a corner in the gymnasium, and I saw this kid pushed up against the wall with a bigger guy than me shoving him backwards and asking him if he wanted to fight. The bully may have been bigger than I was, but he was younger than me. You know the type. Hormones in the chicken and being held back several years had made him a 6’3″, 250 lb. freshman.
It’s no secret on this blog that I hate confrontations. I always have. But on that day, I made a conscious choice to do something about it.
I walked up to the bully, shoved him back, got in his face and said, “Hey man, why don’t you pick on someone your own size? How about me? I’ll fight you. I’ll fight you right now.”
Of course there was a smattering of profanity interwoven into those sentences for effect.
The bully, so eager to fight moments before, lost any courage he previously had and walked off, giving me a not so courteous goodbye.
That’s when the teacher rounded the corner. He’d heard the whole thing.
The teacher and I locked eyes, and there was a very uncomfortable moment of silence where I was absolutely positive he was making up his mind to send to detention, and then he spoke.
“Thank you, Travis. Someone has needed to that for a long time.” 
And he walked away.
I was left alone, the justified hero, and to this day, it was one of the finest moments of my life.  So it’s just gay people getting bullied now, eh?
That’s all I’ve heard about since Tyler Clementi killed himself a while back.
“The gays are being bullied, we have to stop this!”
“It’s not fair, it’s not right! We’re being targeted!”
“I think that because I’m gay, I shouldn’t get bullied at all!”
Folks, I’m here to tell you, I’m a straight male, 28 years old, 320 pounds, I’m a BIG guy, and I STILL get bullied to this day. Still. And I’m pretty sure I can beat up the people bullying me. Would I do that? No. Why? Because bullying is an absolute CERTAIN part of life, and it’s going to happen to everyone. There is always someone out there who feels they have to pick on you because they’re bigger, they’re stronger, they’re wealthier, or they are just plain jealous of you.
I was called gay from the time I started school until the time I graduated. That’s what we did. We called people gay. “You’re gay!” “Your mom is gay!” It was an insult. Was I gay? No. Is that different than a gay kid being called gay? Even I have to admit that it probably feels different for the person being “insulted.” I used quotations there because I’m honestly coming under a little bit of conviction about the whole calling stuff gay thing. Maybe I shouldn’t do it as much. Maybe it’s insulting to have your orientation used as an insult. I kind of understand that now. Does that mean I’m going to stop cold turkey? Naw, that’s gay. Also it’s hard.
When did bullying become the new thing? Did someone just realize when a gay guy threw himself off a bridge that this was a problem? The last time I heard this big of an outcry over bullying was when the video game “Bully” came out. As I recall, the makers of the game wound up toning the game way down when confronted with the massive fallout from the public. It’s like we as a nation need something else to grab on to. We got the oil spill pretty much taken care of, Obama is renaming troops overseas so it doesn’t sound as much like a war, and we are slowly but surely climbing out a recession. We need a scandal. Bullying fits the bill right now. Most of these people that are involved in the “anti-gay bullying” campaign couldn’t care less if it were gay people or tree frogs getting bullied. They just want something else to gripe about.
Also, gay people? Listen. I’ve developed an incredible amount of tolerance over the last year. If you want to be gay, be gay and be good at it. I have no problems with that. I’m not going to persecute you, I’m not going to “fuel the hate,” and I’m not going to bully you. I’m fat. America hates fat people. We are made fun of constantly, we are picked on, and we are maligned in the media all the time. You know what? I’ve never thought about committing suicide because of that. I’ve never complained about being bullied. I continue living, knowing that every time someone makes a joke about fat people, they are just wishing they could have just one piece of guilt free cheesecake. Have you ever considered that people bully gays just because they wish they could be comfortable enough with their own sexuality to admit they’d like to try something gay?
I do however, mix all this tolerance in with a belief in Christianity, and the belief that God hates homosexuality. Does He hate homosexuals? NO. No He does not. The God I worship loves everyone. I feel the same way. That’s all I’m going to say about that, because I don’t want people to think I’m coming at this from a “religious” standpoint.
In closing, if you are gay and you feel like you are being bullied, don’t kill yourself. If your roommate streams live video of you having gay sex on the internet and everyone you know sees it, don’t kill yourself. Because you know what? You are making the choice to end your life. You are causing someone else to have to feel the blame of a decision you made. You are possibly putting someone in jail for a very long time. And you are doing it because you decided that you couldn’t live in a world that thought a little differently of you because you didn’t “fit in” or you weren’t “normal.” Is there a normal person? Is there a guy named Steve Johnson that lives at 1234 South Maple Avenue in Plainstown, Nebraska that has 2.5 kids, a cat, a dog, a wife that looks okay but isn’t special, with both parents still alive and married and they all go to church on Sunday afternoon then go to Applebee’s and eat steak at exactly 12:15 then all go home and take a nap so they are rested to go to work at the Normal and Not Too Hard Work Plant at 8 AM on the nose Monday through Friday so they can have Saturday off to mow the grass and live life like it’s a 1950 TV sitcom? Is there? Because I want to meet that person, and I want to bully him. Because that guy’s a douche.
But gay people…you’re alright. No hate over here. Just live your lives, and stop worrying about being bullied. I’m pretty sure that if anyone in the nation has any right to say that they’ve been bullied, it’s black people. While we’re at it, why don’t we just all shut up about people being bullied. It’s going to happen. We as a nation bully other nations. If you can look me in the eye right now and tell me we don’t bully Canada, I will call you a liar.
Nothing in this world should be enough to make you kill yourself. No one should have that power over you. Even if you have a family that hates you, friends that make fun of you, a world that doesn’t understand why you do the things you do, or if you simply don’t understand yourself, please remember one thing before you decide to end it all.
You’ve got me, and you’ve got Jesus. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ve got me.
But we can’t date, because I love the ladies.