Black school lockers
Black school lockers

Dear Paul, Please Tell Me It Gets Better

Paul Kiernan

... some days, it’s almost too much to take, and I just want to end it all. Please tell me it gets better.

Dear Paul,

I’m a Sophomore in high school, and I get bullied a lot. People pick on me because of my looks, my weight, and the words I use; some days, it’s almost too much to take, and I just want to end it all. Please tell me it gets better.


Stuffed in my Locker

A girl with a sign on her back resding Kick Me!

Dear Stuffed,

First and foremost, if you’re feeling like you want to end it all, seek help. Talk to someone, talk to many someones, talk and talk and talk. The more you talk, the better it will feel. Connecting with others who know how you feel, even if from a theoretical point of view, is essential. Knowing you’re not alone in the world is a comfort. If you cannot shake the feelings of wanting to end it all, please pick up your phone and dial 988. This is the suicide lifeline; you’ll be connected with someone who will do all they can to help you. Your life is precious and a gift, and many would feel the loss of you deeply. So, call that number or ask for help from friends. Please, if you don’t read further, just keep that number handy.

Now for the hard part.

Yes, it will get better, but no bullies are not going to go away, and your life isn’t going to be a cakewalk free of mean people and hate. That’s not how the world works. Sad, but true. But, the analogy of a cakewalk is good here because the cakewalk was not always easy and has a dubious history. So, yes, your life will not always be the good parts of the cakewalk, meaning the cake.

But let’s look at it realistically. Despite what we’ve been shown in countless Rom/Coms and After school specials, bullies do not always get their comeuppance, nor do they all see the light, the error of their ways, and become decent, caring people. The fact is that the lessons they learned from being bullies carry over into the rest of their lives. The characteristics of being a bully actually work in corporate America and certainly in American politics. Behavior that seems repulsive to some is prized in some occupations. These behaviors are seen as ruthless, take no prisoners, and even admirable because they get results. The bully in the school hall can easily become the superstar in the office because bad behavior is often rewarded in some cases.

Things will change, you won’t get wedgies in the restroom, but you’re likely to encounter verbal wedgies at the office party when drinks have been drunk, and walls come down. Bullies love to have cover for their actions. In school, the bullies picked on the smallest, the weakest. In the adult world, they do the same but hide their actions behind phrases like “C’mon, man, can’t you take a joke?” or “Sorry, dude, I was really drunk.” When there is no script, and the cameras aren’t rolling, chances are good that bullies don’t change that much. Unless someone stands up to the bully, and even if someone does, there’s no guarantee the bully with evolve. Life doesn’t always imitate art in these situations.

So, bullies will not vanish; they will remain and have more tools in their arsenal. 

a girl with her face covered by red shimmering strands, putting on her glasses

That’s fine, that’s their life, and you don’t have to buy into it. It seems hard now because high school is a unique microcosm where no one really knows who they are or what they’re doing on this planet. In high school, you’re chasing popularity, and what makes you popular today could be what makes you a “nerd,” “Geek,” or a loser two days later. In high school, kids are looking for their identity; They are dealing with growing up, making choices about their futures and where they fit in. Nothing is stable; nothing is sure. And everyone is experiencing that uncertainty, even the ones who have been accepted to Ivy League schools and seem to have it all together. In high school, everyone is on unsure ground.

Your job is to know that the ground is constantly shifting under your and everyone’s feet and that with time, experience, and age, the ground will feel a little more secure. Why? Because as you move on from high school and define who you are and what you will bring to this life, you realize that 96% of what happens in high school doesn’t mean shit. Friends will drift, athletic awards and accolades vanish, and everyone you know will change slightly. So will you.

I do advise you to stand up to your bullies, even if it’s just once and even if you get your ass kicked. This isn’t for anyone but you. You have to take your life by the horns and make a stand. It will give you confidence and may change a bully’s mind; maybe they will see you differently. I do not advocate violence; violence is never the answer, except when it is.

I suggest you take all those late-night pep talks you give yourself, the lone walk home where you play the film of you saying enough and taking a swing at your tormentor, the pages of comics you draw where you’re the superhero, and you vanquish the bad guy whose bullying helpless people and put it into action. If you have the thoughts, the impulse, then once, just once, act on it. Please understand I’m not saying this will clear up all your problems, but it will be good for you, your soul, and your peace of mind. Even if you get your ass handed to you, it will feel good to stand up and say enough.

Right now, there is the fear of the unknown. What happens if he beats me up? What happens if he pushes me down and people laugh at me? That’s a lot of unknowns. Once you stand up, then you’ll know. And once you know, you’re prepared; the next time, if there is one, you’ll know. Knowing is half the battle.

Sadly, many bullies grow up and remain bullies; that’s their deal, not yours. The world is not the halls of your high school, and once you move forward, you’ll find strengths, and you’ll be more secure in your self-worth; you’ll find new friends and new interests, and this time in your life will be miles and miles behind you. So, it sucks now and will suck later; the suck never entirely goes away, but you learn to deal with the suck.

A word of warning here. Once you leave high school and find your friends and footing in life, be aware that you can quickly become what you hated in high school. Getting a taste of popularity or having some positive attention shown to you because of your skills at work or whatnot can easily fill you with a sense of power. That power can easily get to your head, and you can begin to look at others the way the bully looked at you way back in high school. Shedding the bully bait time of your life, if not handled with care and thoughtfulness, can easily turn you into what you hated.

So, I’m sorry you’re having a hard time; life will hand you more challenging times as you grow; it’s just life.  Keep moving forward, stay true to who you are and what you believe, and make sure when you’re on top not to forget what it was like to be on the bottom. Be kind. Be thoughtful, and you’ll feel much better about life.

I hope that helps.


Bullying is not a joke or an episode of The Big Bang Theory, it’s real, and it can cause a lifetime of suffering and fear. If you see bullying, call it out. If bullying pushes you to your limits and you think you cannot go on, dial 988 and talk to someone. Don’t let a bully take your life.

If you have a question or a problem that you think Paul can help with, drop him a line at He’ll try to answer. Which may or may not be a good thing.