I saw this in r/tumblr:
There’s a new girl in my kindergarten class who’s autistic and it’s like she’s barely / not really verbal but like idk she opened up to me a little, I don’t tell people I’m on the spectrum at work because they already treat me horribly because I’m the only poc there but like she’s a little Latina girl who I know exactly how she feels and like I was like “hey Nina, If you don’t wanna talk it’s okay, just thumbs up or thumbs down if you understand the (math) problem? Okay?” So we sorta made like a thumbs up and thumbs down thing between us and today it was the most surreal thing because I like “I know they tell you to make eye contact but I’m gonna tell you a trick, look at their neck, chin, hair, and whatever is behind them, I don’t like eye contact very much either? Thumbs up?” And she said with the smallest voice “Thankyou, for not saying I’m dumb” I wanna be the person I needed when I was her age
I hear other adults who also suffered as kids talk about how we want to be the person we needed when we were young. I hear it all the time, and it’s great. I love how we see and validate each other. I love it when I hear or experience a success story. It’s really wonderful. And it is beginning to dawn on me that on the other side of that choice are the people who needed someone, didn’t have that person, and instead of choosing to be that person when they grew up, they chose to perpetuate the cruelty and selfishness that hurt them.
And they act like they are tough and strong and powerful because they don’t let anything get to them … but that’s all a lie they tell themselves.
The truth is, they’re weak and afraid. And when they can’t sleep at night, they know it. And the scariest thing in their reality, the thing they will run from their entire lives, is that they will be found out and exposed. And that’s really sad. What a terrible way to go through life.
It takes courage and strength, vulnerability and dedication to be the person you needed, because when you are that person for someone else, part of you remembers and relives that you never had that. The people who choose indifference or cruelty aren’t strong or courageous enough to allow themselves to feel that pain all over again, so they just inflict it on others. They know they’re weak, they know that beneath the mask they are afraid. So all they have is cruelty, which is honestly the easiest thing in the world. It’s the path of least resistance for the people of least courage.
Being cruel is so boring. It’s lazy. Anyone can be cruel. It takes real, hard work to be kind.
Make the choice to be the person you needed, and commit to doing the work. Practice it, and break the cycle.
27 thoughts on ““i just want to be the person i needed when i was her age””
This is beautiful.
My past self is exactly why I am a therapist today. She needed the present me. I do my best to be there for others who need someone.
You’re great to champion being kind. I know that I’ve been not very nice, and at times cruel to people and it took me too long to realize that, as is said, kindness costs nothing! I wish I had learned that lesson so much earlier in my life. Thanks for doing all you do!!
I agree 100%. I’ve always tried to be the person I needed. Growing up I was always told I was shy (and needed to get over it), and I believed it. It was only recently that I had the realization that I was AFRAID. I terrified of all adults because the ones in my home were scary so I assumed they all were.
Beautiful writing as always, Wil. Related, did you see Kevin Smith’s video today? It also had a bit of the adults are cruel to kids and don’t think (or care) about the repercussions theme.
So lovely. Thank you for sharing this with us. I love my parents very much, but I try my best now to be there for my two children in ways that my parents weren’t able to be there for me. Breaking the cycle. I really admire you, Wil.❤️
When I see you interact with people you disagree with, kind is not a word I would use to describe your tone or rhetoric. It’s easy to be kind to people you agree with. It’s hard to see you disparage people you disagree with and resort to calling them simps, etc.
Let me direct you to the Tolerance Paradox.
Thanks. I’m familiar with the tolerance paradox. I agree that we shouldn’t be tolerant without limits, especially to those who are intolerant. I agree with many of your viewpoints and appreciate your advocacy for a variety of groups. However, there was something about your comments in your recent WOTC MTG post that struck a nerve. I didn’t like what the Pinkertons did, but your comment “really weird seeing some of y’all simp for WOTC..” was pretty unclear in who exactly it was directed at, so unclear that you ended up with people afraid to express positive messages for fear of being accused of simping e.g., “not simping but I love the game.” Am I simping if I say that I understand WOTC’s desire to obtain merchandise that shouldn’t have yet become public, but disagree with the methods employed by the Pinkertons? Are you going to look down on me if I continue playing Magic in spite of this latest incident? Am I being intolerant by disagreeing with you and continuing to financially support the company? I certainly hope we can respectfully disagree. You sometimes get very passionate about your beliefs, particularly when you think someone has been mistreated, and it can sometimes be intimidating to have or express an opposing opinion. Anyway, I know you’re generally a thoughtful guy who is very introspective,
so I hope you reflect on this a little for what it’s worth.
I think it’s important to remember that it’s not always up to the poster to educate and offer empathy in every situation or look at every side of something. Wil isn’t the news. These things are personal to him and he’s reactive.
He’s said a LOT of things I disagree with over the years, but I’m not going to take it personally because I didn’t argue against any of his points that what they did was legitimately bad. There wasn’t any reason for people to make those comments. The fact that they did is white knighting for a company that does not need it.
I agree that sometimes volatile comments can cause issues, but we do only have so much to give and if people cross those lines it’s hard to hold back, especially if they are
Arguing in bad faith.
Talking about or over marginalized voices with hate.
Using circular rhetoric/sealioning.
Many of us can spot this kind of conversation a mile away, and it’s infuriating. Sometimes that anger comes out. Sometimes the anger even gets misdirected at people who didn’t know any better or were being earnest.
As far as Magic- Yes, you are simping and that is a choice. They made an objectively bad call to do it the way they did and It’s a big company it can afford someone getting shitty at them. I doubt he’s going to look down on you for playing the game. I doubt he’s going to boycott them or anything like that.
But what they did was extremely shitty and they should answer for it and be sued.
Wait, how exactly am I “simping” for Magic? Also, is there perhaps a better, kinder way to communicate where exactly you disagree with my perspective? I genuinely took my time to produce what I thought was a well-thought out measured take on the company’s actions, actions that I disprove of. Accusing someone of simping when they arguing in good faith, trying their best to communicate their perspective, is unkind and unhelpful. Further, accusing me of doing so as a choice is pretty confusing. Also, proceeding to launch into your own perspective on the issue doesn’t actually help me understand what I said that you disagree with, and it certainly doesn’t help me understand how I’m simping.
Thank you, Wil. My parents were broken and they left me broken. I prayed and worked and healed, and when I had my daughter, I wanted to be the mum that I needed. Still, my healing brokenness, her dad’s brokenness and the broken world left her with broken bits. And now I am the mum I needed when I was an adult daughter in pain. It hurts me, listening, affirming, acknowledging her wounds, knowing that I wasn’t exactly what she needed. I want to defend myself, to explain, to justify. I can’t though, because now, it’s not about me, and turning it onto myself in guilt leaves her feeling guilty for her feelings and it shuts her down, and I can’t allow that. She says, I’m sorry mom, you’re the only one I can talk to about these things, and I hug her and love her and listen and encourage healthy patterns and steps and thoughts and I know that even tho’ it hurts, I haven’t failed. She forgives me and so I forgive myself and I am teaching her the power of forgiveness, that failure is not the end, that growth and healing are always possible, that love can be messy and that she is worth it all.
And I am grateful for this amazing woman who will always be my baby girl.
Even at 53, I have to sometimes remind myself to be the person I needed. You are 100% correct that it’s not easy. None of us are going to be perfect at it, and we have to recognize and forgive ourselves when we’re not and then make ammends for our misstep and do better. Self-improvement can be a very scary and very difficult process y’all. But oh so worth every little bit of gain.
Will when you and the OP do this, you not only become the person you needed for someone else, you open the door for the rest of us. I’ve got my own stuff from childhood, but I wound up working with kids who aren’t really like me-save that they don’t fit in. So for example, I work hard to support my kids, one of whom is on the spectrum, and the other has had major sensory issues. I see what they needed, and I use it with the kids I work with. My kid who is on the spectrum told me about not liking eye contact so I ask kids to turn their bodies towards me, but I don’t ask for eye contact. I give the kids who need to move breaks and fidgets.
So thanks to everyone who has the courage to share what they went through and how they’ve grown because that compassion expands way beyond the people who they touch directly
I’ve actually done this as a youth advisor for my local Unitarian church. And I try to do this everyday for others. Some days, I’m not so good at it. I guess that’s because I’m human.
Thank you for sharing this.
Beautifully said and worded as always. It’s like you’re a professional writer or something. 🙂
I am short by male standards and am overweight and have bright red hair so as you can imagine I was picked on… A LOT…. in school. I now have a son and while he is only 9 months old I tell him every day to be kind to others. To help those that need help and to be the change he wants to see in the world. I think tel him about Wil Wheaton and how he is the ambassador of kindness. Thank you for being the change you want to see in the world.
Having patience and empathy for people with different backgrounds, (dis)abilities, etc., is a skill, and takes effort. Far too few people take the time to reflect and develop the emotional intelligence and self-awareness to make those leaps. Often because they’re unable to do the work inwards and just focus their ire and judgement outwards. It’s easier to aim it at others and not work on themselves. Thank you for being an example of how to do the work.
Wil – I’ve followed this blog of yours for a VERY long time and this is one of the few times I need to chime in. It is NOT difficult to be kind. No more than being mean is, anyway. It comes down to habits and expectations you set with your peers and, by extension, the rest of the general public. If you’re already exhibiting kind habits, it’s a lot more difficult to be mean because you’d be going against the expectations you’ve set among your peers. I’ll argue that switching lanes (kind-to-mean or mean-to-kind) is where things get difficult. And the best way to effect that change is by putting the mean people you encounter on a daily basis on notice that their behavior is: seen, objectively awful, and not acceptable. They obviously need the external pressure to make the internal changes to be more kind. Then react by being kind in return to set the example. To kind of re-write the phrase from this exact post, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
All very true and accurate. The trick of it is to make sure you’re being the person you needed for the kid who needs it. I spent along time being the parent I needed for my kiddo, when it turns out she needed the parent she needed and that was different in some ways. Fortunately my mom had spent the intervening years growing into the person we both needed, so that helped a lot.
But I take your point about using your own suffering to prevent or relieve the suffering of those who come after you, rather than deciding everyone should suffer because you suffered. It’s an excellent point.
It all comes down to the basics: Show up for people. Pay attention. Do the best you can every day (some days the best you can do is survive, and that’s okay.)
I try to avoid saying it’s lazy, because there’s so much baggage with that term. It’s easier. It’s even unconsciously easier. It takes energy and willpower and vigilance to catch myself repeating the patterns of behaviour I was taught when I was young. It’s so easy to backslide, and I’m not always alert enough to catch myself doing it, and I don’t always have the emotional bandwidth to open myself and offer the connection someone might need. As you say, it’s harder, but rewarding to be the person I needed as a kid, but I try to be compassionate with myself and others when they don’t make that choice every time.
I am in total agreement with you here, but just want to make an ancillary point: understanding the brokenness of the abuser in no way implies that the abusee should keep putting them self in the path of that abuse. I’m not even saying you implied this, just that it struck a nerve with me. My philosophy is: recognize who people are and then GTF out of their way if they are hurting you. You have no obligation to them, regardless of bloodlines.
This is so spooky, Wil … was just thinking of your post where you said you were trying to ‘be the person you needed’ yesterday. Like Tina did, I am becoming a therapist in order to be that person for other young people. I see my first clients next week! And that’s partly because of you. Pebbles make ripples. Negative ones and positive ones. And look, your message hit home and was one of the deciding factors that made me decide to work with young people. Thank you.
You may not realize this, Wil, but you already are that person for some people. Me for one. Thank you for sharing your history with us so that we may grow from it and help the next person. It’s wonderful and it’s exponential.
Wil, I just watched the ending of Picard s3 in clips on YouTube and I actually have tears in my eyes right now. Thanks to this show, you have a “Space mom” that has loved you every bit as much as your biomom should have. Now, you have a “space brother” too. You are truly not alone.
This story hits me where it matters. I have never struck my children–and never will–but have been fairly strict with my son about some things, mostly involving him dilly-dallying about getting ready for school. Usually the “punishment” is a reduction in available screen time for him. I have to realize those things are related. As a recent divorcee, we are engaged in family therapy, and I will ask about coping mechanisms. The good news he is a stellar student, and I know my job is to stay out of the way of him thriving.