“Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this world, how would you and your mom like to come to the Avengers premiere in LA next year?”
So these words were tweeted by Captain America himself, Chris Evans. A great gesture from a character whose sole purpose in creation was to help boost morale with the suggestion that anything is possible. Captain America itself is about a bullied and unfairly treated youth who gets genetically experimented on with the results being that he comes out buff, chiselled and awesome. The origin story itself is the embodiment of the phrase “It Gets Better”.
I get that we have to be supportive and understanding. These are kids we are dealing with, the people that are told they are “too young to be depressed” because they haven’t reached that stagnant point in their life yet. As a child or teenager your everyday should be filled with possibilities and the future should be unknown to anyone and everyone. You haven’t reached your full potential, you’re still growing and you’re still coming to terms with everything. Both biologically and socially you still haven’t reached a stable point in your life and so there is forever the idea that it gets better. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with telling this mantra to children because in a sense it’s true.
There is something bleak about life after your teenage years. This is because your transitional period stops. You are expected to get a job, to find a partner, to settle down, to have a family or to focus on your career. The whole idea of being an adult and living is rooted in the idea of stability, you need a stable job and life in order to earn the money to live. The first question people ask you when they meet you is “so, what do you do?” because everybody is supposed to be at least partially on their way to this long-term ambition.
The part I take exception with in the mantra “It Gets Better” is that it doesn’t address those of us for whom it didn’t get better. It doesn’t account for those us in a dead-end job with no future or career prospects who struggle to leave the house when they relive bullying from years ago in their minds every single day. It doesn’t understand that as a child you are encouraged to be your best and reach your pinnacle but as you grow up you’re expected to settle more and more with each passing year.
My job wasn’t supposed to be long-term. It was supposed to get me away from the job centre whilst also giving me time to focus on writing. As it happens I am coming up for three years at the job with a future that doesn’t seem to change. Why? It can get better, get another job. As a teenager I would have no problems with leaving the job in hopes of a better one, as an adult I know the realism. I know that I’ve spent three years unemployed before this job and who knows how long I’ll spend after it. I know I’m pushing thirty and still living with my parents with absolutely no financial future of moving out. In this instance it doesn’t get better. It either stays the same or it gets worse.
I also know I’m crippled mentally from school. The bullying I experienced didn’t go the way that they tell you in the story. Bullies are alone in dead-end jobs with dull and miserable lives while you skyrocket and become yourself to the fullest potential, surrounded by the best people life can give you. That’s not how it worked. That’s not how it works for ninety-nine percent of the people who experience bullying either. Instead I can’t form a relationship because I’m so paranoid about the way the other person perceives and treats me that it leaves me barely able to leave the house while one of my bullies just has to take his shirt off to make friends.
So what is in store for people like myself? For those that are old enough to understand how life works and know that life doesn’t always get better? Those of us that are realistic enough to know that the good-guy doesn’t always win and the bad-guy doesn’t always lose. Those of us for whom bullying has forced us into a corner and we’re being held there by societies expectations and the threat of joblessness, homelessness, bankruptcy, or a future forever alone. What pearl of wisdom do we get that encourages us to put down the knife or the bottle of pills and actually continue on with life?