Looking Back Toward a New Beginning (updated)

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– by Joseph Figgiani

A couple of weeks ago I sat down and tried to put into words my experience with being bullied as a kid.  I only write when inspired, and it’s been a while.  But a week later a conversation with a friend about an ex, who is still making their life hell, inspired me to take action.  We talked a while about different ways to handle this but ultimately realized that, to take strong action, they’d need a good lawyer.  The conversation crashed after the ultimate reality that affording a decent lawyer was a major issue.  I thought of the recent popularity of on-line fund raisers and offered to organize a benefit, with all money  going toward legal representation to stop this person from abusing my friend any longer.  Long story short, my friend wishes to not go through the mess of a court case and all it entails.

But after putting down my phone, I realized a fire had been lit by this awful news.  I realized, for several reasons, I was now wanting to do something very different from anything I’ve ever attempted in the past.  First, I started to understand why my friend’s situation was making me so angry.  I’d realized that when an adult is being harassed it’s just like ‘bullying for grown-ups.’  I started to think of my own experiences with being bullied again.  I soon got on my computer and figured my best shot at reaching the most people was through my facebook page.  So, I decided to create an on-line community page,        “Fig and Friends Community for Bully Awareness,”where anyone interested in raising awareness or just talking about being bullied can share their thoughts and ideas.

For the past week I’ve been jumping up from bed, powering up my lap-top and getting to work.  I’m emailing and getting emails and messages from like-minded people.  Communication skills I never knew I had are coming to me naturally, and I’m making a lot of new contacts.  Turns out, there are many, many people already doing something similar to help children and victims of bullying.

While slowly thinking of  ways to use social media for some good I remembered a story told to me by another friend a month back.   Last August, Staten Island resident Daniel Fitzpatrick ended his short life at age 13 after being bullied by several kids at his school in Brooklyn.  His mom refuses to take this tragedy laying down.  She’s learned that, while public schools already have a law in place to protect children from being bullied, private schools do not.  So, Danny’s mom has created “Danny’s Law” to honor her son’s life and is hard at work toward getting this law passed for all schools.  My compassionate friend, herself a business-owner; artist, musician and mother of two, has already succeeded in running the first benefit for Danny and his family.  While we first discussed a possible musical collaboration to raise awareness of this growing epidemic, my friend and I are now organizing the second benefit for this broken but incredibly brave family to take place in April.

Along with my new venture into philanthropy, I am still writing.  As I dig deeper into this behavior that has somehow led to children ending their lives, I am learning more about others and myself.  While the torture I went through in grade and junior high-school has stayed with me well into adulthood, today’s kids have it far worse.  The internet, cell phones and social media have now made it possible for acts of cruelty to be shared with a seemingly infinite amount of people all around the world; and with this, the suicide rate of victims of bullying is rising fast.

My one-page essay about being bullied myself has grown into 8000 words.  I’m hoping that I may finally be on my way toward writing my first book.  I’ve also started an internship for a new organization out of Memphis, “Bravery Over Bullying,” working on illustrations, assisting with writing and editing documents, and contributing to all facets of creative marketing toward helping the company achieve their goals.

I’ve been singing in bars and other public places for over 25 years, and it mostly pays the bills.        To write and perform music is one of the most effective ways to get a message across.  As I continue to enjoy writing my first book of memoirs, I’m looking forward to this new venture into helping others through additional forms of communication; continuing to grow my on-line group; working on charity events and raising further awareness of important social issues; and continuing my internship with Bravery Over Bullying.  

Please Visit FFCBA My Online Community for Bully Awareness

A Shift in My “Work”

My whole life I’ve been committed to finding a career that means something to me.  But while living on the east coast particularly, wanting to hug trees or “Save the Whales” for a living never seemed practical.  If money weren’t an incentive, I’m sure a lot of us would have chosen very different ways to spend our time. I’ve tried many different kinds of work but always spent time on my art or music.

I’ve been playing musical instruments since a very young age, writing songs from junior-high, and will continue to write, record and perform as long as I can.  I’ve traveled through half the country with my cousin and performed anywhere from a Waffle House in Texas to hundreds of people on Elvis Presley Blvd.  Through my travels, I now have friends outside of New York, even a group of people in Illinois I consider a second family.

After a quarter century of playing guitar and singing in public I’m confident of my talents and enjoy sharing them most of the time.  Back in New York, I perform during dinner several days a week at a beautiful lakefront restaurant, and it pays the bills for now.  I continue to put out original music when inspired, but promoting myself in any way has always made me very uncomfortable.  It just hit me recently that I’m pretty tired of something many performers ‘suffer’ from, call it the “look-at-me” syndrome.

I was moved by a friend recently who told me about a young boy who ended his life because of being bullied.  I’ve wracked my brains over this for 46 years and am coming to accept that, when you put us humans around other humans, we will disagree and fight from a very young age.  Kids can even tease and torment each other to the point of making life a living hell.  I have my story about being bullied as a kid, but today’s kids have it far worse.

Through our reliance on the internet and other technology it is now possible to spread gossip, for example, to a seemingly infinite number of people all over the world.  Sadly, there are kids interested in doing this, and lives are already being lost.

I’m not looking to use such a delicate and tragic issue to promote myself as a musician or in any other way.  But it’s time I use my talents and social networking for a more important purpose.  I’m willing to use my experiences as an artist and teacher to help in any way toward raising awareness about this epidemic and help educate teachers, parents and other students on how to deal with this.

I won’t deny that helping someone other than yourself can make you feel good.  But most importantly, I hope I stay brave and maintain the integrity needed to shift toward more important and meaningful work.

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