Living Well is the Best Revenge

British poet, George Herbert, said “living well is the best revenge.” I believe him – to a certain extent.

In my role at work, I spend a considerable amount of time talking to students about their conflicts with other kids, their parents, staff, and even within themselves. Being a teen in the digital age is not easy, and social media only adds to the pressure and anxiety young people feel. The pressure has always been there, especially for girls, to look a certain way, but it has gone from the cover of “Cosmo” to your teen’s Instagram feed. On her phone. Which she has access to. All the time.

Students come to me daily with feelings of depression, of feeling like they are not valued, of feeling like they don’t have enough, of feeling anxious. When I speak with kids, I often try to use stories of my childhood. I share with them this story:

In second grade, not long after moving to Southern California from the Philippines, I was playing four square at recess with some other kids and a girl named Amy G. Out of the blue, or maybe it’s because I kept eliminating her from the game, she called me “the trash man.” All the other kids laughed. It crushed me. Even at seven, I knew I was different from most of my classmates. I was a “ghetto apartment kid,” a distinction given to my friends and I that lived in the one apartment complex in our school boundaries. It bordered a park notorious for drug deals, gang initiations, and murders. However, I loved growing up there, and wouldn’t change my experiences for the world because I learned so much about resilience grit, and having thick skin.

What does this story have to do with revenge?

I used to want revenge on Amy G. (and the many kids at my school like her) in the form of making gobs of money, having lots of stuff, rolling into my high school reunion in a Maserati with a wife way prettier than her. We all have had moments like mine, and like me, you may have used them as motivation to do better for yourself. I’m educated, have a nice house, paid off cars, go on vacations, and so on. Over time, however, I have become less interested in that form of revenge. I tell students this story because I want them to strive to focus on what makes them unique in a world where everyone seems to want to be an Instagram butt workout expert. If that’s what you want, so be it, but get after it and don’t let the negative comments and lack of likes define you.

Today, if I could modify George Herbert’s quote, it would say:

“Living well, and with purpose, is the best revenge.” Or you could just smash Amy G. in the face with the ball.

I got both.