A few weeks ago I was featured on ABC Radio for an 11 minute interview. You can hear it here! James BuSTAR – ABC Radio Interview Or Read the transcript of the interview below;
On Friday, we spoke about Clubs New South Wales being just one of a dozen employers trialling a programme to “bully-check” job seekers age 22 or younger. If they found they’d been a bully in high school, then they wouldn’t get the job – and that sure sparked a few calls at the time. Today we’re talking to a highly successful juggler who spent most of his high school years being bullied, and he’s going to tell us how he got through that and if it influenced choices he’s made. It’s been a couple years since we’ve had James Bustar in the studio, welcome back.
Thank you very much, how are you doing?
Very good. How old are you these days?
I’m 25 now.
All right. Can you explain to us what sorts of bullying you experienced when you were growing up?
I experienced quite a bit when I moved over to Australia when I was 11 years old. I came from England, and I was tall, skinny, had a lisp, and an English accent – so obviously I was absolutely loved by all the Australian kids at that age. It was quite a bit to deal with for me. There was lots of verbal teasing and at some points it did get physical, which affected me in my first personal years of ‘real life’, getting into my teen years.
So people would push you around or hit you even?
Yes, it got to those stages. It was mainly verbal abuse but it did get to those stages as well.
What affect did that have on you as a growing teenager?
Honestly, it had a lot of affect on me, and it worried my parents to bits while I was in school. All they wanted – like any parent – is for their kids to be happy. When I went to school each day and came home, they would ask if the bullying was getting better and I’d hide it. I just didn’t want to see them upset all the time like they were. It was a very hard thing to deal with in those early years, because as a kid you just want to be accepted and… be part of life, really. When you’re pushed to the outskirts just because of your looks or how you sound, it does affect you on a personal level. I was seeing counselors every day when I was there.
Did it influence you towards taking up something like juggling?
I honestly think it did. In a way, as bad as bullying is, it kind of pushes you to find something you enjoy doing, to stay sane in your life. I went through many hobbies as a kid, and eventually I found juggling. It was my ‘getaway’. It may sound silly but it was like my alternate universe where I was a happy kid. I’d be at home and juggle and be the happiest I’d ever been. Teaching myself and learning a new skill.
Learning the juggling itself actually made the bullying at school worse. I thought it would be a really good idea to come to school and juggle and things like that. But for a few of the kids who weren’t bullying me, I was doing something they couldn’t do, and it was actually seen as a positive from a few people – now, I’m still different, but I’m doing something they couldn’t do.
How old were you at this point?
When I first moved to Australia and I was 11. I started to teach myself to juggle off the internet, back when it was dial-up; watching very slow-moving objects on the screen.
Off the internet! Was it instructions or were you watching a video?
Back in those days – I’m sounding old now even though I’m only 25 – it was just a GIF image, something like that, of just three balls moving in a pattern. I looked at that, and then my dad knew a tiny bit about juggling – which was funny, seeing as he was an accountant – and he helped a bit. But apart from that, it was mainly just buying books and mainly learning off the internet on that website. I don’t even remember what it was nowadays. Just watching little animations and trying to copy it in real life.
Some people might be aware: this was before you took up with the Flying Fruit Flies Circus as lots of talented youngsters in our region have done. What lead you to the Fruit Flies Circus?
Basically, my parents just always wanted me to be happy. They were very supportive in what I did. So when I was 14, I had an opportunity to do work experience through school. I went to Channel 9 and worked there for a week, then I worked for the Bell Shakespeare company for a week. The last thing I did was work for the Fruit Flies Circus. I was very enthused as a kid as you can tell, because you’re only supposed to do one work experience and I wanted to do three.
I went to the Fruit Flies Circus work experience and sent my parents a text message basically saying “I’m in heaven”, and my parents knew from that point that would be something that I’d be committed to for the rest of my life, especially seeing me juggle around the house for the last three years. We never saw it as a “job opportunity” for the future, but they really encouraged me to follow my dream and everything like that. When I came back home after being with the Fruit Flies for 3 weeks, I had many conversations with my parents – trying to convince an accountant and a school teacher that I wanted to ‘run away with the circus’. Back in those days it wasn’t really a “normal” thing, like how nowadays it’s taught in P.E. Classes in school. I said I wanted to go to Fruit Flies full time; I spoke with them, my parents spoke with them, and 2 weeks later I was moved to Aubrey at 14 years old, living in a house with some other parents of Fruit Flies kids. That’s how it all started.
How did it help your self-confidence? Being part of that environment, but perhaps also the performance side of things?
Going to the Flying Fruit Flies Circus, it was a family. That’s what they’ve always been known for; community, values, the fact that it is a family. “Every Fruit Fly knows every other Fruit Fly” kind of thing. So as soon as I got there, I was accepted. I wasn’t seen as being different or weird or quirky or strange or anything like that, because you’re all in the same boat. That’s the best way I can describe it, they were a family. I got out of being bullied and into a family where juggling wasn’t seen as different, and where my ‘quirky looks’ – because I’m not the most attractive guy – went towards that, and helped. It made clowning much easier with the fact that I look funny anyways.
For kids who might be getting bullied at the moment or parents who have to deal with it, with your experience, what would your advice to them be?
My advice is that it does get better, and follow your dreams. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s what every parent wants you to do and honestly, in today’s world there’s no limit to the job you can do. Back when I was in school there still was a kind of limit, whereas now I’m hearing weird and wacky jobs every day that people are doing, that I didn’t even know existed, because of the joys of the internet coming into affect and things like that. Basically with the internet running the world nowadays, you can do whatever you want to do. That’s my advice really.
And it’s a hard situation to say what to do, because everyone’s situation is different and everyone is being bullied for different reasons, and I’m not sure what the school system is like nowadays. But the hardest thing I’ve found about the school system was that, when you’re in school it’s the kid who is being bullied that’s being counseled. It’s not the bully that’s being counseled, which is where it should be. I always found it really strange that I was going to see a counselor every day because I was the one being bullied. Nothing is actually done about the bully, which for me is a really weird way of looking at it. They’re trying to counsel you with ways of dealing with the bully, but not really confronting the bully and finding out what the real reasons are. Not to protect bullies or anything, but most of the time they’re not happy at home, and it’s their way of putting on a tough image when they’re not actually so.
Interesting. All the best with your continued success. We look forward to hearing more about your exploits. James Bustar, thank you very much for talking to us.
James Bustar, telling his story about growing up and being bullied. Something we thought might be worth hearing after that interesting and – contentious? – decisions by Clubs NSW programme where if you had been a bully in high school, it would affect your job chances. There’s one man’s experience with bullying, and how juggling and the Flying Fruit Flies Circus helped him through self-development and where he is today.