The past is the past, except for when you come face to face with it. I, for the most part, don’t hold anything against those “minor” bullies in school. High school was a lot better for me in this regard than middle school. Middle school was an absolute nightmare, one that I wish I could say I never think about. I do. Not often, but sometimes a memory hits and it feels like I’m in those middle school halls all over again. I can probably pinpoint this as one of the worst set of years of my life and admit that most of my problems started then. One bully, among the worst in my early years of middle school, apologized profusely for his behavior at our class reunion and I forgave him. We drank together for a few moments afterwards and I wish I could say that this healed the wound. It didn’t. But it made it a bit easier to not want to punch him any time I saw him after that.
That’s the problem with bullying though, right? The fact that it could be many years later and ultimately you still have a vivid memory of it. You can feel the sadness and embarrassment that you felt in that moment. People say that it builds character, and it does. It made me a stronger person today, albeit one that has a low tolerance for other people and someone who really feels uncomfortable around people. I’m socially awkward and closed off emotionally, and they are the reason for that.
Last year for NaNoWriMo, I was going to write about this. I was going to face these demons once and for all, discussing it in a journal form to pass it off as a “work of fiction” when really it was just an effort to get it out and forget it for good. I couldn’t. I tried, and I couldn’t. I quit because quitting was much easier than facing the truth.
That’s the real problem, right? Bullying scars the victim and they will remember it for many years. But does the bully share those scars? Maybe I would feel better if I thought they did. Now that today bullying is infinitely worse than when we were kids, I sympathize with them. The difference is once I got home, it was done until the next day when I had to suck it up and go back to school the next day. Today, people have social media and smartphones to continue their power trip that bullying gives them. Parents used to tell their kids “they are only bullying you because they are jealous of you” or “because they have awful lives so they have to take someone down with them”. As well-intentioned as these sentiments are, it doesn’t help. I was fortunate that eventually I had a group of friends that stood up for me and helped me get removed from the situation, one of which I have recently reconnected with. They may never know how grateful I am to them, but I am.
What’s the point of all of this? Bullying is a problem that needs to be better addressed than it is today. I can’t be the only one that still is haunted by this past. I could be, but something tells me that I’m not. I’ve (hopefully) given my children the tools that they need to stand up for themselves, but I know that no matter how much I try to prepare them for this it can inevitably happen. With the world becoming a crueler place, we have to start fixing this somewhere.