When You Come Across a Childhood Bully

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.

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But Boy, Am I Tired

I’m tired. I am tired that we live in the world we live in right now. My latest release, a short story, was supposed to make me feel better about the social climate of the world right now. “How Not to Be a Bully: The Guide to Being Kind That We Shouldn’t Need” was inspired by this hatred we seem to have towards each other. It needs to stop. It has to stop. Our future generations are depending on this to stop now. They are going to be poisoned and the future will be full of people who think that a reasonable conversation is one where people hurl insults because the other doesn’t agree. What happened to that time when people could sit down across from each other and say “Well I believe this and this is why” and the other would say “Well, I don’t and this is why”? Is that really so hard?

Over the weekend, my family (I include my husband’s family as my own) took the annual trip up to this gorgeous orchard in the mountainside for apple picking. After having a great time enjoying the Pats game on my phone while picking apples, we went to the car to drop off the apples to sit around the stunning view and enjoy ourselves. (Even living in Massachusetts, the views here never get old.) As we were walking back, we heard screaming then saw a truck angrily pull over and everyone started piling out of the vehicle. I didn’t know what was going on until I noticed the signature red hat that we are all familiar with. That’s right, two grown men got in a fight about politics in a place where families are trying to enjoy their Sunday afternoon. Apparently the anti-Trump person said something to the Trump truck group and the Trump truck group felt the need to pull over, pile out of the truck, and get aggressive back. I told them to please not swear in front of my child and the Trump person turned on me. “It’s that f_ing snowflake’s fault. He disrespected me.” “When you got out of the car instead of ignoring it, you became just as guilty. Grow the hell up.” The very kind woman at the orchard apologized and asked the group to get back in their truck and to leave. The other guy, just as guilty in this for starting it and continuing it, should have also left for being a nuisance. He said it started over the other guy insulting his wife. My opinion: Ignoring people is a lot better for everyone. I again ask “Is being kind really so hard?”

Instead, we live in a world where people are constantly putting each other down. It is easier, I suppose, to lump everyone in with hateful words rather than being open-minded. We all are entitled to having a specific set of beliefs. I really like to hope that people can sit down with each other and have a reasonable conversation without the terms “racist Republicans”, “snowflakes”, or “libtard” ever being mentioned. It’s a foolish dream, but one that I have no less.

The thing is… this is not something that we can’t achieve. It can happen if people learn to put their pride aside, stop thinking that they are smarter or better than anyone out there, and just listen to another perspective. As the expression goes: “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.”

I can start by making this very simple for you. No, not all Republicans are racist, uneducated, misogynistic white men. There are some but that does not mean all of them are. Not all Democrats are “snowflakes”, whiny liberals who are offended by everything. There are many people who are offended by everything, on both sides of the aisle and many “whiny” liberals but not all Democrats are any of those things. Independents are not wishy-washy people that can’t choose a side. These are people who realize that both sides have their flaws and would rather vote on political stances rather than a political party. I am a proud Independent and I know exactly how I feel on every political topic and that is what decides my vote. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Catholics are pedophiles. Not all Puerto Ricans and minorities want to live off of welfare rather than work. Not all cops are corrupt murderers. However, all politicians lie. That is a fact that we can agree with. (Just kidding… there may be one or two out there that don’t.)

The point is that this is getting out of hand. We’re Americans, dammit. We have the right to an opinion without getting insulted for it. If someone is telling you something, you can fact check them. However, that doesn’t mean a person is insulting rather they are just trying to point out that you may be missing some information that can be helpful for making an informed decision on any topic. If you don’t want to listen, that’s your right but in neither case should anyone spend any effort insulting each other. What does that even prove? That the other person is right about their preconceived notion of who you are? We’re better than that. We have to be better than that. (Shameless promotion incoming) This is the whole point of my short story, which is now available in eBook format on Amazon.

I Should Feel More Shocked

I’ve realized in a short time that reading certain things on the news doesn’t shock me. A politician involved in a cheating/stealing/conning scandal? Racism and Homophobia still exist? I don’t think I’m the only one who can read the news and read appalling news articles without batting an eye; we’ve become desensitized to a lot of horrible activities.

Often times when I’m at a loss of what to write about, I read around the news articles to find something that seems worth it. Some days this takes forever, and I end up picking up inspiration elsewhere. Today, it took me all of 4 minutes to discover something so revolting it needed to be mentioned. Sadly, reading more into it I was angrier than I had been in a while. Most importantly, I felt angry that I wasn’t more shocked that something like this occurred. A part of my short story collection is a piece about bullying and I assure you this will find its way in there.

Bullying occurred all the time growing up. I was bullied; I’m pretty sure everyone I know experienced some form of it. Things were different then, it wasn’t as malicious as it is today. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a result of social networking and easy access to media or if it’s a result of our culture just being crueller than it used to be. I’m leaning towards a combination of the two, but that doesn’t matter at all. Locally two younger teenagers received attention for committing suicide, a girl even made national news for her death and both blamed on bullying. That’s disgusting enough, but I promise the story I read even surpasses that in how awful our society has become.

Right on my Yahoo! Page, I see a story of a girl who was taunted and died. I blindly went into it and discovered that this girl my son’s age died of Huntington’s disease, which was sad enough for me. Reading further, I saw that her neighbor was bullying her and doing horribly cruel things. Disgusting right? Then I saw the kicked and I saw how awful this story would really become: The neighbor responsible for this was an adult, a mom. I regret to use the word adult for this, that person was just an overgrown teenage bully. I read in horror that she made pictures of the girl with skulls and crossbones, her and her mother (who died of the same disease a few years earlier) as a grim reaper holding a baby all on the social media. As if that wasn’t appalling enough, she would drive a truck around the neighborhood with a coffin attached to it. As if I didn’t lack enough hope in humanity, I read this.

I couldn’t say I wouldn’t sink low enough to hunt down someone who would do the same to my child and physically harm them. I think that’s a natural instinct any parent has. It pains me to see how her children will grow up; she did more than just emotionally assault a dying girl. She potentially is raising her children to be vicious and heartless bullies too. This is why the bullying cycle starts.