This isn't a story. And it's not easy for me to tell. This is something I carry with me. It wasn't easy to write because it was pretty personal. I would send it to the person herself but.. if someone reads this and it helps them realize how hurtful they can be, then I'll be glad. It's so easy to be cruel when you're part of a group. But that doesn't make it any more acceptable.
Here's the thing. I was bullied as a child. But that's not the story. That story is too easy to tell. Covered in a patina of humor and nostalgia, that story is kind of a fun story. It's a story I pull out and tell during lulls in dinner conversation.
The story is that I was a bully.
I never spent very long at a school. Grade school wasn't particularly special. It flew by in a haze of jump rope, school yard taunts, oddball teachers, and kool-aide. At the beginning of middle school, my parents, in their infinite wisdom decided to move me somewhere new. Awkward and new, I didn't fit in very well. I never managed to make any real friends and I disliked most of the kids around me. Not to be outdone, most of them disliked me too. I was subjected to some impersonal bullying and petty little taunts. I had some people I was friendly with, I had some people I was unfriendly with... it wasn't really a big deal. Then I moved again.
I moved to smaller school where everyone seemed to be the same. Determined that I wouldn't repeat my last experience I decided to be friends with *everybody*. Except this one girl. Because there's always a girl in these stories. If I wasn't that girl, then someone had to be, right?
The girl wasn't our friend. The girl wasn't *any body's* friend. She was different you see. She didn't understand us and we didn't understand her. If I was a better person, I would have felt a sense of kinship for this girl who could not manage to belong. That wasn't the case.
I hated this girl. The girl who did nothing but be herself. This girl had so much pressure bearing down on her. Daughter of a teacher, new to the school, different, afraid.. we could have been friends I think, if I was a better person. But you see everyone else hated her too. So why should I be different?
I wasn't. Except sometimes I think I was more cruel than anyone. I tortured this girl. I snubbed her, I mocked her, I called her names.. one time I even raised my hand to her in anger. I wish I could say I felt but about it but.. the more horrible I was to her, the better I felt. You see, I said to myself, she deserves it. She's too strange, too different, she doesn't belong with us. After all, everyone else was doing it.
The only person I know who was smart enough and brave enough to say no was my friend, M. She refused to judge the girl for being something other. She was kind to her. Often she would tell us to lay off the girl. M couldn't stop us though, no one could. I wish someone had.
I will always regret my cruelty to that girl. Who was brave enough to keep being herself through three years of torture. Who tried her hardest not to let us break her. I hope we didn't break her.
The story could end here, with me carrying these regrets, wondering what happened to the girl I bullied. But we live in a digital age. We live in the era of facebook and twitter. Every life you touched will find a way back to you.
The girl, she got back in touch with me a while back. She was friendly and sweet to me. She's happily married with kids. She seems well adjusted. We've never really spoken of those years we spent in the same school. I've never asked her to forgive me. I don't think I have the right. But I will apologize.
A? I'm sorry. I hope you don't carry any pain from those years. I hope you know that I regret every horrible thing I said or did to you. I hope you're happy, I can't think of anyone who deserves it more.