I was a bully. When I think back to the acidic words that have come spewing from my mouth I feel an immeasurable amount of guilt. Two people in particular were targets of my anger, a girl in my class and a boy with some sort of developmental disability. The girl’s crime was nothing. Nothing at all. There were rumours she was poor, but other than that, nothing. What drew such anger towards her from me and my fellow classmates? I remember her wearing a large hair clip in her hair one day, and when the teacher left the room another student mocked her openly, we all laughed. The image of silent tears rolling down her face is stuck in my mind and typing this is painful. In grade nine I sent her home crying from the Halloween dance, berating her for what she was wearing. In that moment I am a monster. The boogeyman doesn’t exist, but bullies do.
As for the boy, he was a target for being “different”. Was there ever some sort of intervention for us as kids to combat bullying? Never, and I never saw teachers go out of their way to help him. I made fun of him for liking Noddy, because we were in grade seven and that was a baby show. Now my malicious behaviour hits me like a punch in the gut when I see any merchandise from the show. I think of all the time I hurled insults and felt genuine anger, and I deserve that horrible sick feeling.
Because I had smartened up in high school, I apologized to the girl who I had bullied on the day of our grade 12 graduation. Her eyes lit up and she smiled as I explained that the way I had treated her was wrong, and that I was so sorry for ever hurting her feelings. That moment was filled with pride for me, but I can never, ever take back the hurt I caused. An apology can’t travel through time and make someone feel less worthless. It can’t dry tears that have dried long ago. If I could, I would apologize to the boy too. I would talk to him. I wish I could. I hurt when I think that I was so ignorant and hateful. Truthfully, my biological father died when I was nine, my parents often had loud and frightening screaming matches, and I was bullied myself because I had hit puberty so early and was given the gift of being chubby with acne. I took my hate out on the people I felt were easy targets because I was weak, and because I think in a way I was projecting everything I hated about myself onto someone else. I think of my nephews and how I might feel if they get bullied, and to have to see their hurt. I talk to them often about the importance of treating everyone nicely. Now as an educator I have an extreme zero-tolerance policy against bullying and when I work with youth I make sure to talk about bullying; the effects of bullying, and how being a bully is something you can never take back, and you will regret forever. If you’ve been bullied, I’m sorry. I’m sorry my apology will never take away your hurt, but it will get better. You will be stronger. You are an individual worth loving and caring for, and just because your bullies can’t comprehend that, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be happy. Pity your bullies, and believe in yourself.