Sometimes before I go to sleep, my brain reruns all the dumb stuff I did in the past. There’s the silly moments, like joking about a teacher while they happen to be walking by. There’s the embarrassing moments, like accidentally walking into a pole because I wasn’t paying attention. Then there’s the bullying.
It’s difficult to admit, but it’s the truth. I was a bully. In 5th grade, encouraged by a couple of my classmates, I bullied another student, mercilessly making fun of his weight (he was chubby), or strange actions (he picked his nose). My friends and I avoided him. We created a “johhny” (not his real name) touch, where anyone who had contact with him would be “tainted” and the only way to get rid of it would be to touch someone else and pass it on to another person. It was mean.
It was intended as simple teasing, but before I knew it, it spiraled out of control. Physical bullying, like hitting someone, is easy to recognize. Social bullying, on the other hand, is much more covert. At the time, I didn’t even realize that what we did was wrong and how much we hurt him. All I knew is that by “teasing” him, I felt powerful and in control. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. After all, I should have empathized: I get teased about being short.
But, there I was, 10 years old, drawing inspiration from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a comic book, to bully another student. One day, our 5th grade teacher talked about a bullying incident that happened at school. “Making fun of others is not okay at our school.” I slid down in my seat, certain she meant “johnny”. Turns out she was talking about someone else, but I realized that what I did was wrong. Two years later, I apologized to him. “Hey, I’m sorry about what happened in 5th grade.”
“Yeah,” he said, that was bad, but I’m over it now.”
We never did become friends though. And so I challenge everyone reading this confession to think about your own past and how your words or actions have affected others. Each interaction we make can touch someone’s life, for better or for worse, in ways hard to imagine.
Now, when I meet someone who is different, I simply say “Hello” and try to get to know them for who they are.