A few days ago, I had gotten off an extremely long train ride to Pennsylvania, where I was going to be working for a summer program doing what I’ve always wanted to do for the longest time, being a teacher (well technically, a teacher’s aide).
The first few days, despite being a newbie to the staff, I mixed well with all sorts. Whether they were new hires just like me, or those returning to the program, I quickly made friends with the many people I interacted with using my quirky humor, goofy demeanor, and my gift of gab. After a great night out, one of my fellow peers told me that I was such a “good guy”. Never in my life had someone misjudged me so poorly.
It’s embarrassing to reminisce upon the emotional stress I so gleefully slapped upon those around me when I was 12, the age when boys become some of the cruelest animals in the world. I was a tenacious, notorious bully. Like a sadistic beast, once I smelled vulnerability and weakness, I would pounce on my victims with no mercy and full fury. I drank the tears that fell from the faces of boys and girls who did nothing to deserve such torment. I laughed and grinned when I saw those I bullied, walking away while shame and anguish burned on their faces.
But what goes around definitely comes around. During the summer leading up to 8th grade, my family and I moved to a completely different school. It’s been almost 10 years, so I’ve forgotten the unmemorable first day. The second day, on the other hand, was pure, infernal hell. One punk kid saw me as the perfect rag doll for his barrage of verbal jabs and taunting uppercuts. Jokes about my weight, or my “small eyes,” or my shyness were surrounded by humiliating sounds of laughter that all came at my expense. I was even bullied by a patronizing teacher, which caused the rest of the class to snort in amusement like a bunch of dirty and easily amused pigs. By the end of the day, I remember screaming at the mirror in rage and hatred. I had become the awkward and stupid victim. The only activity that gave me any joy during the nightmare that was my 8th grade year was thinking of creative and clever ways of violently pummeling those who had targeted me.
After being bullied for an entire year, any decent human being would become more compassionate and step in when the bullies would go out in force to demean a hapless victim. For me, that wasn’t the case at all. During high school, I thought that sticking to my clique of friends and, not giving a care in the world about anything or anybody else, was the best approach.
I remember one time, high school bullies were pushing around a kid in the gym locker room, throwing the glasses off of his face and shoving him into a locker. Once the vultures had left, high-fiving and praising each other for their brutish work, it was just the victim and me. After a moment of awkward silence, the cries of a young man, suffering from psychological wounds echoed throughout the mainly empty room. I could have stayed there and given him some precious moments of friendship and social comfort. Instead, I just ignored him and continued on my way. I now played the part of an apathetic and heartless bystander.
Life is too short and valuable to be wasted on regret. Still, it’s hard not to look back on my behavior and wonder why I was such a gutless and cowardly bastard. If you are a bystander or a bully, I urge you to stop as soon as you can. Although you might not think it now, it will definitely haunt you for the rest of your life. It’s a terrible burden, carrying around this feeling of regret over needlessly making someone’s life harder.
I very much enjoyed my experience working as the teacher’s aide. My instructor, an elderly man who thrived when it came to connecting with the students, had the reputation of being a real “good man”.
I wish I could say the same for myself. Unfortunately, my past speaks otherwise.