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This is Life, Based on a True Story  

After the bullying ends

What happens to kids who were bullied and are now adults?

What about the kids who were bullies and are now adults?

Are they still bullies?

I’ve written at length about bullying and its effects on kids. Countless news stories, studies and cases have been documented as testament to these effects.

No one disputes the negative impact of kids involved in bullying – whether as the bully or the person being bullied. It seems the problem is worsening, courtesy of social media.

Or maybe bullying has always been this bad, we’re just more aware of it now – once again, thanks to social media and its far-reaching capabilities to spread news, both good and bad.

I write this column from the standpoint of the kid who was bullied and is now an adult.

The inspiration for this column came in the form of a Facebook message.

Among many others, I was invited to participate in a class reunion of sorts from my elementary/junior high days. A few old classmates are organizing a get-together for anyone from the Grade 9 “grad” class wishing to catch up on the good ol’ days.

Except for a few of us, those aren’t the good ol’ days. In my case, far from it. The teasing and bullying during some of those formative years were bad enough that my parents eventually moved me to a different school for ninth grade, so I didn’t actually “grad” Grade 9 with that group of people.

I started at the school when I was in Grade 3 and everything was fine up until Grade 7. I’m not sure what changed or happened that summer between Grade 6 and Grade 7. All I know is that when school started again that fall of my first year of junior high, things had changed.

Friends who I’d previously hung out with were no longer friends, new groups and cliques had formed. The crazy thing is we were all still in the same school – as in the same building that we’d been in since the elementary days. So other than our locker room changing, the environment itself remained the exact same.

There were a few new faces, but the core group of students remained the same. Looking back, that is probably where things started to shift.

I remember a new girl coming to my school, whom I’d befriended the spring before outside school. Her family had just moved to the area, and I was one of the first people to meet her through the church we’d attended. 

Imagine my excitement when I saw her at school that first day of Grade 7.  I didn’t even know she would be going to my school until I saw her that day. I remember approaching her and being proud that I was the only one who knew her – that I’d get to be her tour guide and introduce her to all my friends and favorite teachers.

That worked for a few days. But then she met others who also thought she was as cool as I did. She formed bonds and friendships with others, and as the days went on, I saw less of her.

It soon became clear that she preferred to hang out with her newfound friends and nothing I could do would change that.

So I did what made sense to me at the time. I lashed out and tried to hurt her in a very public way. It worked too. She was in tears by my actions (not physical actions). I got satisfaction from being able to make her feel as bad as she made me feel when she stopped hanging out with me.

Was it right? Obviously not. I knew that then as well. But emotions preceded intelligence and I ran with that like a runaway train.

What I didn’t take into account was how my actions would affect me long-term. Her new friends all sided with her. I was public enemy No. 1 and things became quite miserable.

There was tons of verbal bullying and name calling. I was also physically bullied. I was on the smaller side as a young teen, so was no match for anyone. Plus, I was scared of getting into a fight.

I used to run to the school bus at the end of the day so no one could beat me up. I lived in fear for two full years of junior high before my parents mercifully pulled me out of that school.

Did I deserve it? Well, maybe to an extent. My actions toward that girl were uncalled for, mean and vindictive. I guess you could say I reaped what I sowed. Tough lesson to learn, but it was well learned.

The problem was, it went on and on. It never ended. People who had no affiliation with her or me still bullied me. I was being bullied simply because it was me. New people would come to the school and not even know me or talk to me, but would bully me because everyone else did.

So years down the road, how did this affect me? Both positively and negatively.

Negatively in ways such as my self esteem and confidence were non-existent for years. I don’t think I ever stood up for myself or my beliefs until I was in my late 30s.

It was afraid of being ridiculed. It was easier to be wishy-washy than assertive. And that way, I always fit in, no matter what.

But on the positive side, it made me more aware. I tuned in very quickly to how my actions can be used to either better the world or make it more sinister. I learned self-awareness at a young age and how to view things from as many points of view as possible.

I learned to nurture other people’s feelings because they all have a story to tell – that a bad encounter doesn’t make someone a bad person.

Most importantly, I learned we are all human and will make mistakes, but we all seek and desire forgiveness. It doesn’t make us weak – but rather, strong.

Will I go to this reunion? Well, the jury’s still out on that. Other than a few people via Facebook, I don’t communicate with anyone from that time in my life.

I guess I’ll make that decision closer to the time. And in the end, it will be what it will be. But the little, insecure junior high kid in me is glad they included me in that invitation.

Thanks for reading.

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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]

 

 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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