by Lily Gimmet
I used to be a bully when I was in middle school.
It's hard to say when it started, but by the end of seventh grade, I had no friends. People only stuck by my side because they were afraid I'd bully them, too. I'm not trying to find an excuse.
To be honest, I was never really social. I tried so hard to make friends during elementary school, but I always ended up driving people away. If I was myself, people never stuck long enough to get to know me.
I was called boring so many times that it messed with my mind.
I was so self-conscious about the way people saw me. I was frustrated that I couldn't control their perception of me. So, erroneously, I became the bully. I thought that if people were afraid of me, they would never speak behind my back. If people were intimidated, they would never leave. If I called them names and made fun of them, then they wouldn't do it to me.
I'm not going to lie. When I first became the bully, it seemed like I had found the perfect solution. I never heard others speak of me, at least when I was there. They were so scared of being taunted or bullied by me that they started being nice. Some classmates gave me their food for lunch and others invited me to their birthday parties even when had never spoken before. In my mind, I was popular, and people finally stayed.
That was a one-sided truth.
I wasn't the stereotypical bully that you see in the movies. Instead, I became isolated in a public place with large crowds of people. I was never shunned or given the cold shoulder, but the "friendships" I made were rooted in fear and intimidation.
Nothing was real.
Summer after middle school was eye-opening. Not a single one of my supposed friends reached out to hang out before we all went our separate ways. We were all going to different high schools and I dreaded being the small fish with no friends in a new ocean.
As a true believer of karma, I wasn't surprised when I got myself a bully freshman year. Her name was Helen, and she was taller, meaner, and more resentful that I ever was. She called me names, glared at me from across the hallway, and spread lies about me.
She made most of that year hell for me.
It didn't matter how many terrible things Helen did to me; I couldn't hate her. I saw so much of myself in that girl that it was like every time she said something to me, I understood where she was coming from.
This wasn't healthy, of course. People have different reasons for bullying others, but those reasons should never be justified. I was insecure about my lack of friends and I think Helen was, too. It was like seeing my reflection in a mirror and no matter how similar we were, Helen and I were not destined to be friends.
Slowly, I met people who were also victimized by this girl and we bonded. We found strength in numbers and even Helen stopped paying attention to us. It was like being immune to her attacks acted as a shield. If we were not affected by her, then it wasn't fun.
The friends I made freshman year were real friends. They didn't fear me nor were intimidated by me. Their intentions were clear: they just wanted to be around me because they liked me. Years after middle school and high school, I still talk to these friends. I see them when we come home from college, and we bond over our experiences. They text me throughout the year and keep me up to date in their lives.
When we hang out, I often wonder if this could have happened with the people I hurt in middle school. Maybe if I hadn't tried to intimidate them, we would still be friends.
There are no second chances in this story. Not even when I made friends in high school. Life is not generous in that way, so we must pay attention to the person we are and the person we become.
I regret being the bully once, but now I know that it will never happen again.
My only hope is that girls like my middle-school-self and Helen can realize this before they hurt more people just because they're angry at themselves.