One of my many mantras is to be gentle with those who hurt you because they themselves are in such a tremendous amount of pain they cannot see the damage they are doing. Obviously, I don’t mean to roll over and take what they dish out, but don’t add to it by making it a fight. Just wish them well and walk away.
I say this for many reasons and from many experiences of my life. The most powerful being when I was the bully myself. Way back when I felt nothing but anger at nearly every moment of my life. Anger which comes from a combination of sadness and fear.
To elaborate, I was around six years old at the time. My beloved grandfather, who was my only real father figure, had passed away. Then my own father, after already being separated from me by divorce, decided to take off forever without so much as a get lost. None of this my six-year-old brain was able to process, and it all hit at the same time.
I was merciless and could not be placated in any way. Teachers were bit, kids heads were bashed in between monkey bars. Basically, if there were an opening to inflict pain I took it gladly. No one was spared from my mean streak, which meant that in my first year of school during the time I was supposed to be making friends I was deterring them.
All but two that is.
These two boys, for reasons beyond reason, stood by my side through all of my elementary school hijinks. Even being the boys whose heads I bashed, and the boys whose necks I lassoed before dragging around the room during Halloween, I could always count on these two for a memorable recess.
The ten-foot monstrosity out back? No matter how many times the three of us climbed it, and no matter how many times I would give them that evil eye before shoving them off. Both would come climbing back with bright red faces laughing their asses off. And we would do it over and over again.
Sadly we parted ways a bit in middle school when that natural divide hit between the boys and girls, and the only acceptable form of intersex mingling was between boyfriends and girlfriends. But we always managed to find a lunch or class during the year to sit together and hang out like the old times.
Now long since out of high school, I sometimes pick out my old yearbooks and search for their signatures. The odd drawing of one of their misshapen heads which cheerily told me this is how he would look at eighty after the coming decades of us being best friends. The sweet genuine wishes and memories from childhood.
The thing is that I never thanked them. Because at the core I was a lost angry and lonely kid with no place in the world. But they made me a place with them, and never backed away no matter what I put them through. They gave me the solid ground to build myself into the better kid, and the better person I am now.
So, twenty odd years later, thanks guys! From your friendly old kindergarten terrorist!