How I Realized I Was a Bully
When I was a teenager I was very angry. I hated school and dropped out when I was 16. But between the ages of 11 and 16, in Vermont and upstate New York, I did a lot of fighting. I fought bullies, but I also DID some bullying.
I find myself thinking about the several kids I hurt, these days, wondering if there could be a way I apologize to them and make amends. It's hard especially because I don't know any of their names any more.
I remember this one kid who was small for his age (we were all 12) and bad at fighting. And I was with a group of boys taunting him. We pushed him too far and he attacked me. This was not a problem because he was easy to tackle and I was sitting on him in moments. But he wouldn't admit defeat. I got bored waiting and let him up. He just came at me again. So I knocked him down again. This went up for a few rounds.
This kid wasn't following the rules. He wouldn't stop. Since we were all kids and this was Vermont in 1978, nobody was going to do anything really violent and dangerous. That means the only ultimate way out when someone won't quit is to leave the field of battle. So I did. I ran away from him toward the gym lockers. The smaller kid chased me! In the lockers he came at me again, wildly swinging his fists, crying and screaming. Smashing into the lockers and bruising himself.
So in that moment, the boys in my group, who had followed us in there, realized we were in the presence of someone with a lion heart. We had encountered a Hero. I seem to remember we apologized to him or said something to him to get him to calm down. I don't remember exactly how it ended.
I remember that we never made trouble for him again.
But also it taught me that I didn't like being a bully. I wanted to be the guy who stood up to evil even when its hopeless, yet there I was being the evil. That kid also taught me that merely by striving, not necessarily by winning or even being competent, you can recruit people to your side and your cause.
I wish I knew who he was, so I could tell him that I think of him often, and assure him that his choices that day gave him a very long-lasting sort of victory.
This event happened at Harwood Union High School, in Vermont, in 1978. We were in 7th grade.