Eric Karjaluoto

On Bullies

I got bullied as a kid. Nervous and awkward, I didn’t like myself much. Being the object of ridicule made this worse.

I’d fake the flu to get out of school, take the roundabout way home, and hide in the art room to avoid certain kids. Being an outcast was one issue; getting beaten, another. When hurt, I’d become belligerent, which made things worse.

One kid sticks with me more than others. Given a closed room and a pipe, I’d have put it to his head until there was nothing left. (I hadn’t thought myself violent, to that point.) Upon leaving home, I burned my high school annuals, and did my best to distance myself from the experience.

In the years that followed, I reconnected with the people I knew then. It surprised me to learn how many remembered being bullied. At the time, they appeared to have it so easy. I couldn’t imagine them experiencing what I had.

Childhood and adolescence can be tough. Sometimes it seems like life is taking a piece out of you. When you experience that, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re allowed to be shitty.

What bugs me about today’s anti-bullying rhetoric is that it’s one-sided. All these adults moaning about the shit they suffered, with no one taking responsibility. Pointing fingers at “those guys,” without asking whether we might have been the same, accomplishes little.

Looking back, I realize that I was as guilty as anyone else: teasing others to deflect attention; uttering hurtful remarks, reasoning that others “deserved” these words.

We want to see the world in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys,” but it doesn’t work that way. Similarly, I don’t think there’s anything constructive in continuing to talk about bullies. Instead, we might ask why some of us act out in the ways we do.

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