Part II: The Realization
Part I here
It was a word I would mostly read or hear in mass media.
Then, years after my middle school experiences, I realized my so-called friends had been bullies. Back then, I hadn’t connected their actions to the terms “bully” or “bullying” and had brushed off their antics as harmless jokes, naive as I had been.
By my last year in middle year, resentment had started festering, but I still hadn’t put everything into words.
By the time I was in high school, I knew what had happened was not right. Still, I refused to say the words.
It was years before I put it into words.
While reading stories of bullying in books and films, I empathized with the victims without realizing I had experienced something similar. I would think, “How horrible. Why would someone do that? I can’t imagine what they (the ones being bullied) are going through.”
But it wasn’t until my first year of university that I finally admitted, “I was bullied in school.”
Yet I downplayed it, believing it wasn’t as severe as portrayed in movies. After all, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of nothing.
When discussing my childhood with a counselor, I would avoid the details about the bullying. Discussing the bullying during counseling sessions was uncomfortable and felt like a shameful admission. I saw myself as weak and cowardly.
In reality, the shame was never mine.
And it was one book that confronted me with that reality.
“Heaven” by Mieko Kawakami showed me the cruelty children were capable of. While reading, I was overwhelmed by the cruelty depicted. I remember wondering, ‘How could kids be that cruel? Where do they learn those?’
Then the realization hit.
We had been children in middle school, no older than 13 in our last year of middle school and younger than 10 when we first enrolled. I hadn’t felt or seen myself as a kid at that time. I had felt old enough. Looking back, I see we were all just children back then, even if we might not have seen ourselves as one.
As I delved further into the book, memories resurfaced. Though my experiences were nowhere close to the main character’s, the book provided a different perspective on my past.
It made me confront the lingering doubts and insecurities arising from my experiences, helping me understand how they had shaped my perceptions of myself and others.
I used to question why they had singled me out and what I had lacked, but the book showed me that not everything has a reason — sometimes, people hurt others simply because they can.
Accepting that I might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time was difficult, but I acknowledged that the shame was never mine to bear; it was theirs. Whether they felt it or not no longer matters.
I don’t, and that’s enough.
I refuse to say those experiences made me who I’m today and that I’m glad for it. I’m not. Regardless of the severity, bullying is an ordeal I wouldn’t wish on anyone, as the scars it leaves can be enduring reminders of pain and have a lasting impact on a person’s life.