The worst thing about childhood is the existence of bullies. Of course, bullies exist beyond childhood, but we feel them most acutely in our formative years primarily because we cannot escape them. Growing up, if I suggested to my parents that we flee the country on account of a playground troglodyte, they would say that’s nice son…now get your lanky butt to school!
Growing up, I was thankful to have classmates that were quite supportive. Most people left me to my own devices and I definitely inhabited that strange-child archetype able to fly under the radar. I certainly didn’t leave my formative years unscathed however, and growing up I had my fair share of bullying experiences. At a young age, I myself bullied a young girl, an act that I lose sleep over to this day.
However, it is the bullying we receive that we remember most acutely. Fragments of painful memories still bounce around my mind that I can trace throughout grade school. I recall diving off the top of a twenty-five foot wooden play structure to avoid facing my Grade 2 tormenters. A plunge that to a seven year-old mind and body was a recreation of the infamous dam jump from the Fugitive…only I landed on gravel instead of water.
Aside from running away (a pastime that I maintain to this day), I never offered much resistance against my tormenters. While I would like to say that my pacifist tendencies stemmed from an inborn aspiration to Ghandi-esque ideals, that would be a lie. Ghandi once said that non-violence and pacifism must come from a position of strength and that if you are weak or fearful, it is better to simply be aggressive. I definitely fell into the weak and fearful side of things, but never really caught onto the aggressive aspects…except for one time.
Years after my Elementary years leap of faith, the bullying intensified during middle school. A sticking point was during my walks to school, a short two block hike from my house. In those two blocks a lot can happen however and while most days were fondly remembered jaunts with friends that would come to my door, there were sore spots as well. One incident involved me running (you’re noticing a theme here) away from a couple of bumbling pursuers when one got the bright idea to hurl a sock laying on the street at me as I fled. It stuck to the back of my winter jacket and only came off when I piled through the thick bramble bushes that lined the path to school. I still recall the moment of shock when I looked back and realized that the projectile was not a sock but a used piece of male contraception.
Thankfully, the above story was an isolated incident, but another boy made a habit of harassing me on my short walk; ramming twigs in my hair and spraying me in the face with Axe Deodorant (chlorine gas for those of you unfamiliar with male cosmetics). The funny thing is that he is one of the few classmates whose name I cannot recall…maybe just a suppression of bad memories. I am going to call him Daniel, as there are lots of nice people I know named Daniel…but lots of jerks as well.
After the Axe deodorant incident, I was infuriated for obvious reasons and decided I was going to get Daniel back. A few days later I saw my chance as my final class of the day was let out early; a solid five minutes before the final bell. Running home, I came to my ambush point; a narrow pathway that connects two larger bays and is flanked by a fence and the aforementioned bramble bush. The position was perfect, as I could remain hidden in the bushes and the narrow path was a route Daniel had to walk through every day on his way home. It was the early in the winter season when the snow is still slush and the weather is still relatively warm, meaning that as I crouched down amongst the bramble bushes, I assured myself that while I may die today, it would not be from the cold.
Scooping up handfuls of the slushy snow, I began to compress the snow, crafting the densest snowball I had ever created. Then I waited…and waited and waited. Ten minutes went by and my hands went numb clenching my snowball as I struggled to assuage my nerves. After thirty minutes my legs buried in the snow up to the knees began to go numb and I began to question whether I may in fact freeze before my would-be harasser arrive. I could see it now, Daniel would come walking down the path and there would be Trevor, frozen solid, an intense expression of determination still on his face. At the forty-five minute mark, my fears of freezing shattered when I heard Daniels familiar voice, a guttural sound that meshed with his trademark sneer to create a bulls-eye I intended to strike. As he approached, I exploded from the bramble thicket and with all the strength I could muster from numb arms and hand, lobbed the snowball in his general direction. Greater forces were at work that day, as the snowball arced perfectly towards Daniel’s face and exploded against his mouth, still open as he was in mid-conversation. The last thing I saw before I turned and ran was a stunned expression on Daniel’s face and the sound of a boy choking and sputtering as I fled down the narrow path.
I quickly realized the folly of my ways however, as crouching in a snowbank for forty-five minutes creates a certain numbing effect that makes immediate sprinting akin to walking on stilts. Led on by pure adrenaline, I managed to hurl my frightened thirteen year-old body down the pathway and all the way to my own lawn before Daniel tackled me. Kneeling on top of me, his face bright red with rage, I honestly thought Daniel was going to beat me to death right there on my own lawn. Miraculously however, I did not die that day. Perhaps placated by the sniveling sight below him (from the cold weather I assure you), but more realistically due to the large number witnesses killing a boy in front of his parent’s house creates, Daniel had a change of heart. Electing to clench the collar of my jacket and scream that he would kill me if I ever did that again, he made his point and I certainly needed no convincing.
Reflecting on the whole incident, I certainly have some sympathy for Daniel. He had a tough home-life and few friends at school to compensate, but this didn’t make his bullying any more tolerable for the victims. At the time, Daniel’s life may have been a living-hell, but this certainly did not excuse his transferring of that environment onto others. Nor did it grant penitence to myself, who bullied another student during my Elementary years. Regardless of the perpetrator, bullying is a cruel and morally abhorrent act that is unjustifiable at any time, period! A better world will surely exist if we can simply resist the urge to harm one another, whether it be in grade school, adult life, or in the larger world of politics and society.