Being a kid was weird. It was complicated. I was not kind to many others, particularly at my babysitters. I don’t recall a lot of details, but I do remember a lot of pushing and general mean-ness that I put onto others. Making others cry. There are no doubt people out there, including my sister and others, who were genuinely frightened of me at times. I was mean. I was an asshole.
Being mean to people felt like, to a young and raw brain, the most effective way to establish control, to improve my standing among other mean kids, and it wasn’t just some phase as a little boy. In high school I distinctly recall being needlessly mean to an unpopular kid at lunch, and I smashed his bologna sandwich against the wall. I don’t even remember why, beyond that it got some laughs.
I remember the rush, the thrill of violence. Hurting someone, temporarily stealing power over someone, felt really, really good. It felt like rare air, knowing I’m doing the wrong thing but controlling the moment. It was intoxicating. I’m extremely grateful I didn’t seriously hurt anyone when I was very young, at least to my knowledge/remembering.
There was one time at my babysitter’s house when I was maybe 8 where I pushed a girl into a closet door and it closed on her, pinching her back in the folding door. I think we were arguing over who could play with a toy or something. She had a nasty mark on her back and was obviously in pained hysterics. My babysitter, an incredibly sweet and kind person, reprimanded me, saying something to the effect, “You’re just being plain mean!”
On the other side of the coin, I recall being beaten around by a couple bullies myself. Once in elementary school when an older kid stole my bike, and again in 7th grade when a chump simply felt like it. Both assholes were named John, oddly enough. I doubt if either of them remembers me, but the cruelty and meanness toward me was striking and vivid, even now so many years later. It makes me wonder how those who I was mean toward remember me.
We’re all imperfect people, and I wish I could say I’m this amazing and wonderfully formed person who has only hurt, emotionally or physically, a scant few people in my life, but that would be untrue. I’m an adult who is not an active asshole, graduated successfully into becoming an empathetic human being who conforms to social norms. If anything I’m a total pushover/softy now, and perhaps I always was, and the bullying was just my way of coping with my own insecurities and shortcomings.
I hope if someone I hurt or made feel small is reading this they’ll reach out to me, or at least accept my apology. I sucked.
Maybe it’s just a part of getting older, but seeing people or animals in pain, crying, hurting, etc. – it all hits so much harder now. It forms an ache deep in my gut that makes me want to help, somehow at all.
Seeing a recent video of a very young kid with dwarfism, sobbing about committing suicide, really made me hurt, but it also made me look inward. I hope other people who, like me, were mean to others growing up, feel a similar regret and have become better people today. We can all stand to be kinder to one another.
Unless you’re the 45th President of the United States. He can go fuck himself.