COLUMN: The lingering effects of bullying

COLUMN: The lingering effects of bullying

Someone had reached out to make amends for what had happened

The conversation from out of my past was completely unexpected.

A few days ago, someone I had known in elementary school and junior high school reached out to apologize for bullying me during those years.

“I am truly sorry and I wish I could take it back,” he said. “It has been bothering me for years.”

The years from Grade 5 to Grade 9 were terrible. I was the victim of bullying during those years, not only from this person but from others as well.

There were many times when I wondered what I had done or what I was doing to deserve the bad treatment I was receiving.

It was a miserable, lonely period and I didn’t have friends to support me. Thankfully, I had my family and my faith in God to help me through the hard times.

Nothing I have experienced in the years following has been as difficult as what I felt then.

That’s part of the reason this apology meant so much. It was an acknowledgement, from someone else, that I had been mistreated.

It also showed people can change. I don’t know what led to his apology, but something happened, and today he is not the same person as when we were younger.

For the rest of the day, I had a smile on my face.

Someone had reached out to make amends for what had happened.

But that evening, I felt an immense sadness as well. It wasn’t a sadness for me or what I had experienced. Instead, the sadness was for the man who had apologized to me.

All this had happened around 40 years ago.

My life got better in high school, and within a few years after graduation, my elementary and junior high school years seemed like something from the distant past. I had moved on and I was happy.

My past was behind me. My present is amazing and I look forward to an exciting future.

Life is good now.

On rare occasions, I remember the bullying I endured so many years ago. It may be one of the reasons it takes me a while to trust people and to speak freely.

But I don’t feel resentment or bitterness towards the people who mistreated me in the past.

For the man who apologized, it has been different. For years, he carried the weight of past regrets. Over time, that weight grew heavier. Much heavier.

I learned that years ago he had tried to contact me, but he was unable to reach me. The only reason he was able to connect now was because he and my brother have a mutual acquaintance on social media.

“Being able to do this means more to me than you can guess,” he said when we finally connected.

The apology meant a lot to me as well. He wasn’t the only one to bully me, but he has been the only one to apologize.

I’ve been quite moved by our recent conversation, and it has prompted me to do a lot of thinking. There’s a lot more talk about bullying now than when I was growing up. Over the years, there have been numerous anti-bullying initiatives, including Pink Shirt Day, which will be held on Feb. 28.

But despite these efforts, bullying still happens today. It affects the perpetrators as well as the victims.

I wouldn’t wish my elementary and junior high school experiences on anyone.

But my heart also aches for the one who made the apology to me. He has had to live with his regrets for decades. And I know it hasn’t been easy for him.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bill Almond’s observatory in its new home on a Saanich lakeside. (Submitted/Cameron Burton)
Colwood stargazing dome makes a move to Saanich

The backyard structure finds a new home after 30 years

Chris Grzywacz, development agent for cannabis supplier Seed and Stone’s, holds products from the new Songhees Cannabis S + S store on April 20. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)
First cannabis store opens on Songhees Nation, creates economic opportunity says chief

The Songhees Cannabis S + S had a soft launch at its 1502 Admirals Road location on April 20

A convicted sex offender, whose crimes included offences against children, was arrested at Gonzales Beach after the man was spotted by an off-duty officer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Convicted sex offender arrested at Gonzales Beach

After committing crimes involving children, offender barred from public beaches, being in proximity to kids

VicPD asks anyone who sees Daniel Shumka, or with information on his whereabouts to call 250-995-7654 or report anonymously through Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man wanted on drug trafficking charges

Daniel Shumka, 50, is 6’1” and about 195 pounds with short brown hair and brown eyes

Victoria police arrested three men following a double stabbing April 19. The two victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Three arrested after double stabbing in Victoria

Two people sent to hospital after being stabbed, hit with bear spray

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read