Being a child of the 70’s, sometimes I fall back on my old thinking, that there were six degrees of separation between us all and therefore, none of us are that easily found. I remember in the early 90’s, there was even a fun game we used to play called “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, because the actor Kevin Bacon had been in so many movies in the 80’s and 90’s that you could pick any other actor and get to a Kevin Bacon movie in less than 6. Anyway, I digress. I am finding out more and more that there are only about 2 or maybe 3 degrees of separation between us, because the internet now, instead of others, makes it easy to find someone.
I bring this up because, once again, I was shocked to find that one of the people I wrote about in my blog found it and found their story. I have said many times that I never intended this little blog site to be read that widely and it was never there as a means to be found or for those who shared my experiences to read them. I guess I naively thought that it would always be anonymous and just a place to share my stories, the stories of others, and information on bullying.
So, it was quite shocking the other week for me to see one certain story I wrote start to get a lot of views and then comments started popping up on the story. The comments were from people who knew the other person in the story. Some of the comments were nice and others were more directed at me and a question of why did I feel the need to share these things. I fully admit to being in a bit of shock at that moment and then also spending a night contemplating the comments and the fact that the person I wrote about in the story must have found it and shared it. Out of all my personal stories, this was probably the one I didn’t want to have to revisit. Because this was my story of me as the bully.
If you have read the story, then you know that it is one about when I went to religious school, they didn’t know about the bullying that I experienced outside of there, so they treated me well. I, in turn, did not treat one boy well when we were 12 when I was there. I shared this experience to show that bullying isn’t always black and white and also that it could be that, when you are bullied, you may take it out on others, like in a cycle of violence. It was a minor story, but one I wanted to share to show both sides and as a cathartic release. With that done, I promptly put it behind me and moved on.
…Until the story was found by the other person the other week. Ironically, I later learned that they learned about my website at the 25th year High School Reunion in my childhood town. It seems my little site and me are known by some of the kids that I grew up with. Some had found it and told others at the High School reunion that I had a blog on and write about bullying that took place in Lexington, MA. Someone even referred to me as a bullying expert. I take that as a compliment, although my expertise is only in my own experience and the collective experience of others. Of course, the person who knew me and was in the story was told about this and became curious about what I wrote about.
See, it seems I was not alone in what happened to me in Lexington, MA. There are others that experienced heavy bullying there as well. So, this person went to my site, recalled when we knew each other, found their story and themselves in it, and then promptly put it up on their Facebook site, telling their friends they were the bullied of the kids that were bullied themselves. Then their friends started commenting on my blog about knowing this person. And then I found out and I must admit that my first reaction was one of sadness again, for what I had done when I was 12 years old and for knowing this person also read about it and relived it again. Even though it was 31 years ago, I knew I needed to reach out and try to apologize.
I admit that I slept little that night. The next day I emailed the people who commented on the site and asked them how they found out and tried to get information on a way to contact the other person in the story. One of the people told me about Facebook and also gave me the information needed to contact the person in my story. I was very nervous about talking to him. It had been a long time and you never know what reaction you’ll get. My childhood confidence fears were all back. But this was an opportunity to have closure, maybe for both of us. So finally, the next day, I called him at his office. He picked up the phone, his name is David.
I said hi and told him who I was. I’m not sure if he was expecting the call, but my first reaction was that he was glad I called. When I first heard his voice again I could recognize it immediately. He and I had shared many years together in religious school, so I remember him well. Memories flooded back to me in waves as he started to talk. He was immediately warm and positive. It set the mood for the rest of the conversation. Before I could get many words in, he told me about how he found out about the story. He told me about others from Lexington who also suffer from the long-term effects of bullying and that I was not alone. He told me about all that happened to him as well and how he dealt with it. While he didn’t recall my story as a major issue, he did also deal with cruel kids.
Finally, I got to say something as well. What I wanted to say was that I was sorry. Not just for the story shared, but in some way for his finding the story and having to read about the incident all over again. I don’t know if that’s strange, but for me, I just never expected to have it read and then to have to deal with the ramifications of that happening. But in the end, the closure, I hope, is good for all, including me. So I apologized, which he said wasn’t necessary and then we talked some more, and some more. We moved on and then, through this phone call started to rebuild a relationship. It’s hard right now to say where that will go, but we want to meet up at some point soon and continue the conversation.
He also allowed me to friend him in Facebook and see his original posts. I would say that took some courage on his part as well. Since he linked only to the story of me as the bully on my site and not the ones of me being bullied, it was interesting to see what his friends had to say, some about me. I was OK with all of it because, if I was one of David’s friends, I would have also been angry to find out about a time he was bullied. I would have defended my friends as well (as we all should). I consider his adding me to his Facebook the beginning of adding me back into his life and possibly moving time closer together to become friends again. While we live states apart, we can now talk again as if we were both in Lexington.
I made one final request of David before we hung up the phone. I asked him, since this story was about me as the bully, if he would share his perspective of the story from the other side. He agreed that he would like to do that. I think it would be great if he would and that shared experience was documented. Even though I didn’t expect it, his finding the story has led to some closure and hopefully a positive ending. I think, for me, the most fascinating part of this experience was to find out that I was discussed at the 25th High School Reunion and that bullying was a subject of discussion. It tells me that, maybe bullying was much bigger than me in Lexington (at least in the 70’s and 80’s) and that there are people who read this. Maybe even those who were the bullies that bullied me. Wouldn’t it be interesting if my phone rang one day and they called me to tell me they found the site and read the story about them…and that they were sorry too.