Thank You, Jerk in College

You know how Jimmy Fallon writes those hysterical Thank You notes on his show? Like:

Thank you, emails that say ‘You have successfully unsubscribed from these emails,’ for completely missing the point.

and

Thank you, peer pressure, for being totally not cool. Unless my friends think it’s cool, then it’s pretty cool I guess.

Sometimes I find myself writing those in my head during long runs. Most of the time, they’re funny/weird like Jimmy’s, but over the weekend, I mind-penned a long and surprisingly freeing letter to a guy who was a complete and total jerk to me in college.

His favorite thing to call me was “fat” or “fatty” or some riff on that theme. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t, particularly, or that he himself was not all that impressive a physical specimen. He knew it bugged me, and that was fuel for his fire. Egged on by his equally ass-hatty friends, he’d leave notes on my desk or messages on my instant messenger* to find while studying, or holler down the hall as I walked to class. As much as I tried to keep my chin up and ignore his bullying, it was hard, and obviously, it’s something that still hurts to think about nearly 15 years later.

(In hindsight, I’m fairly certain that this was the young adult version of pulling the pigtails of the girl he liked. Yeah, real charming.)

Anyway, his behavior is not something I think about often — luckily, life moved me and this bully in different directions fairly quickly, and even more luckily, I have always been surrounded by people who love me and give me confidence — but for some reason, I spent a lot of time on this weekend’s run thinking about bullying, and reflecting on my brief experience as a target. I thought about kids who are bullied, and those who are the bullies. About adults who snark and wish the worst for others. About people who root for failure and sneer at success. I already worry for my daughter, and she’s only 15 months old. Will she be a victim? Perhaps just as bad, will she be a problem?

Today, for the first time, I realized that I needed to forgive my bully. His behavior was atrocious, and he certainly knew better. I won’t ever forget what it felt like to hear his words, and I can’t separate that treatment from the fact that I have struggled with weight and body image for so many years forward. But he was a blip in my life. My amazing, rewarding, fulfilling, beautiful, inspiring and now-bully-free life.

Thank you, college jerk, for making me your target. I hated the way you made me feel and because of that, I will always be more sensitive and careful with my own words, and I will do my very best to pay you back by being happy, healthy and KIND to others. Hurt people hurt people, and I hope you’ve found your own peace.

*Obviously, this was in the late ’90s. AIM for life, y’all!

Comments

  1. 3

    says

    Great way to stay positive. I am 46 and still struggle with “words” said to me {isn’t it strange how our minds work}? I always make a point of saying every single day {more than once} the most encouraging and positive words to our kids in order to make sure they know just how amazing they are when out in the world or at school. Because you never know what is going on out there beyond our control.

  2. 5

    says

    It is crazy how we hold onto things for so long. I find myself struggling with the same type of things sometimes. The way I look at these types of incidents is that I wouldn’t be the person I was today if it wasn’t for this person in my life at that time. I have friends who always wonder how I can be so forgiving, and that is always my outlook. I am who I am because of my experiences, good or bad, they bad just seem harder to get through sometimes even if they’re only a little blip in the span of our entire life.

    I’m glad you took that attitude today to forgive that bully. Life is too short to wish others that are no longer a part of it harm anyway.

    BTW, I miss Instant Messenger so much sometimes. Best thing ever!

  3. 8

    says

    I’ve found that some of the sweetest people are those who were bullied when they were young. It’s good to know that people can rise above the jerks. Also glad, there was no facebook or social media with my bullies back then!

  4. 9

    says

    Wow. That’s awesome you were able to let that go. Just the other day I wrote about those I call “accidental bullies” in our lives (an insensitive teacher, an overbearing parent, or, even, the Bully Within). Thank you for discussing what happens when there is nothing accidental about the bullying at all.

  5. 12

    says

    I love what you said in your mind-pen, thanking him for helping you be more careful with your words and be more kind to others. YES. That is how I feel about the bully I had in high school, about how I was teased and called “fat” when I gained weight my Sophomore year. I lost that weight through starvation and bad habits so they wouldn’t have any ammo in my Junior or Senior year, but it took me YEARS to recognize that I developed a weird association with being thin with not being bullied. And that my only defense was to control what was on my plate, or lack thereof. Which, as you know, just doesn’t work out the way we want it to as not eating isn’t the path to healthy living. Thank you for sharing this, Katy.

  6. 14

    says

    Thanks for sharing this. I have apologized to people in my past… high school is a weird time where people can be so mean. Thank you social media for allowing people like me, who have said harmful things in our past the opportunity to apologize.

    And I ove Jimmy’s Thank you notes… hilarious.

  7. 18

    says

    I didn’t experience bullying until college…and I was shocked it happened at a phase in my life when my friends were supposed to be grown up and mature adults. This “friend” bullied me and made me feel awful about myself. I don’t know what’s worse, being bullied in general, or when it’s someone you call your friend.

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