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.
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!