The scars of childhood bullying never go away
In 2011, I was unanimously chosen as a sacrificial lamb for the entertainment of our class. It is difficult to recall the finer details of what happened, nor can I put my finger on the exact length of time it went on for. But there is one thing I'm certain of – the trauma of those weeks or months, coupled with that of many that followed throughout the years, has fundamentally shaped who I am today.
Everything was my fault. Every bad word, every act of violence, just about every sort of misbehaviour and misdemeanour, all began to originate with me. For all crimes conceivable by a small child, I was punished especially if I didn't do them. Thus, many times a week, or perhaps every day, I would be forced to play the defendant in that classroom-turned courtroom, with the verdict being the same at the end of each trial. I was always guilty.
Even amongst small children inside a classroom, politics has a way of becoming the dominant force once introduced. The orchestrator of my bullying was universally adored by our teachers, thanks to him being the best student in class, and he, even at that tender age, would weaponise their blatant favouritism to make himself feared and obeyed. The others, being his loyal subjects, could only follow.
Thus, I became acquainted with a feeling I had never known before, which I wouldn't be able to describe until years later. It was a crippling, all-consuming loneliness – a sensation that no child should ever have to experience.
The day came when the children finally grew bored of their favourite sport and I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking it was all over, not knowing that what had just concluded was merely the prologue. From jeering and name-calling to outright social ostracisation, the bullying would continue intermittently, spanning over half a decade. Childishly fearing that everywhere would be the same, I endured, never asking my parents to change my school or section. And once it ended for good, I could only stare at the emptiness of what lay behind me and that which lay within.
It has been many years since I was last tormented in that way. Yet, even now, the trauma from those times still rears its ugly head occasionally. Whenever anybody does anything wrong, my first impulse is always to double-check whether it wasn't me instead. There's also the small, irrational part of me that still lives in cynical anticipation of the day I'll once more be isolated, cornered, and punished for things I never did.
Today, my former bully is a close friend of mine, and I can no longer hate him for the nightmares he put me through when we were both kids. Yet, no matter how hard I try, I can't forget the horrific helplessness of being a marionette in another person's puppet show. That has become one of my worst fears, a terror I wish to never know again.
Even now, this story of mine feels awfully anticlimactic. For me, there was no triumph, no justice, and no closure. But it is poetic in a sense, given that it ended just as it began – suddenly and without any reason. Afterwards, all I had left was to pick up the pieces and silently move on.
Nayeem's life is full of regrets and stupid mistakes. Help him reminisce at [email protected]