Friday, November 23, 2007

Wounds Of Youth, Run Deepest

A few weeks ago I happened to stumble upon the email address of an old school friend of mine. We met in grade two when he moved to our area and came to my school, there he quickly became the leader of our pack, a good friend and remained so until he left the rest of us behind in grade ten. I missed him greatly although at that time in a teen boys life, you would never admit such a thing. For kids in the country, through the years children grew up together so school friends were almost like family, if one moved away it was a loss to the others. I contacted him and he was happy to hear from me, he moved close to where I live and asked if I wanted to meet for lunch, I was excited to meet him again. After he had left when we were young, we had spoken sporadically on the phone and actually met up a few times but we lost contact and the years quickly added up, slipped by and now it would be almost twenty years. I was wondering what he would be like, after all this time he would be a stranger. It suddenly dawned on me that he like myself, is a man I would be meeting him as an adult for the first time in my life.

At the restaurant I felt nervous, I needed a bud with me, a Budweiser that is, to help calm the awkward feeling I had. Remember this is out of character for me to contact someone out of the blue, however this last year has me doing a lot of things that make me uncomfortable and part of me enjoys it. He showed up, I was able to recognize him immediately there was still a phantom of the boy that I once knew. As he approached I saw how time betrayed his handsome good looks, deep lines told of his love for the outdoors and gray was starting to invade his blond hair, still he could hold his own. We shook hands and in seconds I could tell that the good hearted guy that I knew was still in there. Conversation was easy and soon flowed like time had never come between us. We did the usual, past jobs, are you married, any kids etc. He is married but does not want children and did not press me when I said I was still single. Lunch flew by and he said he had to leave, we went out to the parking lot and as we began to say good bye and move to our cars, things suddenly opened up.

He brought up the names of older boys that were bullies who tormented me, the kind that made me not want to go to school, hate myself, feel humiliated. What shocked me was the stories he told me of how they also tormented him as well, that there were also days he did not want to go to school. I never saw it from that perspective, I always thought he was cool and things like that did not bother him. Thinking on it, maybe even worse for him. With me I just took the beating to get it over with, as for him, even though he was younger than them, he showed resistance which would anger a bully more, the sad thing was they out numbered us, most of our class was girls. I thought how odd, here we are grown men, wounded still by things that happened when we were kids and young teens. We needed closure even after all this time, we spoke of the humiliation they forced on us, the violent things they did to us and the years we both spent thinking of equally violent revenge on them.

He then told me something that made me feel good inside and wiped away most of the bad memories. One day years ago, he heard a man shout to him, as he turned he could see a guy running up to him. He could see that it was Nick, one of the main tormentors for both him and I. Not sure as what to expect he was ready for anything. As he approached my friend, Nick gave a friendly greeting as if happy to see my friend. He went on to say that he was really glad to see my friend because he wanted to apologize for the way he treated him, he said he felt really bad about the way he was so mean during school and often thought and regretted it for years. He told my friend he did not deserve to be tormented like that and Nick was not sure why he acted that way but was embarrassed by it now. My friend told me that as Nick was saying this, it was like a plug was pulled out and all the hatred and resentment towards Nick flowed out, closure.

I left thinking this over, I love hearing personal growth stories, especially about people who you think will never grow. It also left me with the thought that while growing up, making our way through our teen years, we were hurting so much, feeling so alone, awkward and acting so tough, that we never noticed the hurt in each other.


Doug said...

Did you feel any different hearing the story? Or would you need to hear Nick's apology first-hand?

Even if we're all hurting and alone growing up, does it excuse what Nick and other bullies do? Perhaps one of the things our society needs is to teach our children compassion from an early age. It doesn't seem like we learn it, if at all, until much later in life. And by that time, a lot of damage has been done.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Doug, honestly I did feel better hearing the story but it would have been better to hear an apology first hand. Maybe in a way I almost got it, a few years before my friend received his apology, I bumped into Nick on a bus, he was in a hurry to get off and when he saw me, he came up and sheepishly said "I guess you don't know me" I called him by name. He smiled, asked how I was and then playfully tossed my hair like you would do to tease a younger cousin, he softly said "I have to get off now" and then sort of patted my shoulder. At the time I thought 'what the heck was that about' but now I guess he was feeling bad but did not know how to express it yet.
As far as the "hurting" statement, sorry I was not clear, I meant that my friends and I were all hurting but we did not see it in each other, we failed by not comforting each other.

Jess said...

Stories like that give me hope. It's unfortunate that the bullying happened at all, but I'm glad to hear that the bully matured enough to regret his actions and begin to make amends.

I hope you get to see your old friend again before another 20 years pass!

mountii said...

that's what happens to that i'm a senior in highschool i don't...try at least not to hold grudges... if u have a beef then that's ur thing becuz i'm sooooo over it...

mountii said...

....another thing did u ever divulge to him ur sexuality...just an innocent question :P

Paul said...

Our past is what shaped us into who we are now.

I enjoy having phone conversations and getting together with past friends that I haven't seen for years. I find it refreshing that we all usually seem to remember the "good times" over the "bad."

Patrick said...

THis is amazing, I think it's wonderful that Nick found that clarity and was able to share it with at least one of you. I remember the humiliation and bullying I experienced, but have also had to recognize the ways in which I hurt other kids too. I wasn't ever a bully, but I know I did careless, thoughtless things that hurt people in ways they probably still carry with them. This is not to excuse Nick necessarily (he doesn't seem to be looking for excuses anyway), but I to recognize that it was easy to see myself always as a victim, and harder to accept I was sometimes the perpetrator.

And as you say, a corollary to all this is how easy it is not to notice the fellow-suffering going on around us, and how easy it is to miss the opportunity to comfort one another. It's probably hardest for teenage boys to admit they are frightened or hurt, especially to one another. This conversation with your friend was healing in two important ways. I hope you get to stay in closer touch with him now. I just had lunch with a blast from my past too, and it was wonderful.

Steven said...

Living in my hometown again, I run into those who bullied me often. They try to start conversation as if nothing ever happened back in the day, which I tend to resent. Good to hear of these reconcilitations you bring up.

W said...

Well articulated.

Something funny on similar lines. I just saw this Frasier episode where the guys who bullied Fraiser and Niles in school turned up to repair Frasier's leaky toilet(which obviously Frasier and Niles had tired to repair themselves but to no avail). Frasier persuades Niles to sort things out in a gentlemanly conduct and Niles does. However Frasier gets so enraged that he shoves the other plumber's(also a former bully)head into the toilet. He then obviously pays the guy off!

The thugs in my school weren't that bad but they were loafers and quite stupid and I'd just throw their stupidity back at them and act condescending and superior. My school set-up allowed me to, get away with it. However, honestly, I wouldn't want to have a middle school reunion. Bunch of twats.

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JOHANNES said...

When I was in College I was assaulted by five guys near the mall.

They left me laying in the field badly beat up but not any serious emergency issues.

After about 20 minutes one of the guys came back and found me. He knelt down and apologized for HIS part in the beating. He helped me up and held on to me to assist me to his car.

He took me to the dorm and helped me with getting cleaned up.

A pack of bullies. But one in that pack did not belong and did not have the courage to remove himself from the pack.

He came by the dorm often. He got his High School equivalent degree and enrolled in a Tech type school.

We became fast friends. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

I was never really bullied by others in school (but I was taller than most anyway so that may be why). However, about five or six years out of high school one of the worst offenders in the bully dept. ended up committing suicide. Strangely, I, and most of my friends who knew him, felt nothing. I remember a few who evven laughed. In retrospect he was obviously in great pain and turmoil to end his own life in the way that he did but I suppose that when you treat so many around you with such dehumanizing disregard...well, you reap what you sow.

Darth Gateau said...

I met someone by chance from school who hadn't been kind (being diplomatic here). He didn't apologise, he behaved as if we'd been on speaking terms at school, tho not best friends. I was a bit surprised. As an adult it felt very different. I'm grown, I've taken worse from others since him and I'm stronger now than then. I didn't really know what to say. It was a wierd experience. It ended in a kind of positive way. He said that he couldn't believe that whilst he and his friends he'd kept in touch with had turned into old men, how come I hadn't? I replied that being gay has sooo many advantages. The look on his face as I left was priceless. No pain inflicted, no injuries. Just words.
It's brilliant that this Nick is wise enough to understand his behaviour and to take action. It's admirable.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Jess, yes it is good that he learned on his own, some people never learn.
My friend lives close to me now and said we should meet often.

Mountii, it was the same for me, the early years were bad but my senior years were great, however my friend had left by this time.
No I did not tell him that I am gay, I only have told people really close to me or that I know I can really trust so far.

Paul, there were good times as well and now that we have the bad out of the way, we can go forward. I just was struck at how he felt as awkward and shy as I did when in my eyes he was one of the cooler kids.

Patrick, we were mean at times also. That was one of the regrets we spoke about. One person we often were unkind to, died a few years after highschool and we never had the chance to make amends. Also like you said, with teen boys, they see emotions as a weakness to hide.

Steven, if they try to speak to you maybe that is their way of making up. Some people don't handle emotional situations well and are unable to say sorry even when they feel bad. If they were bullies in the first place, that shows they could not relate to people.

Erik, I did not see that Fraiser episode but it does sound really funny.
Going into my senior years, I was less socially awkward, most people found me to be a nice guy so I was friends with almost everyone, plus my way of doing my own thing was now suddenly cool.

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Jon, that is an interesting story. It is good that he made such a sudden turn around but you must have thought the worse when you saw him come back! Well that is not the way I want to make friends but I guess if something so terrible has to happen then at least something good like his friendship came out of it.

Kevin, true in that you reap what you sow. How can we help people like that if they drive everyone away. Maybe they think the way to heal their hurt is to pass it on to others.

Darth, very funny, did he not know you were gay, that would have given him a little extra shock. Even funnier if you hear later they are all in gay relationships to look younger! ;)

john said...

I think sometimes all we need to hear is the words "sorry" and that melts all the years of torment away.

Wayne said...

Our past makes for an interesting present.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

John, I think often we just need the other person to acknowledge they have hurt us and they now regret doing so. Yes sorry helps.

Wayne, hopefully we learn how NOT to treat others from these situations.