Some people internet stalk their ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends and by “some people” I’m talking about “everyone with exes and a high-speed internet connection.” I am a hundred and ten percent guilty of this. The thing is, I don’t only social-media-spy on my ex-boyfriends, I also internet stalk my ex-bullies. Which is something I never hear people talking about. But I feel like other people have to be doing this too. Because what good is social media if we can’t use it to keep tabs on the people we’re curious about? And how can we not be curious about the people who made our lives the most miserable during our most formative years.
I had so many bullies growing up. Between the ages of 8 and 14 I had, I don’t know, a dozen? I was like the Gotta-Catch-Em-All-Pokemon-playing-champion of collecting bullies. I think it was because I was the perfect storm of sensitive, awkward, needy, lonely, and scared. I still remember basically every person that went out of their way to be mean to me. There was the girl who came to school one day dressed up as me and spent the entire day pretending to be me. Then there was the girl who went around campaigning for students to vote for anyone but me in the school elections. And the girl who covered the bathroom wall with awful things about me in pink gel pen. The list goes on and on.
I was good at being bullied. If it had been an Olympic event, I would have brought America home the gold. I’m not freaked out about any of this anymore, because my mom was right when she said time heals all wounds. I got over it, but I never forgot the people who made my life so hard. In fact, I’m endlessly curious about their lives now and I’ve been trying to figure out why.
My mom also used to say, “Your enemies are your guardian angels.” Kids being cruel shaped me in the most formative of ways. Keeping my head above water when it seemed like my entire eight grade class was trying to shove me under, taught me that I was a person who could keep her head above water. It also weaned me off of peer pressure, because I wasn’t about to be pressured by people I didn’t trust. Having people be cruel to me taught me how important it is to be kind to others. My heart is stuffed to bursting with empathy for people who are sensitive, awkward, lonely, and scared — all the things I once was, and, to a degree, will always be. Now I am also strong, resilient, independent and constantly striving to be kind to others. These are all qualities I’m most proud of, and I’m not sure I would have nurtured those aspects of myself had I not had such a “What fresh hell is this?” adolescence.
As miserable as I was growing up, I know the kids who were cruel to me were just as miserable as I was, if not more so. People who feel like garbage tend to be super garbage-y to other people. That’s just emotional physics. So when I secretly check up on the people who tried so hard to ruin my life in middle and high school, I’m not scanning their Twitter and Tumblr accounts to see if their lives suck now. I don’t want that for them. I’m okay now. I want them to be okay now too. I can’t help but cheer for these girls when social media broadcasts their victories. My former bullies have grown up to become vineyard managers, fashion designers and pastry chefs. One girl has two gorgeous baby boys who look like Renaissance paintings of cherubs. Another was a bridesmaid in a wedding for a girl she always wanted to be friends with in high school. When one of them has a beautiful outdoor wedding, or sky-dives in an exotic locale, the photos actually make me really happy. It got better for me, but it got better for them too. It got better for everyone. And that, I’m pretty sure, is how growing up should work.