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I’m pretty sure that I was a bit of a mean kid. Not the kind of kid who tortures animals or anything, but the kind who makes fun of nerds and doesn’t do anything to jeopardize my place with the cool kids. I always felt bad afterwards though. I used to get into fights with my mom and find myself saying hurtful things in hopes of getting a reaction. It felt justified until I would go to my room and slam my door as loud as possible. Once I did that and was alone with myself I would feel terrible. I would immediately start thinking about all the loving things she did for me on a daily basis and the guilt of what I’d just said to the woman who had never faltered in being there for me would send me into a panic. I then would get a pencil and paper and write her an apology letter. I was too ashamed to face her with my apology. I’d write how sorry I was and how I was really just hurt and I didn’t mean it and please forgive me and I’ll be better and love you every day forever and you’re the best mom in the world. I would slide the note that had hearts all over it, under her door. I’d wait to make sure she got the note, listen to her open it, and slide it into the drawer with all the others. Halfway through the night I would convince myself that my mom was going to die in the night before I got to tell her I love her again face to face and I would get up and go to her room and stand next to her bed to make sure she was still alive. Its very possible I could have appeared to be a creepy kid murderer in those moments, but really just the guilt of being mean haunted me in a way I could not get around without making things right (albeit in a passive way that lacked eye contact).

I was a fake bully. Every time anyone said the slightest hurtful thing to me, I would have to fight off tears. I couldn’t take a joke at my expense, I couldn’t laugh off an insult, I couldn’t forgive someone who hadn’t given me the benefit of the doubt. Of course, I never let anyone know that. I wanted everyone to believe I lacked any vulnerability, and so the tougher people thought I was, the harder they were on me. It was a viscous cycle that I perpetuated. I think that’s probably consistent with most bullies. If you just keep putting the attention on someone else, no one will turn it around on you.

What I learned as I got older and let my pride dissipate some, is that the fear of what people will say about you is usually worse than the things that they say. I’m not sure if people are more hateful now or if it’s just easier to be anonymous when they do it. When we made fun of someone at school and they told on us and we got sent to the principle and our parents got called and we saw that look on our dad’s face when the mean things we said were repeated to him… Hearing it come out of someone else’s mouth, it sounded so much worse than we realized. It’s like cheating; it doesn’t feel real until you get caught. Most people would do it if there were no chance of ever getting called out on it. If you never have to witness the harm that’s caused by your actions, you think no harm was caused. We don’t write about how much we hate Katie in our diary, we write it on Facebook where everyone can see it. We feel so entitled to make our opinions of people known publicly, even though no one is asking. Every topic and every picture has a comment thread where you can anonymously hate on anyone you want. The safety in knowing you won’t get caught brings out this hateful part of you who judges more drastically than you would EVER be willing to judge face to face. If you felt confident in what you were saying you would be willing to sign your name to it. Or let your mom see what you wrote about someone. Do you think you would be able to stand by what you said? Like, if you’re angry at Casey Anthony about possibly murdering her daughter, I get it. You have a little girl and it hits a nerve for you in protection of innocent children. But if you just enjoy talking shit to people online about being ugly, or gay, or fat, or old, or dumb, know that just because that person doesn’t know who you are, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Someone once said to me that hating someone is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. You’re the only one who has to live with that feeling. And it ain’t worth it kid.

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