By Mika The Gifted
The phrase “hurt people, hurt people,” was never understood until I became an adult and reflected on my life as a child growing up. There is a bit of a problem in our society with children, and even adults, who are bullying or are being bullied. With a background in Sociology I always wondered why did people feel the need to put others down? There are many opinions on why a bully behaves as such, for example our teachers tell us that bullies are people with low self-esteem who pick on others to make themselves feel better. Other opinions state that bullies are just people who were just taught to be mean or they were bullied themselves. I had to explore my childhood to really understand it all because I was bullied as a child and in my search of self I realized I at some point became a bully.
Let’s start off with background, I come from a broken and blended family home, with plenty of family issues going on around me and being the youngest, my childhood was not the best. I have 7 older siblings and since everyone had a different parent they did not always live in the same house as me. The closest siblings I had in age were my older brothers from my father’s previous marriage. The would come to visit every summer until middle school where they both came to live with us ‘till we all graduated. My brothers were very rough with me growing up and loved to pick on me, so of course you pick up on that behavior. Through them I learned how to roughhouse and play fight, the normal things brothers do, almost forgetting I was the little sister. My father hated that I followed my brothers because I was his only daughter, plus he thought that it would make me gay. Let’s just say my father would be the last person to write a book on parenting. My father was emotionally, physically and mentally abusive, as well as very secretive, for example, I’m not sure when his birthday is yet I know everyone in my family’s birthday. With the type of household I was in, I was very withdrawn in public due to fear of the troubles at home being leaked out because it was ingrained in us to keep quiet about all personal affairs because if fallen on the wrong ears DCF will come and take us away. That was an every other day threat, so at school and at church I stayed quite to save face.
Because there were a lot of children and my parents both being immigrants from Haiti (later gaining citizenship at separate times), we were considered a low-income household. I wore my brother’s hand me downs and was on the school program for lunch because I couldn’t afford to bring or buy lunch every day. Bullying became an issue when I went to public school because prior to attending public school I was in a private Christian Montessori school. I was labeled a teacher’s pet and goodie two shoes by my peers. Expressing my dissatisfaction to anyone at home was pointless because as the youngest in the Haitian household, you essentially have no voice. I grew up in the 90s when being Haitian was popular so that became another reason for the nicknames and mistreatment from my classmates. In my last year of elementary school I had a growth spurt and gained some weight, plus my older sister cut my hair so I became the target of much name calling. When I went to my brothers about the teasing they told me to “man up”, we didn’t attend the same schools so it wasn’t like I had my older brothers as protection against anyone who would pick on me.
The tables turned in middle school when this kid named Curtis was small but spit fire with his mouth. He teased everyone, made jokes about everyone and was the bane of my existence in the sixth grade. Curtis teased a group of us, I had 3 guy friends that I hung out with on a regular basis, and Curtis was very vocal about his insults towards us. One day in science class I was in a group presentation about planets and Curtis’s mouth was just hurling insults left and right. My science teacher really wasn’t paying attention to the fact that Curtis had be interrupting me so in a moment of anger I tried to choke him. The teacher didn’t see it and when another student tried to say something the teacher didn’t believe them because she knew me as a “good quiet student”. After a while I began to use that to my advantage and set out to stop anyone who felt they could bully me or one of my other guy friends. Because I was taller and bigger than a lot of the boys in my grade, I used my size to my advantage to threaten anyone who I felt was a bully. This dynamic shifted in 7th grade when I started having to ride the school bus, there was a kid on the bus who I am not sure if anything was wrong with mentally, but when I think back I feel terrible with how I acted towards him even though he was annoying.
I knew this boy named George from elementary school, he knew my nickname at the time was Mickey, so he would always call me Mouse. He would constantly repeat the word “Mouse” in my presence. I’m thinking he was doing it to make fun of me. Fast forward to middle school and he is on the same school bus as I. Every time I got on the bus he would start calling me “Mouse” in a very weird gremlin like voice. I got annoyed and it became routine to punch him in the stomach every time I saw him. I felt like he took it as a game because he would always expect me to start punching him as soon as I saw him. I went from defending myself against bullies to becoming one because I was tired of boys messing with me. All through high school I would punch or put down any guy who I thought acted very cocky for no reason. My eyes were opened when life became a spiraling mess of emotions for me as a teenager and I was being bullied again. It was a bad cycle that came full circle by senior year of high school. Life at home had gotten worse, I was having anxiety attacks on a regular basis which started rumors amongst my classmates who believed I was faking for attention. I was too depressed to bully anyone, plus after Columbine I was too scared to threaten. I became a part of the Urban League after school program as well as got heavily involved in church. I realized that my anger is what drove me to become a bully because as my younger self used to say, “I want to get them before they get me”.
At home I was taught in one way or another I could use my fists to get my point across as well as ward off anyone who was a threat. I also learned that at the end of the day I was just spreading the hurt and not actually stopping it. My experience is the poster example of what can create a bully but it is one example of the effects of bullying in an individual, the behavior is learned somewhere in the child or even adult’s life. I caught myself being a bully to a guy friend without even realizing it. In my mind, I was just being playful, but it wasn’t until he spoke up and said something to me that I realized my actions. For myself I can say after being on both ends, bullying is a something that does not feel good. I feel bad for what I went through and I feel bad for any lasting effects I had on anyone I bullied.