People never cease to amaze me, both in the best and in the worst ways. This little vignette, though, is about someone surprising me in the very best kind of way — my personal favorite in terms of surprises, because they boost my faith in humanity.
It all started last Monday morning when I got a private message from a very unexpected “friend” through Facebook. Now, it just so happened that when the message came through, I was at work. As we all know, firewalls are everywhere in the workplace, so I couldn’t just read the message right there on the spot.
When I finally did get to the message, it was a huge surprise to learn who the message was from. But even more than that initial shock, I was left totally dumbfounded over what the message said.
Now before I tell you what this girl from my past had to say, it’s important that you know a critical detail about how we know each other. Without mincing words, she was the one and only girl who ever truly bullied me as a kid. All through grammar school, for some inexplicable reason, she saw an enormous target painted on my chest every time she looked at me and made it her mission to make my life miserable.
It didn’t matter whether we were in the classroom, in the lunchroom, on the playground, or in the gym — she was on me like white on rice every single chance she got. Funny, the things that stick with you. And believe me, this stuff stuck with me.
The strange thing about this was that nothing had ever happened between us that warranted me being singled out and harassed like that. It’s not like we’d been friends who’d had a falling out or anything. Or that I had cut off her ponytail during art class. Or kicked her dog. There was no rhyme or reason. It just was. And for me, who could never seem to get away from it, it was brutal. Day in and day out, for years, until she went off to private school and I never saw her again.
It was a solid 20 years later, after we had both moved back to our hometown, that our paths eventually crossed again. I have to say, damn if I didn’t still have that same icky feeling in the pit of my belly when I saw her again, even in spite of the fact that we were both all grown up and married with families of our own. Funny how memories can have such a visceral effect on us.
Not that she would have ever known, but when I ran my mind over the memory of our childhood together, I could still feel the emotional scar of how I had been treated. In the same exact way that we remember our first love, our first kiss, or our first true best friend, we also remember all too vividly the people who tried to tear us down.
Flash forward 37 or so years to now and you’ll be able to better understand why the message she sent me nearly knocked me off my chair.
She apologized for everything, out of the clear and beautiful blue sky — and I never ever saw it coming.
She owned up to everything and said that she’s actually wanted to reach out to me over the years but never knew how.
Why now, I didn’t know. Nor did I really care. Because it happened. And I recognized that it took an enormous amount of courage for her to put herself out there and own it like that.
So while it may not have come exactly when I needed it most (like in the sixth grade), the apology did eventually come, and it meant something (albeit slightly diluted by the fact that it came three-and-a-half decades late). And it reaffirmed my faith that everyone has the bandwidth to evolve if they want to badly enough.
See, I’ve always believed that we all have the capacity to change, to apologize, to forgive, and to move on, simply because it’s the right thing to do. And even though it’s tough to find the guts to do it, the end game is well worth it all the way around.
Do you have your own experience facing a bully? Make sure to share your story in the comments.
For more from Lisa Sugarman, visit LisaSugarman.com and Twitter.