This is Mimi Thebo’s response to the question ‘Former bullied kids, what did your bullies do when they met you as an adult?’ on Quora.
It was my 30th high school reunion. I’d been out of touch with most people, but had been friended by a few old classmates on Facebook. When they learned I’d be in the area on a book tour, they talked me into coming to my high school reunion.
I was bullied quite a lot in [year seven and eight]. My father had just become the head of juvenile narcotics in the local police department, so I started off poorly. In high school, I was in a car accident that fractured my voice box. I had scars and I whispered and spent most of my time in the hospital. Most of my bullies backed off, but one guy kept making my life hell. Before the accident, I’d been a singer… one of the things he liked to do is sing some of the songs I used to perform at weddings, etc, to me before classes.
He never let up.
I went to university, met an English boy, married him and moved to the UK. I spent quite a few years processing all the things that had happened to me in my teens. At one point, I had nightmares about this guy and the way he tortured me, breaking my things, tearing my books, making fun of my voice, etc.
I woke up one night from a nightmare in a sweat. His image was still in my mind. I could see the clothes he wore and the desk he was sitting at and… and I suddenly realised that he hadn’t been very well off, economically. He used to say that he hated wearing coats and do without one in the very cold weather. He wore construction boots because he worked all summer on building sites. I didn’t exactly excuse his sadistic behaviour because I’d remembered the waffle-knit undershirts he used to wear every day… but I felt differently about him. He was a child and I was now an adult and he didn’t scare me anymore.
I said his name, softly, into the night and then said, ‘I forgive you.’
I never dreamed about him again. In fact, I forgot about him entirely.
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At the 30-year reunion, we met up at a kind of biker bar that everyone said did very good burgers. My friend had also been bullied and we had a good shot of Irish Whiskey at the bar to steady our nerves before we went in. Some of our year were outside on big motorbikes, all black leather and bandanas… some were inside, mingling. We mingled. Everyone was really nice and I was surprised by how many people I remembered.
Then it was speech time by the organisers, and the bikers came inside. My bully was one of them.
He couldn’t stop looking at me. It took him a few more beers, but at last he approached and asked if he could talk to me. We turned aside and… he burst into tears. He started to try and apologise, but he could hardly speak.
I couldn’t help myself. I threw my arms around him and let him cry on my shoulder. I told him about my dream and about forgiving him in the night, some twenty years previously, and he hugged me so hard… it had weighed on his conscience, that whole time. It felt amazing to lift that burden from him, to show him that I’d survived, I was okay, and I’d forgiven him.
It was one of the best moments of my life.
This post by Mimi Thebo was published on Quora and has been republished with full permission. Read the original post, here.