Best days of your life…

I remember the feeling of utter loneliness and disappointment of having to move from primary to secondary school. Having to leave behind all the friends I’d made steadily over the past seven years, and whom with I’d gone on to form a group of young boys who practically all got along really well, were all local, and although we had our falling outs, never let them come between us.

Going from this to a menagerie of kids from all over Edinburgh and outside, kids of massively varying upbringing and class, was like going from summer camp to prison, and as I was to find out, was worse even than I expected.

After the security and regularity of primary school, it’s only the hard ones, the ‘top boys,’ who get an easy ride of it in secondary school. Me, I was left at the bottom of the pile, unable to find my feet, weakened by the constant torment, mental and physical torture which it takes years to get over. It was like being thrown in an ocean without a life jacket, scrambling and grabbing for some sort of support or relief, even momentarily, but never finding it. I was sickened by the daily abuse by a handful of guys, who at the age of early pubescence can be more brutal and harmful than at any other point in life.

Oblivious to the constant anguish they were putting me through, I think now, in retrospect, that they were innocent in their own kind of way, like pack animals preying on the weak, but each with their own personal problems which can manifest in the form of bullying and dominance to compensate for issues at home. That was only a reflection which came much later in life though, and didn’t make it any easier at the time or in subsequent years as I left school, completely unprepared for the outside world, a world less cruel on the whole but equally bewildering.

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I had tried to be friends with them, it didn’t work. I tried to avoid them and stay out of their way but it couldn’t be done. I was trapped, trapped in a nightmare. Every morning I left for school with a sick feeling in my stomach, and eventually the feeling was permanent as I dreaded each day, each hour, each minute, and the only reprieve I got was on weekends and holidays, but even then it still lingered in the back of my mind, unable to fully switch off and enjoy myself.

For a while it was too much and I feigned sickness on and off so as to avoid having to go to school, unable to face the days of being caged in classrooms with people more cruel, savage, and unabated than beasts. Never tiring, my tormentors kept at me for near on two years of my life until the classes were split up in third year, but by this point my psyche was in tatters, irreparable, at least in the near future.

Every morning I prayed that one of more of the four guys would be absent and as they came in, often late, one by one, my stomach dropped each time as I awaited the days suffering. The biggest one of them used to punch me every day, in a ritualistic kind of way, strangely methodical, and I recall thinking each day after it had happened that at least it wouldn’t happen again until the following day.

It’s not the physical bullying that hurt. The pain that lasted only seconds or minutes I could handle, but the mental torture was relentless, continuous, and scarred me for many, many years afterwards. It’s not that it weighed on my mind much in the following years, but it definitely had an incalculable effect on things like confidence and self-esteem.

Only relatively recently have I ever been able to talk about it and confront my feelings, as well as dealing with and processing any hate I was mustering for the bullies. For a while I wished all kinds of misfortunes on them, but after a while it fades and dissipates, but without disappearing.

There is no such thing as blame. No such thing as revenge. No such thing as hatred. I’d banished them from my once tortured soul. Forgiveness of your tormentors, and even more so of yourself, came only after becoming stronger in myself, and after time. A long, long time.

I don’t mean for this to have been a negative or pitiful piece or writing though, it’s just reflective and a bit of outpouring. Life’s hard for everyone, and infinitely tougher for plenty of people more so than me. They are just experiences and the winds blowing in different directions. I’ve met three of the four guys in latter years after school, and spoken to the other one, and got on perfectly fine with them all. If we carry grudges and resist forgiveness it burdens us immeasurably, physically and mentally.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

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