This is a very personal topic for me. This is something that I (and I am sure, many other children) grew up facing. It has taken my many years to come to terms with this, and to understand what really happened. In particular, what really happened to me. I decided I should do something about it. I should tell my story to others, and hope that less children would suffer the same thing.
What is bullying?
There are many types of bulling. It can be physical, verbal, or mental. It can simply be some personal insults. It can involve violence. Whilst violence is easy to detect, verbal and mental bullying is less obvious. Bullying happens in the classroom, in the school toilet, in the cafeteria, in the playground, or even outside of school as you are walking home. It happens everywhere.
The problem with bullying is that the person being bullied doesn’t know he’s being bullied. I did not know I was being bullied till years later, when I read about effects of bullying. It started when I was in primary school, when I was being picked on, insulted, and even subject to violence – I did not know it was bullying. I thought it was a normal part of life (and indeed, this is probably true for many children). It felt so normal. It was my normal.
The bully victimizes himself
When I was in primary school, there was this one time where I was playing on the football field with some other kids after class. There was this “big” kid kept calling me names. And some insults were exchanged on both sides, which at one point, I called him “fat”. He got mad and beat me up (because he was bigger than me). I later told my mother and she saw my bruises on my back. My mother told my teacher who told the principal.
The principal summoned me and that big kid into her office, and asked us what happened. The big kid said I called him “fat”. I did not know how to respond, because I was just a kid and didn’t know how to defend myself. I didn’t know how to say he insulted me first. The principal felt sympathetic for him and scolded me and gave a lecture on “respect”. She then advised the big kid that next time, when someone insults him, he should try to control his temper. The principal didn’t even care that I was the one who had just gotten beat up!
Being bullied was my new normal
My first experience of being bullied led me to believe that this was normal. I was a timid and quiet kid. This went on until my early years in secondary school. Others wouldn’t want to sit near me to eat lunch with me. Children are very sensitive to these things – if they see someone who is frequently being bullied or singled out, they will avoid at all costs being around him, because they don’t want to be associated with him or be a potential target. They want to avoid being bullied on also.
Each day, I would walk home alone. I remember one time, there were a group of children walking behind me. As I walked home, they made fun of me from behind, calling out names. The funny thing was, I wasn’t hurt, or felt insulted. It was normal for me. I came to accept this as reality. Being bullied was my reality and this was normal. This went on for some years. It just saddens me now that I realize that there are many children who are being bullied who don’t even know that they are being bullied. I didn’t know I was being bullied.
Bullying is public humiliation
The biggest memory of being bullied was public humiliation. I remember during English class, while the teacher wasn’t looking, some bigger kids would throw crunched up paper balls at me. And whilst I was walking past them in the classroom, some kid would slap my head. I still remember the name of that kid (interestingly, his initials are also “G.C.” – same as mine). I believe the teacher knew this. Teachers aren’t stupid (at least most, I hope). The teacher just didn’t care.
Now that I look back, I realize that bullying does a lot of damage to children’s minds. It warps their sense of reality – twist their sense of right and wrong. The problem is that children don’t even know they are bulling others – and those being bullied don’t know they are being bullied. Most important of all, they can’t figure out bullying is wrong when they don’t even know that it was happening. Ironically, I still feel that I had a happy childhood, simply because I had the luxury of being ignorant to it.
The fight of the century
I remember during one class, there was this other big kid who sat in front of me. He would taunted me during class, and called me names after class. I wasn’t scared of him or anything. I just thought people taunting me was normal. I also remembered that one time, he turned around, and squished my metal pencil case with his elbow (remember those cool cartoon pencil cases when we were kids?). I wasn’t even mad during any of this. Like I said, it was business as usual. I just felt annoyed that I had to get a new pencil case now.
It was until one time, I just told that big kid, “Wanna go?” (meaning let’s fight in the back of the school today after class). I said it not because I genuinely wanted to fight him. I said it because few days before, I saw a movie. In that movie, two people had an argument, and one way to resolve the argument was when one guy challenged the other guy to a fist fight in the back alley. Whoever won the battle was the winner of the argument.
I was a real G
So, I challenged him to a fist fight after class that day. He thought he was a sure-win, because he was bigger than me. He was like Mike Tyson. And me, I was, well, just little “G” (my friends called me “G” – this was really a play on words because “G” stands for “gangster”, and I was the farthest thing from a “G”). And because he thought he would easily win, he told everyone about the fight. It was really interesting actually – because as more people knew about it, classmates started making bets who would win (they probably bet for him but secretly wanted me win). Most people just wanted to watch i.e. “eat peanut”.
Through word of mouth, “G” vs. Mike Tyson became a school-wide anticipated event. The funny thing was that, even bullies had enemies. So ironically, some students had come to offer support for me throughout the day, and gave me many kind words. They wanted me to beat him up because they really don’t like that big kid either. I found the whole thing funny. I wasn’t even scared. I was beaten up before (which is a normal thing for me) and everything was normal.
Walking into the boxing ring for the first time
After that day’s classes, me and Mike Tyson walked together into the back of the school. He walked as if he knew he would win. The classmates looked at me like I was an idiot waiting to be slaughtered. We were escorted by many classmates – probably 30-40 classmates who were really really excited to see “the fight of the century”. I just thought the whole thing was really funny and amusing because I didn’t even know what was going on.
I was a little guy, and he was the big kid. I knew I had to fight not by brute force, but with tactics. He was big, almost twice my height, so I had to use my speed and agility. I cannot fight him head on. I was Ip Man vs. the real Mike Tyson in Ip Man 3. Except I can’t fight like Ip Man. As we walked into the back of the school, our classmates formed a circle around us. I was trying to get focused. He was really enjoying the publicity, like Mike Tyson before a fight. Me, I was thinking tactics.
My classmates made silent cheers
The funny thing is, as I walked into the ring, I realized that many classmates actually cheered for me. They really wanted me to beat the hell out of that bully. Children may be young, but not stupid. They knew he was a real bully. And I represented all those weak kids who fell victim to bullying. They just never had the guts to stand up for me. But they cheered for me that afternoon. That one moment, I knew I had made the right decision to challenge him – for the first time, my classmates cheered me on. I was liked.
“Let me tie my shoes!”
We were both by then surrounded by 30-40 kids in a circle. There was even a referee. (Can you imagine? It’s amazing how children can watch TV all day, see these boxing matches, and try to imitate what adults do.) As the referee said, “3… 2… 1… FIGHT“, I interjected, “Wait, wait! Let me tie my shoes!” I kneeled down and pretended to tie my shoes. I was right in front of the big kid. Suddenly, I jumped up from my kneeling position and gave a powerful “upper cut” right under his chin! BAM! He did not expect this!
Now that I had the first hit, I had to maintain the momentum. I kept on punching him in the face. He was on the defensive. I was doing a Bruce Lee on him with quick, swift and nimble punches. I was smaller and weaker, but speed was my advantage. He tried to turn around and grab me, but I managed to dodge and once again, be one step ahead of him. I got behind him and got him into a headlock, with my left arm around his neck, and kept on punching the back of his head with my right fist.
About 1 minute into the fight, a teacher who just happened to walk by saw us fighting. He ran toward us and pulled us apart. By the time he stopped us, there was blood all over the big kid’s face. I was unscathed. The big kid wasn’t seriously hurt, but because I punched his face many times, his nose was bleeding all over the place. Basically his face was full of blood and his eyes were bloodshot. In the eyes of the entire school, I had won the fight fair and square. Victory was mine.
My first victory in life
After the fight, the rest was history. Yes, there were consequences. I was suspended from school for one day. The principal called my mother to attend the principal’s office. Because the big kid was twice my size, and I was the one who bloodied his face all over, the teachers were all amazed of what happened. It was unbelievable. It didn’t even matter who started the fight. No one scolded anyone. What mattered was that this little kid beat the crap out of a kid twice his size. He was the one who was totally humiliated.
After the fight, no one dared pick on me. On the contrary, that big kid never dared to touch me again. And classmates started respecting me, and kept on telling me “good job.” To me, it was just funny. It was never on the back of my mind that I was a victim of bullying. I only challenged him to fight because I saw this one movie where people fought over an argument. And I thought it would be kind of funny if I challenged him to fight without knowing the consequences.
How I figured out I was being bullied
It was really after I stopped being bullied when I realized I was being bullied. Because no one made fun of me again, or called me names. Every kid in school gave me a new sense of respect. This was something I have never had in my life. Respect. It actually felt awkward, because this was really a new thing for me. People liking me. It was unreal. Being “respected” was like a tingling sensation – a truly funny feeling, a sense that I never had. It was like being in love for the first time. It felt like butterflies in my stomach. I felt human.
What my story means
Not everyone is like me who was able (or stupid enough) to stand up for myself. I didn’t even know I was standing up for myself. I only stood up because I saw something interesting in a movie and I tried to apply it in real life. What if I didn’t watch that movie? I might have continued to be bullied in school, and later on, in life – because I would have accepted bullying as a normal part of life. Throughout the bullying, no one stood up for me. My classmates knew I was being bullied. But they remained silent. Even the teachers.
My story shows that a child’s view of the world is shaped by the world around him. A world of bullying has shaped much of my early childhood experience. I accepted bullying because I didn’t know it was wrong. I didn’t know I was supposed to stand up for myself, because no one dared stand up for me, or even told me that I was being bullied. I came to realize that people who are bullied often do not know they are being bullied. It’s just life for them, because it is their reality.