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Bullying

At that moment, his body froze. His mind was trapped in an infinite loop of pain, replaying those memories that occurred ten years ago repeatedly until his eyes filled with tears of fear and embarrassment. He ran out of the room without giving a second thought to his future.

Rewind to 12 years ago, Jason lived in a small town in a faraway area in the US where everyone knew and understood each other. Jason studied in a local government school where all his peers knew him since childhood. It was the end of middle school for Jason when the world was hit with a pandemic. The school had to organise the graduation ceremony on a zoom session to accommodate the graduating batch. Jason and his friends were dealt a bad hand, but everyone clenched onto that tiny shred of hope that they will have the biggest reunion in their first year of high school. Little did Jason know that the virus will not be the only thing that will change his life forever. One day, Jason received a scholarship letter from one of the leading high schools in the country where successful world leaders and businessmen like Abraham Lincoln and Elon Musk completed their high school degrees. However, Jason was reluctant to accept the offer, as he did not want to leave his community behind. His family, on the other hand, knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Jason to make something meaningful of his future, and therefore, encouraged him to accept the offer.

Due to the countrywide lockdown, Jason’s new school announced to shift the fall semester’s classes online while keeping the spring semester as it is. Therefore, Jason’s first interaction with his new classmates was through online platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp. Because he came from a different background, Jason’s way of speaking and interacting with others was somewhat different than what his other classmates were accustomed to. Thus, he was always treated like an outsider whose messages were often met with sarcastic replies on class groups. From being an energetic and humble person who was popular amongst his classmates, Jason became the laughing stock of his new class because of his accent and background. He began to question his self-worth. His presence in WhatsApp groups became limited and the only person remotely close to a friend Jason had was his classroom TA whom he would frequently message and ask any academic-related questions. A group of students from Jason’s class thought that the new student needed to be pranked intensely, and thus decided to message Jason, posing as one of his TAs, who was one of the popular girls at school, and was currently in her last semester. Given his situation, Jason easily fell for this trick and they started messaging back and forth throughout the fall semester. Time flew and the first semester of high school came to end.

Spring semester started and Jason only had one friend who was accepting, empathetic, and respectful to him and even though he had not seen her face or heard her voice, the words she wrote gave him warmth and rescued him from loneliness just like a true friend would. She was his only support system. The group, who was handling that friend’s account, bullied him from day one. They would humiliate him in public spaces, post memes about him in Facebook groups, and even push or kick him in public places just to make a spectacle. Jason's mental health deteriorated over time and there was only one person he could share his feelings with. It was his one and only online friend. He would message her every day sharing what happened at school, how traumatizing all that makes him feel and how he was just breaking every day, piece by piece. The bullies had complete control of his life.

One day, the girl being impersonated by the bullies, visited her school to collect some documents, and Jason, being all excited and nervous, tried to approach her but she reacted like a stranger, and Jason was baffled. His mind did not know how to process this. The bullies, filming the interaction from a distance, started laughing and showed him the fake account. Jason was devastated beyond words. Unable to comprehend this situation, he ran away from school and he kept on running until he was out of breath, and at that moment, he thought it would all just go away if he just ran away from all of it. Jason had lost hope, trust, and respect for everyone and no one could have understood his suffering. However, going against all odds, Jason tried to recover. He reminded himself that only he has command over his life and finally, after a lot of hardships and counseling, Jason came to believe that he had moved on and had put this incident past him, treating it as a temporary setback.

Fast forward to ten years in the future, Jason now works in one of the leading marketing firms in the world and has to give an important presentation to his client. This presentation will decide his future at the firm and ultimately the future of his dreams that he plans to fulfill with this position. As his client walks into the room, he sees the same faces which made his life a living hell all those years ago. At that moment, his body froze, and his mind was trapped in an infinite loop of pain and suffering, replaying those memories that occurred ten years ago, repeatedly, until his eyes were filled with tears of fear and embarrassment. He ran out of the room without giving a second thought to his future and this stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Imagine if you were in Jason’s place. How would you feel? How would you have reacted? If we cannot even imagine being in his place or getting bullied, then why does the thought of bullying someone else even come to our minds? If we do not wish to be in Jason's shoes, then we need to stop creating circumstances that lead to such situations.