nelson ha ha
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Facebook is a good way of learning the activities (probably mundane) of high school and college classmates. It’s also an effective delivery method of bad news.

While perusing the social media site recently, I learned that a classmate passed away. This was no mere classmate, though: he was someone that tormented me during my freshman year of high school. Here’s what I wrote about my experience:

Freshman year of high school, when two seniors befriended me in a year-long prank–including one of them stabbing my hand with an X-Acto knife in art class?

What I didn’t mention was how the same guy involved a girl he and his cohort were friends with to flirt with me, or that the pair peeled away in their car while laughing after offering me a ride home. So I was not a fan of theirs upon their graduation.

When I read the Facebook post and learned who it was, I was conflicted. On one hand, it is terrible when someone dies at a young age; so much life that could have been lived wasted away. Loved ones that suffered a loss and now had a sizable void in their life, as their friend and family member is no longer alive.

On the other, more bitter hand, I thought, “Good. FUCK him.”

If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t enjoy my freshman year of high school very much. He and his friend not only took away my trust in people, they cemented my suspicion of peers of my own race — which started late in grade school as kids moving from Chicago encountered a lifelong suburban black kid — and how they would ostracize me. That was this dead classmate’s legacy.

It wasn’t until my senior year where I felt some sort of happiness in my classes, as I had found a trustworthy group of friends (two of which are good friends to this day) and a creative outlet as an editor for the school newspaper. But there were lingering senses of anger, paranoia and fear due to bullying from a former friend — also mentioned in the link above:

A former high school friend, after my obsessive efforts to rekindle our friendship, sending his goons to my door to emotionally frighten me? (Mission accomplished!)

One of those goons was on the high school newspaper, and his presence made me uncomfortable to the point of sabotaging my position and being kicked out of my post. Again, another person that I do not miss and would feel similar conflict if I were to learn of his passing.

Ruminating on my bully’s death made me think of the lasting effects of harassment. Long after those supposed “greatest days of your life” (according to 4 out of 5 former popular kids), I still think about those experiences that, for better or worse, contributed to my distrust of people. For the antagonist, it was another work day at being a dick; for the tormented, it was a grab bag of terrible outcomes to attending another day of school.

Pondering the classmate’s passing also helped me to evaluate my current position in life. Despite that loss in confidence, the increase in anxiety, and a wariness of befriending people, I

  • Found my passions
  • Made friends that I could confide in
  • Graduated from high school, college and grad school (the latter with a 4,0 GPA)
  • Found jobs in my career path
  • Moved to two great cities
  • Found love in a hopeless place (sorry, Rihanna)
  • Traveled overseas
  • Am living better than I could have imagined

And perhaps that can be the dead classmate’s new legacy. In spite of his (and his crony’s) efforts to belittle and degrade me, I picked myself up, stared them in the face, and walked away to greater things. And sure, I can mentally offer condolences for the taking of one’s life, as that would be the mature, bigger-man act. But as I look forward to what comes next in life, having lived a fulfilling existence, I don’t have to nor need to.

That’s my legacy.


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