Jo-Jo’s Journal: Tales of a Bullied Middle-School Bully

Yes it’s true. The amazing, beautiful, intelligent king you see before yourself today was once a middle school bully. But, I was also bullied, so in my book that cancels out. Now you may be asking yourself, “Jo-Jo, why are you exposing your dark, middle school past?” Well, young grasshopper, I’ve learned many things from this incredibly interesting part of my life and the over-sharer in me wants everyone else to know about it!

It all started in sixth-grade. Imagine, please, a slightly overweight, average-heighted, overly emotional, bubbly but shy version of myself in the animal prison we call middle school. Now, in the school district I went to, every aspect of myself made me the minority. 

Most students were not black, not overweight, not crying because their doctor told them to drink skim milk instead of whole, just not me. Oh, also forgot to mention most had lots of money, more than I even have right now (yes I’m bitter). My traits and aspects didn’t stop me from making friends, but it definitely didn’t protect me from the many jokes that would ensue for the year. 

I have a very fond memory of, when running to the cafeteria after gym, being told to move my fat [REDACTED] out the way by a much more in-shape peer. This and a lot of other related comments would plague my sixth-grade year. It even went into the summer, when I attended summer camp in the same district. At the time, the incredibly popular “WHAT ARE THOSEEEE” vine video had come out. Not a great era for kids who got their shoes from payless and/or k-mart. I hadn’t even realized my trampoline brand shoes weren’t in style (I had them in every color and thought I was eating everyone up with my matching outfits). 

But I learned what was in and what wasn’t and, due to a lucky growth-spurt in the same summer, I came back swinging for seventh-grade. Were these swings strong enough to beat the gay allegations I got during that year? No, no they weren’t, but in my mind they were. 

I was taller, so my weight just spread around to make me look skinnier. I was making more friends, I joined the track team, my grades were improving, I was thriving. I had also started to experience really bad acne, so yet another trait just waiting to be made fun of. So, in an effort to conceal my insecurities, I became a bully. 

It wasn’t like in the movies, where I was shoving people into lockers (I definitely wasn’t strong enough for that anyway). It was more of me being really catty and rude, making jokes about others, spreading rumors, a little bit of gaslighting, etc. Yeah, this wasn’t cute at all. Thankfully I snapped out of this behavior towards the later half of the year as I started to accept the parts of my identity that I couldn’t change. And, as it turns out, being in both positions of bully-er and bully-ee helped me start the journey of acceptance. 

As a bullied kid, I realized that the only validation I ever needed was from myself. The moments where I did things that I wanted to do, without the intimidating eye of judgment, were the moments I had the most fun (like when I would do K-pop song choreographies in the cafeteria for my friends before classes started in the morning). As a bully, I learned how lame it was to shame others for being themselves. No matter how rude I was to others, it didn’t help me deal with my own lack of self-confidence, it actually decreased it as I picked out the insecurities of others that I saw in myself. 

All in all: We’re all going to die sooner or later. Doing the things that we find fun, interesting, and make us happy is the meaning of life. Being a hater in real life is LOSER activity. Supporting people in their endeavors and passions, no matter how cringe you think it is, will bring us to utopia. Okay maybe not utopia, but a man can dream, right? Just spread love so that on your obituary it says, “[Insert name] lit up a room anytime they walked in, and they will be missed.” 

Signing off,