It’s interesting how returning to where you grew up can conjure different emotions depending on what your experience of growing up there was. I know for many it is nostalgic and wonderful. I feel that way about returning to my first hometown of Portland, Victoria.
I love pointing out to my kids my old house (or at least where it used to be before it was demolished), the dance hall (which I think has closed?) and school (relocated) I used to be part of, and the beach I used to dip in when I wet my pants from laughing with my friends for the hundredth time and had to disguise to my mum as “whoops we had an impromptu swim again.” (It’s cool to pee your pants okay? After 3 kids I still have pee pants laughter issues.)
Unfortunately I have a lot of pent up anxiety and resentment for what I experienced in my second childhood town of Hamilton, Victoria. I don’t often speak about it but I was bullied there. Despite all the wonderful times I did have with life long friends I made there, I still carry a lot of upset. In fact, trauma. Returning always makes me feel uneasy despite knowing my past bullies no longer live there.
My friend Charles wrote the most incredible Facebook post yesterday confronting his time being homophobic while growing up. It had me thinking so hard (soooo hard I may need therapy again, haha.) He is a genuinely awesome person, actively creating positive change now despite his past.
I have always maintained a “I never want to know anything about those bullies again” attitude. I’ve always thought what they do now is irrelevant to my future. However, after Charles’ post I was forced to think about if they too may have changed. Why is it that I can accept that Charles has changed but I carry the belief that my own bullies couldn’t?
The fact is, they probably could’ve changed. Which somehow sits more uncomfortably for me than residing in the idea that they are terrible people that I never want to know again.
It also made me think, I’ve almost definitely hurt someone in my life. I believe being cruel to people is a spectrum of which nearly everyone is on. Have I ever laughed about what someone has worn? Yes. Have I ever talked behind someone’s back? Yes. Did I burry my friend’s favourite scissors in the sandpit in year 4 (and have the whole sandpit closed off from the school for OH&S reasons) because I was jealous of her? Yeah, I did that. Ergh. I’ve definitely been an awful person to someone. And I’d be mortified if they read my “be kind to one another” type of posts and rolled their eyes thinking I wasn’t sincere and couldn’t have changed.
I have no idea why I was bullied? Haha! The only teenage photo I could find while writing this was this photo. (We used to make home made videos and show them to our class)
The town of Hamilton has changed since I last lived there.
The Hamilton Pride and Inclusion Day showed me this. So many powerful stories I heard, eagerness to be an inclusive town and seeing all the rainbow decorations in the windows moved me. It’s not perfect but it’s changing for the better.
On the Monday following it I was back in Melbourne, laying in my bed with my doona over my head, crying because of the conflicting emotions I felt about this change.
And since living there, I married my husband who is also from there and has happy memories of his time spent there. We often return to see his family in Hamilton which always makes me happy. Things can change for the better.
But it’s hard to acknowledge people can change. Because by acknowledging that feels like you’re letting them off the leash for what they may have done to you.
I don’t ever want to sit down with those people in my past and have a coffee. I still don’t need to know what they are doing with their lives. But maybe I have to let the resentment go because if they have changed for the better (of which I’m told they have) that can only be a good thing for other people that are in their lives. Why wouldn’t I want that positive change?