For most people, thinking about their formative years brings up sweet nostalgia — making your first friends, getting your first kiss, sneaking out of class. It’s great stuff, of course, only if you can drown out the terrifying memories of being bullied and dreaming about all the possible ways you’re going to get back at him (it’s usually a boy, isn’t it).

However, those who didn’t skip ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ in the school curriculum, know well that revenge is like fine wine: the longer it takes, the better it tastes. Stumbling into their former tormentor’s engagement post on Facebook many years later, u/qwertydude1243 decided to do some ‘catfishing’ and see whether the bully will take the bait. And as with the best revenge stories, it would be a shame to spoil the juiciest parts, wouldn’t it?

More than a decade after a school bully made his life a living nightmare, life served this person a chance to get back at their former tormentor

Image credits: Keira Burton (not the actual photo)

Image credits: Solen Feyissa (not the actual photo)

Image credits: qwertydude1243

While bullying has been a longstanding issue, it has recently taken on a new dimension with the increasing significance of our digital lives

Within the concrete walls and squeaky floors of high schools, an unspoken hierarchy reigns, as ruthless as it is invisible. From the jocks who wield their physical prowess like a weapon (‘Dazed and Confused’) to the queen bees who rule with an iron fist (‘Mean Girls’), the social landscape becomes a minefield for those who dare to be different. Or those, as Netflix’s megahit Stranger Things showed, who like to play ‘Dungeons & Dragons.’

While physical bullying is a relatively old concept – just take a look at history books – the research surrounding it is relatively recent, tracing back only to the 1990s. Astonishingly, the prevalence of bullying remains alarmingly high in contemporary society. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, a staggering 22% of students, roughly one in every four, report experiencing bullying during the school year.

Even more disheartening is the fact that nearly 5 million students between the ages of 12 and 17, accounting for 18.5% of this demographic, have resorted to skipping school altogether due to the torment inflicted upon them by their aggressors.

And while the traditional image of bullying conjures up visions of physical altercations in crowded hallways, someone being shoehorned into their tiny lockers, the battleground naturally spilled over into the digital realm. The insidious nature of cyberbullying, where the click of a mouse can unleash a torrent of hatred and humiliation upon unsuspecting victims, then, took bullying to a whole new level. According to recent studies, a striking 37% of young individuals aged 12 to 17 have reported being subjected to online bullying, mostly on Instagram, exposing the pervasive reach of this digital epidemic.

But before we point our pitchforks toward the mindless-scrolling factory that is Instagram (as much as it deserves the hate), you have to also consider that people behind it don’t sit with their hands tied behind their backs. Instagram, for example, rolled out a “Restrict” feature in 2019 after hearing out teens to empower those who felt like the sacred digital space of Insta is turning into a virtual high school hallway. Although, there’s no official data to confirm whether it helped to keep the social media giant less toxic.

However, encountering your former bully doesn’t always unfold as anticipated

Yoo Jung Kim, a physician at a major academic hospital in Chicago, knows this better than most. Last year, Kim published a moving article in Psychology Today magazine, recalling the time she stumbled into her high school bully decades later. Ironically, now he was taking orders from her and not the other way around.

However, unlike today’s story’s author, Kim didn’t feel any temptation for revenge. “You’d think there would be a component of schadenfreude, but it was absolutely awkward,” Kim told Bored Panda in an email. “I didn’t feel good about that situation at all. I think about it occasionally when reflecting on my high school years, and it never fails to make me involuntarily cringe.”

Kim explains that she was a stereotypical nerd, “complete with thick glasses and metal braces,” one you could picture in any coming-of-age high school picture. As for her tormentor: “He had been elected to the student council, threw alcohol-fueled parties for underage classmates, and bedeviled teachers by causing disruptions in class.” So, your cookie-cutter jock, it seems.

Just like most bullied teens, Kim lived in a constant state of fear, trying to turn her scars into a tool for motivation. “I believed that if I went to a great college, I could escape my hometown and surround myself with other people who shared my interests,” she explained, “and I was right. Still, I had to work on myself and gain some social skills before I could do so.”

As recounted in her Psychology Today article, there came a point when Kim reached her breaking point and decided to stand up for herself. “It wasn’t courage but anger and annoyance. I remember during the classroom free period when a few of the boys were snickering. I had a bad feeling about what they were about to say, and as soon as one of them asked me out, I chewed them out in front of everyone.” Following that confrontation, she found herself mostly left alone, recognizing that it becomes more challenging to bully someone who is willing to fight back.

When asked about her thoughts on bullies targeting her and “other students who couldn’t defend themselves,” Kim acknowledged that some of the bullies may have challenging family situations which could contribute to their desire for control – particularly within the limited realm of high school. “I also don’t think that we think as much about the consequences of our actions, especially upon others. Hopefully, that’s a lesson that we can all learn as we grow up.”

Ultimately, Kim simply desires that everyone strives to become the finest versions of themselves, regardless of the roles they once played. “Find things you can be proud of, and try to find sources of support outside of school. There are 7.8 billion people out there. If you are kind, care about other people, and are willing to work on yourself, you will find your tribe.”

People applauded the author for saving the bully’s ex-fiancée from a horrible human being