When I was in primary school, we were seated in pairs. The highest-achieving student would sit with the lowest-achieving student, and the rest were paired accordingly. The teachers said they wanted to help students who were most in need of help. When I was in grade 3, I got the highest score in my class whilst the person I sat next to got the lowest score. My parents always supported me by sending me to extra tutorial classes. I was always a few steps ahead of him, fully understanding all the lessons we were taught while he was still struggling to read. I couldn’t go out and play with my friends because I had to teach him, and this made me uncomfortable and annoyed. I once said to him “don’t your parents teach you anything or send you to a tutor?” I thought that all other students also took extra tutorial classes just like me. I perceived him as a burden. I didn’t want to get any closer to him, and I would be pleased when he was absent.
We had been in the same class up until grade 5 before we were then organised into groups based on our academic performance.
After that, I never ever, even for once, thought of him until I heard about his death from my mom. He didn’t get a chance to study in high school as his parents couldn’t support him financially. He had to work on a construction site, and he died after his truck went off a cliff. I was totally shocked and got a series of flashbacks from what I did to him when we were young. I was extremely rude at the time. Perhaps it was too much for a 10-year-old kid. He must have been really desperate. I now understand everything more clearly after my mom did the same thing to me as I did to him. I had short hair when I was in junior high school, and my mom said “Why can’t you just be a good woman?” That really hurt, and I kept silent. However, we have since talked about it and now understand each other better over time.
Those events became even more obvious to me when I was in college (Faculty of Medical Technology). I took a psychology course and learnt the meanings of the words “depression”, “hate speech”, and “bully”. Some words might mean nothing to some people, while to others they hurt from the inside out, because there is no solid measurement for people’s feelings. At that time, I was not the top-rank student anymore. Anatomy was difficult and complicated. One of my classmates was an academically exceptional student, and I usually asked her for her help. She never felt annoyed like I did with my 10-year-old friend. From now on, I’m willing to help others as much as I can and would never judge others just because they seem less smart.
Shame on me. Guilty feelings seem to last more than happy ones. I want to say sorry to him, but it’s too late (silently sigh). For those who ever say bad words to others, just say sorry to them if it is still possible. At least they’ll know that you’re sorry for what you have done. If you still have a chance, just do it.
For those who now realize that their jokes may not have been a small matter for others like previously thought, and for those who have felt guilty over time, the word “sorry” is the most honest response and best way to take responsibility for your mistakes.