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Schadenfreude

I am now in a place that feels like hell.

Five years ago, I dreamed of starting a new life chapter by entering a university away from home, a university where I expected people to be as wise and astute as they are intended to be, serious and highly critical while accepting life’s realities, but braver, bolder and open-minded enough to change the mainstream and popular stereotypical notions. I believed that time and space brought me here, that I was bound to gain the respect of other students through shared idealism and purpose.

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I was wrong.

During my five-year stay, there were times that I cried silently at night while I was alone. I would cry real hard, unable to overcome my overflowing emotions. It was not because my grades were failing; it was because I had come to consider attending my classes a constant struggle, a real pain, for which I needed utmost patience and tolerance every single day of my college life. You probably would be guessing that I have acquired such an attitude because of my professors. Yes, some of them are inconsiderate, but they are not the reason I have grown to hate going to lecture sessions. I hate attending my classes because I know I will be bullied again.

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The bullying started as a joke. I didn’t mind it at first because I do not spend time trying to make sense of things that I believe are nonsense. I thought it would eventually stop, but it did not. I have experienced so much public humiliation, mortification, embarrassment and shame, even in front of others who don’t even have a clue of who I am. They make fun of me during classes, lunchtime, assembly meetings, almost every time of the day, almost every day of the week. Not just that, they even bully me online through Facebook and Twitter posts.

They bully me like hell, like it is but normal and natural for me to feel such embarrassment always. Worse, they find much happiness doing it, and are even very proud of what they do. If every bullying instance could make me rich, I would be a millionaire by now. Maybe they think of me as a punching bag capable of accepting every jab and uppercut of insult they throw, but I am actually not. And it really hurts to be treated as such; it hurts so very badly. It has come to the point that I am numb of the pain.

I don’t know what to do to make them stop. Since I can’t beat them and make them eventually discontinue poking fun at me, I joined them. But it became worse. At first, they were only attacking the way I look and dress, stressing and pointing out loudly all the supposed negative aspects of my personality and appearance. I didn’t care, because I believe that there is more to life than being good-looking, likable and “crushable.” Well, if physical attributes were the only reason I’m being bullied, I could have accepted it pronto, for I have never dreamed of becoming the next Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum or Ashton Kutcher. I am content being a simple guy, with fat and loose skin; I am proud of who I am, including the way I look. In short, I am very much comfortable in my own skin.

But the truth is, my looks comprise only a fraction of their seemingly unending list of my imperfections. Not content with bullying me because of my appearance, they have attacked my deeper being and sense of identity, which drove me to question how I have viewed and known myself. I was tagged as gay!

I have nothing against homosexuals. In fact, I’m an advocate of their human rights because I believe that they deserve to be treated better, justly and fairly. I have a soft side for the LGBT community, because my aunt is a lesbian and I have many friends who are gay and in same-sex relationships. But I am not one of them. I have always been and know myself as straight, and there is no reason to fake three occasional hookups with the opposite sex. But I have decided to be open-minded, because as a proud “iskolar ng bayan,” I am bound to exercise and practice critical thinking even in personal matters. I decided to deal with and confront my own ghosts, to take some time to carefully reevaluate myself.

Dealing with my own issues has never been easy. Exploring what is out there to experience in the world, time and space has led me to do things that I would probably regret for the rest of my life. And I have been cursing myself for it, for I was irrational and unthinking in doing these silly things. Considering that those who bully me are correct in what they think regarding my being, I decided to watch extreme gay porn. But in the end I wasn’t happy and satisfied at all. And then I engaged in empty sex for the first time in my life, just to prove that I am straight. How pointless. After that incident, I knew that I had proven something to myself, but I am not proud of having done the deed. I felt as though I’m already dead. Well, bullying has pushed me to my very limits; my ego has been shattered. Bullying has caused me to become highly insensible, unstable. After everything that has happened, I am bruised, wounded and stabbed close to death.

I have kept silent for a long time, but now I am learning to fight. Today is the time to speak and make a decision that they can bully me no longer, not anymore. I have always believed that in a man’s heart resides the true meaning of goodness, but life’s realities have taught me to be most critical of it. I have not fought against those people who have been bullying me for so long because I took a leap of faith—that in time they will eventually change for the better. Clearly, I am wrong. I am wounded today, but I am hoping that time will heal me.

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I pity those who bully me because they find happiness and satisfaction in oppressing and exercising power over those who do not dare fight. I pity them, because their joy resides in the disgrace and suffering of other people, because they find ecstatic pleasure in the humiliation of others. As for me, I will learn to move on and forget, and work hard for my graduation in order to somehow stop my seemingly endless share of mortification. Someday, my critics and I will meet again. When that time comes, I will make sure that my success is my sweetest revenge.

My remaining time in the university is short, and after all that has happened, I can’t be sure when I will be able to happily return to it—maybe in time, mainly because of the people whom I have learned to love so much during my stay. Given the chance, I would really love to come back, for in my heart, I know that there are more lovely people here than those who live on schadenfreude.

Michael Joseph B. Samson, 20, is an electrical engineering senior at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He says that after graduation, he will fulfill his dreams of teaching full-time while helping the marginalized sectors and promoting his advocacies.

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TAGS: Ashton Kutcher, Channing Tatum, LGBT community, Ryan Gosling, same-sex relationships, Schadenfreude
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