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As a teen, this man spread rumors about his gay middle school teacher. Twenty years later, he’s learned his lesson.

Here’s a soap opera-like confession that helps puts the cycle of bullying into perspective, because instances of lashing out — physically or with words — never exist independently of one another.

A Redditor set up a throwaway account to make a confession from his teenage days and share what he takes away from the experience now.

He writes:

It all started 20 years ago. I was in middle school with all the insecurities that came with it, the most important (in this case) was the desire to blend in.

The teacher in question was fresh out of college, still a rookie. The class was overbooked by exactly one student. I happened to be late that day. One desk short. There is me front and center, singled out, looking awkward, on display: nice try blending in. This is the stuff teenage nightmares are made of.

The teacher seemed to have it all figured out: “I’ll have the janitors bring up an extra desk tomorrow,” he assured me; but that never happened. Days passed with no extra desk. Then weeks. Then months. Every day the nightmare repeated. Standing just inside the door hoping someone was absent. Waiting till everyone had arrived to see if there would be an empty seat. If all were in attendance I would have to sit at the teachers desk with my books on that little pull out board thing.

It felt personal. Like it was being done to me. The reality could have been there were no spare desks. Who knows. All my teen mind understood was the painful awkwardness that came with that daily routine. I began to resent him deeply for this.

Strike two: like so often happens with young male teachers, many of the young girls in the class started getting crushes on him. “The injustice,” I thought. In my mind he was stealing all the attention of the girls I wished would pay attention to me. “Oh he’s got the prettiest blue eyes,” they’d say. Due to the seating arrangement I’d been close enough to realize they were contacts. This didn’t help my growing animosity.

I wanted revenge. I wanted him to feel as uncomfortable as I did. I wanted things to be awkward for him. I decided to start a rumor. It would be easy. It was his first year teaching. No one knew anything about him. Why, exactly, I chose the rumor that he was gay I’ll never know. The memories are too fuzzy. Most likely, it was because of the other way he’d “slighted me.” It wasn’t just the girls in the class that had a crush on him. I did too. That’s some heavy shit for a 13 year old guy to process. Somehow that crush I had was his fault too.

So “he’s gay” was the rumor I settled on. It took very little effort on my part. Just a few “you know what I heard…” type comments in earshot of the school’s biggest gossips. It spread like wildfire.

Here comes the first twist: “I didn’t know at the time, nor would I learn till several years later, that I was right.”

But before he learned that his teacher was actually gay, he discovered some of the damage he’d done:

My younger brother told me one day, “you realize Mr. {redacted} knows who started that rumor.” I had no idea it had persisted that long. I should have known that kids are cruel and have long memories. At the time I had started it I was just lashing out. Now I realized I’d actually kind of fucked up someone’s life. I just figured he’d get married soon and the rumor would naturally go away. Too bad there was one detail I hadn’t accounted for. I still didn’t know it yet.”

The second twist? The teen himself came to terms with being gay a few years later in high school. In fact, he was bullied relentlessly, called a faggot, and physically attacked.

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