This is the story of the kid I allegedly bullied in elementary school. I remember Robert very well, but I don’t remember having any terribly negative impact on his life. People know me as bubbly and hyperactive, but not mean. Not a “bully,” by any standards. But there I was, senior year of high school, hearing from Robert that I really screwed up his fourth grade experience.

I laughed it off and said sorry, and it became a joke between us in English class that year. It always involved a third party, and Robert saying something like,

“Julianne used to bully me, you know.”

“No I did not! Stop it Robert!”

Third party: “Julianne, how could you!” (Laughs uncomfortably).

I really did feel bad about this whole me-being-a-bully thing, so for Robert’s birthday (on Halloween, which I remembered from fourth grade and used this fact to convince myself that I did not bully Robert) I brought him some orange and black-frosted cupcakes.

Naturally, as I was Robert’s source of childhood trauma, he was shocked to receive this peace offering. And I can’t say after that day much changed between me and Robert. However, I can make the argument that cupcakes and cake in general can make everything better.

I recall another instance when my friend (we’ll call him Terry) knew that I was stressed, so he offered to give me some cake from his birthday. Waiting in his suite’s common area, I was pleasantly surprised to see the mushed-up bag of cake – frosting smeared all over the sides – that Terry brought out with a smile. Civil as we were, we scooped out this 1:30am . cake with cutlery and ate like kings.

So why am I going on a random rant about cake? Because cake isn’t just cake. Cake symbolizes friendship, cake symbolizes union, cake symbolizes freedom itself! Okay maybe not freedom, but on birthdays it is nice to get/make someone cake, and when you’re stressed at 1:30 in the morning, it’s nice to receive some mushy cake, and when you are turning 18 and your birthday is typically overshadowed by Halloween, it is nice to receive some cupcakes from your former bully.

More than that, we should all make an effort to speak to people like Robert and get to know them. I probably was mean to Robert, unconsciously, and it is probably more common than it may seem for people to be blindly mean or hurtful to one another. If someone is quiet or “socially awkward,” as people love to say, get to know their story. And not as a social experiment or to make yourself feel good. Do it because you might end up with a really great friend, or at least end up challenging your first impressions of people.

To me, Robert was just a kid with whom I went to elementary school. To him, I was some jerk who made him feel small. And later, I became the peppy blonde chick who tried to overcompensate by making conversation with him during class. But in that compensation I learned that Robert wanted to major in history, that he was interested in being a teacher, and that he was still best friends with Richie from Mrs. Jefferson’s class. It is in these efforts, in these communal cake experiences, that we can come to see things we had overlooked.

McAdams is a member of 

the class of 2017.

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