Sometimes I write about stuff and I don’t fully understand why I’m writing it. Take last week’s post. I thought I was making a point about writing on the Internet—the high school anecdote was just the way to get there. Why would I care that much about high school? It’s been almost 30 years since high school. I’ve put decades between me and the eighties. The span of my life after high school is longer than it was up to high school. And more things about time. I’m an adult, is what I’m trying to say! Such an adult. I adult like you wouldn’t believe.
So, sure, I wrote about this time when my friends hated me, but then I skipped right ahead to the here and now. I’m Facebook friends with two of the members of that high school circle. Since then, we’ve had really nice interactions both online and in person. I’ve long moved past that point. Did I mention that I’m an adult, now? I’m ridiculously sophisticated. I sometimes use that primer you put under your makeup. I have creases and such. And life insurance!
I will admit, however, that a small part of me worried that these friends might react negatively. That I would either hear, “Oh, I see—we’re talking about why we all hated you in high school? Because I can tell you exactly why." Even worse: “I don’t remember anything about it, because you weren’t relevant enough to make it into my memories.” (Yes, this is where my mind goes. I’m in therapy twice a week!) Mostly, though, I figured no one involved would comment much on it. Events that seemed huge to me truly might not have registered for them.
A few days after publishing, I received two Facebook messages. Both of my high school friends sent me the most extraordinary apologies. They were apologies I had no idea I needed until I read them.
Not only did they remember what happened, not only did they confirm my suspicions that there was nothing definite that caused the break (or at least they couldn’t remember it either)—they both expressed enormous regret. One person called it “my biggest regret from my high school years.” They said I was undeserving of what I went through. They hoped I could forgive them.
It’s hard to express what I felt, reading these messages. I’ll tell you what I did. First I stood up. Then I clapped my hands over my mouth. Then I said “oh god oh god oh god” while walking rapidly back and forth around my living room. And then I read them again. While rocking back and forth. (I was alone except for the pets. The cat didn’t care, but Hazel was unnerved and immediately commenced humping her favorite throw pillow.)
It was amazing. I’m still just…I can’t put it into words. I can’t wrap my head around it. I didn’t realize how much I was still identifying with this time in my life. Until they told me that I was blameless, I didn’t see how much I still believed that I was to blame. I didn’t know I’ve been carrying around the belief, ever since, that any friendship I value is probably going to turn to shit because of me. That I was, at my core, somehow a bad person, and I couldn’t even see it. I didn’t know I was holding onto all this shame. There was a fist in my chest, and I didn't know it was there until I felt it unclenching.
How great is that?
(Episode 6 of the podcast is now live! "What's this about a podcast?", you ask? Click on the link and find out!)