Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It is never too late to say 'I'm sorry'

My sisters wedding last weekend was a not so welcome stroll down memory lane. She is six years younger than me so we were never close. I did however get to spend a lot of time watching her and her friends through the years. I was in high school, they were in elementary school, I lost on the deal.

Needless to say being at her wedding and seeing all these girls that I used to baby sit running around with toddlers of their own tucked under their arms made me feel incredibly old. It also made me feel more than a little nostalgic. Not so much for the days of watching my bratty sister and her friends, but just for that time in general.

When I got home I started working on a post that was full of nostalgia. It heavily centered on high school and really ended up being mostly about my best friend and the relationship we had. It was a friendship that was so almost cliche that ended on a sour note. Still it was one of those friendships that was a defining moment in my young life.

I had intended to post it on Wednesday, but I woke up that morning sick. Instead of going to work I opted to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. When I finally managed to drag myself to the couch and turn on my laptop, I found a little flashing message waiting for me on Facebook. It was from the friend I had been writing about.

While our friendship ended poorly, we have made efforts over the years to at least stay in touch. I think at this point we are just lurkers in one anothers lives at best, which seems so odd since once I would have gladly called her sister. Now we are just passing status messages on our news feeds.

She had sent me a note to let me know she had been reading my blog of late. She had just reached my birthday post from last year where I had talked about the first concert I ever went to. She gave me happy encouraging feedback that made me really excited. I love knowing people like what I am writing.

And suddenly I couldn't post what I had written.

It is not that what I wrote about her was bad. It wasn't. It was not negative at all. It was just honest. It was honest in a way that I have never really been about that friendship and the part I played in it. It was honest in a way that I have never been able to be with her. It made me feel nervous and vulnerable suddenly. It also made it seem like I was only writing about her because she pinged me out of the blue.

You see the thing is, I don't believe that I was a very good friend back then. It is not that I was intentionally malicious or neglectful or anything like that. I am sure at the time if you had asked me then I would have said I was an excellent friend. It is just that I was a teenage girl. I was 14, 15, 16 years old, and I am not really sure girls of that age can always be good friends or even good people.

I am a firm believer that when girls hit puberty they start creating evil hormones. Seriously, if you have ever spent time around young teenage girls, or been one, you know that they can just be cold and cruel without much in the way of provocation. It is part being so scared of everything, especially who you are, and of being different. It is part being so raw and vulnerable. It is just a confusing time where you are doing good if being self involved and aloof are the worst things people can say about you.

That doesn't make for a good friend though. If you can't see beyond yourself it is hard to be there when others need you. It is hard to understand that they are going through things that are hard too. I mean you sort of know it, but at that time everything is sort of world shattering and it is hard to believe anyone else has it as bad as you think you do.

We had a good friendship. We talked on the phone constantly, we spent most of our free time together, we had classes together, we wrote notes, we had a ton of inside jokes, and we were each other salvation in the hell that we made high school out to be. We were probably more than a little delusional. In our own little world though, we were good.

I am not sure we knew then who we were, and I think that was the strongest bond we had. We were both confused teenagers who really weren't comfortable in the social structure and were happy to fit into that misfit role. We got along and had some sort of connection that was good.

Then things changed. We were both changing but not together. I think if we had paid attention we would have realized the people we were going to be were not really the people we thought we were. We were growing apart and didn't know how to be different people and still friends. Worst of all we didn't see each others struggles.

I should be more clear; I did not see her struggles. When she came back from her summer vacation after our junior year I was completely taken by surprise by the girl who showed up. She didn't even look like my friend. I didn't understand why she had changed and why she was so very very angry with me.

I was dumbfounded. I had never known there was anything wrong. I missed it all while caught up in my own drama. I couldn't see it then. I couldn't see it for a long time after either. I had just lost her and I didn't know what to do. So of course I did things that didn't help any. I separated myself from her as she did things that I found intentionally hurtful. I said awful hurtful things to her. It was the worst kind of hurt because we knew each other so well it was easy to do.

I was so hurt and at the same time so scared for her. She was making what seemed to me like these wild erratic leaps and changes. Her other friends and her mother would come to me off and on asking me for help and I didn't know what to say to them. I didn't know what to do for her. She wouldn't let me in and I didn't know how to fix that.

I remember she called me one day very upset. We had barely said two word to each other in weeks, maybe months, but she called me. She was upset and she was scared and she needed to tell me that. She didn't seem to want anything else from me, and at the time I wouldn't have known what to offer so all I did was listen. It felt like such an insignificant effort but it was all I had.

After we graduated we tried a few times to reconnect. There were letters and emails written, but nothing ever seemed to come of it. I thought she was still looking for some sort of apology and I was still looking for some sort of explanation. I still just didn't understand.

So that is how we ended up here; Facebook connecting us and just lurking in each others lives. Could we ever be friends again? Not the way we were back then. Of course that is a sort of friendship that I think exists only in that moment in our lives. It was what we needed it to be then.

Now though I think I know what went wrong. I think I understand now why it ended the way it did. I don't know if I am right or not, but I think now that I was unable to be the friend she needed. I just wasn't a good friend. I was too self absorbed to see that she was in pain and struggling. I didn't know enough then to know that sometimes you just have to be there and listen.

I wish I could go back and apologize to that 17 year old girl. I wish I could just be there for her. I can't though. I can't go back and make that right.

What I can do though is not be that person again. I can be here for my friends now. I hate that it took me this long to realize what I did wrong then, but I am thankful to know not to do it again. I can listen when needed and give as selflessly as I know how. I can look for when someone I love is hurting and be the friend they need me to be.

It is far too late, and it feels like far too little, but I can finally say that I am sorry and I was wrong. 

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