In the muddy grey area after my parent’s divorce, I was 17 and self-involved and selfish and ungrateful. I took advantage of my mom’s trust in me and since I thought I was invincible, and that I knew everything, I made some awful decisions.
I got into a rather large spot of trouble when I was 17, and I still look back on that time in my life with complete shame. I also think back and wonder…Who was that person? What was that person thinking? I think it’s part of my anxiety that I grab onto depressing memories and obssess over them — the whole why didn’t I do this or say that or act this way mentality… it can be quite exhauasting but it’s something that I’ve always done.
This particular blunder led me to a sit down conversation with my mom and the parents of one of my friends. I use the term friend loosely here because I ran with a pretty big group, which makes me sound cool, but I was semi-aware that I wasn’t really anyone’s most favorite friend. I knew I was the last person people thought to call and oftentimes I would get invited to things because I happened to be around.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t some weird stalker (I don’t think) but girls are mean in high school and girls are especially mean where I went to high school. I’m really not feeling sorry for myself, I’m just stating some truths here.
This situation and the high school drama and meaness that happened as a result had such a toll on me that it took a really wonderful roommate in college to help break me of some of my social anxiety. I very specifically remember turning down invitations to go to bars with her and her friends, every weekend, and it was because I knew I would embarass them and they didn’t really want me there. She was persistent, however, and eventually I admitted I didn’t want to go because I would certainly be a burden. She was shocked and told me I was a wonderful person, inside and out, and that my thoughts were ridiculous and that I was fun and she wanted me to be social. Incidentally, she is one of the most giving and caring and amazing people I have EVER met. She, too, with one conversation, changed my life. And I will always love her for that. (Hey, Roxy.)
Anyway, I digress. I’ve been thinking a lot about penning a letter to this father of my friend because as I sat at his table and attempted to explain my actions, I was truly humiliated, and I knew I had truly humiliated my mother, and I felt like such a useless failure, and I knew no one at school would talk to me anymore, and honestly I was in a giant spiral of shame.
After explaining myself, and begging for forgiveness, this father of my friend looked me dead in the eye and told me that I seemed genuinely sorry. He told me that he was going to let the situation go, because he wanted nothing more then to one day hear that I had made something of myself and that I was doing wonderful and that I was a good person.
It’s not like he knew me very well. I can’t honestly say he even truly meant what he said. Perhaps he was not very much into dealing with the drama of unruly adolescents and he was tired of speaking with me and he wanted the whole ordeal to be over.
But he did say it, and it stuck to me, hard. I thought of these words for weeks after, as I sat in the bathroom by myself during lunch hour, and as I walked from class to class all alone. One friend stayed with me and she would attempt to call the school and check me out early when it was really hard, because it was really hard. But those words kept rolling around in my head. I could do something and be something. I could be better.
Eventually the incident faded, and I started eating lunch with friends again, and I was even welcomed back into the home of the people who once held my fate in their hands. But the words stayed with me, through college, through grad school, and through my many minimum wage paying jobs after graduating.
If this person, who I had offended greatly, could look me in the face and tell me I could be something, then I should be able to look at myself in the mirror and know I could be something.
As Noah says in The Notebook, I am no one special. But I try, very hard, to be and remain a good person. I often wonder if that father would believe me if I told him the impact our one short conversation had on me. I wonder if he knew that saying something positive in the midst of the negative situation I had construed would truly change me.
It’s strange the things that stay with you, a decade later.