Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guilty Conscious

There isn't a lot in my life that I regret; honestly, I can only think of two things - they are the same two that I've had for over 5 years now.  I've done some stupid things, definitely some things that I really shouldn't have done, but precious little that I would actually go back and change if I had the chance.  Those things, however, are not the topic of today's blog for two reasons: 1) no one would understand why that has me sobbing onto my keyboard, and 2) I'm not a fan of snot, and when I cry there is definitely snot, so it's best avoided.  Today's topic IS, however, related: guilt.

Unsurprisingly, I have a lot of guilt.  Perhaps it's the remnants of growing up with a religion that had a lot of rules and expectations that I not only completely didn't understand but utterly failed to live up to, or maybe I just hold on to things too long ... which I actually know is true, since I do also have a tendency to hold grudges.  Whatever the reason, there are two things that have been plaguing me for years (hmmm ... I sense a pattern of 2 ... now that I think on it, there are only two people that I still hold a grudge against as well ... hmmm ... dammit, now you know I'm going to be looking for patterns of two absolutely everywhere, utterly convinced that the number 2 has some sort of meaning for my life! ) *Eh-hem* moving on ... where was I? 

 "Two things have been plaguing you ..." 

Oh yes!  So,  two things have been plaguing me.  This isn't the keep-you-up-at-night kind of plaguing, but more the creep-into-your-mind-at-the-oddest-moments kind, the kind that randomly pop up and 30 minutes later you realize you've just been staring into space thinking about them - no lost sleep, but bad enough.  Both of them happened YEARS ago - Jr. High kind of years ago.  I don't know if I've just not done anything in the last 15 years to have guilt over ... haha!  Well, that's certainly not the case, so apparently my mind is starting with the early stuff and working its way up from there, and since my mind apparently only deals with issues two at a time (which we learned today), it chose these two:

1) In 6th grade, a boy in my class - we'll call him Edmond because I have never even met someone with that name - had some sort of brain surgery.  I think he had water on his brain, and if he hit his head too hard there was the potential for him to die.  Just imagine being a 12-year-old-ish kid, you've had brain surgery, you have to worry about not getting hit on the head too hard, you have to wear a bike helmet everywhere you go to help prevent your death if you do get hit hard on the head, and everyone in your class makes fun of you for it ... everyone, yes (here is where the guilt comes), everyone including me!  We were totally brutal to Edmond!
"Hey Edmond, how was your bike ride?"
"It's lunch, Edmond, not time to ride your bike!"
"Is English a little hard, Edmond?  Afraid it might hit you in the head?!"
I mean, seriously, it was absolutely ridiculous!  I'm furious with 12-year-old me!  It's not like he was new and we didn't know him (not that that would justify anything of course!) - we had gone to school with Edmond since kindergarden, and it's not like he could escape us - we all graduated high school together!  He had to go through the rest of school with the knowledge that the kids he had grown up and gone to school with his whole life didn't seem to give a shit that he could die.  I like to think we would have cared if something had happened, but you wouldn't know it to see how we behaved toward him.

2) I had a best friend growing up - how about I name her Suzie as I have only known cats with that name ... hmmm, ironically she hated cats, maybe I should name her something different ....  Anyway, her mom owned a business across the street from my house, and we played together almost everyday after school for years.  Jr. High rolls around, and we grow apart, inevitably.  We're still nice to each other, say hi, occasionally hang out, but we're not really good friends anymore.  My sister is dating her brother and for whatever reason I'm really irritated by this - something about "you spend more time with Suzie; when you have kids together you're going to want Suzie to babysit them, not me!" - seriously misguided anger!  So I do what any pissed off 8th grader does - I write it down in a note, but not only that, I give it to Suzie's now-best friend.  I can't even describe how bad this note was - it was horrible!  I don't even know how to describe it and pretty sure I don't actually want to ... it said horribly rude and untrue things about Suzie's family - people whose house I had played at and stayed over at for years, people who had been wonderful and kind to me ... I don't remember what all it said and I hope to god it doesn't exist somewhere still!  Needless to say, that ended any remnants of a friendship with Suzie right there.  It's a little difficult to avoid someone in a school of around 300, but we managed it for the next 4 years.  After high school I moved away - that made the avoidance much easier - and now it's 12-years post-note, and I've barely said a word to her since.

So, what brought this guilt-confession on?  Well, I saw Suzie on facebook the other day (ahhh facebook!) - apparently she's going by a different version of her name now, like going from Suzie to Susan - so I facebook-stalked her for a little bit, looking at her pictures, seeing that she's engaged, etc., and I had this overwhelming urge to write to her, to tell her I'm so terribly sorry for what I said, that I wish we could have been like those people who becomes friends in 3rd grade and stay friends for life, but how do you say that to someone you've hardly spoken to in 12 years, someone that you hurt so badly?  I will probably never see Edmond again - never have the chance to apologize for being such a mean little kid, but she is right there - I can email her so easily ... I can, but I'm so afraid to!  Is it better to drag it all back up just for the chance to relieve my guilty consciousness, or to hope that it's not something she thinks about any more and let it go? 

I'm not even close to the same person I was then - thank god!  I'm not nearly as angry at the world (I swear!) and I'm much more conscious of the potential outcomes of my actions.  So, the big question is: what is more selfish - bringing it up and apologizing - and I truly truly am sorry - while assuaging my guilt, or letting it go and letting her live in peace while I just deal with the guilt I feel as a not-quite-fitting-enough punishment?  I'm conflicted - I simply don't know the answer to this.


  1. Wow...reading your blog totally made me reminisce about all the stupid or hurtful things I did as a junior high or (early) high school student. Example: I remember trying to convert my best friend (who was Hindu and probably understood her faith/spirituality 20x better than I understood mine at the time) to Christianity by telling her she might go to hell if she didn't become a Christian. ...just one of many cringe-worthy moments in my past.

    I think you are right...when we are young we don't see the potential outcomes of our actions or see the big picture as well as we do as adults. Still...as an adult it is hard not to look back and feel huge amounts of guilt over our "less-enlightened" past actions. Anyway, I just wanted to say that you are not alone. =) .

  2. Hmmm...this is making me think now....damn you!

  3. Personally, if you feel the guilt and the desire to clear it up, then it doesn't hurt to try. It's not like you're talking to her now, so what do you have to lose?

    Even if I've forgiven someone years ago (since I do remember being rather immature and stupid myself) it's always sweet and uplifting to hear someone else say they are sorry. And it opens the door to a new and fresh friendship.

    It's worth a try. Again, what do you have to lose?

  4. I agree with Shannon, but I bet "Susan" and "Edmond" have somewhere in their minds already forgiven you. I'm sure they wanted to let go of these things too. Just talking about it probably makes you feel better....? "It's the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution" said Oscar Wilde. :-) Silly religion and their guilt trips! I know what you mean and it's rediculous that anyone thinks we should feel that way. Some guilt is probably okay in that it makes us realize things that might be good to work on, but it shouldn't last and we need to let go of things for sure. I luv u!

  5. I think you should say something to her if you are feeling this way. It'll help make you feel better. Good luck!

  6. It's really amazing what kids can do to each other!

    Rachel - I totally have stories like that too! In 2nd grade I told my Jewish friend that Christians were richer than Jews ... in all fairness I think I was trying to say something along the lines of "spiritual richness" - not that it makes it any better - but really, what the hell does that even mean, and why was a 2nd grader talking about it?!

    Lauren - I figure that if I have to suffer, everyone should! ;o)

    Mandy, Shannon and Missy - thanks for the words of encouragement - haven't totally made up my mind yet ... that's what I'm leaning towards though!

  7. ahhh i hate how facebook does that!! i get the same feeling when i view old school mates on facebook. it's such a weird feeling because you think that you've held this for so long and want to make things better but you think that THEY must have moved on and what are you doing still upset over it? and then you just feel stupid. =/ and cry. yup.

  8. Totally! I mean, if it's something that she's gotten over I don't want to bring it all back up just to alleviate MY guilt! That seems pretty selfish doesn't it?! I've kept myself too busy the last couple of days to really think about what I should do ... I suppose I'll have to make a decision some time soon though!

  9. ughh, the things we did when we were younger. i have several of those cringe inducing moments myself. tough call on whether to contact her or not...I don't think it would be selfish of you, I mean, even if she's over it, it'll probably make her feel good that you still care! maybe? anyway, I like your blog!

  10. If it were me, I would want the closure of apologizing. Even if you two don't become friends again, she will appreciate that you still think of her. You've both matured, so I'm sure she will be willing to be adult and forgive you; a lot happens in 12 years and anyone who doesn't realize that people can utterly transform in that time frame doesn't deserve your worry anyway. But you'll never know unless you try, and at least your conscience will be clean.

  11. Meg and Amandasaurus: I think you're both right. If the situation were reversed I'm pretty sure I'd appreciate an apology, even if I had already forgiven the person - it would be nice to know they were truly sorry I guess.