I had an old high school classmate reach out to me the other week. Seems she had seen this post and wanted to apologize if there was ever a time when she might have ignored me. While I was surprised and greatly appreciated the gesture, I assured her I could not recall such an instance. But I also told her, even if I had, no apology would have been necessary.
This conversation has stuck in my head for a few days now. We were all kids back then. We were still learning how to interact with each other and the world around us. Could something from so long ago still have stuck with someone after so many years?
This question gave me pause, not towards my classmate, but for me. How many times had I wronged or offended someone and then rationalized it as youthful stupidity? Thinking back to those days, I was an unabashed smartass. I typically had a verbal barb or sharp retort ready for just about any situation. Inwardly I was terribly shy, so like many shy kids, I tried to fit in by using humor. I can’t count the times I said inappropriate or insensitive remarks trying to get a laugh. And while I was rarely called on the carpet for my comments, now I cringe at the number of people I may have offended in my lame attempts to be funny.
High school was decades ago. After graduation, I moved away from my hometown as soon as I could. Today my interactions with anyone from high school is largely limited to reunions and social media. These days, I doubt I will be remembered except as a bit player in the unwritten screenplay of our high school days.
As my life has progressed, I’ve learned to curb some of the more unsavory aspects of my personality. Maturity and self-awareness do that to a person. However, as I learn to express myself in writing, I also realize the power of words. They can be uplifting; or thoughtless and cruel. But they do have an effect. I would like to think I err on the side of positive these days, but that was not always the case.
As I think back to college and first years of my professional career, several people immediately come to mind that in hindsight I could have interacted with in a more positive manner, people I liked and respected and probably still do. I won’t name them but if they are reading this, they know who they are. So in the spirit of my high school classmate, I would like to apologize for any of those times when I was insensitive, argumentative, stubborn, sarcastic and self-centered. (Trust me, the list goes on and on…)
We all travel the path of enlightenment at a different pace. I have no idea if I am ahead or behind anyone else, but I do know I am still on it. And still moving forward.