A Flash of Life: Shame & Forgiveness.

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When I was fresh out of college with a barely passable liberal arts degree, I struggled to find work. I looked everywhere. No position was beneath me. I just wanted to be working. I had debt coming due, I had dreams and aspirations of travel and adventure… But no matter how hard I tried (too qualified, under qualified), I remained unemployed for ten months. Ten agonizing months. And the people around me seemed to think I was happy about unemployed… Guess they were missing the constant mental breakdowns and mourning fear for my failure of a future…

During this time, my family decided to visit a friend of theirs in Maine. I was, of course, dragged along. At the time, I had no reason to believe it would be anything more than a brief respite from the grueling job search. Well… I was wrong.

We sat out on the porch of this person’s massive boarding house, looking out at the ocean. I’m minding my own business while them and my parents pass around a pot pipe, muttering about life.

Finally, this person I thought of as a friend, spoke up.

“[my mother], what were you doing at 21?”

I immediately knew what was going on and I wanted to make a run for it, but I was told I was being rude.

“Working several jobs while being homeless. Going from crash pad to crash pad.”

“[my dad], and what were you doing at 21?”

“Working at *minimum wage job* saving up for a car so I could travel.”

“Hm. Well when I was 21, I was working two jobs and supporting my parents. What about you, Tav? You’re 21. What are you doing?”

“I just graduated college and I’m looking for work…”

“So you’re unemployed? None of us were unemployed at your age…”

“It was a different time…”

“Bullshit. You’re not trying hard enough.”

“I’ve put out dozens of applications and had a few interviews…”

“There is no reason someone your age shouldn’t be working. You’re free loading on your parents. They did their time. You need to get up off your lazy ass and get a job.”

“I-I’m trying…”

“Not hard enough. Maybe if you stopped being such a lazy bitch, you’d find work.”

And that was that. I shut up. Didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip and disappeared form sight. I was accused of being sensitive. They were being helpful and supportive. Why was I so upset over the truth?

I’d never felt so betrayed in all my life. This person had helped me get through high school. They tutored me knowing I was a slow learner…

I didn’t even know who I was back then. I wasn’t being lazy… I was struggling and I was already in a bad place.

I suppose as an adult, I should’ve just let it slide.

But I couldn’t.

I was so ashamed.

It was neither the first nor last time I was torn down and left in tatters.

I grew up that way, being torn down by my mother. But there was something about it coming from a supposed friend that really left a lasting sting.

I distanced myself from this woman who I once called a mentor and I think she knows that. I’m not sure if my parents told her I was salty, because to them that was all it was, but when I saw her a year ago at her and my mother’s birthday (two days in a row in August) she was very… curt with me. She was by no means rude, but our interactions were just… civil.

I had made ornaments for the event since it was this big shindig with people coming from all over the country. 60 is apparently a big deal. I gave her the first one. I think she almost cried.

I’ll never forget how her voice shook when she thanked me. She even gave me a hug.

I think she knew what I knew: That she said cruel things while intoxicated. And while they were rooted in some grain of truth, they weren’t words she meant.

She never apologized.

I never asked for it.

But we hugged again a few more times during the event and then one last time when I headed home.

It took a lot more than I thought to bridge that gap. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to forget about her and move on with my life. But since she remained a good friend of my parents’, it was inevitable that our paths would cross again someday. I think, in an unspoken way, she apologized and I was more than ready to let go of the grudge.

I won’t lie, it still stings a bit to this day, but I can look past it now.

Maybe I should’ve brought up how much it hurt me.

Maybe I should’ve actually asked for an outright apology.

But that’s not how I am. If someone is going to apologize, they’ll either do it on their own or they won’t. And while I never received an “I’m sorry” or anything like that, I did feel welcome again.

I wasn’t the one in the wrong, yet every time I was around her after that, it never felt like it did before. It was like all my trust had been completely destroyed and this person I thought of as a parent was now a stranger.

At best, I just wanted our interactions to be as minimal as possible.

In the end, we sang karaoke together… like we did so many years ago when I was a little girl. We both still suck, but I think that was the highlight of the trip for me.

Even though the sting remains, its far more dull. I’ve moved on and more than that, I’ve forgiven. It wasn’t easy and it almost killed me with anxiety to do it, but I did.

I have no regrets.

I’m not sure why I’m telling this story. I’m not sure what the point or moral is. It’s just a snippet of my life that I felt like sharing.

I hope it was worth the read.

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