March 22, 2011

Last night, something interesting happened. I posted an invitation in my Facebook status asking people to tell me anything they wanted to say to me. A childhood friend that I haven't seen face-to-face in years (since I was 13) sent me a message apologizing for being mean to me in school. The crazy thing is, I don't remember her ever being mean to me.

However, I do remember several other people being mean to me in school. I attended a private church school for several years in a very small town, and most of the people I went to school with were also my neighbors, family, and playmates. (The school had about 30 students ranging across several grades, so we're talking very small.) For some reason, my "friends" often chose me last for games, left me out of their group conversations, or whispered behind my back. Maybe it was that my parents taught at the school and my dad pastored the church, which made me the "teacher's pet". Maybe it was that I wore thick glasses and had unruly hair. Maybe it was that I didn't have nice things or a lick of fashion sense. Maybe it was that I made exceptional grades despite staring out the nearest window half the time. Maybe it was that I was socially awkward from being raised in a home where I was expected to act like an adult all the time and didn't know how to interact properly with my peer group. But the meanness still hurt, and I didn't realize how much it hurt until my friend apologized. What hurts the most is that the people I remember being mean will probably never apologize.

I realize now that this is a bigger issue with me than I previously thought. Now that I'm an adult with my own family and measure of success, I feel relatively accepted and respected by others. However, for years I felt angry at my extended family for their lack of concern and support. Just before my study abroad trip to Japan, a particular aunt asked my father why he was letting me go abroad. I was 22 at the time--hardly a child needing my parents' permission--and I had earned two scholarships that covered all but $1,000 of the $16,000 trip. There was never an offer of congratulations from anyone in my extended family: no phone calls, no cards, nothing. It was pretty much the same story when I graduated from college and when I got married. I once sent $200 to help two children in my family; their mother was in jail and being prosecuted for fraud, and their father (a good man) was ill in the hospital. No one even passed along a thanks. I'm sorry, but I just can't understand how people can act that way. It's unconscionable.

Since all of that, I put it out of my mind and determined to get on with my life. But some pain is still there. Will it ever go away?

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