Andrea is on a quest to check off a bucket list of items in her 29th year. You can read more about her adventures at her blog, Thirty-Things.
When I was starting my list the better part of a year ago, one of the first things I added was ‘apologize to Jessica’. Jessica was one of my very best friends in high school; she was super smart, kind and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Some of my best teenage memories are with her. We sang in the choir together, double-dated on prom night and when I went halfway across the world to track down my first love, she went with me. We hadn’t spoken for almost ten years and I had always missed her.
Much like the more upbeat things on this list (spending a month in a foreign country etc.) the idea that I should make amends with Jessica was something that tended to storm my barely conscious mind in the moments just before sleep when the distractions of the day had faded. I found I still thought about her and every time I did, I felt a wave of regret that we’d fallen out of touch.
It wasn’t that I did something so awful to her; I’m not even sure I remember all the details of the fight we had. We were both studying abroad at the time and I had planned to come and visit her where she was in Vienna but then cancelled on her at the last minute to go on a trip with the group I was with in France. It was selfish of me and she was hurt and reacted accordingly; because I was twenty and immature, I got defensive instead of apologizing. I never thought something so small would be the end of our friendship. But of course most relationships end this way; they don’t go down in flames, they just splinter apart.
In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t so much the incident itself but the natural growing pains that high school friendships go through in college that caused the split. If we had been going to the same college, or had some other reason to run into each other we probably would have let it go and resumed our friendship. But we didn’t see each other, we were off at separate colleges and then in separate cities, consumed with the business of growing up. So just like that, a small spat became the end of a friendship.
I would always think about how I should reach out but the longer I waited, the harder it got. But in the spirit of the list, of not letting chances slip away, I knew I wanted to banish this regret if I could. Before I could hesitate or talk myself out of it, I looked her up on Facebook and sent her a friend request along with an email saying I was sorry for what happened all those years ago and that I really missed her. She accepted the friend request but I never heard back from her. I didn’t know what to think but I was glad we were at least back in touch.
This past weekend I went to Chicago to help a friend who lives internationally out with some wedding planning stuff and spend some time together while she was stateside. Jessica commented on my Facebook post about being in the city that we should meet up—as luck would have it she lives there now. We made a lunch date.
I was nervous and excited to see her. I’ve had plenty of little reunions since moving back to Seattle and they’re unpredictable; they can be awkward and even sad since in many cases it quickly becomes clear that whatever once bonded you is long gone. But with Jess it was as though not a day had passed. She looked exactly the same, pretty and cheerful as ever. She’d gone on to work as a union organizer, the kind of tough, admirable work I would have expected her to pursue. She had loved it but had recently quit and moved to Chicago because, like me she’d begun a big re-evaluation of her life in her late twenties and decided she needed a change. It struck me how much we had in common, perhaps even more so than when we were kids.
We ate a massive lunch and split a bottle of wine. There was no awkwardness just the joy of seeing an old friend after a long absence and realizing that they’re the same person you loved and remembered, just wiser and with more stories.
Even in our ever-connected digital world, it’s surprisingly easy to let people just slip away. The longer you go without talking to someone, the harder it seems to pick up the phone or send that email. It might seem impossible to pick up where you left off with someone, but you’ll never know if you don’t call.