Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Live Your Best Challenge #5: Saying sorry.

My siblings and me at the end of 5th grade. I'm holding the baby.

Raise your hand.

Yep, you. You lookin' at that there screen. Raise it.

Oh look at that, we're all raising our hands. Why?

We're all guilty. We all owe somebody something. It's not cash (necessarily ... though lots of us are probably guilty of that, too). It's much more meaningful and important.

It's an apology.

And the thing is, you probably don't have to try hard to come up with a person to whom you need to say sorry. No, you probably have a readily-available list on the tip of your tongue. I know I do.

Just before I started 5th grade, my parents moved. I began 5th grade at a new school, completely unknown to everyone there. Also, you need to know that in 5th grade, I was incredibly awkward. Way taller than most of the girls, hair changing from straight to wavy, no sense of fashion whatsoever, clumsy, uni-brow, hairy-legged and AWKWARD. And I just desperately wanted to fit in.

There was a girl in my class. We'll call her Amelia to protect her identity. She was a year younger than the rest of us -- skipped a grade. She was the only left-handed person in the class. She had really long hair all the way down her back. Back then, my classmates and I thought she was "weird," though looking back, I don't think she was any weirder than the rest of us. We were ALL weird. What 10-year-old isn't?

I don't know why Amelia was chosen to be picked on, but she became the class scapegoat. No one wanted to be her friend. People said not-so-nice things about her. I said nothing. I thought taking a neutral stance was the right thing to do. Turns out, doing nothing can be just as harmful as being mean.

I went through 5th grade relatively friendless, but I had my sights set on one girl in particular -- Kristi (I changed her name, too). Kristi was outgoing, bubbly, stylish and adored by all. She was funny, too. And sometimes a bit ruthless. But I knew if I could be her friend, I'd be "in" for life. I just wanted to be accepted and cared about and Kristi seemed like the ideal best friend.

By 6th grade, I had started spending time with Kristi more regularly. She even invited me over to her house a few times. At recess, we'd hang out with a group of other kids, playing football or tag, or sometimes we'd talk about boys and other adolescent stuff. It was harmless, 11-year-old fun.

Someone (probably Kristi) came up with this really fun game that was a combination of hide-and-seek and tag. I don't remember all the rules, but I remember it was exciting and a lot of people wanted to play. Including Amelia. And we let her -- who'd have the nerve to outright say no? But begrudgingly. Even so, we had a lot of fun and the end of recess always seemed to come way too soon.

One day, I don't know how it happened or what provoked it, but Kristi gathered the tag gang up in a huddle at the start of recess. She whispered that we should all throw clumps of clovers at Amelia's head during the game, getting the burrs to stick in her long hair. My stomach dropped. I didn't want to be part of this. But I was afraid, afraid of rejecting Kristi and becoming the next name on her bad list. So I went with it. Didn't stand up for what I knew was wrong. I had my chance to bow out but I didn't take it. I was a coward.

The game commenced, Amelia completely unaware of her fate. Sure enough, within a few minutes, everyone was flinging large clumps of clovers at Amelia's head. Laughing, pointing cruelly. She was crying. Sobbing, really. I had thrown a clump myself and immediately regretted doing so as it left my hand. I still remember the feeling I had, thinking I had become the bully I most feared. I stared as she shrieked at the group to stop, tears streaming down her face . I felt awful. I cowered in shame. I wanted to hug her and tell her I was sorry right then.

But I didn't. One of my biggest regrets to date.

Life went on. Amelia and I went to junior high together but I rarely saw her. We parted ways at high school. I haven't seen her in about 10 years.

Kristi and I did not go to junior high together, but we did attend the same high school. We had some music classes together. She remained funny, popular and charismatic. We didn't really share the same group of friends, but we got along well and had some good times together. I even saw her quite a bit at BYU and even attended her wedding reception after my graduation. I'll always consider her a friend.

I don't mean to demonize Kristi -- all of us who tormented Amelia were equally guilty. Kristi was probably looking to be accepted and liked as much as the rest of us were; she was just more assertive about it. Kristi is a good person and I value her friendship. But, I still wish I had the courage to stand up to her 12 years ago. And I wholly regret never apologizing to Amelia for what I did.

I found Amelia's Facebook profile recently. Something inside me churned at the sight of her profile picture. It was my conscience, telling me what I already knew. This is my opportunity. I need to say sorry. I can write her a note and finally relieve my conscience of this long-standing burden. I can patch things up and allow her to heal.

Unfortunately, I haven't done it yet. Amelia's Facebook page is highly private and I can't even send her a message unless she accepts my friend request. See how the tables have turned? I may have missed my chance to make amends and now the ball is in her court. Hopefully she'll see my request as an olive branch of sorts. But I won't begrudge her if she doesn't.

All of us have outstanding apologies that we need to deliver to their rightful owners. So, here's your challenge: Identify a person in your past who you wronged. Apologize to them.

Let the healing begin.


  1. I too moved to a new school in 5th grade. Hope it works out with Amelia.

  2. Jenna, I love this post! I was the recipient of a lot of cruel words and actions from others when I was a teenager, but I've forgiven them all, even without any apologies. Kids and teenagers can just be mean sometimes, even if they don't mean to be. But at least you felt bad for what you had done and are still hoping to make things right. And if Amelia doesn't accept your friend request, it may just be that she doesn't really remember who you are... and stranger equals danger!

    Also, thank you for being brave enough to share your story. But regarding sharing your embarrassing photo... Girl, you look like a princess in that pic compared to any embarrassing photos of myself. If there were a Most Embarrassing Photo contest, I would be the grand-prize winner, hands down. Even the other contestants would say, "Yeah, we saw her photo. The right person definitely won."

  3. It takes guts to publicly share a story that doesn't show you in the best light. Keep us updated with Amelia.

  4. This is going to sound so random, but didn't you recently post a picture of chocolate cookies with peanut butter frosting in the inside? I looked up and down your blog and couldn't find it anywhere! So I'm wondering if I'm thinking of the wrong blog...please let me know! Thank you!

  5. @Hargrove Family, I did post those, but not recently! Here's a link: http://momtheintern.blogspot.com/2009/06/devilish-delight.html

  6. Just found your blog and I love it! There was a girl in my class that was picked on and taunted (we all have one). I stuck up for her once and she got mad at me for embarrassing her. I never did that again, but ached every time I heard people make fun of her. Hope when you communicate with Amelia it brings peace.

  7. I love this post. I think the most challenging thing in life is saying sorry, especially after a long period of time has passed. I have someone in mind too. I've seen their picture on facebook and get that same feeling, sort of queasiness. I had a good friend all the way up to sophmore year. I went over to her house to sleep over and her dad really creeped me out. I got a bad vibe from him. So when another one of my friends went to spend the night there, I warned her. She told my other friend what I said and she confronted me about it over the phone. After a few minutes of arguing, I hung up on her. I feel so bad about it and wish I hadn't said anything, though at the time I thought it was the right thing to do.

  8. Kristi isn't me right? Bhahahah jk jk, we didn't go to the same elementary school. PHEW!

    Seriously though, another great post. I will accept this challenge!


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