Get me started on posting again, and I can’t seem to stop, sorry! Actually, I have been saving up this post since last spring, and it’s another email post, so it sort of autofilled. It’s about something that absolutely delighted me and made me even more aware of the value of not hanging on to anger.
First, check out this post by Anne Nahm (and her link to her earlier post) for a beautiful illustration of this tenet. She claims that she would have responded to something with anger if she’d had her wits about her, but I am skeptical, and anyway it ended up not mattering.
I’ve written before about how bad my college experience was. Much of the blame for this is on me — I did no research, applied to only one, and never even visited the place before my brother dropped me off with a trunk of clothes and a bag of feta cheese (a story for another time). However, it was genuinely a bad place. It has an exalted reputation, and therefore does not have to treat its students well. The students there were also … troubled. Already damaged — by their ambition, by the pressure they or their parents put on them to excel, by the fact that they had spent so little time developing their own personalities, by privilege … who knows. I made some friends, but none of them are even on my Facebook page now.
And I had an unhappy, often angry roommate there who ending up sticking me with a big phone bill (this was the pre-cell era; long distance calls were pricey). After asking a few times, I figured it was better to write it off rather than create more bad feeling in the universe over some money. (That is not to say that I was saintly about it; oh no, I complained.) I managed to come up with the money, but I had a collection service on my back for a while.
I wrote it off, but I never forgot it. I always wondered why she had done it. I didn’t think she was evil, and I thought she had plenty of money.
Then last spring, this popped into my inbox:
From: College RoommateSubject: oh myDate: May 27, 2011 2:32 AMDear DM,It’s [Roommate], from so so long ago. I stiffed you for a phone bill. I owe you money... with interest. It’s been bothering me for about ... twenty years. Would love to pay you back! For real!I hope this finds you well!_______________
From: DoctorMamaSubject: oh myDate: May 27, 2011 10:17 AMoh my indeed!I don’t think I’ve been this surprised by an email, like, ever.It makes me happy. Not for the money — which of course I don’t need/want now and would never accept. Happy because it did always bother me — again, not the money, but because I always wondered about what bad place you were in in your head then, and why, and that I never knew if you ended up thriving or sinking. I know I was in a bad place ... I hated it there and did not thrive until I left.(I have something that has bothered me for 30 years: I once arranged to stay with a penpal in France, but when I got to Europe ditched her to travel with my new boyfriend instead. I was only 15 and I suppose I should cut myself some slack, but somewhere out there is a middle-aged French woman who is probably still pissed off, and I’d love to apologize. I have no way to do so — I don’t even remember her name. Maybe there’s a Craigslist Missed Connections in France?)Anyway. Find a random college student who is hard up for cash and give it to her, and the world will be back on its axis. And then tell me about it if it’s a good story.Although I will never attend any college function, I do look through the reports, and it looks like you HAVE thrived? I would like to hear details if you feel like it.College was a surreal time in my life — as if I saw a movie about it rather than lived it. None of it felt authentic. I am grateful for my life these days. My job, running, my strange husband and even stranger son — everything kind of fell into place eventually.I’ve kept a blog for the past six years: doctormama.blogspot.com. If you want proof that I have not been bitterly adding up the interest on your debt for the past 20 years (honestly I do not even remember the amount), you can look there. Or if you want to take up running (if you don’t already), which is a crusade of mine.
From: College RoommateSubject: oh myDate: May 29, 2011 8:17 AM
Thank you. You are very gracious. I love your blog! I want to run!! But I don’t really know how to “start.”Re: The phone bill. I will do it! I have just the college student in mind. Like me, she is the child of an alcoholic. Like me, going to [an overrated college] ... and like me, probably pretty broke and embarrassed about it. And struggling with the ramifications of growing up surrounded by addiction. I know her through an Alateen group I sponsor. Good. Thank you, thank you.I think ... that I was just really broke, ashamed, lost, and wanted someone to take care of me. I was angry. I wanted someone to “pay.” And you got stuck with that. And it has haunted me for decades. It was incredibly selfish and egotistic and I so appreciate your response, on so many levels.College was a horrible place. It was horribly destructive for me as well. And yet ... it was a necessary stop on the journey. Able to see it more clearly now in many regards.I will read your blog, and will have many questions about running!
So, if you are looking around for a New Year’s resolution (and are already running, of course), try finding some anger and/or guilt, root it up, and let it go.