Where do I begin?
I’m often hesitant to write about conflict for several reasons. First, because I hate it; the anxiety-inducing feeling that settles deep in my belly, signalling that I’ve done something wrong, even when, logically, I know I haven’t. Second, because I never want to be accused of only showing one side of the story, of representing events untruthfully, or of being self-centered.
But I am introspective. Incredibly so, actually. And I do carefully evaluate my own actions, and thoroughly consider the consequences, sometimes to the point where I’m afraid to act in case I make waves or in case someone is unhappy with me.
I become terrified that my good intentions will be somehow misunderstood, which is this case in an experience I had several months ago. So, while I debated writing about this conflict, I ultimately decided that if it’s bothering me, then it’s probably a good thing to write about, as a way to mull it over, to work through all of its nuances, to face the parts that make me uncomfortable, to make meaning, and, finally, to find peace.
As part of my inner old lady persona, (seriously, you should see my china cabinet) tradition is very important to me. Not so much tradition in the broad, political or religious sense, but in the smaller, more ordinary sense: holidays, family, classmates.
So when I figured it was time to start gathering people to celebrate our 10 year high school reunion next year (cue all the “how the heck have ten years gone by!?” thoughts and/or existential freak-outs), prodded by a few people who know how much I love to organize things (it seriously does give me a deep joy) I dug out an old yearbook, carefully made a list of every graduate, and started doing my best to get in contact with each of them, which given our social media fuelled world, meant searching them up on Facebook.
Facebook doesn’t allow you to add people to a group if they aren’t your “friend,” so I began the process by messaging former classmates and asking them to “friend” me, so I could add them to the reunion group. The idea being that they could discuss dates and share ideas within the group. I was also clear that I wouldn’t be offended if they wanted to “unfriend” me afterwards.
Soon I came to hear about some nasty social media posts and comments made by a few of my former classmates, precipitated by my messages, essentially positing that I was a “mean girl” and a “popular girl” who only wants to be friends when, “there’s a group project or a high school reunion,” as well as saying “give me a reunion with the teachers and library staff . . . I don’t want to have to socialize with the volleyball team again.”
This, to be frank, pissed me off. I was making a huge effort to get in contact with every single person from that yearbook, and to make sure that no one felt left out or excluded – it’s not like it’s a paid gig, you know- and here two adults were openly mocking my genuine invitation to connect.
Was I too optimistic, looking forward to seeing these people as adults, as people who had grown and matured over the past 10 years, and who could spend a night together catching up, despite whatever happened in high school?
These women were not acting like adults, but were, instead, twisting the past to play into their own distorted narrative; I didn’t play volleyball and I was an honours student, preferring to do more than my share of group projects.
In my experience, it’s often the very people who feel sorry for themselves and feed into the narrative that people exclude them, or gossip about them, or say mean things to them, that do those very things the most.
But what if I hadn’t sent those messages? I’ll hedge my bets that those very same people would’ve complained about being excluded. Like so many other things, you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.
Regardless, if I had the chance to do it all again, I’d still try my darndest to get in contact with every single person on that list, because it’s the right thing to do.
I’d invite you again.