At some point in their lives, everybody makes a mistake. There are some people who take that mistake, learn from it, and then move on. There are those who linger on that mistake, never get over it, and let it define them forever. For the most part I fit in the former category. I am always very quick to think, ‘well that was a mistake, but there’s nothing to be done about it.” There is only one mistake that I’ve ever made about which I don’t feel that way.
Many people who know me, I think, would not expect that it is what it is. I’m sure, that since I am the 30 year-old mother of a ten year-old boy who never sees or receives support from his biological father, many people would think they had a handle what that big mistake is, but they are wrong. Although I wish things for Boy had been different, I don’t regret the things I did that led me to have him. A lapse in judgment, sure, a mistake, never. The truth of what I really regret is that, way back in 1996 when I was on the verge of being 19, I was a very bad friend to a girl who needed me very much.
Said in that way, it doesn’t seem very serious. Who in their lives has never been guilty of being a bad friend? But, I feel, that had I been a good friend, maybe things would have been better for that girl. That maybe I could have made a big difference had I just put her a little ahead of what, to me at the time, seemed like a tragically romantic love story.
My freshman year of college was supposed to be fantastic, I was rooming with a good friend that I had known since 5th grade. We were close enough that we could be comfortable, but not so close that we would spend every moment of our day together, thereby getting extra sick of each other. I had my close friends that she got along with, and she had her close friends that I got along with. Everything was great. Not that we never fought, you fight with anyone that you share that small a space with, but the fights were small and easily forgotten.
Then I met a boy (my son’s father) and, frankly, I became pathetic. Nothing outside of our relationship really existed for me. I was that dumb girl that loses herself in her boyfriend (I hated those girls, and had never been one before, but what can you do). He didn’t go to class, ever in the time that I knew him, so it should have been no surprise that when the first semester ended, he had flunked out. But I was surprised, and devastated. I cried for hours, thinking how horrible that we had just found each other two months before and now he was going to have to stay home five hours away.
But then, three days before we were supposed to return to school, something happened that should have pushed that out of my mind. My roommate’s mom died in a terrible accident. I went to her wake and did all of the things that one does when her friend’s mom dies, and I was sad for her, but being 19, I didn’t know what I should say or do to make it better for her. Who does ever really?
Well we both came back to school and she pulled into herself, not ever talking about it. I could see things were bad for her, but I didn’t know what to do, she never brought it up, and I didn’t know how. Also, I was wrapped up in dealing with my long distance relationship. So a month went by, and we didn’t talk. Not really. A mutual friend from home, told me my roommate wanted to talk to me but felt like I was unapproachable. I asked her what I should do, and she didn’t really know so I just left it figuring I’d have the chance to work it out. Plus my boyfriend was coming to visit. So I got busy planning that.
The day my boyfriend came for a visit, I couldn’t shut up about all our plans, and finally my roommate said, “Well, you don’t have to worry about me hanging around, I’m going home.” I thought, “Great I’ll have the room to myself this weekend.” I said “What day will you be back?” She said, “Never, I am going home for good.” I was floored. I had no idea things were that bad for her. I mean, I knew things were bad, there were things I could see, but not that bad. Not dropping out of college bad. So we hugged, and cried, and said our goodbyes, and she left.
I had never talked to her about her mom, never let her tell me everything she needed to. I know she had tried talking to her other friends, girls she had met at school, but they weren’t me. They hadn’t known her since 5th grade. They didn’t live with her.
So she dropped out, and we talked a little, but not much. I was still all wrapped up in my tragic love story, getting more and more tragic by the second, and she was still to afraid to talk to me.
Things kept getting worse for her, spiraling out of control. Losing her self in depression and grief, until to this day she isn’t the same person, and I can’t help but think that those things might have changed or been lessened if I had just thought of her and reached out when she needed me too.
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