A long time ago, I was a bad friend.
In middle school, Rachel and I became fast friends when we rode the bus home together. She had an older sister, who was the same age as my older sister, and a younger brother, also about the same age as my brother. Rachel and I both were good students and cheerleaders and played instruments in the band. We learned how to do our makeup and hair together, she always better than me.
Then freshman year of high school, I made a mistake. I betrayed my best friend, Rachel. I didn't get it. At the time, I didn't think I had done anything wrong -- a part of me thought she was being unreasonable -- so we stopped being friends. Not only that, but our friends stopped being friends.
We all graduated and at some point in my adult life, I realized that I was wrong. I was very wrong. Whenever I thought back to what I did to Rachel, I knew that now as an adult, I would never betray any of my friends like I had done to her. It would never enter my mind. I'm blessed with some amazing friends -- enough to make me disbelieve in karma -- and I do whatever I can to help protect them. So whenever I would think back to what happened with Rachel, I would feel a strong pang of guilt.
Finally last year, I told myself that I should actually apologize. Whatever may come of it, I wanted her to know that I know I was wrong, and that I was deeply sorry. I didn't expect her to forgive me. I halfway expected her to give me a piece of her mind. I would have deserved it. And knowing she would have been justified to lambast me, I was nervous to send that message.
But she responded almost right away, and she wasn't angry. She said she didn't have hard feelings and was glad to hear from me.
Here's the thing. That's all it took: for me to say "I'm sorry." It's so simple. I wish I had known that 25 years earlier.
It was such a relief to receive her forgiveness, to have some peace of mind. Better than that, I've regained a friend. Our relationship picked up nearly right where it left off, only now we're learning middle-age makeup tricks (yes, she's still way better than I am). We've visited each others' homes, we got matching tattoos (gulp), we're giving each other life advice (poor Rachel).
It's incredible. But it also makes me regret that much more that we lost so many years of making mistakes and laughing at ourselves. Because that's what a lot of friendship is really about: doing something dumb and knowing that person might mock you, but they will still be there on the other side of the blunder.
Good friends are like bumpers that way. They can help you stay in your lane, even if you crash up against them from time to time.
After all these years, I'm glad she's still there. I just regret, on top of everything else, it took so long to get to the other side of my dumb mistake.
Happy new year to my friends, old and anew. I love you for being my bumpers.