We lived in a small town/semi-rural area when I grew up and I was fairly isolated from other kids except for school. The first picture was of me in seventh grade…one of my happiest years of late childhood. I had a close friend, Mary, who was interested in the same things I was, and I was always excited to get to school.
What a difference a year makes. One morning in eighth grade I went up to her in the school yard, happy to see her, and she cut me dead. She made it clear she never wanted to talk to me again and wouldn’t say why. I figured it was because I was such a mess…I mean my body was changing, I had gained a lot of weight, and I hated that part of life. Yeah, yeah, it would have helped a lot if I had combed my hair….
Anyway, it still hurts to think about it. I knew the standard reaction…”If you don’t like me, then I don’t like you, so there. If you’re going to be mean to me, I can be mean to you too.” That didn’t work for me. I was hurt and I still liked her. I wasn’t going to deny it. So I made other friends, and I didn’t push myself on Mary but didn’t avoid her either. I was in that horrible self-conscious stage, but I forced myself to be kind and polite whenever we saw one another. It was hard at first, but like anything else, it got easier with practice.
That went on for two years. Then in high school, in tenth grade, she started thawing out and we became best friends again, a friendship that lasted until she died of cancer a few years ago. One night in 11th grade we had gone to a meeting and she drove me home. She told me why she had done it…it was because her mother had died when she was in sixth grade and her father was an Italian immigrant. He was 50 years old when she was born, and he spoke little English. They had nothing in common so she felt lonely and alienated. She was jealous that I had loving parents, and she had hated me more when I was so nice to her.
Talk about life-long lessons… I cried, of course, when I got home…what a stupid waste…but I learned two valuable lessons from the experience:
- Don’t take other people’s reactions personally. It hurts to be rejected, but we’re all acting out of our own needs. If it’s not a good match, it’s not a good match. Of course, if combing your hair and keeping your body healthy is an issue then by all means do it, for your own sake if nothing else.
- Get your ego out of the way…get in touch with your deepest values and try to live them. Life is too short to be petty. Life will still hurt at times, but if you handle situations well you can make the pain worthwhile.
That’s when I first started learning the traits of stress-hardy, resilient people. That list comes from hard-earned experience, and the traits were an integral part of my life before I tried to articulate them. They work for me.
What about you? Have you ever been rejected? What did you learn from the experience?
Thanks to rummuser and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.