Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Of College and Painful Memories

What I'm listening to: City on a Hill

I'll be the first to admit - I'm lousy at keeping in touch with people.

The electronic age has certainly helped in this endeavor. It's easy to shoot a quick email to an old roommate just to check in and say hi. In fact, it's because of email I got back in touch with an old college friend and ended up being a bridesmaid in her wedding.

But some old memories and emotions surfaced in me recently that make me wonder if not keeping in touch with those old friends is intentional.

College is an abberation. You're in this place for a definitive matter of time, you are secluded from the real world and trying to decide what future you want. College usually happens at an age where a huge part of who you are is developed - you're finally away from home, on your own and you're thrust into an environment with a bunch of strangers that all of a sudden become your substitute family.

I haven't thought about college in a very long time. It's only consumed me recently because I came across a fellow blogger on this sight who attended the same college as I. Reading through his posts... well, made me smile and yet upset me at the same time. They made me smile because he is exactly how I remember, the baseball-obsessed, movie-loving, big-hearted guy who is still a talented and thoughtful writer who secretly harbors the desire to be a musician. He is now a more mature, better version of himself. (As I hope I am as well). But what bothered me was I realized the astronomically small amount of people from college I've kept track of. These were people who had a huge part in shaping who I am. Though I have many good memories of college, I have not kept in touch with the people attached to these memories. The people who made me laugh until my sides hurt, held me when I cried, encouraged me when I was defeated, loved me despite my selfishness and kept me accountable in my walk with God.

Granted, a couple have attempted to keep in touch with me. About a year ago, I got an email out of the blue from Travis, the only person I would consider a true accountability partner, asking what was up in my life, where I was at, and let me know he'd just become a father & was about to finish up seminary. About 6 months ago I got an email from a friend who'd been AWOL for at least 4 years... and there are the few I've never lost touch with, but all in all, it really isn't much.

As someone with the spiritual gift of mercy, I've noticed hurting people are drawn to my personality. As a friend of mine said to me just the other day "I know that when I spend time with you, I can calm down and just be myself." And looking back over the close friendships I've had, I've noticed a pattern. They all tend to come into my life for a season, usually when they are going through a difficult time. When they are past that difficult time and go though the process of healing, they move on. And I don't usually see them again. I do have a few that helped heal me - with names like Ryan, Maria, Missy, Travis, Daniel and Andrew. I also had a few that were just fun - with names like Scott, Tricia, Emory, and Tarah. And those I would consider my dearest, sweetest friends from that time - with names like Angela, Nathan, Andy, Lesa, Rebekah, and Sarah - the names that when I hear them and type them even now, I'm welled-up because my love for them is still so strong. They are part of me and always will be. However, the list for those I helped heal and move on is a longer list. And I have mixed emotions about that.

Please don't mistake me, I'm not trying to lament "poor Stephanie, the girl whose friends always leave". I'm not attempting a gigantic pity party here, I promise. This is simply a time of reflection for me. I've accepted my gift for what it is and had to adjust accordingly. That doesn't make it easy, but nothing worthwhile in life ever is.

So am I intentionally not staying in touch with these people because of this?

The painful memories of college and lost friendships are whirling back to me in light of my recent reconnection with this old friend. (not because of him, not in any way, but just because he represents this specific time in my life). The painful college memories have certainly dulled - partly due to time but also admission on my part that some of that pain was my fault. But as is with the nature of every woman - we want to be pursued. Chased after. I admit I'm sad no one from that time in my life is really chasing me. Self-doubt and insecurity have seeped in. I wonder if I made an impact at all.

The mistakes I made back then - the plentiful amount of them - have rushed through my heart today. "I should have done it this way..." "I can't believe I actually behaved that way..." "What was I thinking?" "It's a wonder anyone could stand to be around me". These thoughts attack both my head and my heart. The desire to be good enough and thought well of is normal for most people. The question I should really be asking myself is if God is honored by who I was and am and will be.

I wish I knew the answer.