I went back to my old school today. It was their annual “open house” day for all alumni to take a walk down memory lane and meet up with former classmates and old friends. I was very privileged to have attended a prestigious public school and I thoroughly loved my years as a student there, so I am always pleased to have the opportunity to go back. Today I was excited to take J and L so they could see where Mummy went to school, and as we walked through the imposing red brick tower into the rather beautiful quadrangle, L breathed “Wow! A castle!” A few minutes later they discovered the joy of sliding down the grassy bank at the side of the school field, and this kept them enthralled for the rest of the afternoon.
I had arranged to meet up with an old school friend, M. We had only seen each other a handful of times since we left school 16 years ago but we talk regularly on Facebook and I was excited to meet her son and her fiance (both of whom turned out to be lovely). We were shortly joined by a couple more old friends, and before long we were reminiscing about passing out in Maths exams, where our lockers had been located, and trying to remember who had dated who. We started talking about ex-classmates with whom we are still in touch, and those who we are friends with on Facebook. I mentioned that a girl I had once been friends with, S, had rejected my friendship request on Facebook. It emerged that others in the group had experienced the same when trying to reconnect with S.
As we watched our children playing on the field, someone whispered “Look who’s just arrived! It’s S!” I turned to see her strolling past and smiled expectantly, looking forward to catching up with her after 16 years. To our astonishment, she continued walking. She passed within a few feet of us, resolutely avoiding eye contact as she chatted with friends of her own. She and her friends stopped a short way down from us and stood in a group, talking and laughing. I stared open-mouthed at the people in my own group, who returned the same bewildered expression. Why on earth had S pretended not to know us, when we had been classmates for seven years? S and I had been to each other’s houses on numerous occasions. We’d been to parties together and done each other’s make-up. I had never argued or fallen out with her in our whole time at school. After uni we had met up for coffee a couple of times, but simply lost touch. I bore S absolutely no ill-will whatsoever. Yet here she was, a few feet away from me, acting as though she had never met me. Then, as she sauntered over to the bar, she looked straight at me. I raised my hand in a wave and smiled at her. She looked away and kept walking. I was completely perplexed.
I tried to join my group in laughing it off; pretending it didn’t matter. But the truth was, it did matter. I wished I was brave enough to march over and demand answers. But instead I was left feeling confused. To varying degrees I felt angry, upset, amused, hurt and suprised. I knew, rationally, that it shouldn’t have mattered to me. Someone I’d barely seen in sixteen years and am unlikely to see in the next sixteen years didn’t want to have a conversation with me. It shouldn’t have mattered to me. But it did. And I continued to brood over what I could have possibly done to offend S to this degree.
Until it suddenly hit me. This was precisely the kind of thing I’ve been writing about in this blog. The lyrics from Wicked. The Serenity Prayer. Why was I letting myself get upset over something I couldn’t change? So this is what I did:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
… I decided that S’s issues were for her to deal with. If she chose to reject my offers to reconnect with her, there was nothing I could do about this.
Courage to change the things I can;
… I really enjoyed talking to other old friends. So I made a date with them to meet up at the pub in a few weeks time.
And wisdom to know the difference.
… It took me a while but I got there. I cannot change the way others choose to act and respond to situations. I can only change the way I behave and the decisions I make.
I still can’t help wondering why S behaved the way she did, but I suppose I’ll never know. I’m still very pleased I went to my old school today. I enjoyed catching up with my old pals and am looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks time. Accepting rejection is hard for anyone, but today I think I may have managed to do it.