So it’s been a weird couple of month. Lots of travel. For fun. For work. To visit Mom. And I’ve had two unusual experiences. Two apologies.
I went to the Naval Academy and my time there was not fun. There’s a joke that the Naval Academy is a good place to be from. I.e. in the past. And it’s true. And for the most part, my time at the Academy is a thing of the past. I never quite fit in (shocking I know) and I only had a few close friends after I graduated. And over time, most of those friendships have slipped away. Time moved on. I came out. They had families. People grow apart and I consider them still friends, but we aren’t close. However in the age of Facebook, it’s possible to reconnect with people from your past and I’m not necessarily sure if that’s a good thing. I’ve “friended” some of my USNA classmates and I think I’ve done a good job of picking those who I’ve “friended” (though there are some exceptions). I really don’t have a lot in common with a lot of my classmates so I’m not sure it makes sense to accept every friend request. One of my classmates, and former roommate actually, is someone I’ve “friend accepted” and it’s been fascinating getting a glimpse into his life via FB. Well he reached out to me and said he wanted to chat and I was like, sure. It was about something else entirely, but as the phone call conversation wandered he said he wanted to apologize to me. He realizes now how hard the Naval Academy must have been for someone who was gay (even though at that point I was deep in denial) and he wanted to apologize if he had ever done anything to belittle me or make me feel uncomfortable. And I was a little stunned by the apology. First, I’ve never had an apology like that. Second, I really couldn’t ever think of anything he had done that made me feel bad. Don’t get me wrong, I had a very hard time at USNA in general and whether it was because people suspected I was gay or not, I’ve had a very estranged relationship with my alma mater ever since. A lot of my time at the Naval Academy has started to blur but there are still people, my former classmates, who I don’t like, who treated me poorly, who said bad things about me, etc. I remember them. I remember what they did. What they said. And I’m not sure if an apology from them would make me feel better or not. I like to think it would, but I’m honestly not sure. I told my friend that I didn’t need an apology from him since I couldn’t remember anything he had done or said that warranted an apology, but he insisted. So I accepted his apology.
The weekend of NYC Pride, I ran into a high school classmate. Someone I friended on FB only within the last couple of years. He was part of the Smart Kids Clique in HS. I was in several classes with him. But I moved to Colorado Springs at the beginning of my junior year, so I was new to the school and never fell into any of the pre-established cliques. I was sort of Smart Kid Clique “adjacent.” It’s funny, I’ve never quite fit in anywhere and have always felt “adjacent” in some fashion. Anyways, the morning after the Pier Dance we met up at Penn Station since I had to go back to DC for that pesky day job. But we had about 45 minutes to chat and exchange life stories. It has been 33 years since we had seen each other. He had graduated, went to college, gotten married, had four children, had been super religious, and then just maybe 2 years ago accepted that he was gay. I thought coming out in my early 30s was late, I can’t imagine have the strength it took to finally come out at close to 50. We talked some more about some of our classmates who are gay and as the conversation wandered, he said that he wanted to apologize to me. And I said for what? And he said he wanted to apologize for treating me the way he did in high school. Again, I’m not sure if that’s because people thought I was gay, because I was new and an outsider, because I was fat, or just because I’ve had a “pick on Trey” sign on my back for my entire life. And I reassured him that he didn’t need to apologize. I had no ill will or bad memories of our time in high school. Oh, I do remember the kids who picked on me. Kids can be mean for someone who is new, an outsider, etc. I know that. And again, for the most part those memories have started to blur. I accepted his apology and we continued to chat about other stuff until my train left.
They say apologizing is a sign of strength. That recognizing you’ve done something wrong or hurt someone and trying to make amends is sign that you understand that your words and actions impact other people. Accepting an apology, forgiving someone, really forgiving them deep in your heart and soul requires strength as well. These apologies were easy to accept. However, I hope someday that if someone who has really hurt me apologizes, that I’ll have the strength to accept their apology.