Last week I reached out to an old friend that I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over two years.
In April of 2016, we’d gotten into a little spat and I tried to convince her to put it aside for one night and come see a local screening of my film. She had advised me several times during the editing process and I figured we could just discuss our argument the next week.
When she didn’t show up, I was hurt.
I was more than hurt; I was mad. I thought that she must have some kind of ego or just be stubborn as hell (quick foreshadow: we both are) to still refuse to come, even though I’d totally given her a “get out of jail free card.” She had admitted she was wrong in the initial argument, so I was completely confused why she couldn’t put her ego aside and enjoy the night with me.
We stopped texting and talking to each other the following day.
The next couple of years zipped by. I continued screening the movie around the country and in 2017 sold it to Redbull TV. I moved to NYC for a four month job and then back to NC again. I found out my girlfriend was pregnant with our first baby. Then, she and I moved in together in a house in Durham to start our new lives.
Each great thing that had happened, with my movies or with my life, I hadn’t been able to share with my friend. Normally, I would have told her everything. It made me angry every time I couldn’t. I’d replay that night of the screening in my head all over again and think about how she ruined this new moment for me, because when I should be celebrating whatever win I just experienced, I was now upset and irritated that she was stopping me from sharing it with her.
When my girlfriend and I found our perfect house, it was a mile and a half from my old friend’s neighborhood. I knew I’d run into her eventually. We kind of ran in similar circles and Durham isn’t that big.
It had been long enough that if we bumped into each other, I thought everything would be fine.
But what I soon realized is that I would look around the corner for her when I went places. I’d anticipate seeing her somewhere and get myself worked up and flustered about how it would go down, but then she wouldn’t even be there. The thoughts disrupted my morning meditations. I even dreamed about it. It was pissing me off that it was still affecting me.
I was sure at this point I was just doing damage to myself.
A few months ago I read a quote that said, “Anger is a hot coal that you’re holding in your hands, waiting to throw at someone.” Supposedly it’s a Buddhist expression originally, but like most quotes, there are many iterations of it and they all hold the same basic meaning.
I’d never heard it put so simply but it struck a major chord with me.
So last week, while picking my daughter up from daycare (located less than a mile from my friend’s house), I called her on the phone.
She picked up quickly with a confused but happy “Hello?” and invited us over.
We talked for an hour like we hadn’t skipped a beat. We laughed, teared up, and talked about how adorable my baby was.
She told me how much she had gone through in the past two years and it had been really rough on her. She comes from a long line of beautiful southern people that don’t know how to express themselves very well, just like me. So she’d been spending a lot of time recently peeling back those layers of the onion to try and get to the source of her anxiety, insecurity and ego. I welcomed her to the club and told her it’ll be a lifelong journey for us both — and anyone, really, willing to dig deep into those layers of ourselves that might not look so pretty.
But that hard work is how we all get better.
I asked her why she never reached out and she told me she didn’t think she could. She had no idea that I cared anymore and thought I had just moved on with my life without worrying about it. Little did she know, I’d been stressing myself out about it the whole time. And little did I know that she thought I was so far over it that reaching out to me wouldn’t have worked.
I’d been working on my ego issues for the past year and at the end of the day, I was causing more issues for myself by my holding onto the anger. So I let the coal drop from my hands and called her. Now, I’m so glad I did.
What I learned first through the whole process is that it’s always best to give someone the benefit of the doubt. So many times we make up a narrative in our heads that isn’t in line with the other person’s reality. We don’t know what they are going through or what their perception is, so we shouldn’t base our decisions or beliefs off of our guesses.
We should just simply ask.
I also learned, as convincingly as one can, that anger does nothing but hurt ourselves. When I think of the time I wasted on stress and anger through this situation, when it could have so easily been solved, I’m disappointed in myself for not dropping my ego sooner and solving it.
Finally, it was that damn ego again. If I hadn’t been so stubborn and demanding that she be the one to reach out since she was the one who walked away, maybe I would have had my friend back a long time ago. In order to make amends, or more importantly, move forward with our lives, we must humble ourselves and just be honest — that, or simply let it go.
I’m happy to have my friend again. Her name is in the credits of my movie.
I hope she sees the final product one day.