I hold grudges. I also think there are two kinds of people who can’t hold grudges: The first are lovely girls whose exes break their hearts and reach out to get back together with them two months later. This type often says, “I don’t hold grudges.” The second category includes respectable, mature people who have a keen grasp of Christian charity. Whether or not this forgiving nature stems from a particular theology, these people have the ability to brush off particular events and move on.
Not me. Part of my learning curve has been to identify those who have hurt me and not let them be part of my life. For some, this means to forgive and forget. But I acknowledge that some things you just can’t move past.
When I got sick with cancer, I immediately knew who my real friends were. I can still remember who came out of the woodwork to send me a message that I didn’t expect. An acting teacher and a camp counselor both sent me multiple-paragraph Facebook messages and even followed up. A high school jock sent me a silk scarf in the mail and a handwritten note saying he simply felt he should do whatever he could to make me smile. A close friend who had stopped talking to me apologized. A USC friend sent me a weighted blanket.
My ex-boyfriend Hal said nothing. Hal and I had been incredibly close friends for over a year before anything happened between us. He had a crush on me for six months junior year, and I didn’t like him back. Then, I had a crush on him for six months, and he started dating someone else. Soon after they broke up, Hal held my hand during a movie on my high school campus. We kissed the next week. We broke up a year later to go to college.
Over winter break our freshman year, we had an incredibly awkward reunion. But when I got sick a year later, I expected my first love to go beyond liking my bald profile picture on Facebook.
I expected one of my closest friends from high school to send me at least one word of support. Instead, two months after treatment, he
In the apology, he said “I” or “me” 23 times. He said “you” only half of that. Beyond the statistics of his message, I could feel him placating his own guilt. My senior year of high school, we wrote our future selves notes to open at our five-year reunion. I remember writing how in love with Hal I was, and telling future me to go hug him and say “hi” at the reunion. I plan on doing that if we’re both there, but I also sadly now have the answer high school me was never looking for. I wrote to myself that I couldn’t imagine he’d do anything that would keep him from being something special to me. But he ignored me when I was sick. I will never forget that. And I am unashamed that I demand more than he gave in order to fully forgive.
So one of my grudges is against Hal. It doesn’t hurt me at all anymore. But I will not let it go until he volunteers me the energy I deserved for the six months I was so sick that I couldn’t read a book, walk up a flight of stairs or ride public transit. Must I let go of the hurt of his inaction in order to be considered a good person?
Hal didn’t even know if I was going to recover.
My second most persistent grudge is against Kat. She was great to me during treatment — she sang me a song and flew out to walk for a fundraiser with me. When I think about all that, forgiveness seeps in. But three months after treatment, when I returned to Los Angeles, my life
recently saved by chemotherapy, she said something truly insensitive. She made a remark against medicine advancement. To me, the pain of losing a friend was gentler than the pain of knowing a friend would so
deeply misunderstand the most pivotal moment of my life.
When I was sick, I desperately needed love — but I also needed medicine. I hope that one day curing cancer won’t mean the constant injection of terrible chemicals. But it does for now. And I believe that chemotherapy’s downsides are worth it for the lives it saves. I am unapologetic for not being able to be around people who believe otherwise.
I hold a couple of other grudges. They all lie in a moments when I realized something deep about the essence of my relationship with someone. The persistent resentment only pangs me once in a while now. I believe that it’s OK for someone to leave your life. I feel stronger for letting go, even if I don’t forget.
Emma Andrews is a senior majoring in international relations. Her column, “Before & After,” runs Fridays.