Recently, I received an e-mail from an old friend from high school. I hadn't seen or spoken to her in person in almost twenty years (God, that makes me want to immediately apply anti-aging cream to my face). We'd exchanged e-mails for a while after graduation, and then we lost touch. She must have Googled my name because she sent the e-mail to my work address (there's a picture and profile of me on my school's website).
The message was brief and didn't really reveal anything about her life. Ordinarily, I would have e-mailed her back. When I joined Facebook, I received (and accepted) multiple friend requests from old high school friends and classmates, including people I barely talked to when we were teenagers. But this time, it was different.
When I didn't respond, she sent another e-mail a couple days later saying that she "wouldn't bother me anymore" but that she viewed me as one of her best friends. She also mentioned a few sad things that had happened in her life, which made me feel like she was trying to make me feel guilty for not responding.
She clearly has a selective memory in regards to our friendship. We were friends, but she spent much less time with me once she met her boyfriend, who came home from college almost every weekend to see her. I was only fifteen at the time, but even I could tell that it was unhealthy to let your life revolve around just one person. Our lives went in opposite directions after high school. While I moved away to attend college, earn my master's degree and PhD, and become a teacher, she married her boyfriend soon after high school and had children.
Why didn't I write back? I won't go into all the details, but let's just say that before I joined Facebook, I did a Google search of her and some other old friends, because I was curious about how they were doing. I found the usual information: their LinkedIn pages, wedding websites, pictures of their children, etc. When I Googled Old Friend's name, I found her mug shots (and that's right, I mean mug shots as in plural), as well as her details about her criminal record.
What I found shocked and scared me. I couldn't believe that the shy person I'd once been friends with would even be capable of committing crimes like that. She's not in prison now, though she did spend a little time in jail.
I wasn't sure about whether or not to respond to her e-mail at first. What was I supposed to say? "Hi, how are you? I mean apart from all the felonies?"
She still lives in the same town where we grew up, and most of the people there have steered clear of her, due to the damage caused by her actions. I suspected that she must be pretty lonely if she's seeking me out after all this time. But that still wasn't enough to motivate me to e-mail her back.
Another friend suggested that I send her one e-mail back and say that I didn't feel comfortable reconnecting, given her circumstances. But I thought that might hurt her feelings even more.
Part of me thinks that I should feel sorry for her, but I feel more pity for the people who she hurt. I feel angry at her for doing those things. She had all these options, and she chose the worst one. I know that I shouldn't judge her, especially since I don't know all the details of her life. But it's hard not to, given the circumstances.
What about you? Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance with a troubled past try to reconnect with you? What did you do, or what would you do?
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