Awkward moment causes epiphany

Anna Wright


photo illustration by Maddy Jones
photo illustration by Maddy Jones

It was 1:20 p.m. on a Friday. I was on AUT, and all I could think about was getting home. Exhausted, I was more than ready to change into sweatpants, collapse onto the couch with a bag of Gardettos and allow Netflix to lure me, once again, into a semi-conscious state of laziness.

Just as I was leaving the girls’ bathroom, moments before I planned on going home, I saw a former friend standing in front of the mirror with tears streaming down her face. She was trembling and visibly distressed, and her red, swollen eyes avoided mine as she tried to hide the anguish that she had clearly not intended for me to witness.

As I stood at the sink awkwardly washing my hands, a battle raged in my head while I tried to decide whether I should say something. On one hand, I wanted to be kind. I wanted to do the right thing and ask her if she was OK. After all, it was only two years earlier that we were close friends, hanging out and sharing secrets. Only two years ago, I would have been the one she was crying to, relaying her inner turmoils as I counseled her.

But we were no longer friends. Our relationship faded with age and separation, leaving us in that delicate state of never knowing whether or not to wave in the halls or acknowledge one another’s presence in a public encounter. If I said something, I might be overstepping boundaries. It might make things awkward and would certainly postpone my much-needed Netflix and snacking marathon. It would mean stepping out of my comfort zone and risking an uncomfortable situation for the sake of another human’s feelings.

In the end, I did nothing. I hastily dried my hands and hurried out the door, as if I didn’t notice her sobbing three feet away. Rushing to my car, I quickly began to rationalize my actions in my head, telling myself I had made the right decision and that it would have been weird and inappropriate to stick my nose into her life when I was no longer a part of it.

I figured that my saying something could have irritated her and portrayed me as being intrusive. But this rationalization didn’t keep the guilt from creeping in. I had put myself first in an extremely selfish manner by choosing to bypass an awkward encounter instead of sacrificing two minutes of my Netflix marathon in order to make sure this girl was OK.

Dozens of memories ran through my mind of instances when I was in a position similar to that of this girl.

Instances where someone could have reached out a hand and offered their help or support to me, but chose not to. Being kind to others is a philosophy which I wholeheartedly agree with and try my best to follow, so I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly guilty for surpassing an opportunity to do exactly that.

In high school, events such as this occur far too often. It seems that everyone is too concerned with others’ perception of them to always do the right thing. But the self-conscious nature of teenagers shouldn’t keep us from looking out for one another, even if it means putting ourselves out there and allowing the possibility of embarrassing ourselves. If any age group needs the occasional reminder that they aren’t alone or that someone cares, it is high schoolers.

We are emotionally insecure and could almost always use a little reassurance from our peers.

I wish I would have said something to her. I wish I would have at least offered up a smile of compassion and asked if there was anything I could do to help. The world would be an infinitely better place if we would put the feelings of others before our own petty comfort zones and choose to do what we know is ultimately the right thing to do.

So we need to swallow our pride, circumvent our fear of being perceived as nosy or overly bold and seize every opportunity we have to display a gesture of kindness towards another. These small but amicable expressions of humanity and kindness can often mean more than we realize.
By Anna Wright
Would you want a former friend to reach out to you if you were having a bad day?