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I was talking with a person who asked me for advice on a tricky situation, in which she felt that it was necessary for her to switch teams. By doing so, she was afraid that she might offend certain people. “Explain and explain more.” I said to her, “you’d rather err on the side of too much explanation, too much details than on the side of insufficient communication.” As I was saying this, I felt that I am probably the least qualified person to say such a thing since I’m an introvert who doesn’t communicate as much as I should. Sometimes I feel like a fraud, who gives people an idea, which I myself cannot practice, or at least cannot practice adequately.
And I cannot help but recall an incident. Many years have passed, but I still remember it. I know I will never forget it as long as I live, often with a pang of regret of what I did, or didn’t do, at the time. It happened in the boarding school I was attending at the time. By the way, it was a very bad boarding high school located hundreds of miles from home. I went there only because I hated my parents, who were narcissistic and uncaring. Although the school was bad, it was still a better choice than staying home.
Anyway, it was the second month of my freshman year in the high school. One evening, when I came back to the dorm, two of my classmates suddenly burst upon me, accusing me of treating them badly. I was very astonished. I couldn’t understand why they said what they said. I didn’t have much interaction with these two girls. By the way these two girls share the same dorm room with me. Our boarding was arbitrarily assigned by our teachers and we didn’t have a say about who we wanted to board with. Anyway, I liked two other girls in another doom room, and I usually went with them as a group. I was thinking that probably my roommates thought I was neglecting them.
On top of the friendship issues, there was also a dialect issue. I was the only student in my class who came from the north and who didn’t speak the local dialect. Other students, even if their homes were a hundred miles away, all spoke the local dialect. For this reason, I was usually quiet when my roommates talked about one thing or another at night.
The two girls talked very angrily for 10 minutes and finally one of them mentioned a sentence I wrote in my diary. I suddenly realized why they said I mistreated them–they had read my diary and thought certain sentences I wrote were about them. I didn’t know what to say since I didn’t even have an opinion about my roommates, good or bad. I couldn’t remember what I wrote in my diary, but I was very sure I didn’t mention them at all.
Eventually the two angrily girls settled down and we all went to bed. The second day, I pulled out my diary, which I should have locked into my cabinet but didn’t. I reviewed the ten pages I had written during the one month period, and couldn’t find one sentence about these two girls at all. I wrote about how I hated this school, its boring curriculum, its ancient Japanese windows that couldn’t be open or shut easily, its rote memory style of learning. “Everything is so stupid. I hate this place.” I claimed at the end of my diary entries.
Then it suddenly dawned on me that the two girls could report me to the school, telling them that I hated the school, which was not a real violation of school rules, but still it was an embarrassment and didn’t reflect well on me. On second thought, probably they wouldn’t dare to do that since if they did that, they would have to admit that they searched my cabinet without my permission, which was against the school rules.
The two girls hated me and refused to speak to me from then on, and I pretended nothing had happened. Just like back home, we swept many things under the carpet as if they didn’t exist. Fortunately, I did very well in exams and soon I was transferred to a more advanced class and changed my dorm room accordingly.
Every time I thought about this incident, I felt guilty. Why didn’t I pull out my diary and ask the girls which sentences I wrote really offended them? Why didn’t I talk with the two girls to understand what was on their mind? Why didn’t I sort things out? Why didn’t I ask them questions?
Now looking back, I understand that at the time I had already developed into a “grey rock” to fight against my narcissistic parents. According to Google, grey rocking is a technique used to divert a toxic person’s behavior by acting as unresponsive as possible when you’re interacting with them. However my roommates, I guess, were offended by my “grey rock” persona and thought I disliked them and had something against them. Probably they even wanted to communicate with me, albeit with a very aggressive and ineffective method. Well… they were just two 14-year-olds, and their attitudes and manners were too rough and juvenile to solicit any real communication.
I feel sorry for what I did…well…for what I didn’t do. I should have explained to them. The two girls were not my type, but still they were good girls. They deserved my explanation. And my avoiding them only made the situation worse. At the time, I was behaving in a way exactly like how people behaved in my own family–avoiding, detaching, being indifferent, being silent.
Now I think about it–it is so simple and I could have connected with these two girls so much better. However for years, I couldn’t see it as it was. For years, I thought they should apologize to me for searching my cabinet and reading my diary; for years, I thought I was the victim of their “mean girl” persecution. For years I was so blind.
6 thoughts on “Remember A Regrettable Event”
The question I want to ask is why they looked in your diary in the first place.
Of course maturity is an issue and, while maybe communication could have help, I think you did the right thing. Some people have personal issues that drive them bananas.
Yes – I can relate to this. In such a situation it’s almost as if existential panic grips me. I have a ready, good and obvious response but what if it falls on stony ground? There will be no third party to adjudicate. Also the response is so just and obvious that I may fluff it like an easy catch in a ball game!
The two girls are probably kicking themselves for giving you the silent treatment for some imagined or significant slight. Maybe they too hate the school and everything about it in hindsight and feel gullible.
Diary is a personal thing that nobody else should read. Anyway I agree that the issue should have been sorted out by talking to each other. A beautiful reflection, Haoyan!
Maybe you should go a little easy on yourself? You were just a teenager, too. You didn’t have the life experiences and didn’t know back then the things you know now.