I don't know why it is that my most profound spiritual revelations happen on trains, but there's no denying the trend.
I just finished good quality time (almost 4 hours) with one of those friends who makes you feel most profoundly yourself. I floated down into the Red Line station, awash in feelings of realness and gratitude, when an older woman asks me if I can help her get to Millennium Park. And I freeze. Because I know she won't recognize me, but I recognize her immediately.
She's the mother of my middle-school archenemy - the girl who made/whom I let make me feel so badly about myself that those feelings have echoed through the ages. The girl I blame for lost friendships, lost sleep, and lost worthiness. The girl I hated and admired at the same time. And whose mother, I believed, held those same feelings toward my mother, who had the grace to never really engage in that. The girl who made me feel like nothing.
I eventually introduced myself to my middle-school nemesis' mother and oddly felt none of the things I'd expected. I am myself and am so far from home that there's little that could hurt me now. We played catch up, briefly, as I tried to point out that she was headed in the wrong direction. And during that catch-up, I asked about my nemesis, prepared to feel the same jealousy I always feel when I ask about "golden children." And she does have things I don't - children, a partner. But I learned, right before her mother stepped off the train, that her father is dying of terminal cancer and lives with her.
It was like being socked in the gut. I have carried this girl's actions so far into my life, only to find that we've lost/are losing the same things. None of that competition got us anywhere, except to a space that neither of us, I'm betting, would wish on our worst enemies. Which she stopped being, officially, as soon as I heard that. Hearing that helped me remember that, in high school, she got treated like shit by the new in-crowd. Hearing that helped me remember that, while she shouldn't have hurt me like she did, I used that hurt to turn around and victimize a whole bunch of people who should also never have been hurt. Hearing that reminded me that comparing myself to a person I have seen in over 15 years only hurts me, and helps me forget that we all gain things and lose them - that's the deal humanity has struck. The only things we get to carry always are grace, forgiveness, and the ability to love.
All of this time I wasted, and continue to waste, measuring up to other people, counting and cataloguing hurts, blaming others when I fall down - I get none of that time back. And there are so many things I want to do with my life. I can't afford to waste time anymore.
So, to that girl, wherever she lives - I am sorry. I am sorry for carrying a distorted picture of you around. I am sorry for envying what you had then. And I am most sorry for what you are losing now. We neither of us deserve it, which makes us more alike than either of us might have imagined...