Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Would You Like Some Guidance with that Gelato?

Would You Like Some Guidance with that Gelato?  

I was at my favorite gelato (ice cream) shop, hanging out on a sunny winter day. A woman is at the counter, paying for her gelato. I'm hanging back, getting ready to leave. The cashier is telling her about the weather discount, which fluctuates according to the temperature in the winter, and is 7% at the moment. She seems excited, so I casually mention "Oh, it was 11% when I came in." She turns and looks at me and says "I was your guidance counselor in junior high."
So, obviously this was unexpected, but interesting. I think for a minute, trying hard to pull any memories of "junior high school guidance counselor" out of my brain. Her name comes to my mind, and I repeat it. I am right. She seems flattered I remember her name. A long ago experience comes to mind, and I feel compelled to share it with her. It is about a time when I tried to talk to her about all the bullying that I went through that particular year in junior high. But I chickened out and end up talking about my parents' divorce instead, which totally *didn't* bother me but I knew she'd buy that it did. I couldn't find the words to talk about the other thing. For a *very long* time afterwards. Until my stepmom came along, really. =)

For years afterwards it bothered me that I wasn't able to talk about it or seek help when I needed to. Fortunately, thank goodness, I am more than able to talk about my problems, get support and find help now (as is more than evident from my social media posts), and I am thankful for that.

I told her this story in abbreviated form, and she said "Ah. Yes, there was another girl who was being bullied too." Forget the OBVIOUS, OBVIOUS problem with the singular use of that word - one other girl in the whole junior high, yeah right! Forget that, it felt somewhat like a finished chapter in my life. It's not like I've even thought of this incident or chapter of my life in a long time, (although I used to constantly), but I always used to feel like there was something missing because I hadn't been able to address the issues I had then in the way I wanted to.

Literally fifteen years later - fifteen years later!! - in a gelato shop in Portland, Maine on a random winter afternoon, she walks in and I am absolved in the most unexpected way, unburdened of a burden I had almost forgotten I was carrying.

This whole encounter took about five minutes.

And you know what the thing is? I don't remember if it was in high school or immediately after when I was home from college, but I used to go back to the junior high, years ago. I think it was probably sometime mid-high school. I would talk to some of my old teachers. I would try to make some peace with my past there.

It never worked. It never touched the pain. It felt pretty foolish, actually. Can't force healing, I guess.

But 15 years later.... You have to be in a different place in your life, with more perspective and more life experiences, to be able to look at the experiences of your past with empathy and forgiveness for yourself. And although I had already mostly done that for myself, mostly, I didn't mind this little bit of reinforcement. I didn't mind at all getting to finally say 15 years later what I had so much been dying to say when I was 13. I really didn't mind saying it with confidence and grace, not feeling the trauma of the past as I did for so many years, but instead the pride of the present, the pride of who I am now and what I did to overcome it. It actually felt empowering. I suppose it was a reminder of how far I'd come.        
Self-forgiveness and self-empowerment, with a cherry on top.


  1. I absolutely love this post! So cool when stuff like that happens.

  2. That is a great story. I'm so glad you had that encounter, and that chance for closure. You just never know when those opportunities will cross your path.