A couple months ago, I sat on the upper level of Dark Horse Expresso Bar on Spadina Avenue awaiting a final conversation with my soon to be ex-best friend.
While we spoke about about the cracks in our own friendship, I realized a long running flaw that has been present in all of my relationships. I was emotionally manipulative. Something clicked as we spoke over sips of my over concentrated tea and I understood that for years I had been working my mental health to my advantage so as not to be accountable for my actions. It was part of the reason that the friendship in front of me was ending. I used my mental health as an excuse to avoid conflict or commitments I no longer felt I could keep. It was something I did often in our friendship. My ability to be accountable was too delayed, too many times.
I didn’t deal with conflicts head on, and while forgiveness is possible when combined with disregard, it is difficult to forgive someone who hasn’t admitted what they’ve done. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s not enough to be accountable months later. With that in mind, my mind scoured for all the times that I failed to admit a wrong and all the ways that people diffuse accountability. For instance when we blame past errors on our youth, we’re attempting to bypass responsibility all together by disassociating with the person who made that decision in the first place: our younger self. We’re not the same person we were then so we can’t be held responsible. Like a lot of my peers I was bystander to bullying when I was younger, even though I was old enough to understand insecurity and pain. I was teased myself but it didn’t stop me from running away from the over weight boy in elementary school, and screaming along with my classmates when he came close. I even watched my male friends run up to poke him and run away, chasing the girls with their infected hand. I can’t excuse that behaviour on my child hood. Nobody can.
However, for the purpose of personal growth I don’t think there is such thing as “too late”. You can accept accountability for an earlier error in your life. That’s how we learn what is wrong and right, what we want from relationships and what we’re able to put into them. We simply must acknowledge that for our peers, waiting is not always an option. They may be happy for your growth, but unwilling to forgive after so much time has passed. Such is the problem with apologizing for our younger selves, or excusing behaviour on a state of mind. Going forward I can only try harder; to be aware of my actions and acknowledge errors as they happen, instead of months later; to be accountable in my relationships.