A few months ago one of my best friends from high school, Jessica*, reconnected with me. We were best friends since our freshman year, but after not addressing hurt feelings for years and our own bad behavior (mine) our friendship died the year I graduated college. We’ve begun to rebuild our friendship and catch up on our lives since our hiatus. During one of our talks, we mentioned our impending class reunion and I was overcome with feelings of dread. For the most part, high school was pretty good for me, until the last quarter of my last semester. I was friends with pretty much everyone at the school, but I had my core group of friends that began to deteriorate near graduation. A frenemy, who I truly thought was a friend, began to bash me to our mutual friends. Usually, if someone knows you well enough you expect for people to speak up for you, but the advantage that my frenemy had (that I didn’t recognize until after I went to college) was that my friends weren’t really friends with each other. Though I had my group of best friends, the only common denominator was me. If we all hung out, it was because I was there. They never called each other independently of me. So it was easy to drop a nugget of deception in one of their ears, because my frenemy was only seeing part of the story, and when there are holes in a situation, people usually fill them up with negativity.
I was the villain, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. But when I would ask people around me what I should do, their answer was always: “Just let it go. Don’t even address it.” But it was eating me up, because it seemed like my silence would fuel the rumors, the lies, and with that people began to add on. I went from being a friend, to being some type of dictator that my frenemy’s cohort would even begin to tell my old teachers once I graduated and left the school. It was a mess, especially for the fact that I’m an extremely passive person, but I’m very dynamic, so I began to question myself. Is my personality that overbearing? Am I really brainwashing/bullying people to do what I want them to? Is there something wrong with me? Jessica and one of my other best friends would reassure me that I wasn’t this monster, but the damage in my mind was already done.
I honestly think that it influenced me so much that it’s what propelled my drive to get out of my hometown, taking any and every job all across the US just to avoid running into someone from that time and hearing: “Oh hey! How are you? The last time I heard about you [insert frenemy's name here] said that you karate chopped some nuns and set fire to an orphanage? What’s that about?”
So when we had a recent flush of Janet Hubert articles in March, I could identify with her situation. I could feel her anger, her frustration of the fact that even though the situation had ended 20 years ago, she came off as a villain. No matter how she tried to reverse the situation and tell her side of the story, she comes off as erratic and the fact that her former cast members of the show are silent, the holes are filled by a negative view point on her.
It’s hard when a reputation proceeds you, or it’s built on assumptions, rather than facts. Though there are many explanations on how things happened, the full story never gets told and you’re the one left with the pain, and the constant questioning of: “What happened?” You’re the one stewing in self-doubt and the realization that a resolution will never come because when there’s only one side of a story, people don’t want to discuss it. They just want to hold on to their preconceived notions about you.
Dealing with that incident was very isolating for me, but I can’t imagine how it is for Janet, due to the fact that when she tries to move on, her career is still defined by the questions and lack of answers. But as time moved on, in my situation, people did too, and eventually the pain is subsiding. I just hope the same for Ms. Hubert, some day.