To my sixth grade best friend,

Maybe our friendship was a good one. Maybe we shared a lot of laughs, and maybe we felt a little bit less lonely only to have known each other. We were both new, after all, and new schools are scary. But looking back, all I seem to remember are the low points. I was awful to you. How can an 11 year old be so cruel?

I remember one day I didn't hang out with you at recess because I thought I was "too cool" for you. But who did that benefit really? Because then we were just wandering around the playground, each of us alone. You made eye contact with me, and I quickly turned around. You seemed so sad. As you should've been.

That didn't last; I believe I ran back to you the next day and we pretended like it didn't happen. Somehow, almost a decade later, amidst a swirling backdrop of fuzzy memories, I remember this scene clear as day. And looking back through older, wiser eyes I'm able to realize something I couldn't as a child: I was jealous of you. You were the cool one. And I guess that made me scared.

I should have voted for you at the storytelling competition. We had adopted a new friend at that point, and the three of us were inseparable. We all made it through the first round, and now we were able to decide who would move on to the finals. We each had two votes. You two, like the decent people you were, voted for each other and me. I voted for our other best friend and some random guy. Not only that, I told you so. "Sorry, I just think his was better." You played it off like it was okay, like it wasn't insulting. But it was. You would never have done something like that to me.

I'm sorry.

I'm glad you made it to the final round.

To the girl who confronted me in the ceramics classroom, saying that she thought I hated her,

I should have corrected you right there, without hesitating first. I shouldn't have frozen like that. Because I didn't hate you. Even then I knew that. A series of unfortunate events happened that sort of just . . . made it seem like I did. The last day of the only class we ever took together I was upset at you because I thought you were excluding someone. Looking back I know that wasn't your intention. I got over this quickly, but the semester ended so you wouldn't have known that.

Another day since then you said hi to me at the mall. I didn't hear you, so it seemed like I was ignoring you. My mom pointed out that someone said hi, and when I turned around, you were already on your way. And this wasn't even the first time something like that happened with us. So I can understand why you thought I hated you. In fact, I should have expected it.

I should have prevented it.

I remember one day you saw me in the hall and complimented my sunglasses. I'm sad that we went through most of middle school and all of high school together and never were able to resolve this. The truth is, you've been nothing but kind to me, even when you thought I hated you.

Kindness. For some reason I've always had a harder time with that. I'm sorry. For everything.

To the girl who spilled milk all over my AP World History textbook sophomore year,

I'm sorry. We didn't know each other very well; we just happened to be sharing a lunch table that day. But because of my reaction, I think you thought I hated you for the rest of high school. I could tell during our infrequent exchanges over the following years, passing each other in the hall and signing each other's yearbooks.

I should've been nicer about it. I was having a bad day. I didn't yell at you or anything, but I sort of just mumbled "it's okay" and stalked off. I could have reassured you. Just know I didn't hate you. I hated myself maybe, but that's no excuse to not be kind. I'm sorry.

To the girl I publicly blasted on social media when I was 15,

To be fair, all of us were pretty dumb in this situation, but that doesn't matter. I was upset, and I should have confronted you privately. I don't think I ever apologized for that because of everything that happened afterwards. Just know that I reflect on this moment all the time, even today. I'm sorry.

To the girl who during that same time was one of my best friends,

I'm sorry for how we ended. I was excluding you. I was awful to you. I should have realized how my actions could have hurt you.

The three of us were all best friends. Then me and her just . . . continued on without you. Some friendships fade away naturally. But this one was on me. I should have included you more. And now we hardly interact.

I just really hope you're doing okay. Sometimes I'll read the beautiful messages you sent me back then, when things were still good, and I'll know that even my current self wouldn't deserve you. Just know that I am so completely grateful for you. I'm sorry you'll never know all the ways you've impacted me.

To the girl from senior year of high school,

What a terrible year, right? I was so caught up with what was going on between me and my best friend that I never apologized for what happened between me and you. I can't quite remember, but I'm pretty sure you said you were sorry for your role. I never did.

I was mad at the wrong person. I couldn't understand why I was being perceived as the bad guy. But now I realize that, if I only knew what you knew about the situation, I would have been upset too. I should have put myself in your shoes. I should've been more understanding. And the thing is, we could have spared ourselves so much heartache if I was. I shouldn't have blamed you. I'm so sorry.

-

I'm not writing these things to beg forgiveness. In fact, I'm sure none of you will ever see this. But I think my current self needs to recognize that, yes, I have made mistakes, but I need to let them go.

Reading this list I feel like the worst person in the world. But these moments don't define me. I am so much more than the mistakes I made growing up. I am so much more than the mistakes I will continue to make. What I am is someone who wants to be better. And while I work on that, I can be patient with myself.

So I suppose this last apology is to me. I'm so sorry it took so long to realize this.

But you know what?

I forgive myself.