Okay, it’s not as bad as it sounds, but kind of.
Here’s the story: So my summer in New York, myself and another intern came up with a project for all the interns. We wanted to put together an online blog where we got to tell our experience to readers. Great idea! Even better, the editors liked it! We were set to go. We rounded up all the interns in the office, got their stories, edited them and met with the online team (very grown up, if I do say so myself).
Last, but certainly not least, it was photo time. We needed images of ourselves to go along with our project. I ransacked my closet looking for the perfect outfit. A girl needs to look good, right? Well, out of the 50 or so dresses I own, I couldn’t find anything to wear. I wanted to look mature in my New York state of mind. After all, thousands of online readers were going to see this, but more importantly, people back home would see it. When I say “people back home,” I mean person back home. A guy. There was a guy back in Oklahoma still pulling on my 20-year-old heart strings and I needed to catch his attention.
Well, what caught my attention was a red dress that one of my roommates had bought several weeks before. We all agreed, as an apartment, how great she looked in it. I had in my mind that if I was to win this guy back, I had to look killer in this online photo. Not only did I need to look great, I needed THAT dress.
So I asked. I knew the dress was new so she might be a little hesitant, but she had worn it already, once or twice. Maybe she’d throw me a bone. Also, out of the four of the roommates, I was the second most responsible, after her. We let each other borrow things. We exchanged flat irons and shoes from time to time. This was my thought process as to why it would be okay to borrow the dress.
Imagine my disappointment, when I asked my roommate and she hesitated. Let’s be honest, it was basically a no, but I only heard “I’m not really sure about that.” I think I may have said, I’ll check again with you in the morning and see how you feel. Well, the next morning came, and my roommate wasn’t awake when it was time for me to leave. I waited to ask her, but I had to go (or I may have left early to miss her). So I took the dress and brought an extra change of clothes. Fast forward about 30 minutes later, my roommate was awake and was fully aware of the missing dress.
As I sat at my desk, reading her reprimanding messages, I felt so guilty. I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere. I apologized profusely and told her I would go change right away. What had brought me to this? Why had I twisted a series of events in my head to tell myself that something that was clearly wrong was right? I felt terrible.
I brought the dress home later and was so embarrassed that I couldn’t say anything to her. After a few days of awkward silence, when the tension had reached its peak, she eventually confronted me about it. In my embarrassment, I listened, shook my head and agreed with her as she said “I don’t want this to turn into a bigger deal than it needs to be.”
Fast forward two years later, I am glad to say that I have matured since then. In summer 2011, I wasn’t able to be honest about my real motives. I had convinced myself that I really liked the dress and just wanted to look nice. The truth is, I took it to impress a guy. Lesson learned: Never work so hard to impress someone else that you end up doing something outside of your character.
My roommates and I pre-Dress Debacle 2011
My old roommate and I still talk from time to time via text, but I cannot say that the friendship is exactly the same. Every time we do talk, in the back of my head, I am thinking, “She hates me! She thinks I am the worst person alive!!” I just recently came to the realization as to why I really took the dress and was able to own my insecurities. I randomly decided to share my “Oprah aha moment” with my old roommate in a text message a few weeks ago. Another lesson learned: Bringing up old wounds (especially for which you have already apologized) probably isn’t the best idea. It’s okay to stop apologizing.
Here’s also what I learned: It is possible that my roommate may never forgive me. It is very possible that my reputation and character in her eyes is forever a little tarnished. I get it. Yes, I screwed up. I made a mistake. I chose to do something that was wrong, knowing that it was wrong and did it anyway. I disregarded someone’s property and boundaries. I messed up. But am I terrible person? No.
While my roommate may have long been over the dress debacle of 2011 and me bringing it up two years later was awkward, I have held onto it all this time. I now know that there is something more important than getting people to forgive me and that is learning to forgive myself.
Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou
I am 22 years old. I have made a lot of dumb choices, and the truth is, I am probably going to make a few more in this lifetime. No matter how embarrassing, awkward and messy they may be, mistakes are necessary to help us learn. The dress debacle of 2011 was a wake up call. 20-year-old Stephanie had some growing to do. I needed to get to the root of why I was chasing some guy and so eager for his attention that I would hurt a friend. Here’s my truth: I took someone’s dress to impress a guy. Here’s the catch: HE PROBABLY NEVER SAW THE PICTURE! (Joke is on me!) And even if he did, it wasn’t worth it.
I messed up. I own that and, as I type these words, I am laughing at my bad choice and cringing with embarrassment. We all make mistakes. The only way to grow is to face them head on. Own your mistakes, every last ounce of them. Say, “Yes, I did that. I made that bad choice. I hurt that person. I told a lie.” Then, you can start digging a little deeper as to why you made that choice in the first place. You will find that the answer isn’t because you’re a dumb or bad person.
Don’t walk around for two years, carrying the shame of a bad choice. We’ve all been there. Show yourself a little forgiveness and grace. After you have messed up, realized your mistake and said your most sincere apologies to those involved, forgive yourself. Stop apologizing. Move forward. And now that you know better, do better.
P.S. Apparently, taking someone else’s clothes to impress a guy isn’t new. Watch this clip from one of my favorite shows: The Cosby Show.