An Open Letter to a Lost Friend

Dear Lost Friend,

I won’t post your name here because you can definitely see it’s meant for you when you read this. Besides, privacy is important. However, I wish other people could take home a few lessons from our brief encounter so that they would not repeat my mistakes.

It’s been a year since we met over email. I mean, I was so happy that you would give me your personal email address. At that time I was inspired to connect with people thanks to the book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. You were what he called a “super-connector”, so it would have been superb to have connected with you. I had high hopes: we might have been able to meet for dinner, we could have exchanged mutually beneficial contacts, you could have been a mentor to so many youths I used to mentor, and we could have made excellent friends because we had several common interests, including mathematics, reading and writing. When I asked if you had Skype, I was on the verge of also breaking my own rules and asking if we could also connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. I usually do not connect over those platforms unless I have met the people in question in person. I was hoping for a real connection, and you seemed friendly up till that point. That I was able to interact with someone whose name I had only known through the news before made me elated.

I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to interact with me in person, but what I did know was that things took a turn for the worse after you replied “Not really!” when asked if you used Skype. I had no idea why you would suddenly stop responding to my emails, just that being ignored bothered me. I didn’t believe that you would “gossip” — is that too strong a word? — to a mutual friend about my emails — I am not an annoying person to start with, and besides, I’m fine with people confronting me personally if they had a grievance. No need for middle-men. However, I agree with Maya Angelou when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Except that I somehow made you feel irritated, and I wish I could say sorry for that appropriately. It was in April when I learnt that if I contact someone who does not respond even at my third attempt, I am supposed to stop. Consciously I knew that I had to stop, but I didn’t realise I was still hoping that you would be nice to me until it was too late. I’m really sorry for all the emails I sent off after you stopped responding to me. Our mutual friend never told me was that you would maintain your respect for me if I had stopped writing, and that was what I needed to hear at the time!

You eventually wrote back, sugarcoating it with the pleasant fact that we once corresponded to each other, but the main point was that you didn’t want to hear from me again. I was devastated, not least because you, a super-connector, banned me from writing back even though we have never met in person. What if we did meet in person? What if business brought us together again? LinkedIn keeps asking me if I know you, but I know that you would kill me if I clicked your Connect button. Would you want to slaughter me so that you would feel better? I never wanted or expected our relationship to just end like this. I thought of the dinner we could have had together (because in July you were in my backyard), more books we could have shared, the connections we could have made, plus so much more. All gone because I didn’t see where I was headed.

From my counsellor, I learnt that you intended (and may still intend) to give me a hard time if I reached out again. Since you last wrote back, I have been terrified of trying new things, while I could see that you are still living the life you’re comfortable with, connecting with new people, except that the Follow button has disappeared from your Facebook profile, so you’re no longer open to people who want a slice of your learning. I am now afraid to open myself up again, lest I lose the other person. I also made friends with people you happen to know, and I cringe at the idea of asking them about you. In the past I would be happy to talk to other people, but now I am ashamed of my awkward silence when I come together with other people in maths and otherwise. Some old folks tell me to try everything; I know that if I tried just one thing — writing back, you wouldn’t be forgiving, and I don’t blame you because you’re not of my faith.

I wish we had maintained the friendly exchange we initiated last year. I wouldn’t give up on the prospect that we might meet again in the future and not bring up the past. In the meantime, however, I just want to say that you changed my life forever. I am no longer the happy and confident girl that initiated contact with you. Now I am wary of everything, including mathematics, for fear that I would cause you to further devastate me. I can’t even listen to my favourite energetic music lest I suddenly write back. I might have wanted to get my way in networking, but we both lost in the end. I was too eager to connect, and I lost you.

A belated “Happy birthday” to you and wishing you the best for your further studies. I know you read the two books I mentioned to you. I miss you — the original you last year.