Dear Thelma: I dealt with drama, crushes and betrayal, all in the first year of university

  • Malaysia
  • Sunday, 29 Dec 2019

I am a student. I started university last year. I’m a guy who is always careful with words, actions, and decisions. I’m a pious person as well.

As I was new to university life at that time, I was scared of many things. One day, during the first few weeks in university, I made a new friend by the name of Clara, who is a few years older than me. We became friends. Whenever I had problems or needed advice, I would go to her.

At the same time, I had a crush on her as well. But having a crush is normal, so eventually my crush for her subsided. I’m not the kind of guy who is into relationships; I’m straight but I don’t want to have that kind of responsibility in my university life.

But one day, another friend of mine (let’s call him James) texted me and told me he had a crush on her. I have read stories, and watched movies and TV shows – whenever two people like the same person, it never ends well.

James shared with me the qualities he liked about her. The more he told me, the more my crush towards her decreased. Maybe there was jealousy and ego; I had mixed feelings at that time.

One day, I had a nightmare about Clara, which I shared with two people (Melanie and Ethan) whom I thought I could trust. I also shared with them my dilemma and accidentally quoted a “very uncomfortable” statement made by James.

A week later, James told me that Clara knew and she felt that I had taken advantage of her. By that time, it was exam week and the holidays were coming, I could not do anything but wait for the next semester.

When the new semester started, I bumped into her and apologised for what I did. She said she was OK but did not feel comfortable with me because of something I had said; I didn’t know what it was that I said.

I felt sad and that mentally affected me throughout the semester. I tried to apologise to her multiple times until she felt harassed at one point.

I sought the help of a few friends I can trust. Finally, my friends and I, and Clara and her friends came together to discuss this. The conversation didn’t end well. She felt harassed and did not want to have anything to do with me.

Months have passed, and this matter has haunted me until today. I tried to stay safe and avoid drama, crushes, betrayal and problems, and yet I got it all within my first year. I shared my problem with my family, friends and a teacher from my former high school, and my other group of friends at university. They gave me moral support.

I tried to keep myself busy, but it still haunts me. It was all accidental and never intentional. I never expected this to happen. I wished I never met James; maybe then I would not be in this mess. Am I a bad person? Do I deserve this or maybe I have played safe for far too long?

Mr Remorseful

You had feelings for a girl and that’s fine. Your friend James liked her too, and that’s also fine. Clara sounds like a nice woman.

However, you decided Clara was less likeable because James admired her. I’m concerned about that. You didn’t want a relationship but you didn’t want James to admire Clara. It’s not a generous attitude.

Still, emotions are complex sometimes and if you’d kept it to yourself, it would have been okay. We all think some less-than-stellar thoughts sometimes.

Confiding in friends was sensible and It was a shame they gossiped. They should have respected your confidence.

Having said that, you have to take responsibility for the rest.

You tell the story from a me-me-me point of view. This is how it sounds to me.

Clara told you that you made her uncomfortable and she asked you to leave her alone. You ignored her boundaries. That is disrespectful.

You kept pushing. And when you didn’t get what you wanted, you got your friends and all of you harassed her to the point where she felt forced to meet you.

How do you think Clara felt through all of this? Did you ever try and put yourself in her place? Did nobody in your circle point out that she is the victim here?

You say that you feel remorse but you are still in denial because you blame James. That is not right. You chose to behave this way; James has nothing to do with it.

Were you wrong? Yes, definitely. Are you a bad person? No. You are still young and young people make errors of judgement.

As an adult, you now have to accept that making mistakes is human and that it’s okay, as long as you take responsibility and strive to do better.

Here are the steps you must take.

First, stay away from Clara. Respect her boundaries.

Second, visit the counselling centre at your college. Ask them to set up a workshop that explores personal boundaries and harassment. Be sure to tell them that they need to include gender issues in this, because I suspect you would have treated Clara with a lot more respect if she’d been male.

When the counselling people offer the workshop, go. And take your friends with you. You all need to learn to do better, and if you all do it together, you can help each other.

Finally, as you are at college where counselling is free, I think it would be useful if you set a regular personal appointment to discuss friendships and relationships. I say this because it is clear that you were oblivious to Clara’s feelings. Working through some empathy exercises will be of great help to you.

Also, there are parts of the letter that don’t make a lot of sense, such as the influence of dreams and believing what you see on television. It suggests that you have some tangled ideas that would benefit from having a safe space to talk things out.

Look, you did a daft thing but you can turn this around and be a better person because of it. So drop any ego, take the advice and turn this into a learning experience.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11,46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME, ADDRESS AND A PSEUDONYM. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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Dear Thelma , crush , betrayal , relationship , friendship


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