This is the first in a series of posts recounting the men that I’ve romantically loved in my life, the differences between them, and what lessons each experience has left with me. In every relationship there are two experiences and each of these posts only intends to capture my personal experience both in and out of each relationship. Please read knowing that each of these men likely also has a story that could very well differ from my own, either in whole or in part, and that their stories are either not known or not expressed on this personal blog.
High school loves belong in a special category all by themselves. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of falling in love for the first time or how you feel as an adult reminiscing on that early love. It’s a special kind of special.
One was the son of the music minister at the big Baptist church in my hometown. He played guitar and wore sandals with anklets un-ironically. I remember watching his foot tap as he played and thinking that the hair on his big toes was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. His raspy voice sang about Jesus and all the girls swooned. That’s small town Texas for you.
I was not Baptist but I started going to the church anyways on Sunday mornings. I still remember the flutters in my chest upon discovering that the worship program contained his name. Soon, Sunday wasn’t enough for me and I started attending Wednesday night student worship. I told everyone it was because Jesus, but secretly, it was so that I’d have more opportunity to be around One. When One took notice of me, it caused a bit of a stir. One was the good boy. The Baptist boy. The boy with all the morals and ethics in the world who everyone assumed should only date his good, Baptist counterpart. I was not that counterpart (by a long shot) but date we did. The town talked and neither of us listened.
Despite the years that have passed, I still smile when when I think about how special I felt when One would bring me donut holes before school or how he would meet me in the hall to escort me to my next class. We once went on a church youth retreat and it was apparent that everyone knew him — and not just the people from our small town. He played on a stage for a sizable crowd and made eyes for me. I felt almost famous by proxy. And while I fell hard for him, looking back I think he always knew that there was a decent chance we wouldn’t work.
One was a year older than me and would embark to college while I completed my senior year. We had numerous conversations about it. When One picked out his college, I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go — I just knew that I wanted to be his. I told One, with certainty, that I too would attend his chosen school in just a year’s time and we’d be reunited. He was skeptical, but I assured him that we’d make do with phone calls and weekend visits. One never seemed very certain of my plans, but he carefully navigated the choppy waters of both loving and supporting me while also not committing himself to me indefinitely.
I recall One once asking if his chosen school offered a program for what I wanted to do and I assured him that I’d find a good fit regardless of what they offered. In retrospect, he was clearly inviting me to explore what I wanted to be rather than who I wanted to be with. But in the mind of a love-struck 17 year-old girl, those questions are hardly distinguishable.
A few weeks before his graduation, he came over to my house and called it off. He told me that he loved me and I believed him. I still do. He told me that high school love was an amazing thing but that if it was meant to be, it would come back around when we were both out of high school. I cried. He was sympathetic. He held me and promised that I was going to be alright. That he would too. And that in the end, we’d both find a path that was right for us. He said maybe that path was each other, but it would be okay if it wasn’t.
I don’t mean to give the impression that One was perfect. He wasn’t. He was a teenage boy who struggled with typical teenage boy things like the rest of them. But looking back, One never once made me a promise that he didn’t follow through on and I think I appreciate that most about him. In the end, he was right. Our paths have been wildly different. I didn’t end up going to the college that One picked out and can honestly say that doing so would have been a terrible mistake for me. My life would be radically different and not in a good way. One ultimately dropped out of college, left the church, and took his musical act on the road. He lives a life that makes him happy and fulfilled though it is a life that could never in a million years offer me either happiness or fulfillment.
I both loved One and was in love with him. I’ve learned over the years that those two things aren’t always linked. As for him, I think that One loved me too and I think he was as “in love” as he could be considering that he knew from the beginning we had a shelf life. One taught me that love should be honest. One taught me that love can be short lived without being temporary. But most importantly I think, One taught me that love means wanting your partner to love themselves. It was hard for me to see myself in the haze of our hormone filled year together, but One never lost sight of me and always sought to remind me that I should spend time learning who I was and what I wanted outside of our time together.
Though I am happy we live separate lives today, I can’t say that I regret a single moment that we had together. And yes, a small piece of me will always love him. But more importantly, a bigger piece of me will always be grateful to him because in the end, he taught me how to love.
“Loving you is like being ten years old again, scaling a tree with my eyes bright and skyward, wanting only to get higher and higher, without a thought of how I would get back down.”
– Lang Leav