I fell in love when I was 11 years old. Go ahead… roll your eyes, throw the “yea right’s” at me, whatever! I totally did.
I’m sure you all thought I was going to write about my divorce here. Surprise! Don’t get me wrong, I loved my ex-husband. But our story isn’t at all like the one I’m about to tell you. My ex-husband and I changed who we were to be together, manipulated ourselves to fit the mold of what we thought was “right.” (But, the story is still mine. And still good. And published here if you’re interested.)
This love story is deep and authentic. Me and my first love were so young, so innocent, and so purely ourselves. I often wonder what would’ve happened if we met when we were older… but, can’t dwell on that now can we?
I remember being in the car, my mom was dropping me off at school, and I saw this adorable little blonde kid heading into the building. I said, “He’s got cool hair. I want to date him.”
And so I did.
It took a little back-and-forth, and a whole lot of sending my besties over to ask if he liked me, but eventually, we started “dating.” (You know, whatever that means when you’re in 7th grade!)
Thus began the magical whirlwind of the 8 years of my life that were albeit on-again-off-again in every way, but fully encompassed by my love for… let’s call him, Jeff.
We did everything together; I had all my “firsts” with him. We were both very different, yet somehow through those awkward tween/teenage years, we grew-up as one.
Of course the beginning was silly: awkward school dances, our friends locking us in the basement trying to get us to make out, barely holding hands without giggling, completely ignoring each other during classes, buying each other stuffed animals every single holiday. We broke up every 3-4 months, but always ended up getting back together not long after.
We wrote “I love you ___” on our AIM profiles in big bright letters, we hid in the same place when the neighborhood played manhunt, and I had at least three of his hoodies…. if that’s not love, I don’t know what is!
Things shifted in high school though. Sure, there was new people to look at, and an opportunity to “start fresh,” as single people, but there was always this “pull” between us. We dated other people in-between our break-ups, but we came back together every single time. We knew each other so well, and that made it impossible for anyone else to meet our expectations for a partner. We created each other’s standards, and no one else fit the mold.
He really hated high school, and ultimately decided to attend a military school about 2 hours away from where we lived. It was devastating and I listened to all the heartbreak emo songs on repeat for days. But, weirdly, it brought us closer together. We started writing hand-written letters, and going on real dates when he came home some weekends. He invited me to performances and dances at his school, and since we were older, we actually were proud to be seen together, instead of giggling in opposite corners of the room.
Like I said, we grew-up together. We talked about everything all the time, and as we matured and started understanding our hormones a little better, it was like we didn’t have to look anywhere else because the person that best understood was right there.
We spent actual solid years in a single-run of our relationship for the first time ever, graduating high school still as one.
We continued to experience all our firsts with each other, our families were friends and spent holidays together, his sister was (and still is!) one of my best friends, and we were an “us.”
We were so in love by the end of high school that we started planning our futures together. Could we go to college together? Live together? Get married?
But then, tragedy. In an already confusing and scary time of life, Jeff’s father passed away in a freak accident. Jeff, and his whole family, were derailed. An awful story, that is not mine to tell.
Amidst this devastation, Jeff needed support more than ever before. All of his family did. That’s when what I thought was “true love” dropped into my heart and I understood what it really meant. Actually learning to be there for someone, to understand what makes them feel loved and supported, and to emotionally engage in a grounding way… it was unbelievable. A little silver-lining in the middle of something terrible: we had each other.
That spring was pure bliss. I couldn’t imagine life without him, or without his family. I didn’t know every detail of my future, but I knew it was with him. And I didn’t care where, or how, or what it looked like… I just knew it was going to be us against the world.
But, love doesn’t last.
Just before his father died, Jeff had started considering whether college was right for him. Instead, he wanted to join the marines. But see, he was actually a UK citizen, and that meant he’d be moving to England to follow his dream.
It was very adorable, he was so afraid to tell me. And rightfully so, because I immediately started looking for colleges in London, and we both knew that wasn’t what I really wanted.
But, we did actually love each other… I can’t stress that enough. (Probably because we spent so much effort trying to prove to other people that despite our age, we really did have something real!) And by the time summer rolled around we knew we had to let each other follow our hearts. We didn’t want to wake up 4 years from now resenting each other, and wondering “what if?” Pretty mature decision right?
BUT, no matter how much we tried to convince people otherwise, we were still 17… so naturally, we believed we would survive the distance. I had chosen a school that I loved, and it just so happened they had a mandatory study-abroad program in London within the business school. It was “meant to be.” We could make it work for two years! We’d have holidays, summers, and before we could realize we were apart, I’d be living in London for 4 months. Then just 1.5 more years till we could get married and be together! Piece of cake!
False. We did have a good run there for a while. We talked on the phone, did the video-chat thing, and found little ways to message each other throughout the day, regardless of the time-change.
Inevitably however, our insecurities got the best of us. Messages got further and fewer between, our conversations were getting more surface-level, and we both were feeling a little trapped. So we ended it. As far as I remember, it was pretty amicable.
That is… until we started dating other people. Then we started fighting, getting angry with each other, and having full-on jealous rage matches. Our dream-life was shattering. It wasn’t just on hold this time. It was over.
What do you do when you meet your soul-mate when you’re 11 and he moves to England? Be alone forever, I guess. Because every other man I meet I compare to him. To what we had.
It’s funny though… because I did see him again some time later. And he wasn’t the boy I fell in love with as a kid. He’s married now, with a dog, still in England. And when we ran into each other I realized that I didn’t even really like him now. I couldn’t relate to anything in his life, our conversation was very surface level, and we interacted like strangers caught in an elevator. So much time had passed, we had both changed so much, and I laugh because I came to terms with the fact that the person I compare all my boyfriends too doesn’t actually exist anymore.
What I believed about myself: unworthy, alone, broken, undateable
What I believed about other people: they leave, they change, they lie, they say things that sound good even if they don’t mean it
In an effort to start creating a life in which I thrive, I’ve created a “New Reality.” The purpose of this tool (as described in my previous post) is to reverse-engineer a better, but still true, reality. And I’m going to stare at it, re-read it, and flood my conscious mind with it until I fully believe it, solidifying it in my subconscious.
As always, thank you for the space to be.
This journey has gotten harder with each chapter. There’s a sense of freedom that I’ve felt after each one, yes, but I am also faced with the choice of choosing my new reality every day – – and old habits/patterns of thinking die-hard don’t they?!
This is why I have been unable to post a chapter a week. Because, I refuse to get on with the next chapter before I have fully owned the last one. Real. Life. Authenticity.
See you for Chapter 5. Keep on, MavPack!