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We’ve all heard, “You never stop loving your first love.”
I think that holds a lot of truth, and means different things for different people.
You never fall out of love with how special that season of your life was. You never fall out of love with the beautiful, hard, and necessary lessons that person and those moments in time taught you. You never run out of gratitude toward that person for helping you grow, even when you couldn’t continue to grow together.
At least that’s what I’ve managed to piece together from this unique experience of mine. Or perhaps it’s not so unique at all.
The year is 2006. iTunes is the coolest music streaming service around; text messaging is still pretty revolutionary, and Instagram doesn’t exist.
I remember the night we met vividly. “It was a cold winter’s night in the high school gymnasium, where our love blossomed.” I used to love saying that line any chance I got. I never tired of overindulging in the magic of my first love.
It was senior year, and I certainly didn’t want to spend it single while my friends were off with their boyfriends every weekend. He was cute, not a jock, easy to talk to, great eyes, and as I would soon find out, a God on the guitar. I was surprised at how quickly I fell in love with him, and he became my best friend just as fast. I was swept off my feet, and we were inseparable for the rest of that year.
We spent our time doing all of the little things in life that end up being what we remember most. We would drive around in his hot orange Chevy Cobalt that I often told him to slow down in, and he just as frequently did not listen. The playlist to our travels was all his favorite music, which would become mine as well. We grew from lovers to family while spending hours talking at the kitchen table with my parents, or at his mom’s house eating her delicious cooking.
I could no longer picture what family was without him in it. There were the weekly diner trips after sports games, sleepovers at our friends’ houses, and of course listening to him play guitar for hours until I finally insisted we go “do something.”
Life was good. It felt like we were living a fairy tale. This was the kind of stuff I used to dream about when I was little, and here it was, all unfolding perfectly. Many moons ago, I found a DVD of our prom night in a box of stuff at my parent’s house. I couldn’t help myself and had to watch it.
I remembered thinking to myself that night, “I’m going to marry this guy.” I remembered relishing in how lucky I was to have found someone who just got me. Who appreciated all my weird absurdity and loved me regardless of it. We were two peas in a pod—alike in so many ways. I forgot about every other guy I knew. None of them mattered because I knew I’d found the real deal. I woke up every day so excited for this love, and at the time, I truly never wanted it to end.
He never excelled at school. In fact, he failed music theory. (Don’t give up on your dreams, kids!) College wasn’t on his to-do list. I was going to school for dance a few states over in the fall. Although he had many fleeting ideas about what he’d do with his adult life and for a “real” job, I couldn’t have pictured him doing anything other than music. There was never any other option, and thank God for that. He would have never given up his dreams for me or anyone else, and that made me love him even more.
Going off to College
The summer passed by too quickly, and in September, I headed to school. Halfway through freshman year, he moved a plane ride away to pursue one of his fleeting ideas, and we dabbled into an even longer distance relationship. We began to slowly but surely drift apart.
Our high school romance lived well into my second year of college. He had moved back home again, and I’d transferred to a school in our home state. I’d hoped being closer would salvage our relationship. Looking back now, I still have no idea what really happened. I felt alone, and yet I wasn’t. I didn’t know what I’d done wrong, but I started feeling like a burden to him. He became totally disengaged in our relationship, so I did as well. There was this vast emptiness between us in a space that just yesterday had seemed so full of possibility.
Our inevitable breakup was anything but smooth. It was ugly and it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt (including childbirth). I remember telling him that he had left our relationship long before it ended. In reality, we both did. We unintentionally grew in two different directions. Still, in the back of my mind, I thought this was just a phase, and we’d work it out. Growing pains. After a while I realized this wasn’t just a fork in the road.
I remember this day vividly, just like I remember the first day we met—the day I found out he had been unfaithful. In that moment, I lost any ounce of hope or trust I had. As devastating as this was, I can’t thank him enough for not wanting me. I would have never dated my husband; I would have never had my daughter, and I can’t imagine life without them. They are the beauty after the storm.
We didn’t talk for several years. I worked hard at pretending he didn’t exist during that time. I stopped listening to any music we shared interest in, hung out with new friends, and lived at school year-round.
Throughout the years, I’ve made routine attempts to convince myself that he’s a terrible person, and someone I should never speak to again. When all is said and done, I know that my heart could never hold anything other than love and appreciation for him and that season of our lives. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The Happy Ending
Flash forward. The year is 2018. I’m married and have a beautiful daughter, and I’m busy running my own successful yoga studio. He is all over creation touring with different bands. We’ve caught up throughout the years, but less often nowadays, and at this point we’ve essentially become strangers. Regardless of all of that, it still makes me smile to watch his happiness from a loving distance. Life is genuinely good for both of us.
One day, I get a text from a mutual friend sharing the news. My first love is the new guitarist for “insert very famous well-known band here.” That’s a text you don’t get every day! To be honest, I replied with, “Cool but he’s still a jerk!” Clearly, my response was followed by me laugh/crying with excitement as I danced around my house. I felt similar to how I did when I read the “positive” sign on my pregnancy test when I found out I was having my daughter. Shocked, but also not shocked at all.
I’d hoped and prayed for this, and now it had happened. How was I supposed to refrain from running down the street and shouting how happy I was? I felt full of the purest joy and generous love. Like every detour our lives had taken and all the hurt we’d felt in the past was so, so worth it.
I think when we feel this way about something or someone, it can’t be fought. You can try to hide it, cover it up, or deny it, but it will always shine through. I’ll forever be silently cheering him on from afar in every one of his endeavors. Fame and fortune aside, to me he’ll always just be my first love. The kid playing guitar on my bed as we both wondered what the future would hold.
Who would have thought it would be better than either of us could have imagined?
Young love is a strange phenomenon. It can be the best and worst roller-coaster ride you ever take. Confusing and unpredictable. Satisfying and addictive. Messy and uncensored.
But young love is not false love. It’s real and it’s a gift, even if it’s not one that’s meant to be kept.
And how lucky am I to have been able to full-on panic when my first love became the guitarist for a famous band?
So tonight, I’ll come home from my dream job at the business I built from the ground up, to my daughter and my little family. I’ll get to turn on the TV and watch my high school sweetheart live the dream he never gave up on. The one he worked his ass off for. I feel like I’m living a fairy tale. Perhaps not the one 17-year-old me imagined, but still a fairy tale, and a beautiful one nonetheless.