Once upon a time…

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…I had a crush on a boy who was also a friend. We were in high school, and bonded over politics, sarcasm, epic long letters passed between classes, and a shared sense of ironic humor. I crushed on him hard and silently, but it must not have been too silent because one day, another friend of mine, Cole*, came up to me and told me the crippling news.

“He said he wishes you would get the hint that he doesn’t like you.”

Devastated and ashamed, I was. I never confronted my friend; I just licked my wounds in private. I took the hint and began to distance myself. If he wondered why I stopped writing, why we stopped talking so much, and why I wandered away, he never asked. If he was hurt by the fact that I put my wounded ego above our friendship, he never let on. I started dating someone else, and so did he. We graduated and went our separate ways.

Other than sending a few newsy catch-up emails, we probably haven’t given each other much thought in the years since. We each got happily married, and probably neither of us would change a thing in our lives. We are both good and we are fine.

Then one day recently, I had a dream and he was in it. I woke up, went to check Facebook, and found he (a man who rarely even uses Facebook) posted a major announcement on it. I congratulated him, as the situation warranted, and chuckled at the funny coincidence.

In passing, I mentioned the coincidence to my mother, and she said, “I still think he liked you,” as she is wont to do from time to time. I shook it off and said I doubted it, as I always do when she says this. Except this time, I finally told her the evidence I had to suggest he didn’t.

“Cole said that he had told him he wished I’d get the hint that he didn’t like me.”

She laughed. “Of course Cole said that.” And I nodded, because now that I think about it, it was pretty clear around then that Cole had liked me. (God, high school drama is dumb.)

Not for the first time, I wondered if I had an entirely wrong read on the situation.

Whether my friend liked me or not will probably remain a mystery, and that’s okay, because I’m happy and he’s happy, and none of that has one iota of bearing on my life now. The only reason I tell this story today is because sometimes it takes sixteen years to learn something.

And what I learned is this: I wish I hadn’t been so ready to believe I couldn’t be loved that I so quickly let a good friend go.

If I ever have a daughter, or if I could ever talk to yours, I would shout this from rooftops: Believe you can be loved.

Sometimes people hurt us. But sometimes, that’s okay because maybe there is a bigger picture. Sometimes, there’s something more meaningful than a passing hurt.

::

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
~ Brené Brown

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Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
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11 thoughts on “Once upon a time…

    • I know I was terrified of rejection. And as far as high school crushes went, potential humiliation was far more terrifying than anything else. That, of course, changed when real love and marriage were on the line. Then, I learned there was nothing more irrelevant than pride. :)

  1. Oh Jade… we ALL need to be told that. Even still, I'm having a physical tear jerkey response to those words. And I know I'm loved, but man, I still question that when I shouldn't.

    Note taken :)

  2. So, so true!

    At my age of 62, I'm still learning what I sometimes feel should have been obvious lessons.

    …and criticizing myself that I should have known them years ago.

    But, letting that criticism of myself go after just a brief thought…

    well, that's a lesson I have learned.

  3. Oh, Jade, this touches me. My heart aches for young Jade, and young May and my daughters and all the girls who have been on the receiving end of a brusk comment that bruises the heart. As always you write my heart so well.

  4. This is so true. It's something I've realized in the past year. I deserve to be loved, but in a way that I want to be loved. Not in a way that someone thinks I should be loved.

    • Yes you do. And somehow, what seems so easy in words is so hard to really integrate into who we are and how we think about ourselves.

  5. So…that was my first inclination when I read it … that Cole said it because he liked you. However, that's an almost 40 year old reading it. Had I read it over 25 years ago, I probably would have thought like you did that your friend didn't like you. Funny how over the years once you learn to LOVE YOURSELF, you can come to terms with the fact that SOMEONE CAN LOVE YOU. One of those MAJOR life lessons that I will be handing down to my children. {hopefully they will believe me}.

    • It's so funny how hard it is and how much time and experience it takes to learn something so seemingly simple. How can one not love oneself? I never considered myself as someone who didn't love herself. Yet somehow, what seems so easy in words is so hard to really integrate into who we are and how we think about ourselves.

  6. Wow, that took me right back to high school. I agree, that with hindsight, it's so easy to understand things that were such a mystery back then. The trouble is, how to we impart this now-obvious knowledge to our children, when they lack the life experience that we have, which got us to our current place of understanding. I'm afraid that the only way to get there is to suffer the years of self-doubt and come through tougher on the other side. But I do wish I could build them up enough to never doubt that they are worthy of love.

    • You're so right. I suppose those years of self-doubt are somehow a rite of passage we must go through, and some lessons are really only learned the hard way.

      It's nice to meet you! I saw your blog and just want to thank you for stopping by!