Are you going through a hard time?
I was 18 years old and more innocent than my friends knew what to do with when the boy asked to meet me after class.
I’d been a victim of bullying for some time, and I hadn’t much self-esteem, so the first time a boy I didn’t know took active interest in me, I was floored, giggly, and oh so nervous indeed.
I can remember sitting in study hall, talking with my friend, wondering how I would find time to meet him before hustling over to the buses, and that’s when she told me the secret.
“Ask the teacher if you can go to the bathroom. This late in the period, he’ll just have you bring your stuff with you since the bell will ring before you get back.”
Taking the advice, I hurried out into the hall.
I found him as the bell rang, but I don’t think he saw me because he didn’t approach. I was too shy to say anything, so I let him walk away. But then, I took a bold leap.
Before booking it to the buses, I asked someone to pass along a note so that the boy knew I hadn’t stood him up. That note was as flirtatious as teenage me could be, a brief “here’s my phone number” with a smiley face to boot.
It was the beginning of a teenage romance that–like so many–ended in tears, me sitting alone in my college dorm room, trying to decide why he and one of my best friends cheated behind my back. We hadn’t quite made it a year, all said and done.
“How did I miss it for so long?” was never a question I’d asked; I’d known deep down for some time before I admitted it to myself. It was the catalyst for a very difficult six months for the heart-on-her-sleeve, low-confidence girl that I was, but I endured.
My self-worth plummeted. And it was hard.
Gosh, that got dark, right?
No!! The point behind this story isn’t to bring up old news that doesn’t matter anymore, but is done rather in the realization of that pivotal moment. The point is that, if one thing has gone differently, whose to say where I’d be today?
The events are fuzzy now, but their consequences aren’t. If I had turned around, walked away toward the buses, and never spoken to that boy again, who would I be?
Well, obviously, yes, I’d still be me, but would I have learned so much about myself and my needs as I have now?
I never think about this teenage heartbreak anymore, but for some reason it hit me one night as I lay in bed with the love of my life. At the time, that betrayal ripped me to shreds. It impacted my next serious romantic relationship for a quite a while. Yes, my husband got the brunt of it, mistrust he never earned and yet endured.
If I hadn’t sent that note and instead let that boy walk away, would I have missed a lot of heartache, depression, angst, and tears? Would I have been emotionally healthier, more trusting, and have owned, at that time, a more optimistic outlook for my future?
I dunno. I like to think so.
But I also realize that I wasn’t in the healthiest emotional space to begin with, and that, difficult as it was, the hurt helped me begin a long journey of enriching my self-esteem and trusting once more in God through good times and the bad. I learned so much.
At only 19, it set the stage for my relationship with my husband, who asked if he could come visit me at college the day after that other boy broke my heart and stuck around through the ups and downs for months until I was ready to accept romance back into my life. And our life together has been, from the first, built around each other with an intimate knowledge of what we need in a relationship and what we don’t, growing together into the people we will become and trusting in mutual, absolute faithfulness in good times and bad.
I believe that my husband would be my husband today regardless of any past experiences we may have known, but I also know that if I hadn’t learned from my heartbreak over a first love, I wouldn’t have so early learned to be firm about what I want and need out of love and life.
I don’t think God intended for me to be hurt, and it doesn’t excuse what those parties did, but I think that God used it as a tool for my betterment.
In the end, something that seemed so inconsequential was really the first domino in a line of self-discovery, vindication, and esteem building that I never anticipated but needed.
I could have gotten it another way, but this is what happened instead. This was the domino I so unknowingly toppled.
Remember that you only stop moving forward when you forfeit the domino chain. Bad times turn to good, spring turns to summer, and the world keeps turning even if it feels like it might end. Believe that what seems like the worst can lead to what’s best, even if you don’t understand how or when.
It could have been inconsequential.