When I was in the tenth grade at Oxford High School, a girl I’ll call Diane liked me. I was vaguely aware of it, though never gave it much linear thought.
On what must have been my 15th birthday, she decorated my locker with balloons and a card. And I was relentlessly apathetic about it. I don’t think I was nakedly mean to her; just noncommittal. I do know that today I think back to her doing that thoughtful and personal thing for me, and cringe at my utter lack of appreciation for it. It is only with adult perspective that I realize how emotionally extended she was, and how badly I must have hurt her feelings.
I have no idea what I was thinking. In hindsight we seemed perfect for each other: both bookworms, both socially awkward with most of our peers, both drily humorous. But my attention was constantly divided between trying to break up the assistant band director’s daughter and her boyfriend, and carrying the same torch I’d carried for three years for a dance team member who was polite to me, but who was never going to return my affections. And such worthy pursuits those were.
Today Diane is a writer–a brilliant and prominent one–and a beautiful woman. She holds a liberal arts Ph.D., which is something I wanted but didn’t have the chutzpah to pursue. She was a younger version of that same person then. Didn’t see it; too mentally busy with what I couldn’t have.
Mind, this is not a lamentation. I’m blessed beyond measure, and though it’s tempting to imagine what my life would have been like without the bumps, bruises, and heartbreaks along the way, things are mighty fine today. And nothing could have lasted long with Diane anyway; my family moved to the Huntsville area four months after the locker incident, though I can’t remember whether I knew that was going to happen at the time.
I didn’t have a significant love life until college. Until very recently, I habitually recalled this “solo period” as involuntary. Ain’t the way it went. I had a great girlfriend in hand and rejected her. It’s amazing any of us are ever happy with each other for any length of time, as emotionally bumbling as we are for the first third to half of our lives.
When you thumb through your life, make sure you’re accurately remembering how things went down, whatever those “things” may be for you.
We tend to exonerate ourselves.