Counting down the last journal jar prompts... Here's #4...
What do you remember about yourself as a teenager? What was important to you? Your dreams?
Ah yes, that fateful time of teenage angst. The radiant highs and the melancholy lows. It was all there...
I remember discovering girls in the 5th grade, but not really understanding the whole phenomenon until... well, maybe a week or so ago. No, it got really complicated, and there were crushes and something that I tried to identify as love, but it really didn't work out that way. Love is a process that you have to go through, much like grief and maturity and wisdom... You can't come out of the box all fresh and expert on everything. But we sure try, don't we?
There were many times that I struggled with myself-- struggled to like myself, and my place in society and the world. I would turn inside and search for answers. I struggled to know God, and my relationship with him (or her, or whatever the case may be...) I questioned my purpose, what was supposed to happen. What was I meant to do, what was I meant to be. And with whom would I spend my life with?
My memory is that I always had a longing for a long-term relationship. I felt, as a teenager, that it was what I was meant to do-- find someone to fall in love with and live out our love forever. Forever is a different length of time when you're a teenager-- forever could be the last few minutes of class, or the last few weeks before summer vacation. Now that I'm in my forties, forever is a different length of time. I wrote a few weeks ago that one man's eternity is another man's coffee break. But I digress.
This relativity of time and perspective made for many complications. For instance, I remember often feeling that my life was over, that things were taking "forever," or that I would never find my way. I often had conversations with myself about how my life would play out. Many of these conversations centered on certain girls who had my attention at the given time. And just as often as the time and context changed, so did the name of the girl and my interest in her.
I do remember at one point feeling as if things were going well enough for me-- I was basically happy, doing well in school, had a plan for the future, had some friends... but the passion for another person, one who would complete me and forge a better tomorrow together with me... well, the passion just wasn't there. Which isn't exactly true either-- the passion existed, but there was not one person out there in my existence to share it with. I felt a longing to share myself with another person, but nobody in my class measured up. I remember talking with God about this, and praying and wishing for that special person to meet, to get to know, to fall in love with, to discover the future with.
About that time, a new girl came to our school. She was pretty without being showy or glamorous, understated and confident without being extroverted. I immediately thought that God had sent her to me, sent her to this school for me to fall in love with and live happily ever after. She caught the attention of many of the guys, but wasn't flirty or playful with the Casanova types. She was smart and studious. We had math class together and sat near each other, and my mind would wander off the topic of the lesson and I'd find myself wondering, "Could this be it? Really?" My small, immature reality would try to fathom what that would mean. What was God's plan for me and her, if it was for me and her?
We ended up becoming friends. We were on the track team together, and my best friend and I both quickly developed crushes on her. The three of us would practice together after school. My buddy did the high jump, and so did she, so they spent more time competing directly with each other. I stayed back, not wanting my intentions known. I was afraid to tell of my feelings and to be rejected. Not to mention, I worried about my friendships to both her and my buddy.
Anyway. This continued for a few weeks-- an eternity in high school time-- and finally I ended up having a conversation with each of them. I explained to my buddy that I didn't want a girl to get in the middle of our friendship and ruin it. He told me that he understood, and that although he liked her, it wouldn't end our friendship if she were to choose me over him.
Then she approached me about it, because I was still apprehensive and cautious. I didn't want to cause problems with my buddy, and I was also scared of somehow messing up the opportunity to develop a relationship with her. She didn't understand my concerns and felt that if you liked someone you should try and be with them. I sensed that she was right, but I was still afraid-- afraid of what I wasn't quite sure.
About this same time that it was looking like this relationship would come to fruition, complications came into play. I had made prior arrangements for an "old" friend that I had met at BYU during the Summer Scholar's Academy that I had attended-- she was to visit me for the spring formal dance. I had fallen in love with her (at least as much in love as I was capable of for my level of maturity) while at the Academy and had kept in touch through letters. I had even gone down to visit her in her home town in Arizona. That had been when I found out that she had been with somebody else the whole time that she knew me-- a boyfriend from home. Still, we were young and well, stupid. So she still came to visit me on my turf for a few days.
I remember having a conversation with my friend at track practice where she expressed concern about the visit. I told her that it really meant nothing, and that I just had to go through the motions and be nice to her. Everything would go back to normal after the visit.
But you never go back. And there's no such thing as normal.
Cheryl came to visit from Yuma, Arizona. She went to classes with me for a day, then stayed the weekend and we went to the prom or whatever it was, going out to dinner with a group of buddies and dates at the Opera House and then checking out the dance before going with my buddy and our dates to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It wasn't very nice of me to do to my date, as she is Mormon and was surely uncomfortable because of the situations we put her in. But anyway. Again, I never said I was all that bright. At least not all the time. Especially as a teenager.
It was all weird. For some weird reason I tried to re-establish a loving relationship with Cheryl, but she kept rebuffing my advances. These were hand-holding and hugging sort of things, long before things would be complicated further by sexual ramifications. I can hardly imagine how crazy things could have gotten if I had been empowered by a sense of confidence with sex! That would have proven insane.
Anyway. Cheryl made it back to her home in Yuma unscathed, and I pretty much lost interest in her. But remarkably, I lost interest in my track friend, too. I remember when I saw her next, something had changed inside of me. I was off-plan. I had strayed. I was no longer of the mind that we were meant for some fairy tale ending. Not that I knew all this then, but my fickle pubescent mind just jumped along to the next stimulus.
Many years have passed, and I wonder if I even recollect correctly all that I have written down already. I have lived an interesting life, that is sure. And I am certainly blessed to have made the connections I did to end up in the life of my lovely wife, with her amazing family and her capacity for caring and love. But I have often wondered about the turns that my life has taken. All the "what if's" are entertaining to explore.
I wonder what this old friend remembers, from her side. Has she thought about the "what if's" and what not? It's easy for me to romanticize and imagine being able to go back to that time and make a single change-- turn left instead of right-- and go on living in a different reality that ignores the existence of the complications of the natural world...
More recently, I had a dream where I ran into my track friend. We talked about the lives we had lived, the lives we had once had together. In the dream, I told her that I really had loved her for a time, that she really was important to me. It felt right to finally get a chance to say this. When I awoke, I was left with a yearning feeling to communicate with her somehow again. I knew that she was special, a gift from God. And I wanted to share that with her, acknowledge her. Make her reflect on what a wonderful person she is. To make her feel good about herself.
I leave it up to the universe to realize that end.