I remember the first time a boy broke my heart. I was five years old and sitting in the school computer lab. As I offered my partner his turn at the Oregon Trail, he looked at me and said, “I don’t like you. No one is ever going to like you. I don’t care. You just go.” He was the first one to die on the Oregon Trail — dysentery seemed to respond to my need for karmic justice.
The second time, I was in second grade. It was Valentine’s Day and as a boy placed the Valentine, with my name misspelled on the front, into my carefully decorated Valentine’s card box, he noted — only to me — “it doesn’t mean anything, my mom made me give one to everyone.” I tried not to cry but the tears silently fell from my eyes during reading time. I didn’t understand why he would have singled me out to specify this — “what was so wrong with me?” I wondered.
When I was older, the crushes became more devastating. The first two boys weren’t even crushes, they were really just boys I went to school with, but later — when the heartbreak came from the guys I hoped would notice me — that’s when things really hurt. That’s when the meaning of crush was truly felt. Each time, I was disappointed.
The most devastating would come my freshman year of college, when I met a guy who I felt I clicked with. I have to emphasize this point because within my life I can count, on one hand, the number of guys I have been interested in. This one was the first one I really truly wanted to think of me in a romantic way. After a year of flirting, hanging out between classes, and hoping and analyzing every text and email, the academic year ended and I never heard from him — until a year later.
I don’t know what made him think of me a whole year later but the email was sent and remained in my inbox until I stopped checking that account altogether. He wrote that he had been interested in me as a “back-up,” in case things with his girlfriend didn’t work out. They were getting married now, though, and he felt he needed to explain himself to me. I guess he wanted to let me off the hook as his back-up, but I’ll never know for sure. I do know, however, that in the time he and I spent together over the course of a year, he never mentioned having a girlfriend. I felt stupid and betrayed — but, mostly stupid.
At some point, I closed myself off to men. I don’t trust many people anyway and risking being hurt isn’t exactly listed highly among my favorite things. I didn’t want to get hurt again. I chose to let a series of disappointing interactions — the ones above and a few others I won’t get into — dictate whether or not anyone would ever be interested. I feared no one would be so I didn’t let myself entertain any ideas suggesting otherwise. I focused on school. I focused on family. I focused on anything else I could, until I couldn’t any longer.
Life has a funny way of making you aware of what you desperately want to ignore — and love and a lack of relationships are some of those things I spent years trying to minimize. The one thing I learned amongst the crushes that left me heart-broken was that I’m repairable and that I’m worth far more than I have ever given myself credit for. Maybe the right guy will never notice me, maybe I have a million disappointments left in my future, or maybe what I’m looking for is right around the corner. It hurts to be disappointed, to voluntarily place yourself in a position wherein someone can break your heart, but it’s happened enough that I also know I can survive it — I mean, it’s happened even when I wasn’t looking for it, so, I may as well take an active role in it.
There’s a trail of broken hearts leading from my past to my present but I think it’s leading me somewhere good, to a place where it’s all going to be worth it. The hardest part, now that I have a sense of who I am and my own worth? Finding someone I’d be willing to let break my heart…but I think I’m up for the task.