A Wedding Toast For My College Sweetheart

A Wedding Toast For My College Sweetheart

I don’t remember who said “I love you” first.

Maybe it was him. In which case, we were probably about to go to bed. He had a habit of making proclamations at 1:30 in the morning when both of us were dozing off, revolutionary mumbles between sleepy lips. I’d have to ask him to repeat himself and then, before we both knew it, it was 5 AM and we’d been up all night talking due to his declaration of whatever that apparently had to be said in place of going to bed.

Or maybe it was me. In which case, there was definitely a fight involved. Likely because he knew I wanted to say it, but that I was pretending (yet again) to not have any feelings. I was chiller than chill, I didn’t need to say that I loved him. And so we got into some petty fight that eventually exploded with me saying what he already knew.

I don’t have the slightest recollection of who said “I love you” first.

All that I know is once it was out there, we couldn’t say it enough.

It was at the end of every parting, scrawled on the back of every present we’d give each other to celebrate opening nights of shows, in between the most random text messages, whispered in my ear during class, said at stoplights and yellow lights and everywhere in between.

I love you I love you I love you.

It’s a weird thing, being truly loved by another person for the first time. It’s an experience that makes most people feel completely shell shocked – and I was no different. Being loved by him was overwhelming and scary and riveting and exhilarating all at the same time. And even though I’d had high school boyfriends and little flings here and there, the way that he loved me was, also, indisputably different.

His love was the kind of love that didn’t hold back. That wasn’t afraid to present itself at even the most basic goodbyes, in messy handwriting on note cards attached to grocery store flowers, or in between completely innocuous text messages.

It was honest.

So even though I can’t remember who said it first, I don’t think it really matters. Whether it came out purely before he drifted off to sleep in his twin sized bed or messily because I was being stubborn. What matters is not who said it first. What matters is that we loved each other, and that we needed everyone to know.

It’s a weird thing, falling in love with someone for the first time. It’s then and there when you question what you can do to another person’s heart, and in turn, what they can do to yours.

When we fell in love, it wasn’t one of those things where if you asked me about it after the fact I’d be all, “It happened before I even knew what was happening!!” It was slow and patient. It took time. It allowed itself to morph along with us as we navigated things like college papers, finals, 21st birthdays, and even a summer we spent with 1524 miles in between us.

But no matter the stress levels, the ever changing landscape that is both love and higher education, and the distance that can come from not only different states but growing up, I still never doubted how much he loved me. He made it impossible. It was there in little Facebook wall posts, there in stupid pictures with inside jokes, there because he would whisper it through the phone late at night while he was dozing off to sleep.

I love you I love you I love you.

I secretly always kind of wondered what our wedding day would look like. I’ve never really been the kind of girl who pictured herself in a stereotypical white dress or imagined parading myself down an aisle adorned with flowers. But with him, it seemed like a possibility. With him, it seemed like something that seemed less like conceding to “just what everybody does” and more like something that would eventually be the next, logical step.

But the funny thing about logical steps is that they don’t always work out the way that you expect them to.

Where you might naturally anticipate things like marriage, commitment, and a continuation of the love that seemed to always evolve might be replaced by other dreams, hesitation, and timing that’s just quite simply, not on your side.

Life has a cruel tendency to step in and is more than happy to inform you that logical steps aren’t for you, and that picture perfect scene on some girl’s Pinterest board isn’t going to happen.

It’s funny; I have no clear memory of who said “I love you” first, but I will never forget the who was the first to say, “I will miss you.”

I’d ended things late one March, while curled up on my couch that was perfectly positioned to have a view of the front door he was hovering in. He’d given up fighting me, he knew it was over. I’d given up trying, I knew it was over.

And before he closed that front door for the last time he looked straight at me.

“I’ll miss you.”

I’ll never forget the way he said it.

It’s a weird thing, figuring out how to stop being in love with someone. Navigating the space between where you once would’ve texted them, and instead not knowing what to do with your thumbs.

I love you I love you I love you.

It was a few months after he’d left my house for the last time, and I was pacing the aisles of our local grocery store, debating whether I wanted to stuff my face with Digiorno or Tombstone that night. I was on the phone with my dad, talking about how I owed my now ex an explanation.

“I should just tell him why. I should let him ask questions. I should give him an opportunity to tell me how he feels. What this meant for him, to tell me he hates me if he needs to. To tell me whatever.”

And my dad just simply said,

“If you reach out, he’s going to think you want him back. And since you don’t, you have to figure out how to let him go.”

So that’s what I did.

It’s a weird thing, learning how to let someone go who you’ll always be a little bit in love with. Because despite still caring, still wanting to send innocuous texts that are coupled with I love yous, you can’t. You have to let them move on without you, exist without you, grow without you, thrive without you.

Love without you.

And move on, exist, grow, thrive, and love without me he did.

I’ve secretly always wondered what an engagement ring would look like on my finger. Whenever I go to jewelry stores, I make a point to try things on with my left hand, just to envision what a band would look like if ever placed there by someone other than myself on a random Saturday afternoon. I’m not sure if a white dress is something I’d want, or if an aisle adorned with overly priced floral arrangements is ever in my future. But a ring given to me by someone who loves me? Yeah, I think that’s something I’d be completely okay with.

The closest I’ve ever come is with him.

But ultimately? That ring wasn’t meant for me.

It was meant for another girl, almost exactly five years to the date after he walked out my door later. A girl who is sure, a girl who is on the same side of things like timing, fate, and serendipity. A girl who evolved along with him instead of without, a girl who probably loves to tell the story with exact detail of when they first said “I love you.”

A girl who he indisputably, unwaveringly loves back.

And that girl is not me.

So they’re going to walk down an aisle, maybe lined with flowers maybe not. They’re going to say vows to each other and promise things like “in sickness and in health” and “as long as we both shall live.” And I won’t be there. That day has nothing to do with me and everything to do with a love that is not my own.

It’s a weird thing, realizing that a person you loved is in love with someone else. That they really did move on, find happiness, and live an entire life you know absolutely nothing about. It’s a humanizing moment when you come to terms with the fact that no, none of us are definite. That we are all replaceable. And that people’s worlds will continue to spin even without us and our declarations of love in things like little goodbyes, celebrations, and even seemingly meaningless text messages.

And it’s an even weirder thing to realize that, come to terms with that fact, and still feel happy for them despite their moving on. Still feel warm inside. Still feel like maybe, at least in this universe, things had a funny way of working out for the people who deserved it.

I don’t remember who said “I love you” first.

Maybe it was him, in between dozing off and on at 2 AM one night/morning. Maybe it was me, being absurdly dramatic because I didn’t want to say what was already desperately apparent.

But the point, regardless of who said it before the other, stands.

We loved each other. We really, really did.

Which is why, even with an unknown amount of miles and an insurmountable amount of details at hand, it’s possible to wish him all of the happiness and love he so, so deserves.

I love you I love you I love you.

And that’s how I’m able to raise my metaphorical glass from afar, smile no matter what, and say, “Cheers to the happy couple.”

May you never forget that love you deserve, and may you always get it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Kendra Syrdal