Monday, December 7, 2009

About a Boy...and a Girl

The girls over at are hosting a little something called The Half-Drunk Challenge. Naturally, it caught my eye.

They write: This is a challenge to write something a little bit daring…Find something that makes you a wee bit uncomfortable and then muster the confidence to explore it. You might surprise yourself.

So here I am. And I’m already surprised…by just how many daring subjects I could immediately think of to write about when half-drunk. So it’s probably best that today, I’ve only indulged in left-over birthday cake and sugar cookies.

The buzz is strong though, so to be daring today--to be brave--I’m going to tell you a love story.

It’s about a boy and a girl and has all the usual elements of initial uncertainty and increasing infatuation and long hours on the phone and moonlit nights and dinner dates. But it's not a perfect love story, because those aren't any fun at all. It’s more like a love story and a coming of age story tangled impossibly up together, because it’s my story, and I fell in love--the real thing--young. Very young. What had begun as a casual date at age 17 had turned into this is who I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, isn’t it? within months. Weeks, even. And that’s a lot placed on the shoulders of a 17-year-old. People that young aren’t equipped to deal with a relationship that intense; at least we weren’t. Frankly, we didn’t know what to do with it. But it was thrust in our laps, and we did the best we could. Meaning, we became inseparable. And we argued a lot. We bobbled it and we botched it. We hurt each other and then made up and wrote love letters emo as only teenagers can write them. I still have them.

We got married. Again, young. Very young. Because why wait? When you’re holding a ticking grenade, you don’t pause to muse what to do with it. You just act. And it was like that with us. Had we decided to hold off, or to spend time apart as a test, we would have only managed to make ourselves miserable. It would have been an exercise in marking time and nothing more. Still, I was barely twenty years old, and had just finished my sophomore year of college. My new husband was a ripe 21. Neither of us knew a thing about life. We weren’t even old enough to rent a car on our honeymoon.

So here’s the million dollar question: do I regret it?

No. How could I? Regret is reserved for the things you could have altered, and essentially, I had no other course of action at my disposal. And by that, I don’t mean I was pushed into it, by any means. I mean that I was on a course of love so strong, there was no way I’d have fought that tide. I had no desire to. I wonder how many of you know what I mean by this. I wonder if it’s rare, or universal to the experience of falling in love? I suspect it’s the latter, so I’ll take courage in the knowledge that I’m not alone in this. You just probably weren’t still wearing a backpack on a daily basis and shopping at Limited Too when you experienced it. You probably had a few life-experience miles under your belt. You were probably over the legal drinking age, and could take the edge off any lingering fears without a fake ID.

And so here’s the bonus million dollar question: do I wonder if it was the right decision?

Sometimes. Let me be clear: I don’t wonder about the boy (now a man). I have never doubted the man. But the timing…the age we married? I have questioned that. Put another way, what if that boy and that girl had somehow emerged from the sheer deluge of their over-intense relationship long enough to draw a deep breath of air? What if they had sampled a little perspective at age 17, 18, 19? What if one of them--let’s say the boy--had not transferred colleges to be near the girl, and the other--the girl--had taken that semester in Colorado Springs she’d eyed, to workshop fiction and hike the Rockies? Would she have come back? Would time have cooled things? What if they had actually lived their twenties, selfishly indulging that deep, core part of them that wanted to wallow in self-discovery and metaphysics and freedom and space?

Would they have been lost? Would they have been lonely? Would they have found each other again?

Or is timing everything?

Because here’s the tricky thing about those roads not taken: they tend to be obscured. Shady. A bit curvy and treacherous. Had I indulged that part of me that longed to be explored, would I have been happy? No, I’m sure not. Is happiness the most important thing? Not usually. Would I have achieved more of my personal goals, had I only myself to think about during those early years when I was thinking for two? Probably. It’s too curvy to tell.

But here’s the happy ending: if you’re with the right person, that exploration never has to stop. Skipped your twenties? Go ahead and have them in your forties. Always wanted to attend that workshop, take that trip, have that experience? Go, go, go! Don’t know who you are? Figure it out! I’ll wait.

Today, it’s as though we’ve taken that rope that we’d once kept so taut and short and we‘re slowly uncoiling it. Maybe we’ve learned to trust one another more. Maybe we’re finally growing up (together). Either way, I think we’re wiser in the knowledge that the things we were afraid of in our youth aren’t quite so scary. And that the things we had thought would be the end of the world, aren’t.

Or maybe we’re just too busy and too tired to argue these days. But I love him more than ever. And I’m very thankful he didn’t run away from my 17-year-old self, and that I took a chance with his.

Because I have to say, we've gotten better--for each other, for ourselves--with age.
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