Monday, March 25, 2013

Somebody That I Used to Know...

Remember that scene in "Twilight: New Moon," the one where Bella (in the throes of heartbreak) is basically sitting there staring out the window as the months go by?  While there are several things about New Moon that I routinely criticize, this is not one of them.   Nope.  I get it.  Seriously.  And when I hear other people (mostly adults) criticize that scene, I'm amazed that they don't get it.  Maybe they're one of the lucky ones who managed to make it through their teen relationships without suffering major heartbreak, but not me.  Unfortunately, I vividly remember that awful, numb feeling--the feeling that my heart was permanently and irrevocably broken.  The months that followed were very much like that image of Bella just sitting there, not participating fully in her life as the days and weeks passed.

Let me tell was awful.  Horrendous.  Painful.  I'm talking about a break-up that happened my freshman year in college.  I had been dating this guy--let's call him Specimen A--since my junior year in high school.  He was a year younger than me, which means I eventually went off to college (four hours away), while he stayed at home to finish his senior year (and by home, I actually mean my home--it's a crazy, long story, but my parents had custody of him at the time--let's just say he came from a bad home situation).  This was more than just any-old high school romance--I was sure that I was going to marry this guy, despite our differences, despite about a million hurdles that stood in our path.  Love was going to overcome everything.  At least, my teenage mind was sure that it would.

But it didn't.  Things ended badly.  Really badly.  Spectacularly, mind-blowingly badly.  I won't go into details, but to say that I was devastated is the understatement of the century.  I was Bella, sitting there staring out the window, completely numb, for weeks on end.  And went on.  But I was changed.  A little damaged, to tell you the truth.  I dated in college, and even had a couple of "relationships" but I never, ever let myself fall hard for anyone--at least, not until I met my future husband.

That first heartbreak had left me angry.  Distrustful.  Specimen A was forever remembered as the jerk who not only broke my heart, but who smashed it to a million, billion pieces.  How could I trust anyone, when the one guy who had loved me so much had ultimately treated me so badly?

And then...years passed.  I grew up, got married to my one-true-love, had children.  I became a writer, and eventually wrote books exploring teen relationships.  I was always in touch with that teenage version of myself who had experienced love and heartbreak--who remembered just how strong and vivid and real those feelings had been, so writing YA was a natural fit for me.

Recently, the unexpected happened.  I traveled back to my old hometown, as a visiting author at the high school from which I graduated, and I ran into Specimen A.  Finally, the chance to talk to him--to get out my anger and tell him how that heartbreak had affected me all these years.  I was all revved up to blame and yell and point fingers.  And you know what?  I realized I wasn't angry anymore.  It was suddenly obvious to me that Specimen A had been a kid at the time--seriously, a kid--with no parental support, no model of healthy relationships to follow....just a scared, confused child.  And kids make mistakes.  Kids are figuring out relationships as they go, learning along the way.  That's what they do.  How could I be angry about that?

And me?  I realized I'm a better person for having made that journey, as difficult as it might have been.  I learned when to protect my heart, and when to risk it.  I learned to love, and I learned to pick myself up again and keep going.  I think I'm probably a stronger person for it.  I know I'm a better writer.  I can tap into those feelings, as raw as they were, and write about first love and first heartbreak with authenticity, and that's worth a lot.

And now?  Specimen A is no longer that awful boy who broke my heart all those years ago.  Nope.  He's just somebody that I used to know....

Kristi Cook

Did you survive a teenage heartbreak-from-hell?  If so, tell us about it.


Kimberly said...

That was such an amazing account of teen and even adult love. I hate when people try to differentiate between the two by somehow belittling our first love. I know exactly what you mean about those raw feelings. I think those of us who did feel heartbreak, who remember VIVIDLY the numbness, actually can write with better clarity about teen and young adult love.
Everything really does happen for a reason, and I'm glad you were able to see him again and see him for who he really was at the time. He was just a damaged kid who didn't have the right kind of manual for healthy loving. :-) And that was probably the very best thing that could have happened. So many poo-poo closure, but I'm a big fan. And now you have closure.
Great post, Kristi!

Kristi Cook said...

I'm a big fan of closure, too, Kimberly! And I had no idea that I needed it so badly in this case, but it turns out I did, and I feel much better for it. And I totally agree that things happen for a reason--obviously, if that relationship *hadn't* fallen apart, I wouldn't have met/fallen in love with my husband, so I'm grateful in so many ways! Still, I'm with you--I hate it when people belittle first love as not being "real" love. A lot of people *do* marry their high school sweethearts, so obviously it can be just as real and lasting as any other love, if it's meant to be

Lorie Langdon said...

Excellent post, Kristi. I also agree that the heartbreak scene in New Moon is accurate. Even having your heart broken as an adult can make you feel like your world is skidding to a halt while everyone else keeps living around you.
Thanks for sharing. :)

Melissa Landers said...

This is fantastic, Kristi! I love your observation that Specimen A was a kid when he broke your heart, and all kids make mistakes...especially when they don't have healthy models of relationships to follow. Looking back, it's hard to be angry at the boys who broke my heart, because they were just that: boys.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I was lucky, didn't have any teen heartaches that devastating. But I remember the smaller ones I did have, and it was hard when I didn't have the perspective to say to myself, "This won't last forever, you'll get over this."

Kudos to you for forgiving Specimen A. May we all be that gracious when we have the opportunity.