Monday, March 25, 2013
Somebody That I Used to Know...
Let me tell you...it 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 then...life 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....
Did you survive a teenage heartbreak-from-hell? If so, tell us about it.