Before I dive into the whole letter writing process I thought I should share a portion of my personal philosophy on love and relationships. It’s pretty obvious due to my 7th grade girl (“OMG my boyfriend is so amazing”) tendencies when I’m in a relationship and when I’m not. In case you can’t read between the lines, I am in a very happy (healthy) relationship. Since it has been a long time since I have experienced a relationship based on mutual respect and authentic care for one another I’ve been thinking a lot about the foundation I’ve built my relationship ideals on and the origin of this platform. My first real relationship was extremely impactful on my early adolescent life and still plays a huge role in my views of what it means to love someone. This letter is not written out of unrequited love or some secret desire to rekindle my first love but rather as a small documentation of 4 years of my life that shaped who I am today.
Dear First Love,
Where do I even begin? Does the story of us start when I spotted you across the cafeteria and decided in that moment that I would (no matter what sort of stalking it required) force you to notice me? Does it begin the night you walked me home from the small town community fair and kissed me goodnight before moving away to San Diego? Does our story start with the phone conversations all summer, the letters, the late nights I lay in bed wondering why I’d fallen for a boy who was living in another state? When I received the letter that you were moving back and we could be together? When I finally uttered the words “I’m Yours” though I’d known my heart belonged to you long before I had the strength to say it aloud.
I fell for you recklessly and you had every ability to abuse my sincerity, to crush my heart in your hands. I was innocently head over heels for you and you could have asked me to give you the world but instead you just wanted to see me smile. I remember climbing fences and ripping my skirt, I remember kissing in trees and laying on the dock in the sun as we daydreamed about far off worlds and mystical creatures. I remember when you referred to my hair as golden rays of sunshine and told me you saw maple leaves in the flecks of gold in my eyes. I threw grass at you flirtatiously the way silly teenagers do when they’re unsure how to handle the overwhelming feelings of falling for someone and must have floated as I walked after you recited the poems you wrote for me that sunny fall afternoon in the arboretum. Our love story was set in the forest, two little flower children falling madly and hopelessly in love with one another.
When I had no one else to turn to you were a listening ear, always a shoulder to cry on, a best friend to celebrate with and in some ways (though I never would have stated it at the time) like a brother- we were growing up together! I lied to my parents and snuck out to stay the night with you freezing cold in a hammock in the woods staying up all night just talking and staring into each other’s youthful eyes filled with hope and belief. I nearly cried when I woke up to tapping on my window to find you on my roof and a heart made out of candles in the street outside my room (though I still made you sleep on my couch because I didn’t want to get in trouble). You accepted me for who I was and enabled me to grow in new directions even when those directions were away from you.
We shared so many memories in the four years we spent together but what stands out more than anything is your overwhelmingly big heart. Through every mistake you forgave me, in every moment of anger you were gentle, even when the day came when we knew we could no longer be together you held me close and promised should I ever need a friend or confident you would be there. Over the years you kept that promise.
I write this letter not because I believe we should be together, though a part of me will always love you like the piece of us that fondly remembers childhood summers skipping through grassy meadows and the magical feel of Christmas morning. It’s because of your uninhibited all encompassing love I was able to recognize another relationship that was dangerously toxic. It’s because of the times you forgave me for acts that seemed unforgivable and told me I was the most divinely beautiful creature in the world that I could look into the eyes of a future partner and realize that his manipulative nature and overbearing need to control me was not love at all. After that I didn’t know if I could find the sort of love we had shared again.
I didn’t believe there was anything so pure and honest out there now that I’d matured. I told myself everyone always would remember their first love as the most magical-with the most nostalgia because up until that point we had never felt such a powerful bond before. It was because of you that I realized I deserved true (healthy) love and it was because of you that I kept searching for it even when it felt dismal and hopeless.
I look back on our time together fondly, as I hope you do too. I am so thankful my first real relationship set the precedent for what respect and love should look like. There are so many women who begin their search for love feeling pressured physically or neglected emotionally or valued only for their bodies rather than their souls and spirits. I have experienced this objectification (hello frat parties and cat callers and every Tinder date I ever gone on) but because it was true love that I experienced first deep in my heart I always knew I deserved more. It is because of this gift that I gained the insight into what we all deserve. There is no letter in the world that could articulate my gratitude for this.
I can’t tell you how much I cried over our decision to go separate ways (cue every sad Taylor Swift song on repeat). I don’t have the diction to describe the long, lonely nights spent sobbing alone wanting you and only you to comfort me but knowing even you couldn’t make the pain go away. I’d grown up with you. We were to intertwined I didn’t know who I was without you beside me. I felt like my heart was being torn from my body over and over again (is it weird to reference Prometheus here?) but we both needed that pain to learn to stand on our own two feet as individuals.
I am so thankful for the years we shared together, for your support in my personal growth even when that meant our lives would no longer be shared in such a close and intimate capacity. To this day I still regard you as one of the most genuinely authentic kind-hearted all around beautiful people I’ve ever encountered.
Do you have any relationships you are grateful for (even if they ultimately didn’t work out)? What did you learn? How did you grow? So often when we leave relationships we move forward focusing on the negative (& I think at first we need to in order to move on). However, over time I believe it is important to remember our past relationships for the happiness and beauty as well. Why should I pretend so many happy memories have been erased from my memory (my life story) simply because a relationship didn’t work out?