Dear Boy Who Broke My Heart,
It's been a long time since we've spoken, hasn't it? Although you broke up with me at 18, you'll remember we met once again on college campus when I was 21. It was strange but clandestine. I was engaged. You were unofficially engaged. You know the drill. That makes it 9 years since we last spoke and 12 since you broke up with me.
Perhaps the details are a little fuzzy, so I thought it would be helpful to remind you of our history. We met in Seminary during my Senior year of high school. We were both 17. You were a tall version of Harry Potter, a talented pianist, and a genuine weirdo; you were essentially my best teenage dream come true. You took me to prom in a top hat and cane, you serenaded me on a piano in front of a whole restaurant, and you didn't hesitate to take my hand.
You also didn't hesitate to be the first to say, "I love you," and to imagine our future together. Yes we were young, but you KNEW we would be together for the long haul. You said we'd name our first daughter Hannah. You gave me my first kiss on my 18th birthday and I knew that I loved you too.
I was not the only one who loved you. You made things fun. You were kind and included people. You were very popular. You were a good boyfriend too. You wrote me letters weekly while I was away at college. You wrote me songs and recorded them so I could listen from afar. You were proud of us, and excited for our future together. I was fiercely devoted.
But around a year mark, you started to change. You didn't want me to say, "I love you," so much. You didn't want to constantly analyze our future or talk about what may come. I get it now. You were 18! I was your first serious girlfriend and there were plenty of other beautiful young girls waiting for you in the wings.
You went directly for one of them right away, after you broke my heart. Speaking of which, you did a terrible job of breaking up with me! I hope the next time you broke up with a girl, you did right by the poor girl by actually ending it instead of saying you were just "slowing down," until she gradually figured out the truth. I hope you actually gave her closure before shifting all of your shared dreams right over onto the first girl to follow.
But at the time, I loved you far too much to be mad at you. Even I could see that the next girl was far prettier, far skinnier too. Even I couldn't blame you.
It was difficult, that break up. I didn't just lose my boyfriend and my best friend; I lost a lifetime of dreams we had created together. I lost a lot of hope. I lost my self-confidence. I didn't think I could love again like that, so I also lost a big chunk of my heart, sealing it off to good men who followed.
I'm writing to you now, because I want to say something:
Thank you for breaking up with me. Thank you for taking our dreams, ripping them into little pieces and throwing them up into the wind where they swirled away, out of my desperate reach. Thank you for doing that.
Because I learned SO much: empathy, persistence, and the great importance of loving oneself.
Because I learned I could work myself out of a deep, dark depression. It was good practice for later.
Because I eventually learned I could love again.
Which reminds me of our last reunion. I hadn't spoken to you in over 2 1/2 years. I had wisely cut off all communication after realizing that I was a joke to you, something to laugh at with your friends because of how poorly I was handling the muddy end of our relationship.
Although I would have absolutely, positively said that I was over you and so excited to be engaged--and I was--the scar on my heart still hurt from time to time. I was stunned to yet again feel that scar when a roommate said she saw your girlfriend at a bridal fair, the same girlfriend you immediately paired with after our end. I wasn't shocked that you were indeed following through with her; I was shocked by the sudden intake of breath I felt, the pit in my stomach, and the tears welling up in my eyes when she casually mentioned it. I was shocked that that could still happen. I abruptly left the gathering we were at and sobbed the whole way home. I was angry at you, so angry that you could still make that reaction happen without my permission, especially when I though I was so past all of that.
You see, I had found a tall, red-headed boy. He was kind. So very kind. He didn't need to be the center of the room like you did, but he still managed to control it, to make things happen and make people feel a part of things. He studied harder than I saw any other boy study. And he gave the most hilarious, yet sincere Sunday school lessons I'd ever heard. Even better, he got choked up when doing so. (Every Mormon girl knows there are few things more attractive than a guy who can cry when feeling the Spirit.)
I was "unofficially engaged" to another man when I first recognized Brad for what he was. The other man was good, but he was confused; he couldn't decide how he felt about me after a year of dating. I had been on a relationship rollercoaster with him and felt like, once again, no guy could really love me for who I was. After one particularly trying weekend, I went to a fireside and sat behind Brad. I was feeling so worthless and tired, tired of being on the judgment seat for every guy I seemed to love. I looked at the back of Brad's red head and the thought came, "There is a boy who would really take care of me. There is a boy who would truly love me."
Two months later, I was officially no longer "unofficially engaged" and Brad and I went on a few dates. The best first dates I had ever had, in fact. We became instant best friends, friends that could talk long into the night and have conversations without any repeats. Our connection was instantaneous.
But I was damaged goods. I had a lot of work to do on myself. So Brad rode my roller coaster. He never gave up on me, even when I had given up on myself.
It took me a good year to give Brad a real chance, to open up that cold chamber of my heart I had closed off while recovering from you, the part of my heart that refused to trust. I had worked hard at softening that part, and this boy was worth it. He had worked hard too.
I knew he was the one for me for many reasons, but the biggest was that once we finally started dating exclusively, it felt as natural as breathing. I didn't have to constantly question the state of our relationship, or our future. It wasn't a question of IF, it was a question of WHEN.
We got engaged and Brad left to San Francisco to start his career, while I finished my final semester at BYU. I was in a very good place after some very hard years. I was so happy.
It was then that I caught a glimpse of you. I was in the library's large atrium, meeting with a friend from class to study. We were leaning against the glass railings, talking away when you showed up in the outskirts of my vision, walking right past me as we briefly made eye contact.
I didn't even know you were going to school there. You looked surprised to see me too. Of course, I pretended not to see you and without missing a beat, I kept talking to my friend. After you passed, I muttered under my breath, "Brityn, I think I just saw my ex-boyfriend!" I whispered a ten-second synopsis of our story, and she became my eyes while we pretended to continue our lively conversation. She watched you walk out the door, around the atrium, back through the other side, and around me again; she watched you study my face, double-checking that it was indeed me.
That glimpse of you didn't ruin me, thank goodness. It simply felt harshly unreal, like two parts of me were meeting each other for the first time, and didn't know what to say to each other.
A month or so went by, and I hadn't seen you again amongst the 30,000 students on our campus.
I was having a bad day, an anxious day. It felt difficult to breathe as I tried to eat my carrots at lunch, forcing myself to chew and swallow, chew and swallow. I was fighting the burden on my chest slowly strangling me, and I was blaming you. I was blaming the scar you left alongside the mountain of insecurity it took me years to conquer. I was feeling so angry that you were still in my space--my campus, and my head--when you had no right to be. I didn't even want to be with you, I wouldn't have given you a half-second chance if you had tried. I had faced so many demons head-on, I wanted to face the biggest unresolved one: you.
I said a prayer. "Heavenly Father, please help me have closure. I am happy. I am grateful for Brad and what we have, and I'm so ready for our life together. But I need whatever this block is to be completely gone. I need absolute closure. Please help my heart tie up the lose ends." I told myself that closure would still have to be God-sent rather than faced head-on.
I left the building I was studying in and was heading to another, when you appeared. It felt like lightening had struck twice; not romantically, of course, but as though fate were saying, "Here you go! Here is your final chance!" This time you didn't see me. You looked sleepy and fog-headed as you quickly disappeared into another building. I followed you. I was determined to speak to you. I was going to close that space in my head and heart, once and for all.
When I entered the Wilkinson building, you were no where to be seen. I walked quickly, making a big, fast loop around the main floor, feeling urgent. I ducked into a bathroom. "Heavenly Father, " I prayed, "If that was an answer to my prayer, thank you. But I need your help. Help me find him. If this is the way you are helping me get final closure, please direct me to him."
As soon as I said, "Amen," I went right back out, allowing my feet to take me where they may. I made a direct path to the gift shop, walking straight to the candy aisle. I saw the back of your head as you studied the choices. My hand slowly reached up and I tapped you on the shoulder. You turned and audibly gasped as you said, "Monica?!"
We spoke for five or so minutes. You told me a bit about your studies, I told you about mine. I spoke proudly about my fiancé, working in San Francisco, and after a while I asked about you and the girl, and if things were heading in a good direction. You sheepishly responded with a "Yes..." I had to get to the class I was a TA for, so I wrapped up the conversation and went on my way, quickly exiting the building.
I was elated.
I was elated, because I had felt absolutely nothing while speaking with you. Nothing! I had by no means expected to feel any sort of love, or fondness even, toward you. But I had expected sadness, anger, or hurt to leak through that old scar. And yet, none of those feelings had come.
You were you, and I was me. Two parts of my life had met and shook hands like old acquaintances; they wouldn't be friends but they wouldn't be enemies, either. I saw you for who you were--a young guy, who wasn't possibly ready to have made those commitments at an even younger age--and you saw me--a young woman with a hard-earned confidence in herself and a readiness for the next step of her life.
I called Brad immediately to recount what had happened. And, being the good man that he is, he was just as elated for me.
We only saw each other one more time, while passing in a heavy snow on our way to classes. You called out my name this time and we waved, as though we simply knew each other from a while back. And that's all it felt like.
Now, I am over 8-years married to my red-headed fellow. Each year, Brad gets better and better. He truly does! We still have long conversations, although there are a few repeats now. But those repeats are good and familiar. We have shared a million and one memories together, with a billion to go.
Brad is my dearest friend. He remains calm and even while riding the Monica Rollercoaster. He is very, very good to me. For instance, he just washed all of the dishes while I wrote you this note, 99% of which he did not dirty; it's one of the many ways he daily shows his love for me.
We have three very young, very crazy children. None of them are red-headed, but I still have hopes for one! They fill our lives with noise and energy. Our home is the center of our universe.
So, before I end this letter, I have one final reason to thank you for your rather inept, didn't-see-it-coming break-up:
Thank you for breaking up with me so I could now have my dear husband, my little family, and with them, the sweetest devotion I will ever know.