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  • I broke the heart of the first girl I ever loved not long after I realized that I loved her.

    It wasn't out of a fear of commitment or a fear of growing up or a fear of rejection. She had dominated my thoughts and feelings for so long, through so many months of tumultuous teenage romance with those love letters written long after midnight when sleep was impossible; the meticulously crafted mix CDs of a budding music nerd trying to convey what I so often struggled to express; the ecstasy and bliss of our first kiss; the way I'd frequently want to say something kind, something gentle but would instead be biting or sarcastic; the trivial misunderstandings blown incredibly out of proportion; the crushing heartbreak and the bitter, heartbroken poems and songs; the burning jealousy and rage giving way to depression and self-loathing; the indescribable loneliness of seeing but not being with her everyday; and then the eventual return of hope, the dream of a second chance and a third and a fourth; the blessing of actually receiving a second chance.

    More than anything I wanted to love her and wanted to be loved in return.

    I ended up three hours away at college, while she, a senior in high school, remained in our hometown. The physical distance and the difference in our circumstances strained our relationship, but somehow we managed to draw closer to each other. We were forced to deal only in words, in what we could express and what we couldn't over the phone. We were more open, more vulnerable than ever before, and through it all our immature little love began to blossom and mature.

    Then, just when everything seemed to be falling into place, I made it fall apart.

    I would like to say that I acted gracefully, that when I ended our relationship I was acting out of my love for her, that I knew our lives were pulling us in drastically different directions and I was merely minimizing the inevitable heartbreak. I would like to believe that I was wiser and gentler and nobler than I possibly could have been as a nineteen year-old kid, but the truth is I was clumsy and rash and I caused her more pain than was ever necessary.

    But somehow, as I think back on that first love, something I could have never known back then becomes apparent:

    I broke the heart of the first girl I ever loved precisely because I loved her.

    I loved her enough to let her go, to let her live a life without me, a life that has since surpassed anything I could have ever given her. I loved her enough to get out of the way.

    I wonder now how differently things might have turned out. Maybe I was a stupid kid who made a terrible mistake. Maybe we could have made it work in the end. Maybe I didn't need to spend the next nine years searching for the girl who would turn me into a bumbling, lovesick idiot and inspire me to write terrible poetry and spend hours putting together a perfect mix-tape. Maybe I didn't need to wait so long to find someone capable of truly understanding and accepting me and my certain kind of weirdness. Maybe I already had that girl.

    Maybe these hypotheticals really don't matter at all because this story isn't really about me.

    What matters is that I broke the heart of the first girl I ever loved, but she was strong and put the pieces back together and found someone better to love, someone better to love her, and together they've created a beautiful family and a beautiful life together, a story I can only hope of one day having: a happy ending, a picture of a flower in a sunset.
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