Do you remember your first crush?
Ah crushes, they're usually called this because it isn't all hearts and flowers it's a crushing introduction into the world of feelings. Crushes usually never even know you have a crush on them. Unless you're me…I was the original awkward girl when it came to crushes.
My first crush and subsequent crushes beyond that first one all had one thing in common: looks. I was attracted to how they looked and what type of personality they had. Not their interests, not who they hung out with but how they looked and how they treated me.
My first crush was a boy that so happened to be in my kindergarten class, his name isn't important but for the sake of this blog let's just call him "slick". I remember the first time I saw "slick", my hands were sweaty, my heart was racing and I swore that in the whole kindergarten there wasn't a cuter kid to be seen. I kept my feelings for "slick" as quiet as a five year old could often by just staring at him during class and recess. Until one day in first grade during art class, he smiled at me. He smiled at me! So naturally at five and half going on six I took that as he liked me too and so I decided to tell him.
I remember pushing in my stool with a sense of purpose, lining up right behind him. My heart was hammering against my Pocahontas t-shirt as I took each step. Planning out in my head what I was going to say. It took several minutes before I was sure we were out of earshot of busybody classmates and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Do you like me?" I asked softly.
"Yeah, you're okay, I guess." "Slick" replied with a weird sort of look.
"Well I like you," I told him matter-of-factly. " I think you're really cute!"
I remember being able to hear a pin drop before several of my classmates laughed at me, except for Jen who ran to my mortified side, but worst of all was the repulsed and horrified look on "Slick's" face which struck me down. He never even said "hello" to me after that day and I got my first taste of rejection on that unusually warm late April day in 1995.
I also learned to keep my mouth shut when it came to telling people you liked them. See prior to rejection and humiliation we're all like little balls of light that think everything will be okay and the world loves us as much of our families. School is where my self-esteem issues were fed and allowed to grow. Whether it be not feeling smart enough to fit in with the geeks to not being athletic enough to fit in with the jocks. It wasn't that I was unpopular but I wasn't the most sought after person to be included. I wasn't bullied but I didn't have droves of people hanging on my every word. I was just there, well-known but either loved or hated, no middle ground. People either thought the world of me or hated my guts. So it went on throughout my entire High School career, if I liked someone I never showed it because of that first experience of utter repulsion stayed with me. I had dates, sure, usually they were with people in the grade above me or from other schools who didn't know me or my social ranking. I also learned not to sell myself short, I may not be society's vision of beautiful but I had a beautiful soul and a big heart with a lot to give. The rest was superficial.
Did "Slick" realize just how mortifying and shaping that experience in rejection had on me? Probably not, we were six years old after all but it's small little moments like this that have shaped me and made me who I am today and I love who I am today.
You see, born out of rejection I learned to set impeccably high standards for a potential future husband to have and when I met my husband Tom he met those expectations effortlessly. I also learned to take risks because the worst thing that can happen is getting a "no" and gaining a lesson from the experience. I'd rather take risks and be rejected, then stay complacent and in that bubble protected from hurt. I wouldn't have met my husband if I was constantly chasing people who didn't see me for the prize I was.
While rejection stung at times it allowed me to grow to the point where I was sought after, in droves by men especially AFTER I left high school and went to college. Even still, I never lowered my standards. Of course, when I began dating my husband my freshman year of college it all came together so naturally that I realized why everything else came apart. Rejection made me appreciate someone who really valued and appreciated me. I realized I was made for this man Tom and that's why nothing else worked because it wasn't meant to. I was meant to be his and his alone.
Exactly four years after I graduated High School, "Slick" contacted me about wanting to hangout and telling me how beautiful I was. I told him I would meet him at his friend's house and never showed up. I had already been dating my husband for nearly two years, I was not interested in throwing away a sure thing to conquest someone who'd rejected me all throughout school. If I wasn't "good enough" for him to chase after then, he wasn't "good enough" to have me now.
Rejection was the root of my self-esteem issues but it was also the root of my self-worth standards. When I held my first-born niece, Elsie, for the first time I had an overwhelming sense of belonging. Here was where I deserved to be, here was where I belonged.
Just last October, I ran into Slick again at a wedding for our mutual friend. We sat at the same table and caught up. I, about being happily married, with a house, a dog and a steady job which I've held for nine years. He, about being single, still living at home, and working but not making enough to buy his own place quite yet. Although he didn't outright say it, I'm sure he envied to an extent how my life turned out. The boy who'd hardly been rejected lacked a relationship with substance in his life but the girl who had experienced rejection achieved what he was still trying to.
In that moment I felt such pride for my experiences because they led me right to where I was supposed be and in the end I'm very blessed.
Love you. Mean it.