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It started out just like any other ordinary day. You woke up, hit snooze, finally woke up late and regretted hitting snooze. You drank a little too much coffee and ate a little too little food and went off to the job that may or may not have been what you always dreamed of doing. You talked to Karen when you walked in, asking her about her day. You waved at your boss and filled up your refillable water bottle with the wood grain design. You stared listlessly at your computer for a few minutes, wondering how many emails you had and whether or not your Instagram post was still pulling in likes.
It happened so unexpectedly that you almost don’t notice it. A quick flash of something, someone from a lifetime ago. After you had checked your own Instagram (only five more likes? Really, guys?), you were scrolling along, mindlessly hoping something would distract from the fact that you had nine hours of work ahead of you, when you saw it. A face. The face. He was smiling, with his arm around someone who wasn’t you. They looked happy. Really happy. And he looked different. Not entirely, just the little things. His hair was a little longer and he had finally grown out his beard. That was nice. You remembered how hard he had tried to in high school, only to feel discouraged. His face seemed fuller, older, more mature. But still, he was the same. His hazel eyes still shone with that mischievous twinkle as his smile, that familiar smile that used to make your world stop turning, lit up your small, iPhone screen.
It’s not always a picture. Quite frankly, it can be anything. Maybe it was a song, like the song you danced to at prom, when you held her in your arms and she whispered that she loved you. When she became the first person to ever utter those words to you like that. Maybe it was the place you went on your first date or the necklace he gave you for your seventeenth birthday, hidden away in a box that you uncovered when moving. Or maybe it was a shirt, the old, large t-shirt she used to wear when she spent the night at your place, shoved behind your dresser. You didn’t know how long it had been there, but when you pulled the set of drawers away from the wall to retrieve the cord that fell behind, you felt something soft graze your fingers. You reached out and grabbed it, recognizing immediately what it was. As the nostalgia washed over you, you wondered how long it had been missing. You calculated how long she had been missing from your life.
Weeks? Months? Years?
And so, you sit there, and you think about this ordinary person who played an ordinary part in an ordinary coming-of-age story. The person who would stay up until 2 a.m., talking to you on a landline, begging you to hang up first. The one who made a big deal about month anniversaries because that was all you knew. That was all you had so far. The person who would burn you CDs with songs that reminded him of you, or would come to every one of your basketball games and makes signs with your name on it, her pride radiating from the front row of bleachers. As you’re sitting there, knocked out by this reminder of a past life, a past love, the memories come flooding back to you.
The first kiss. The first time you spend the night together, and she reached for that large t-shirt, asking shyly if she could wear it. The first time you made love (because back then, it was making love, wasn’t it?), and how scared and excited you were, eager to share this experience together.
First loves are, for all intents and purposes, absolutely ordinary. They said something, you said something back, and the next thing you know, you had fallen in so deep. And while there was nothing very different or unusual or exceptionally noteworthy about your ordinary first love with this ordinary person, it doesn’t change the fact that something about it makes you feel absolutely extraordinary.
Because the truth is, first loves are truly terrifying – like a fire lit inside of you. It burns so brightly, you’re almost afraid. You take this leap of faith in this person and trust them to love you just as much as you love them forever. And the first time? Forever sounds possible. Forever sounds like the perfect amount of time together. And no matter how much you assure each other it won’t end and that you two won’t end and that just because most high school relationships fail, it doesn’t mean you will – something usually happens. You went to different colleges. You got new friends and started hanging out with them more. She met someone at her afterschool job and eventually decided to be with him.
It was fucking brutal, however it ended. Maybe it fizzled and you parted as friends, or maybe is combusted, and you both crawled away, licking your wounds and nursing your egos. For a long time, you thought that you’d never get over it. Never get over them. But as it always goes and as the cliché reminds us, time seemed to heel those wounds. We met new people. We slept with new people. Hell, we fell in love with new people. And that person we loved so long ago moved on just like we did. He stopped rowing crew and spent more time playing guitar, getting gigs and making new friends. He met someone new, someone great, and there are fewer and further days in between where he thinks about you. Where he thinks about what you once had.
But that’s the beauty of a first love, isn’t it? That two ordinary people do something as ordinary as falling in love, and yet, for some reason, it’s anything but ordinary? That even though we both change and evolve and become entirely different people, a little piece of us is forever changed. It’s forever indebted to that first person who said those three words on that otherwise ordinary day.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how much time has gone by or how much you both have changed. A first love, your first love, isn’t just about a person. It’s not about who he is now – a guy who looks like every other guy and is most likely going into sales. It’s a feeling. A state of mind. A switch that is flipped inside of you, that changes you forever. Because a first love, while it’s almost as common as being born and dying, is just as amazing, just as life-changing. And the fact that you share that with someone else, some other flawed, ordinary person who goes on living and breathing long after you’ve parted ways, is what makes it so great. Because for a long time, and maybe even forever like you promised, you don’t view that person as just another person. You view them as the first person who ever truly saw you. The first person who ever truly chose to love you. And I don’t think that beautiful, shocking, ordinary connection is something that can ever go away. I don’t think that love can ever truly go away.
But it’s a different love now. A settled love. Your heart isn’t breaking because you aren’t together, and you don’t necessarily have a desire to run and win them back. When you see them with someone else, you’re happy now, knowing they found someone new to love. Someone new to share their life with. And as the song ends, or you exit out of the profile, or you put away the necklace or the shirt, your heart feels just a little fuller as you remember, for a few minutes on an ordinary day, the extraordinary love you once shared, with someone truly unforgettable. .