Without further ado, the first moment that changed my life. Dun-dun-dun!
I was sitting on the platform of our church during Sunday morning service when I knew that something had to change in my life. I knew it because I wasn't even paying attention to the worship service; I was too busy watching the back door to see if my ex-boyfriend would open it and enter the sanctuary to
I also realized he wasn't at church because he had a hangover from partying with a "friend" from his hometown who just happened to be in town--a friend who was a cute girl. I wasn't invited to go out with them. How blind was I? And why was I even hung up about whether an ex-boyfriend was coming to church with me?
J. and I had dated for a year and a half (a long time in teenage years, am I right?) We were both sophomores in college when we met. He came to church (there's a lot of church in this story) and made small talk, then started telling me things about myself and my family that only someone who knew me--or a stalker--would know. Just as I started to get alarmed, he revealed that his pastor in the town where he went to college had told him about me. I forgave him and he asked me out.
I should mention that I was very flattered that he was even interested in me. J. had a lot going for him. He was very good-looking (more on that later; it ended up being a problem); smart--he was attending college instead of the last two years of high school in a specialized program for advanced math & science students; and wealthy--his dad is a doctor. But mostly it was the looks that got me. His dad is from India and his mother was Dutch and Indonesian, giving him caramel-colored skin, jet-black curls, and big hazel eyes. Yeah, I thought he was hot. So I said yes.
We were the very sappy couple everyone loves to hate because they can't stop making puppy dog eyes at each other. For me, the physical infatuation was part of it, plus he was witty enough to make me laugh a lot, but the more I got to know J., the more I felt that he needed someone like me. To HEAL his deep emotional WOUNDS, dontcha know. The love of a good woman and all that.
He HAD been through a lot. His parents were divorced when he was little, and his dad was a busy doctor who didn't spend much time with his son. His mother, who was a pilot, died in a plane crash. Then his dad remarried, and while J. didn't hate his stepmother, his parents' marriage was shaky. They fought a lot, and didn't mind fighting in front of us (on my first visit, even) or the two younger kids. And his parents didn't make any secret of the fact that they didn't think we should be so serious about each other. After all, J. had about 10 more years of college before he could fulfill his dad's plan for his life of becoming a doctor, and I was seemingly be in the way. I resented that, because at the time I was planning to go for a Ph.D. myself. Why was I assumed to be the one wanting to quit school and get married just because I was the girl? I may have been in love, but I wasn't stupid--I was nineteen years old: not exactly desperate to get married.
Anyway, his parents' worry came across that they didn't like ME rather than the situation. Or maybe they actually didn't like me. This was a first because I was used to parents loving me and guys ignoring me. Many a mother has said to me, "Let me introduce you to my son" while I was all, "No, that would be the KISS OF DEATH." I was the Ultimate Good Girl and most teenage guys aren't all that interested in pursuing someone so innocent, someone their MOTHER wants them to date, unless they are trying to corrupt such a girl.
So things went along, and we were still crazy for each other...until J. graduated from the Brilliant Nerd college program and chose a school to finish his education at, two hours away from my college. Honestly, it would have been easier if he'd gone to Harvard. This way, we saw each other once on most weekends, meeting in Dallas to go out on a date and then spend an hour making out in his car parked in his aunt's driveway. That doesn't sound so bad, but as the semester progressed, J. realized that the tiny liberal arts college known for its academic rigor was kicking his butt. He never liked to study because he wasn't used to having to. Me, I studied my butt off. I got better grades than he did, which he said was because I took easier classes. I should have told him off for denigrating me, but I agreed with him. I knew I'd suck at organic chemistry.
J. got meaner as time progressed. He started putting me down like his father did to his stepmom. I was "stupid" if I couldn't do something the way he wanted me to. He criticized my hair, my clothes, my taste in music. At the time I couldn't recognize the classic signs of emotional abuse. He didn't try to separate me from my friends and family as some guys do, thank goodness--but they did see that something was wrong and I couldn't see that. I had my own doubts, mostly having to do with J's tendency to talk about his female lab partners and dormmates and how much they seemed to want him, but I pushed aside my doubts. After all, this was True Love. A guy who looked like a charming prince had to be one, right? (Answer: yes, if being a prince includes having an out-of-control ego.)
J. transferred to my university after that semester. If being apart had strained our relationship, being together made it really fall apart. J. decided we needed to break up, but--here's the really original part--we could still be friends. We had meant too much to each other to let go completely, was the idea. In practice, this meant that he could still rely on me for emotional support when his daddy was mean to him, and he had access to my very thorough lecture notes, but he was free to See Other People and Party All Night and I don't know what all.
You know, he was nineteen and I don't blame him for wanting to sow his wild oats. The unfair part was that he wanted to have me on a string waiting for him. He knew how much I cared about him, and he deliberately strung me along. In a casual conversation, he'd turn those green eyes on me and say, "I could see myself marrying you in a few years." (What I'd say now: "But first you've got a few hoochie mamas to nail? No, thanks!" What I did then: Sigh, melt, think, "He does love me after all!") We even made out a few times, because he knew I couldn't resist. I was still under his spell.
Until that day in church. I knew as clearly as if it had been indelibly stamped on my brain that I was going to have to break it off with J. for good. I say that I knew I had to--well, I knew God was giving me a choice, because there is always a choice. It's just that it was an unthinkable choice for me. It was like hearing, "You can eat this liver, which is yucky and you don't like it but at least it's edible, or you have to drink poison." A no-brainer, but still no fun at all.
The choice was that I had to break away from J. or else I was not going to fulfill God's plan for my life. I knew I wouldn't stop being a Christian or anything, but if I stayed with J, I was not going to be the person I was meant to become, and God would become much less important in my life, and oh yeah, there was that little thing about how J. was so addicted to conflict that he would FIND things to fight with me about for the rest of our lives. And I was NOT stupid, no matter what he said! All the pieces fell into place while I was sitting in front of 400 people, and I started to cry, because I knew which choice I was going to make.
I called him that evening and said, "I'm coming over." I hung up before he could respond. I don't remember anything I said after I walked in except, "I can't take this anymore. I don't want us to see each other until I'm over you. Don't even call me."
I could see by the look on his face that he couldn't believe what was happening. Girls were not supposed to break up with him; it was supposed to be the other way around. He tried to argue with me; he even cried. Underneath my numb exterior, my heart was aching that I was hurting someone I had once loved so much, but enough was enough. He'd thought he owned me, and he'd pushed me too far.
He honored my wishes and we didn't see each other again for a long time even though it is a small campus. I spent the next year living in an apartment, away from my parents' home for the first time, burying my heartbreak in schoolwork. I forced myself to go out with other human beings once a week. I survived, but I was very lonely. I couldn't listen to the radio: happy songs made me cry because we had once been happy, and sad songs made me cry for obvious reasons.
Months passed and a guy friend told me that J. was saying he was going to get me back, no problem. That's when I got over being brokenhearted and got pissed off instead. Oh, really? What part of "I don't want to see you anymore" do you not understand?
He wanted to meet me for lunch; I knew what was coming. Meanly, I refused to order anything, not wanting him to buy anything for me. That should have warned him, but he plunged into his speech: "I miss you...I want to have the feelings back when we were together...I I I."
Note to guys: when you're begging a girl to take you back, tell her how wonderful she is, not how good you want her to make you feel.
I said no, J., we can't go backwards. I don't feel that way anymore. I'm over you.
And suddenly I realized I was. I was free. I walked into the sunlight without looking back to see which direction he was headed.