If you would allow me, I’d like to tell a story. Not too long ago, I had a very good friend, a perfect friend really. She was pretty, smart, and funny. She was the kind of person you really hate to have as a friend because you’d much rather her be your girlfriend. Well, at some point in our relationship, I made the ill-fated decision to try and make that change—and I was turned down. No, “turned down” doesn’t do justice to how spectacularly this girl rejected me. I didn’t know one person was capable of making me feel so bad about myself. I would have applauded her skill—if I wasn’t so certain the world itself was coming down around me. Ah, young love. It hurts like hell, and thank God for that.
This is going to sound cynical, but bear with me. I think one of the defining characteristic of young love is pain, and it’s painful because of young love’s other defining characteristic: impermanence. I don’t have the statistics on hand, but I’m fairly sure most people don’t end up marrying their high school or college sweet hearts. I’ve seen it dozens of times before: a friend of mine starts going out with a girl, he spend a few months or even a few years dating a girl, and then inevitably it all falls apart. Why? Well, I’m no sociologist, but I am young, and I think that gives me some insight. Kids change fast. Who you are the freshman year of high school or college is certainly not the same person who graduates from those institutions four years later. We are constantly undergoing physical, mental, and emotional evolutions during these periods of our lives. It’s absurd to think anyone could maintain a committed relationship under that kind of turbulence.
So, consequently, most high school and college relationships have a very brief shelf life. And the worst part is, despite its rather obvious expiration date, it still feels like you’ve been dealt a cataclysmic blow when the relationship comes to an end. It often time feels like you will never love again, like you’ve missed out at your one chance at happiness. Of course, as inevitably as one relationship ends, another will inevitably raise to take its place, proving that apocalyptic nay-saying wrong. And this is the silver lining of young love: it teaches you that life goes on even in the face of the most intolerable pain.
When that girl rejected me, I was, of course, inconsolable. She was the first person I had ever really wanted to have a relationship with; she seemed to be the love of my life. Following her rejection, I spent days sulking in my room, lamenting the dreary, turgid existence I was now doomed to live.
Yeah, upon reflection, it’s all rather embarrassing because I certainly wouldn’t describe my current state of affairs as “dreary” or “turgid.” Actually, I’m incredibly happy with my life. And I think I owe a lot of that happiness to that incredibly painful rejection. I’ve lived a lot of my life terrified of rejection. I spent a lot of time avoiding relationships, platonic and romantic, because I was afraid of what might happen if those relationships didn’t pan out. Well, I did find out what happens: it hurts, a lot. But as much as it may hurt, it doesn’t kill or cripple. It’s perhaps one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned because it made rejection far less frightening. Young love is painful, and thank God for that.