Life is about growing. We can grow slowly or suddenly. For me, a boy helped me grow up a lot last year without him even knowing about it. He took me on the craziest emotional roller coaster ride I had ever experienced, and I came off it completely changed for the better.
It started in September, when I spotted him at the end of the lunch table. His tan skin and light brown hair left me at a loss for words. His face had sharp lines but a soft mouth and soft, brown eyes. But what really struck me was his immense height. Probably 6’5” or taller. The fact that he was a grade ahead of me made him even more mysterious. Thus, I developed an enormous crush on this boy, who didn’t even know I existed.
Eventually I overheard his name. Immediately I searched all social media platforms to learn more about him. After gathering all of the available information, I created the idea that we would be perfect for each other.
Over Christmas break, I devised a plan to introduce myself to him in the hallway. It was simple. I rehearsed what I would start off by saying, thought of all the things he could respond with, and came up with responses to those too. What could go wrong?
Break finally ended and we returned to school. All I could think about was what I was going to do. Anxiety and fear brewed inside me all day long. When the bell rang to let us out of sixth hour, I rushed to the hallway I knew he always came down.
I waited against a wall, my heart pounding with adrenaline. After I saw my crush float past me, I held my breath and started after him. I walked hard with long strides until I was just a few steps behind him. My heart rate increased to a thousand beats per minute. I looked up at the back of his head, about a foot above mine, with wide eyes. I felt like an adventurer staring up at Mt. Everest. There it was – so great and grand and terrifying.
That’s when reality hit me at 100 miles per hour, shattering my plan. What am I doing? I CAN’T DO THIS! But no, I had to. I’d told all my friends I would. I told myself I would. Heck, I told my grandma I would. But looking up at Everest made my mind go numb. I was finally here, in the moment I had fantasized about, but now I was unable to do anything. I was stuck at a fixed pace behind this amazing guy, and I couldn’t recite the first word of the daydream that had been on my mind all day. That stupid, dumb, childish daydream. Then my opportunity was gone. His friend swooped in and got to him before I could, and their Socratic seminar was all that was on their minds.
In that moment, I was crushed. I could feel my heart in my throat. Swiftly, I turned and darted in the opposite direction before anyone could see the tears forming in my eyes. I thought I’d failed – that my whole life was over. I’d never be able to do anything ever again!
I cried a lot that day. I wasn’t sad because my crush would never know who I was; I was upset at myself for not doing what I thought I was determined to do. If I couldn’t do the simple act of introducing myself to a boy, how would I ever find love? But the truth is, my heart was beat up by no one other than myself. I’d created a fictional romance in my head with this person who was oblivious to my existence. It was something for my adolescent heart to hold onto, and the feelings that were attached to my childish fantasy broke that day. I am the one who believed so hard. I am the one I let down when I realized how foolish and ridiculous my fantasies were.
That innocent eighth grader is not like me today. That girl only knew of relationships in movies and storybooks, the fantasies. She was naive and ignorant and vulnerable. The me today understands that life does not play out exactly how you wish it to. It requires real courage to take a risk and put yourself out there, especially when it comes to romance.
I’m grateful for that boy. Without him, who knows how long I would have had my nose stuck in a storybook? Now, looking up, I approach life with a brand new perspective.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.