When I am faced with hardships, I let my mind wander to previous setbacks in my life, where I thought my life was going to end. A slight smile creeps across my face when my mind lands on the time a boy broke my heart, by humiliating me in front of my classmates in middle school. When it happened, I was devastated; I thought I’d never recover. Now, 15 years later, I laugh at the story. How silly was I to be so distraught over a silly remark from a boy.
My crush and I had several classes together, but we hung out with different cliques – he with the cool-kids and me with the not-so-cool-kids. I don’t know how much of the relationship was real and how much of it was in my head, for we did not communicate often. But, at 12 years old, I was sure that he was The One. Others called it puppy love. I called it true love.
In retrospect, I don’t think we ever had a full-blown conversation. Our conversations mostly consisted of him asking me a question about math class like, “What was the homework assignment from yesterday?” and my responding with the exact page number and math problems we were assigned.
Everyone in my class knew I had a major crush on this boy. I didn’t intentionally tell everyone who I was enamored with; I only told my best friend and she told her best friend, who told her best friend. And before I knew it, everyone knew I was in love with him.
My crush was the only one who was unaware of my affections, but that would all change one day during lunch.
My classmates and I were required to sit at the same lunch table. My crush assumed his typical role of being the Class Clown and was telling jokes, as he sat at the middle of the table. Everyone was laughing with him, as he was playfully teasing his other classmates. His jokes were harmless and the kids he was teasing were laughing too. Then, all of a sudden, the conversation shifted. My classmates started looking and pointing at me. Then, out of nowhere, someone shouted to my crush across the table, “HEY! YAA YAA LIKES YOU!” He acted like he didn’t hear it, but someone else yelled it again. “SHE LIKES YOU MAN!”
The table became really quiet. And I was experiencing a myriad of emotions. Part of me wanted to crawl under the table. Part of me wanted to hear what he had to say. The other part wanted to punch the snitch in the face. Finally–after what seemed like an eternity–he responded.
“Why do I always get the ugly ones!”
I could have died right there. My life, as a middle schooler, was over.
Everyone was shocked. “Man,” my classmates said, “That was mean. Don’t say that!”
The girls at the table walked over to comfort me. One girl even ran to tell our teacher. The boys, on the other hand, laughed hysterically. I suppose they were in agreement that I was ugly.
I was devastated. My head was buried in my hands, as tears slid down my cheeks. I couldn’t pay attention in class for the rest of the day. The pain I was experiencing was overwhelming. I felt like my crush punched me in the stomach, knocked the wind out of me. I was utterly devastated.
“He’s a stupid boy,” my mom said to me as she was comforting me later that evening. “You’ll see, one day, he’ll regret he ever called you that and you’ll find another boy who will like you for who you are.”
I didn’t believe her at the time. I believed my crush when he said that I was ugly. I didn’t think that I would ever like someone else as much as I liked him. I didn’t think that my college and graduate school years would be some of the best years of my life. I would meet some amazing people and date some attractive men, who thought the world of me. They would think that I was beautiful. Strangers who I would casually run into at grocery stores, gyms, malls, and college campuses would stop me to tell me how beautiful I was. I never thought I would compete in a beauty pageant, or be admired for my popularity and easy-going personality among my peers in my graduate program and professional life. At the time of my first heartbreak, I did not know that the best was yet to come and that this uncomfortable situation was just one page in this book called life.
But that’s the thing about life: we fail to put situations in perspective. We tend to think that whatever we’re going through at the time is the end of the world, until we get to the next phase of our life and realize we were overreacting, that everything in life occurs only for a season, and that our brighter days are still ahead of us.