If ever there was a lesson that took years for me to learn, it was the one given to me by a childhood friend of mine. I will always call her friend because she planted a seed so valuable inside of me, that it took many seasons of watering and many hands to till before it could sprout into the concepts I hold today. I’ll never forgot the words she spoke to me that day, and I will always remember the effect it had on me. This is what Victoria doesn’t know.
Victoria Nellum was my crush in the 7th grade at Larkspur Middle School. It was her beauty and style, and her always energetic and talkative personality that drew me to her. We began conversations as friends attending a few of the same classes until finally we exchanged numbers and began a time period of innocent courting. Victoria had no idea I was absolutely infatuated with her. Anytime she spoke, even if it was to answer a prompted question, I would lean my ear in her direction just to catch a wind of her inflections. We would youthfully hold hands in the hallways or lean up against our lockers, and I would eagerly await for the moment the “minute bell” rang so that I could press my lips against hers to say goodbye.
One day after school, we were having one of our many phone conversations about any and everything, and I, being the charmer that I was, mustered enough bravado to tell Victoria I love her. I remember the pause of silence that lasted what seemed like an entire minute. She asked me what I had said again and I said, “I love you.” Victoria sighed then replied “How can you love me? You don’t even know what love is. You don’t love me, you just think you do.”
As my heart began to sink, and my throat dried up and tightened from the sting of rejection, it hit me. I really don’t know what love is. Because in the moment of her response, all those thoughts of her melodic voice, her lips pressed against mine, and her sweet perfume all faded away. When my love given wasn’t reciprocated, I retreated, carrying with me my limited conception of love.
Victoria taught me a valuable lesson then, even though it took years to solidify the concept through learning experiences with other people. I learned in that moment the difference between love and infatuation.
No matter how strong the infatuation is, the feeling is based on a limited perspective of the whole person. Its easy to be infatuated with someone’s beauty, or the common interests you share, or the things that person likes because you’re learning about a whole person and the possibilities of the human desire have no end. But infatuation is put to the test when you uncover that this person, is just a person, with mistakes and mood shifts, challenges and faults, or just traits that may rub you the wrong way.
Victoria was right in that, first of all we were just kids. How could we possibly know anything about loving someone else? But secondly, we hadn’t taken any time in looking deep into one another and finding out who we were actually courting. Again being a kid, all I knew was I liked Phys Ed. and that I was spending lunch and class breaks with a girl that actually wanted to be around me.
Breaking out of infatuation into love takes a trial, a situation, or circumstance that challenges the relationship but bonds the two people involved together. It’s difficult to love someone through a disruption, but what I’ve discovered is that using discernment and wisdom on the front end makes the journey easier down the line. When you are able to read the intentions of a man’s heart, you can accept them for who they are, and choose to navigate the challenges of your life with or without them. Even if the challenge is them.
Bishop Clinton Foster would constantly tell me “When people show you who they really are, you should believe them the first time.” Study a person’s deeds and words and see if they align with the morals and values they claim to uphold. Then compare them to your own values and see if they are in harmony. This is the way into love.
Let me be clear in saying that just because there isn’t alignment between to beings now, doesn’t mean there can’t be alignment at a later point. This all depends on the life stage both beings are in. And also just because someone doesn’t have the same morals or values as yourself does not mean they should be demonized or outcast. Everyone in this world has something unique to bring to the table, it’s you who decides whether to add it on your plate and eat it or not. We cause more problems for ourselves when we feel that we “have to” entertain the person in front of us, or that it’s polite to grit and bear the situations we are put in with other people. We don’t, and there is way of escape in any situation.
So to Victoria, who gave me my first encounter with the complexities of what love isn’t, Thank you, for checking my ignorance about love at the door, and sending me on my journey to try again. A true friend will tell you the truth at all times, and this one lesson has never lied. From friend to friend, I love you.