Guest Blogger: Kyle from airmanorby.blogspot.com/
That word scares the living daylights out of me. For as long as I can remember it has. I remember the first time I ever said The "L" word to a girlfriend. Blame it on Disney movies or just young, high school naïvety, but I thought that was it. I said it, truly meant it, and thus, she was the person I would spend the rest of my life with. The end.
Boy, was I wrong.
Life, or God, has a funny way of tossing things our way that we're sometimes not prepared for. These things can be both good or bad. Sometimes the things we think are good turn out being bad, and the things we think are bad end up being good. All in all, there are always lessons to learn and take from these experiences.
Love is a tricky kind of thing. It's also a simple thing. Frustratingly simple. Many tend to overthink it. And we all have fallen victim of mistaking it for something else. From the first time I thought I felt it to now, it's been something that I've always wondered about. What is it? How do you know when you feel that way about someone? How do you know when someone really feels that way about you? When is it okay to actually say it? Yeesh.
Well, my readers, I don't know. Sorry to disappoint. The answers to these questions are all things that we have to learn on our own (a good place to start is the Bible though--1 Corinthians). What I do know is that all of my life experiences--the disappointments along with the great moments--have led me to a very good place with a very special person. One that I consider myself very, very lucky to have had in my life for a year and a half now. That person, as you might have guessed by now, is my Amanda. This is our story (so far).
If you don't feel like reading a very long and sappy post, you should probably stop right here. Haha, all of my closest friends know how I feel about cheese--it makes me gag. Once in a while though, cheese is necessary, appropriate, and well-deserved. So yeah, if cheese makes you barf, I won't take offense if you kindly stop reading now. Or read another of my posts!
On July 17, 2008 I drove to Fayetteville, AR with a buddy of mine to teach at an annual camp. Yes this was a band camp, and yes it was usually the highlight of my calendar year. This particular year though, my parents were not enthusiastic about me going. They felt like I had other, more important things to do with my time, and that the camp didn't pay enough. What I gained from those camps though were more than monetary value, and--in a rare case of defiance against my parents--I went anyway.
When my buddy and I got to the University of Arkansas, I geared myself up for the usual ritual of: labelling names on rooms, getting my room together, directing students to the right places, repeating the same instructions over and over...the list goes on. We were a few hours early though and were pleased to find one of our friends--a director from Oklahoma--was early as well! This particular director had brought with her some students from a school in her district, and one of these students was extremely striking. In an attempt to not sound like an absolute creeper, I need to clarify a few things:
1) My friend that I drove up with and I used to pick out the cute students...human nature.
2) Once acknowledging the cuteness of a student, that was it.
3) The students always, always lost all cuteness the moment they opened their mouths and the high school immaturity spilled out all over the place.
4) Although we were teachers, my friend and I were 19 and 20 respectively and our students were mostly seniors in high school. Making them 17 or 18.
5) Most importantly, we never even talked to the students outside of demonstrations and classes--the staff was too much fun!
But like I said, she caught my attention from the get-go. After basic introductions, there was not really time to sit around and talk though; there was a lot of work to be done.
Throughout the camp, I always kept an eye out for her. She was a talented person and extremely focused. One thing that striked me the most though was how little attention she gave me. Because of some of the things I did in high school, I had a pretty long list of accomplishments. The founder of these camps, who is an AMAZING man, was always very, very gracious in his compliments to his staff. Whenever he introduced me, he would refer to me as "the star on the staff" or something like that--I actually didn't really like that.
That being the case, all of the little high school girls immediately would gravitate towards me. They asked a ton of questions and looked at me like I was some kind of famous person. That kind of attention always made me uncomfortable, but human nature is to kind of like it. And I won't lie, sometimes I did like it.
With Amanda though, that wasn't the case. She wasn't nervous when I critiqued her, she was attentive but not swooning with adoration, she was very sweet but not overbearingly giggly. Overall, she looked at me, treated me, and engaged with me like a regular person. I loved it. And I was hooked. Being aware of my teacher-student status, I always kept my distance. She was marvelous though, and caught the attention of the other staff members as well. Her name was even bounced around to bring on staff the very next year if she so chose. I would even say she was too talented. I would try to find things to correct, or even hang back at the end of our sessions to get a reason to talk to her. I never did though.
It's an annual tradition after the Arkansas camp for staff members to eat waaay too much food at a local barbeque place near campus. Since Amanda rode with a staff member, she got to come to this lunch with us. After lunch everyone said their goodbyes and gave their hugs--I made Amanda's hug just a hair longer. And that, I was certain, was the last I would see of the girl with the infectous smile, beautiful eyes, and gorgeous red hair.
Thank goodness we live in the age of social media.
I was 100% sure that a facebook friend request from her would be waiting for me by the time I got home. All the campers "friended" the staff members right after they got home. You wouldn't believe my shock when I got home to find that I had about 16 requests, NONE of which from Amanda. No matter, I told myself, I'm sure she will eventually. But she never did! I don't even know how long I waited--it felt like forever. The requests kept trickling in...but I never got that one from her. So then, of course, I did.
I have a pretty basic belief. If I meet a cool girl, there's about a 99% chance she has a boyfriend. Most of the good girls are, well, taken. Because they're good! When she accepted the request, that was the first thing I looked for...she was single! And then reality sank in. She was a high school senior. I was a college guy. She lived in Oklahoma. I would have rather take an acid bath than have anything long distance. I didn't get my hopes up.
But I did try my hand at a friendship.
I sent her a message asking her how she felt about camp, if she was looking forward to the upcoming year--basic things like that. She messaged me back that same day. We messaged back and forth for weeks, I learned so much about her. She was an insanely goal-oriented person. And not just the basic "oh, I really think this is cool so I want to do it" kind of goal-oriented. She had known her whole life what she wanted to study in college, and had lined herself up to get into the school she wanted and the program she wanted. She fascinated me. She was like a good book that every page made you want to read the next one, then the next one, then the next one. Like a dessert that you never want to end. The messages got longer and longer, and every lapse of time that I had to wait for a response felt like an eternity. Her maturity completely floored me. She was funny and liked my sense of humor. At times that I would show her some of my funny tendencies, she embraced them instead of mocking them. I, 20-year-old college guy, was falling for this high school senior.
After I admitted and accepted this to myself, I worked up the nerve to actually tell her (through the security blanket of facebook chat, of course). Again, her maturity was featured. She admitted that she liked me too, but after a lot of talking, we decided to just let things be. We both knew that it would be kind of dumb to start something at that phase, but we accepted how we felt about each other. The flirtatious texts started, they were awesome. She wasn't my girlfriend, but she was in a lot of ways becoming my best friend. We talked/texted about our days, our lives, our problems. It was awesome the way she was there for me.
And then a cold dose of reality smacked me across the face. I'll never forget it. On my way to a history class (it was a wet kind of day), my phone vibrated to let me know I received a text. I looked at my phone to see a curt message: "I have a boyfriend". It was from Amanda. Cold ice water doused my intestines, and a sickening numbness swooned over me, but I sent a simple message back: "I hope things work out for you". And that was that. I don't even know how to describe the feeling. I was embarassed at liking a high school girl. I was mad at her, but mostly at myself. One thing I've never been bad at was moving on though...and move on I did.
I dated other girls--all with different degrees of suckiness. Around the time she broke up with her boyfriend, I started dating a really good girl. Amanda and I started talking again, but things were just different. The way I felt about her had taken a hit, and I had a girl whom I thought was the bomb diggidy. I even hurt Amanda and we didn't talk for a few months again. One night, I was extremely upset over life, at my girlfriend, just about everything, and I reached out to Amanda. That was the night she told me how she felt about me. I was completely taken aback by it. I've heard a lot of girls spill their guts out for me, and my heart and mind have gotten pretty good at seeing BS. This was different though. This was real. And I was quite literally moved by it.
After things with my current girlfriend failed, Amanda was a great friend. I had a ton of really good friends helping me out, but Amanda was who I talked to the night of the (inevitable) breakup. Then the friendship began to pick up again. We talked about everything imaginable, fell asleep on the phone together, and even had a nice lunch date at a good halfway point between Oklahoma City and Denton. She was my best friend again. After a few months of this, a daunting fact was thrust in front of me: for the first time in a year, Amanda and I could actually be together. This frightened me. I was commited to joining the Air Force, we would be long distance, and the friendship to relationship thing doesn't always work out so well.
We were in what Amanda calls "The Gray Area". I did a lot of dithering around the facts and over-analyzing. It took a good friend of mine shaking me for me to shake out of my cowardice. For someone that always looks at the bottom line, I was ignoring the facts: this girl was crazy about me, she had such a kind soul, she was caring, and wanted so badly to earn my trust and be all the things that I always told her I wanted in a woman. So I took the jump.
And here I am today. I am in love with this woman. We are still in the early stages of our fledgling relationship; we've only been dating for 5 months. But those 5 months (the longest consistent relationship I've been in in 5 years, by the way) have been amazing. Growing with her everyday, experiencing life with her everyday, and being able to just be me with her is the most awesome feeling. She's never broken my trust. She's been everything to me in some of the hardest days that I have ever seen in my life. What's even more is that she is the most beautiful thing that my eyes have laid on, and not only in a physical way. When I look at her I see my best friend, my future, my happiness, and solace. I can be every bit myself around her--that ranges from Star Wars nerd, to hopeless romantic, to fitness buff, to sports fanatic, to music/band nerd--and she still will be seen in public with me.
Is she a perfect human being? No way. But neither am I. I've told her my biggest fears, my worst moments, my chinks in my armor, and she embraces me for them. Just as I embrace her for hers. She's perfect in my eyes. She is the first woman that I've completely trusted in a very, very long time. Usually by now in relationships I start looking for every reason to abandon ship and run away before I get hurt, but I want nothing else but to be closer to her.
I love her family, I love her past, I love her for everything on this earth that makes her who she is, and everything that has led us to where we are. Being in love doesn't make long distance easy...it takes work, but its work that I gladly put in for her and for us.
Amanda, I love you