the story.

14. Write about your first love – whether a person, place, or thing

I don’t have a lot of cousins, 6 first cousins, in total. I’m not particularly close to any of them now except for one- Will. He’s got an amazing sense of humor and we always have a laugh when we’re together. But there was another cousin, Will’s half brother, and we used to be very close.

He’s roughly ten years older than I am, so when I was a baby he would hold me and play with me, there are tons of pictures of it, and as I grew older, he was my favorite person. I remember he would bring me gifts: one time he gave me a blue jump rope, another time it was a little clown doll (not creepy) with a lovely silk orange and pink outfit. I don’t remember much, but the pictures show me that Jeff had great affection for me, and in my eyes, he was the best. Jeff was cool, and funny, and he adored me. I have an older brother, but Jeff loved me in a way my actual brother never did. I looked up to him- he was totally my hero. For a school assignment in middle school, we had to write about someone who was our hero. I wrote about Jeff.

By calling it a “first” we are usually implying that there were more loves to follow. And our first love is often the love that breaks our hearts.  That this was the love that captured us before any other love. Perhaps not all of our first loves break our hearts, but this was how I decided that Jeff was my first love, because he was also my first heartbreak.

I remember being in church one day, during some weekday event, when I heard from my mom that Jeff had run away from home. He was doing drugs, and he wasn’t speaking to anyone in the family. I honestly felt like instead of just running away from my Aunt’s house, he had run away from me. I felt like he personally abandoned me. I felt, for the first time that I can remember, rejected.

I’ve spent many years fighting a ‘rejection’ lie. That I’m not enough, that when someone says or does a certain thing that they are rejecting me. And for a long time, I believed the root of this rejection to be from a high school boyfriend. I had an incredible father and I could never recall an instance that he, or my mom really, ever brought about a feeling of rejection in my life. My earliest memory of rejection was that boyfriend. Until just a few days ago, when I received a Facebook message from Jeff. Apparently he’d been in jail the last few months so he messaged me when he got out to congratulate me on getting married. I felt a little angry when he messaged me and I couldn’t figure out why. And then I started thinking about your first love. And I put all the pieces together.

I’m certain Jeff has no idea the effect that his life choices had on me. I’m not sure any of my family realizes how his choices broke my heart. I doubt I’ll ever tell them. What’s important is not the hurt, but the growth that came from the brokenness.

This is what I know about first loves: your first is not your last, and forgiveness will let you tell the story.

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