An Open Letter to the One That Got Away

Unsplash | Maranatha Pizarras
Unsplash | Maranatha Pizarras

To the One That Got Away,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately — more often than I have in years. It's funny because I know why you've been on my mind, but I can't understand the purpose. Well, maybe I do.

We met as middle school kids. I was at a birthday party and you were cruising the roller rink with your friends. My best friend at the time thought you were cute. So I did what every best friend does: I entertained your friend, even though I had eyes for you, too.

We met again as randomly as we met the very first time, but now we were on the cusp of adulthood. I had just gotten my driver's license and you were planning to leave for college somewhere very far away from me. We dove into a relationship, knowing it would hurt but hoping it wouldn't. I have to tell you — it was the shortest relationship of my entire life, but it was the most intense. I'm not sure if it was fueled by our attraction to each other or the fact that we both knew that time was fleeting, even if we didn't want to admit it.

You left without a real goodbye — we had one, but it wasn't proper. And after you were gone, I hurt for months. I just couldn't pull myself together because all I could think about was you and if you missed me the way I missed you. I'm sure the answer was no, and I don't fault you for it. It was your time to be part of something new.

Thank you for showing me what love should feel like.

When I look back now, I can't remember if we even said "I love you" to each other. But now that I'm older, I know I should have. You were my first real, true love. You gave me all of the feelings you're supposed to have when you love someone. I admired how smart you were and respected you for it — I knew you would be a scientist and you are now, a really successful one. I got butterflies every time you looked at me because I could not believe someone so handsome would look at me the way you did. You made me laugh. You were fun and spontaneous — I will never forget your voice as you sang "Waste" to me over the phone with your guitar accompanying you. You were proud to be with me, and it showed. I loved the way you used to make sure to pay attention to me around your friends and invite me to events at your school.

I've been through it all since we parted ways 15 years ago. I have been in awful relationships with men who used me, who didn't appreciate me, who led me on, or who never really gave it 100 percent. I went through a marriage and a divorce — he was a good guy, just not good for me. But I have to tell you — I spent those years never forgetting how I felt when I was with you and trying to see if I could come close to feeling it again. I didn't. Until recently.

I've been thinking about you, I think (I know) because I met someone not too long ago who has brought that feeling back into my life. He makes me laugh so hard, and I am still jittery around him until the first good kiss . . . or the first good cocktail — whichever comes first. He looks at me like he adores me. He makes me feel like the most important person in the room. Like you, he makes me want to be my best self. But it makes me afraid because, also like you, he could be gone at any moment and I will have lost this amazing feeling not once, but twice. I find myself bracing for impact more than I would like to.

I guess what I have to say is thank you for showing me what love should feel like. I know why you were put in my life now, and I'm sorry I didn't pay closer attention. You were and are an amazing person, and I have so much gratitude that I was able to have you even for such a short time. You are the standard I will hold all of my relationships to from here on out — although I should have before — and I promise I won't settle for less again.