1) The First Love. Also commonly known as “The High School Sweetheart.” This boy is the Kevin to your Winnie. The Cory to your Topanga. The Dawson to your Joey. Sweet, innocent, idealistic…this is the stuff coming-of-age movies are made of. The First Love is probably the first boy you’ll ever kiss. (Or at least the first one you’ll kiss and feel the earth move.) He probably plays a sport and wears a letterman jacket. He’ll give you his class ring (which is too big, so you’ll proudly wrap yarn around it and wear it as badge of honor.) Some people go on to marry their first love, and the list ends here for them. Most, however…wave goodbye to him one bittersweet day as life and circumstance pulls you in two different directions and growing up comes much too soon. He’ll teach you to drive, to kiss, to LOVE, to open your heart and trust and take chances, paving the way for all the other loves still to come…and then he’ll move on.
2) The One That Could Have Been (But the Timing Was Always Off). Maybe you met him while one of you was already in a relationship. Maybe every time you started to get close, life or work or something else completely unexpected came between you. Maybe it was simply God watching out for you, because He knows the two of you burned too brightly together to ever sustain a lasting spark. The One that Could Have Been is also often known as “The Big Love.” The love that seemed so meant to be that it wasn’t. The one that you were sure you’d never recover from until you did. This person is likely a soulmate, but the kind of soulmate that Liz Gilbert describes in Eat Pray Love:
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soulmate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soulmates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”
Perhaps in another lifetime you were perfect together…but not this one.
3) The Bad Boy. This one will probably steal your heart in your early 20’s, in those years when you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be, and discovering your wings seems to come with a side of rebellion. You’ll think you can change him, but you can’t. (And secretly, you won’t want to, because if you did, he’d no longer be the boy who stole your heart). He’ll make you cry as much or more as he makes you laugh. Underneath it all, you suspect he has a heart of gold…and he probably does…but it will take years and many women after you to uncover it. Here’s the thing about bad boys: In the end, they always walk away. But they don’t leave you empty-handed. In their wake will be a girl who now knows what she wants out of love and what she won’t ever again stand for. And she’s finally learned how to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to anyone who doesn’t meet that standard.
4) The One That Got Away. This boy will seem perfect…and secretly, you suspect he is. He’ll say all the right things, do all the right things, be the very picture of everything you ever imagined you wanted…except now that you have it, you question if you’re ready for that kind of perfection. And chances are, you’re not. Life knows when you’re ready. GOD knows when you’re ready. So even though The One That Got Away offers you everything you thought you wanted, he offers nothing you KNOW you need. And what you need is more time. Time to date other boys you’ll like but won’t love. Time to not date at all and just figure out who YOU are. Time to become the woman you’re meant to be and that you’re closer than ever to coming face to face with, thanks to the lessons brought to you by four “almost-loves.” And you’re almost ready for him…but not quite…so you’ll open your hand and set him free…feeling the beautiful double-edged sword of releasing what’s good and holding out for what’s good for YOU…while secretly wondering for the next few years if in letting go of “The One That Got Away,” you really let go of “The One.”
Except you didn’t.
5) The One. I haven’t met this one yet. I like to think he’s a mix of the four loves that came before him. I like to think he’s sweet and steadfast like The First Love, and passionate and challenging like The One That Could Have Been, and a little wild and rough around the edges like The Bad Boy, with the heart for commitment and building a life together like The One That Got Away. I like to think he’s all of them and none of them, all at the same time. I like to think he personifies this list and also erases it…using the scattered pieces of my heart he gently reclaims from each of them as the eraser. I like to think he will make me forget about anyone I ever loved or thought I loved before he came into my life. But I suspect he won’t. I suspect he will outshine them without setting fire to their memory all together. I suspect he will help me see the need for the other loves while also revealing to me in walking, talking form why it never worked out with any of them. He was always my destination. But they were my preparation.
And I am silently thankful for every step it took to get me here.