A Measure of Maturity

I’ve always been the kind of teenager who considered high school relationships to be trivial, asinine pursuits. My view on matters such as, who was dating who, as were frequent topics of inane interest at school, was gratuitously cynical. I found the “puppy love” syndrome, where suddenly couples seemed to crowd my locker bay, purring the soft sounds of lust—not love—, to be revolting at best. On days, when I would peer across the sink of the girl’s bathroom, in the downstairs of brown hall, to meet the tear-stained eyes of a fragile face whose heart had recklessly been torn, I didn’t see a suffering soul or a traumatized heart. I saw a weak, silly, naive little girl, who had thrown away weeks of her life on some just-as-naive little boy. And in the end their immaturity had ruined them. Perhaps he tossed her aside for something better.

Perhaps he made the wrong move and she got scared. Perhaps he didn’t say ‘I love you’ back. Whatever the reason I had an inexplicable urge to shake her by the shoulders and tell her that it was only high school, that teenage boys are simply teenage boys, and there is nothing else to add to the equation. And it was for this attitude precisely that I thought myself the better person. I considered my “clarity” in regards to such silly relationships to be a defining characteristic of my maturity. However, it is not until now, now that I have begun to experience such relationships, that I can say that I wasn’t the mature one at all. In actuality I was callow. I hid my inexperience, my fear of vulnerability behind such seemingly sophisticated veils as “relationships are stupid”.

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Due to these obstinate views I resigned myself to a fate of self-imposed solitude, convinced that no juvenile boy possessed the capacity to live up to my sanctimonious standards. And so with this frame of reference, his entrance into my life utterly shattered my preconceived notions of the world. To attempt to describe him as I saw him would only be in vain. For my feelings were ineffable even then and he was, beholden in my eyes, a paragon of ingenuity and brilliance. He possessed a unique, mindful attitude, which ignited his every curiosity into the workings of the people and society around him. Granted, his charisma charmed all that met him, but it was his inner character and integrity, few had the privilege of truly knowing, that drew me to him beyond all else. In me he somehow found a beauty that I had never been aware of myself. Characteristics of my personality, which had previously driven suitors away—my tendencies towards capricious actions, my unfettered passion for discussion and discovery, my sometimes caustic honesty in stating my convictions—made me all the more perfect to him. For an ephemeral moment in time we happened upon ourselves in a place of complete bliss and yet vulnerability in each others arms. Our emotions were exhilarating yet utterly exposed to all the terrifying tribulations of life. The eminent reality and therefore possibility of separation, loss, change, even rejection proved all to much for him to handle. I watched helplessly as he began to pull away, overcome by fear. I experienced a nebulous pain deep inside of me that I didn’t know was possible. Breathing became a arduous task under the waters I felt over my head.

Suddenly, I was the tear-stained girl in the mirror. I was the one engulfed by all those “silly” emotions for which I had previously felt such disdain. But, instead of receiving the same judgment I had before disseminated towards others in my position, I was given profound compassion, understanding, and support. In my friends and family I discovered the rich and invaluable gift of comfort. I wont contend that every high school relationship that has ever been was alike to mine in its complexity, composition, and sincerity, or even that two people in a relationship will percieve the same memories, lessons, and outcome. In these aspects every relationship and every individual is unique. However, I have learned that heartbreak, loss, and rejection are all universally experienced. Upon reflection, I realize that only by opening myself up to both beauty and pain was I able to initiate my path from innocence to maturity, and although the lessons I have learned along this path are immense both in breadth and depth, the farther I get the more I understand just how much about life I have yet to learn.

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