So, I want to tell you a story. It’s my story, and it’s no better or worse than anyone else’s, but because it’s mine, it’s mine to tell.
From the day I was born, there was one thing I wanted more than anything in the world. I’m not exaggerating with the timeframe; my parents have always been a little unsettled that I literally remember being a baby. I can remember the color of my blankets, the names of my animals, my favorite moments of sesame street.
To love and be loved, people say, is what everyone wants. And while a kernel of this holds true for all hearts, I don’t believe people actually, consciously prioritize this in their minds. For me, however, it has always been at the core of everything I’ve ever done or hoped for.
I am the firstborn. Nature, it seemed in my family, took her time getting it right. When my sister and brother arrived and grew, I began to realize that in comparison, I was not as beautiful as they. When I was six or seven, I made a decision concerning this plight–If I could not be beautiful (and in so being, I thought, lower my chances considerably for ever being loved), I would act on what I had control over: my mind. I was a bright little girl, while still functioning as average. I wanted to please, colored within the lines, scored well on spelling tests, and practiced cursive just as I was taught. But from the day I made that decision about what I could and could not affect, I became average no more.
This seemed a positive route to my parents. I would become the “brain” of the family, my siblings left to their own devices when it came to pleasing the teachers I’d already had. Everyone began to have Big Plans for my Future. I won awards, scholarships, fellowships and merits too many to tell. I excelled at everything I tried, and I say this not to brag, but in fact. I was accepted to MIT’s graduate school while I was still a junior in high school. I was awarded a place in NASA’s young scientist’s program. I was captain of teams, star of every play or musical I was in. I trained vocally with a soprano from the New York Met Opera.
In my junior year of high school, I was in a chemistry class taught by one of the assistant football coaches. Because of this, half the team was in the class. This was not the usual circle of friends or classmates I ran with, but one day after a quick lab we were sitting around waiting for the next bell, and I found myself in the company of several popular jocks. I’ve never had a problem speaking my mind; I’m not embarassed to ask the hard questions or usually afraid of the answers. So that day, I turned to one of them and asked, “Why is it none of you have ever asked me out?”
The boy I’d asked started to laugh, and glanced at his friend who also grinned. “Are you kidding?” he said, “Who wants to go out with a girl who’s way smarter than they are?”
Ten years into my Plan, I finally saw the flaw.
This led into a Very Hard Summer. I was taking summer school classes during the day because simply, it would put me even more ahead. I was working on a show at night. My entire family went to Europe, and I chose to stay home alone and do the things that I thought would help bring me closer to love. Surely, I still told myself, they were wrong. I just needed to try harder.
Toward the end of a very lonely summer, my pet rabbit of eight years died. There was a boy I’d known for years, a kind of odd friend and a major crush. His name was Gabriel. He happened to run into me the day I was mourning the rabbit, and, I believed, felt sorry for me enough to hang out. His girlfriend of two years had just gone to college, and I figured he was killing time while she was away. My senior year began, and the hanging out became a usual thing. Then one night, after I’d driven him home from a football game, in the middle of an uninteresting conversation, he kissed me.
What happened next was like an 80’s chick flick. He dumped the girlfriend in a big show. We became the Most Unexpected Couple of the whole high school. (He was Class Clown, I was Most Likely to Succeed.) And I–At last, I was in LOVE.
The year sped by. I was still doing and achieving and being my usual self, but I had someone beside me to enjoy it all with me. He was beautiful, poetic, a secret romantic hidden behind all the stunts he pulled. My parents began to worry about the amount of time and energy I spent with him. And then I did the unthinkable.
At the end of our senior year, he asked me to marry him. I said yes. The problem with this was I was supposed to be going to Yale. He was going to a local state school. I turned down everywhere else and enrolled at the state school. My family was so disappointed.
But I was in LOVE. For the first time in my life, I had the thing I’d always wanted more than anything, so it made no matter to me what other choices I had to make to keep that. My family went to Europe again that summer, and I spent it happily planning my life with Gabriel.
One month before college started, that world collapsed. While crossing the street to get the mail for me (my parents live on a state route), Gabriel was hit by a car. I was standing less than ten feet away. In the moment before impact, he met my eyes. Then he closed them and was hit, thrown over 20 yards. That was, in truth, the last time I would see the man I knew and loved.
He survived. His body was broken, and there were surgeries and titanium and horrible, horrible scars. But worse, there was a break in his mind, in his belief in himself and in my love for him.
The rest of that chapter of my life is a long, painful story which is of little consequence to this letter, but to say I lost him. After a number of years of physical therapy, changes in schools, creeds, hopes and realities, he went to France. And I was, once again, alone.
I redoubled my efforts. I blew through courses, got involved in social and humanitarian causes, learned to ballroom dance and sabre fence. I began to compete in both. And one night during a dance competition, I met a man named Jason.
He was brilliant and beautiful to watch; and somehow, he was watching me. The love was fast and intense. We became partners and lovers; we FIT together on and off the dancefloor. I’d never had a partner like him before or since.
He too asked me to marry him. I again said yes. He moved across the country to go back to his university, and I enrolled there. Two months before I was to leave to join him, I woke up in the middle of the night and knew that he had cheated on me. I called him in the morning, and he admitted it, called off our engagement.
I moved across the country, still believing in our love. The next few years were a kind of delicate torture. He would show up in the middle of the night, bring pie or chocolate, need me. I would go out dancing, and he would be there with his date. We’d rarely talk, but would always end up on the dance floor together, forgetting everything else for those moments. Then he would give me a look full of memories and broken promises and go home with his date.
He never married. On one of his many, many dates, he was killed when his snowmobile struck a tree. I stopped dancing.
Once more, I threw myself into my studies and work. I worked on degrees in acting, chemistry and linguistics. When I graduated, I went straight to grad school. I taught classes, worked on the Human Genome Project, and ran the university anatomy lab. I got a masters degree in Linguistics, and learned 13 languages. I got a Master’s degree in Human Anatomy and Physiology and a job working for a Department of Defense brain trust. I got a master’s degree in Classics and Philosophy and wrote a thesis on the origins of the Tarot. I published papers and several books. And I was still very alone.
I went to live near my parents again in there somewhere. They both developed major medical issues and were being difficult about their medications and treatments. My life became about my family once more. My brother got married, my sister separated from her husband. There were nephews to care about. My grandparents died one after another all within three years.
And then one day I visited a church I’d attended some years before, and met Wayne, who I’d known long ago. It was an odd courtship, but I fell in love with him. Old scars were worn away, and I began to believe somehow it would end up being worth all the suffering. He was the epitome of tall (6’6″), dark (Native American Iroquois), and handsome (martial arts expert and movie stuntman).
Like the other two, he proposed. I said yes once more. We planned, got the license, looked to the future. And two days before our wedding, he called it off.
You have to ask yourself at this point, much as I did, what exactly is wrong with me that this has happened to me so many times. The truth is, I don’t know that there is anything I did or didn’t do that could have changed how it all turned out. In a way, I tried too hard, fought too much. Stayed when I should have let it go.
Despite this journey, there is still one thing I want more than all others in the world. I have three rings, and no promises. I have more education than anyone wanted for me. And ironically, as much as I somedays wish I could tell you I have no more hope, the fact is, I hurt because I still hope for love.