I was 14 and his words shredded my heart. Never mind the exact words, at 14 anything mean and hurtful can be razor-sharp to a tender heart. I wanted him to like me, I thought he was beautiful. He had Keith Partridge hair and a sweet smile. All the girls thought he was so cool as he worked on his dirt bike in his jeans cut-offs and T-shirt.
Until he said it. He cut out my heart with his words and melted my self-esteem. I wished awful things for him at that moment, and for years to come. My family moved thousands of miles away not long after that, and those words followed me. Another high school, another set of friends, the same hurt followed me as I tried to be confident. But, what if he was right? That question haunted me for years and I would wish him a life filled with disappointment each time.
Ok, I let it go finally. I didn’t wish him pain or unhappiness anymore. I realized that his words were just that…words. Heck, he probably wouldn’t even remember that he said it. His words only had the power I gave them, right? Essentially, I forgot about him and his words. But then I heard the news about him, after all these years. He drank too much, had a bitter divorce and recently died. He was an unhappy man, or at least that’s what I heard from people who knew him.
I was sad for him, and for his family. I was sad that anyone had gone in that direction and had been so unhappy. I had let go of all those feelings I had for so many years, but they all came back when I heard about his death. When someone sent me a photo of him in those teen summer years, with his shiny hair and sweet smile, I remembered once again how much power his words had, how much I wanted him to like me. I remembered how I gauged my day by whether he smiled at me or not, if he spoke to me or not.
My daughter is now at about the same age as I was when he sliced my self-esteem with his words. I know when she’s hurting that it’s so real and strong for her, and that I can’t tell her to just brush it off and move on. It’s not that easy, is it? Only time can heal those wounds, and even then they may haunt you years later.