My story begins in the tenth grade as I entertained the idea of a new boyfriend. I was living in Huntsville, Alabama attending a private school called Covenant Christian Academy. I am the oldest child in my family and the oldest grandchild on both sides (I promise this is relevant).
I was always pushed to act older than my age, which probably had something to do with my stubborn and willful nature. Because I was so stubborn, in ninth grade my mom thought my “talents” could be put to good use as a member of the debate team.
Debating was second nature, and I excelled rapidly. My partner and I began traveling and competing in tournaments outside our region; one of which was held in Vicksburg, Mississippi. In that tournament we not only won our regional title, but I also (and more importantly to our story) met Ben McKoy.
Ben was an Air Force kid and had a wandering soul after my own heart. We clicked instantly and the playful banter began. Throughout the season we saw each other at several different tournaments and talked on the phone in the times between. Our fondness for each other grew and we decided to become “boyfriend and girlfriend,”, whatever that means, in the tenth grade. Everything was perfect and we began planning our seemingly inevitable future.
They thought he was a rambunctious, hippie child that was not a good influence on their daughter. Regardless of my parents’ opinion, come hell or high water, I was going to be with that boy. After all, they should have known that as their firstborn I am quite stubborn.
We began planning secrete meetings and hiding our messages and phone calls. It is worth mentioning that these “secret meetings” took exceptional planning because Ben lived 500 miles away from me. He drove up to my house a few times and we would have our secret rendezvous in the field behind my house. Clearly we both should have been spies because we picked the most discreet of meeting locations.
We carried on our forbidden relationship for a few months until my parents found out; my mom went through my journal to find “proof” of my clandestine behavior. They confronted me and after one of their notoriously late five hour long sit-down talks, coming to the conclusion that Ben and I must break up.
The next day I called Ben to tell him the heart wrenching news. Our “enduring love” was not going to endure. He was understanding and was more insistent on following my parent’s wishes than I was. He told me that if we were going to “endure,” then we would need and want their blessing. With that, we made an agreement to talk again in six months, and he would talk to my dad before we entered into a relationship again.
Time went on and the months passed at a sluggish pace. At first, all I could do was countdown in anticipation of the time we would be able to see each other again. But as the months puttered on I began to forget about Ben and started to move on with my life. He was out of sight and began to slip from the forefront of my thoughts.
He was a preacher’s son, in medical school, an honors student, and a man of impressive pedigree. Initially, I despised him because he was much older than me; eight years my senior. Looking back on this situation I wonder what my parents were thinking when he began to pursue me!
After all, he was a college graduate, in medical school dating a high school sophomore. Though I initially acted immaturely around him in an attempt to turn his attention away from me, it was all to no avail. My parents encouraged the match due to his fine “pedigree,” and eventually I began to be more open to the idea. At this point, Ben and I had been apart for five months.
I would be lying if I said my parents’ approval did not influence my opinion of this new gentleman, whose name, ironically, was also Benjamin. But in all fairness, the heart does what the heart wants and I decided I wanted him; Lord knows why. I suppose that stubborn spirit was kicking in and I was doing what I wanted to do.
A few weeks after my birthday I got a phone call while Benjamin was at my house. We were playing with my younger siblings and my dad was outside cutting the grass. The phone rang and without looking at the caller ID, I answered. “Hello?” I said.
“Hi, Amanda. May I please speak to your dad?”
“Who is this?” I recognized the voice but couldn’t place it. It flustered me though.
“You don’t know?”
There was a prolonged pause until I said, “Ben?” I still don’t know why this realization drew the response it did from me, but I regret it to this day. He didn’t respond right away and in that millisecond in which he paused to answer me my demeanor changed from flustered confusion, to fury.
Before he had time to answer I fired off my next, incredibly illogical, question: “Why are you calling?! And why do you want to talk to my dad?!” This response still does not make sense to me, but the only thing I can rationalize is that I assumed he would have given up on me, and so I gave up on him first.
I’m sure he was thinking, “this is not the response I expected.” But to me, his call and attempt to talk to my dad brought up something that I had put behind me and did not wish to revisit.
He did not answer any of the barrage of questions I threw at him. He just continued to say, “Please let me speak to your father.”
Out of frustration I eventually walked outside and gave the phone to my dad. He came inside a few minutes later and told me that Ben had requested to meet with him and talk; he was at Barnes and Noble just a few minutes from my house. Dad asked me how I wanted him to handle the conversation and if I had any interest in a new relationship with Ben. I told him no.
It was not until after Dad came back from meeting with Ben that I learned that he had, for the past two weeks, been hitchhiking and walking his way to my door to have that very conversation. He had literally walked 500 miles for me, just like the famous song by The Proclaimers says.
Once the realization of my actions and attitude began to set in, I nearly crumbled in guilt and depression. He was just a love stricken boy, fulfilling his promise to the girl he thought was the love of his life; and I heartlessly rejected him without even a second thought. What was almost as disheartening was the fact that the guy I rejected him for turned out to be an absolute schmuck.
At the time, I never would have thought that several years later I would even remember this event, but clearly it had more of a lasting impact than I realized. This event taught me to love and respect people more fully and to weigh my actions by not only how it affects me, but the ramifications my decisions could have on the people around me.
Even though I know I shouldn’t “live with regret,” I still wish I could go back and fix it, and probably change my decision. My desire going forward is not to dwell in the past or worry about yesterday’s mistakes, but instead, find a place of acceptance and understanding that allows me to learn from the past and not repeat mistakes in the future.