Dating in high school is not worth the investment. Yeah, I would have rolled my eyes too. But I’m still burdened from bad investments in my own life, and could do nothing but watch as shrapnel from heartache wrecked my friend, Serena.
Serena and I met in kindergarten and hated each other as much as any two kids could hate. After years of intense rivalry, we were forced into the same summer school camp before 6th grade began. Alone but together in a sea of strange faces, we became friends for our sanity and survival. Equally surprised at how much we actually enjoyed it, we stayed friends after the camp ended.
Serena was a cooler, prettier me-I-wish-I-could-be. We had similar personalities and liked the same things, but she always did better and knew how to get what she wanted. Maybe that’s what sparked my childish hate? I’m not sure. Yet despite our similarities and the friendship that formed, our lives bounced like repelling magnets when we reached our junior year of high school.
Easily the most beautiful girl in the school, Serena was sporty, feminine, personable, and developed curves in all of the guys’ favorite places. So naturally, she started dating a rich guy who could have been a Calvin Klein model on the weekends.
They were together for a year, maybe two. Then one day as our group scarfed cheesy bread at our favorite pizza place, she held out her hand. “Look what he got me! We’re getting serious.” She glowed as we gawked at the shimmering diamond on her finger, but in the back of my mind I heard a skeptic.
I told you this guy was rich, but he was actually stupid-rich. As we marveled at the ring, I remembered the night when he plowed his parents’ Lexus *(or some other fancy car)* straight into a lightpole. He was grounded for three months and then they bought him a new one. The ring on her finger could have been $100 or $2000 dollars, it was still pocket change to him.
Of course I didn’t say any of this out-loud, and their relationship got serious. She gave him the most intimate parts of herself. I honestly don’t remember how long they lasted, but the truth is undeniable now: his ring didn’t mean forever.
The rest of high school she jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend, on a quest to find love and value from a guy. Locked in the same search, I could only watch from my own sinking ship as we drifted through our adventures.
Not surprisingly, Serena and I lost touch after high school. That’s a diplomatic way to say we stopped being there for each other. Through the bits and pieces of news that come through social media I learned she’s been married and divorced a couple times, but I don’t really know who she is now. I don’t know what dreams she has and what dreams she let go. Did she find love again or does she think love is for fools?
I wish I could say her story was rare, but it’s not. Like myself, many other guys and girls are “Serenas.” We find our forever love in high school. After graduation we bend our futures and make sacrifices to stay close to the other person. But when the world suddenly explodes beyond the K through 12 realm we discover more about who we are and who we want to be with. The forever-love becomes the old-high-school-flame, and we regret the opportunities we burned.
“I wish I had gone to an out-of-state college.”
“I wish I had taken that job.”
“I wish I had waited.”
Sure, a few couples get to be old and retired high-school-sweethearts. But most relationships don’t because, like me, most people in high school can’t accurately answer the following questions:
Do you know who you truly are?
Do you know who they truly are?
Are you both willing to make an effort to change and grow together?
Maybe you know someone like Serena. Maybe you are like Serena. Maybe you’ve never had a boyfriend, or a first kiss, and people endlessly tease you about it. Wherever you are, don’t worry–don’t bother to shed one tear because of it. Spend your time doing the best you can and making good memories with friends. That’s boring advice, I know. And people will tell you you’re missing out on all the fun.
But wait, Serena. Wait. It doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do, you are loved and valued beyond measure in a way that no guy can ever add to or take from you. Your heart might be broken already from loneliness or the death of a relationship, and you might not want to hear this, but there’s a great, big world waiting for you just beyond this frame in the timeline.
When you get there, check your heartbreak from high school at the door. And step into the world ready to find love, keep your promises, and build a happily ever after.
Karianne is the founder of Windmill Ways. She plays the cello professionally and currently works as an Art Director for a charity. Because she loves animated shows and movies, she studies 3D animation and graduated with a BFA with the unfortunate class of 2020. Her dream vacation would be just staying home, but "home" being a glamorous cabin somewhere in the mountains surrounded by forest.
Favorite band: Lord Huron
Favorite book: This Present Darkness
Favorite quote: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)
Would you like to share your story on Windmill Ways? Apply here.