Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My story part 12... a girl and a boy

I have to admit, I had to read the previous post just now to see where I left off. It's funny how we forget, and how we remember for that matter. It's been fun for me to sit and recall the good and bad of our little journey. And to relive the emotions I had. I would never have believed you if you told me then where I'd be today, but that's not important now, is it?

After he had walked away in that parking lot, I was stunned - speechless. I had a million thoughts going through my head. I went back to campus with my roommate and we talked. She asked me, "If there wasn't another guy, Shelly, would there be a George in your love-life?" I didn't know how to answer that. I wasn't in LOVE with anyone! Or at least I didn't want to be. I was 18 years old. And besides, he wasn't my type. Just a skinny 155 pound kid barely taller than I... but why did it feel like I had just said goodbye to my best friend? I blocked all my feelings out as best I could and finally got some sleep. In the morning as we were getting ready to leave, I tried to catch a glimpse of him. I didn't even get to wave goodbye.

My parents had come to pick me up from college. We went to lunch with a couple of my girlfriends, and we began to discuss the George saga. We joked and laughed, but at one point, things didn't seem so lighthearted anymore. I talked things over with my dad. I gave him the letters George had written to me so he could evaluate the situation. He said nothing more than "I like this George fella". And smiled.

Once I got home, I began to check out books from the library about George's country, the Communism that ruled it for 45 years, the fall that took place in 1989, and anything else that could tell me a little bit about this boy who had become more and more intriguing to me. As I was researching my new-found topic that summer, my mom walked into my room and said "So, you're going to marry this George fella, aren't you?" I just laughed her off, and began to share what I was learning.

I had a visitor arriving from another state soon. I had been out on a few dates with the guy, and I liked him, but nothing was serious - never serious. He and his family had to drive across my state for a wedding and they decided they'd stop in and have a meal with us. It was a Sunday. We were all at church, and they joined the services, then we had lunch together. It was very pleasant and we had a nice time getting to know his family. I really liked his mom. But things didn't feel different even after that meeting. So, we said our goodbyes and my dad wanted to stop into the store before going home. As we were walking down the aisle, I just stopped and gazed at the items in front of me. Endless shelves of nothingness is what I saw - just off in a daze. "You're not thinking about the guy who just left here, are you? You're thinking about George", Dad said. He was right, but I didn't admit it.

When I got home, I pulled out that piece of paper with the contact information for George. I wrote him a letter that day. I don't remember what it said, exactly. But I had to write. I had to know what was going on with him. And so our correspondence began. Nearly every week, I'd write or receive a letter in the mail. I had also written to the other guy telling him that I didn't think we should continue dating, since I really wasn't interested in more that having a friend. I didn't want a boyfriend at that point, and even though I had turned 19, I still considered myself far too young to make any crucial decisions about love. :)

So, the studying of Eastern Europe continued, as did the letters from afar. I was hopeful, and happy. I knew that no matter what this became, it was a priceless relationship from which I had only gained a better understanding of the world. This "George fella" was like no one I had ever met, and I was only better for knowing him. I looked forward to the end of the summer and the start of the new semester. I had decided to return, and skip my plans to pursue the apprenticeship program for law that I had been interested in. I would just finish my degree here, and if I wanted to study anything after that, I'd consider it later. For now, I had decided I wanted to be there.

I had arrived one week early to fulfill my work scholarship obligations. It was a fun work-filled week. I had chatted with my friends and roommate about the happenings of the summer, and we joked and laughed about what it all meant. They'd predict who I was going to end up with, and we'd all have fun trying to decipher what deeper meanings any happenings in our lives had. But that week came to an end, and all the students were now to arrive. I remember that day as if it was yesterday. I stood in one of my favorite dresses and waited. I was working in the dining hall, so I had a pretty good view of anyone who came on opening day.

And then, I saw her. The host mother for George in the US. I went to greet her, and smiling, I inquired about George. "He's not coming", was all she said. Her children were there so I began to chat with them about the opening day festivities, but quickly found an excuse to leave. I was still working, so I just went to a station where a close friend was working and said to her, "He's not coming back! Why am I here?"

"You're in love with George, Shelly, aren't you?"
It was the first time I admitted it to anyone - even myself.
"I think I am", I whispered.

But it didn't matter. He wasn't there, and how would he ever know now? I was 19, and didn't need to think about such things. I couldn't be in love, and I tried to talk myself out of it - to no avail. I was miserable without him.

Before his host family left, the mom found me and put a piece of paper in my hand. "Call him. I'm sure he'd love to talk to you."

But what would I say?

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Story Part 11... College days

I love plants. I love watching things grow. If my husband would be comfortable in a home with green absolutely everywhere, I'd grow even veggies and herbs inside, since our climate would not permit the growing of things outdoors much of the year. Maybe one day when we finally get to build our house we'll have the "greenhouse" space we've planned for in a towering bay for my little jungle, as my sister most affectionately calls it. ;) She even helped me name all my plants!

But as I care for them, I am awed. Just at the way they spring to life, go dormant, and even die. Yes, completely dry out and die, just to sprout again in the spring - some of them. The process always reminds me of God. The great One who's planned the cycle out perfectly.

Last week, I severed two hearty branches from a strong Dracaena I have in the corner of my living room. I have pruned this plant many times, and transplanted its offspring in various new pots. But this time, she was nearly six feet tall and bending at the weight of her lofty crown. Something had to be done. Nothing short of whacking off her glory, and allowing her sprouts to flourish. A sacrifice for the greater good. I had no extra pots, so I took the high branches outside. I wonder if they will survive - regardless, they are remnants of growth in a life. And these events reminded me of my story.

Those college days were days of dissecting, dividing, parting, and disconnecting everything I had ever known. Parts of me which I thought were essential were severed and gone. Remnants left behind me that I had once lived there, to survive or to die, regardless - I had once lived there. I was uprooted and gone now.

As any college freshman, I was excited, scared, ambitious, and emotional. Things were new and different, and that was okay. I could handle them - I was an adult after all, right? I don't know if the details of some parts of this journey are worth delving into, but I can say that I am grateful for the lessons learned.

Two weeks into my newfound journey I met a boy. We were just kids, and as I look back I'm astonished that we even took ourselves seriously, much less expected anyone else to! But that's not my point here. One day I was with my roommate and we were just in a group introducing ourselves to another group of guys and girls. Everything informal, like it should be. No expectations. I remember that chance meeting, but I don't remember the boy specifically. He tells me he was part of that group, and I believe him. ;)

I started to enjoy college. I wasn't new to the world of going to school and working, but now the classes were a little more demanding. I began to get the hang of it, and even started to go out on dates here and there, always casual. A concept the "boy" didn't quite grasp. He's kind of the all-or-nothing type, which balances me well, I guess. Since I worked on campus for the dining hall, I soon met the boy named George for real. That, I remember. ;) Not allowed to work off campus because he was only in the country on a student visa, we became colleagues. For some reason our work schedules began to coincide quite often. Our group of friends would hang out more and more often, and we'd always seem to get lost in long conversations.

His stories intrigued me. Happenings of life under Communism in an Eastern European country were things I had only ever read about. Hours and hours we'd sit in our "group" and study, play, and talk - as if no one else in the world existed. He began to give me dating advice. You see, I was casually dating two different guys. Some people don't agree with that concept, but it worked for me. I wasn't the type to just give my heart away, and I wanted to know more about any guy I'd consider getting close to. So, saying yes to a date from one or 20 guys didn't seem despicable to me. They knew - the whole campus knew, and I was not about to settle down early! ;) Life was about going forward and not thinking about commitment yet!

George would tell me this or that about his dating ideas, and would mention which guy would be more suited for me, etc.
Until one day.
It was almost the end of the year. He asked if he could share a burger with me after church on Sunday night. I accepted.

I didn't realize it'd just be the two of us this time. He had gone to pick up some fast-food and we met in the little cafe on campus. We sat enjoying the food and laughing when things suddenly got serious. He looked at me and said "You know, I've decided something. I'd like to put my name in as a contender in this competition". At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. He continued: "I've been told not to tell you I love you, so I'm not going to do that, I'm just going to ask you if you'd consider me in this competition."

Woah. Hang on a sec. Competition? "There is no competition", I explained. "I'm not giving my heart away to anyone, and I don't want things to change right now. I love our friendship." Uh-oh, I'd gone and said it - the dreaded word, friendship. I think it's the most beautiful word a couple can share, but to a 19 year old guy, it's a death sentence. Death to his hopes of competing. And I didn't like that word either. No competition.

Well, he took that little explanation to mean that between him and the other guys, there's no competition. He'd never win.

Almost a week passed and it was graduation day. We went and watched the graduating seniors march their way across the platform, receive their diplomas, and prepare for a life after their long journey of preparation. The next morning, we were all to leave. George walked me to the parking lot and told me that he was giving me his address in Europe and that if I wanted to contact him, it'd be my choice, but that he'd not bother me again with his requests.

He said goodbye, and walked away.