I found my high school boyfriend the other day. I was checking out my name on one of those public record information sites--you know, the kind that get passed around different Yahoo groups, usually with the panic button attached that people will now be able to steal your identity because of this information site, and I got the idea to plug his name in. He wasn't there--at first--but another link put me right on his home page as a professor at a university. I was initially surprised. Not because of his choice of career, but because suddenly the picture of the boy I remembered was put up right against the picture of the man he now was, and I had to change my inner picture of him.
I was also very proud of him. While we were dating, he had a specific list of things he wanted to do with his life. And according to his resume, he did all of them and more. Basically, he was the same person he was in high school, but all of the the things that he loved that made his high school years awkward were the very things that made him successful as an adult. That got me thinking about things. Had I done what I wanted to do? What memories does he have of me? How different was the grown-up me from the teen-age me?
I should give a little background. He and I had a relationship for about three years. One year dating as Seniors in high school, and two years in a long-distance relationship, writing letters and having phone calls as we went away to college and other things. He was my first real boyfriend; I was his first real girlfriend. Our relationship didn't end with a dramatic breakup--rather it just quietly stopped. He went out of the country for awhile; I moved out of state. Eventually the letters no longer arrived. Towards the end, truthfully, we were more friends than anything else. But because our relationship never had a concrete ending, I always wondered about the "might have beens."
Now that I know a little more about his life after me, I found myself wanting to meet his wife. I want to know if she was anything like me. I want to know if our relationship influenced his choice of spouse, because I knew that it had for me. I want to know if our past relationship has any meaning to him, because it has meaning for me.
I was once told that we should treat people we meet in life as if they were wearing an invisible sign around their necks reading "Make Me Feel Important!." I think all of us search for meaning in this life. But rather than discuss some deep metaphysical answers here, I'd like to propose that rather than searching for the meaning in life, we are all needing to feel that we are important to someone else. We need to know that we mean something to someone.
Parents of small children will understand what I mean best. It never fails that the very moment you are involved with something, anything, from a project to a phone call, that will be the same moment your toddler will demand your attention. And toddlers are very good at making themselves hard to ignore. They need to know that their needs matter.
So back to my high school boyfriend. I don't know if I will ever have the answer as to whether or not our relationship mattered. I don't know if I will ever know if I still mean something to him today. But I think I will send him an email to tell him that he mattered to me. I'll tell him that our relationship had meaning in my life. If you have someone in your life that matters to you, tell them. Let them know that they have meaning in your life.
And that's the other side.