Run baby. Run.
When she was 3-years-old, my daughter chased a boy around the playground until she threw up.
She ran so hard and so fast that her body gave up before her will allowed her to quit. I wasn’t there to witness the event, but I knew exactly what it looked like. Me.
Though I never ran until I puked, I chased boys with similar determination. It started with Pat Carlson in kindergarten. I invited him to my birthday party. He came and gave me a Serendipity brand book about a pony named Nitter Pitter. I took it as an expression of his love for me. For the rest of kindergarten I chased Pat around, acting like a horse – assuming, from his book choice, we had a shared equestrian interest. I would whinny in approval of his dark eyes and long lashes. I would nudge him with my nose while we practiced standing in line. I would hoof at the ground and shake my mane in an effort to seduce him. And while others may have encouraged a more subtle approach, bold was always my style. Even at 5, I never wanted to be left wondering, “Could I have done more?” It wasn’t until I overheard Pat muttering something about cooties while I drank from my Dixie cup of milk – like it was a trough – when I realized he didn’t love me back and had moved on…to Curt.
I never questioned my approach before that day. But as I put my daughter’s messy clothes in the washer, I recalled a recent conversation with a single girlfriend of mine. We were discussing whether or not she should text a guy back after a great first date.
“No!” she blurted.
“Why not?” I insisted.
“I’ve got to play this cool, play it safe,” she said. “I don’t want to get all wrapped up in something if it’s not going to go anywhere.”
I was so confused. Getting “wrapped up” was the best part. Yeah, it could all unravel quickly – but the hope, the potential! Wasn’t that worth it?
Was it worth it?
I thought about the emotional roller coaster I rode from the moment I was tall enough to get on it. The all-in-chase-them-’til-you-puke approach was a wild ride of highs and heartbreaks. Was it worth it? If I had to do it again, would I run as hard? Or would I play it a little less bold? And would I encourage my daughter to play it a little cooler?
I woke up the next morning to an unexpected email. From Jake.
Jake: the boy I loved the entire, innocent summer of 1997. We came together in Advanced Algebra 2 while sending notes back and forth via our TI85 calculators. He was tall with light brown, floppy hair and big brown eyes. He was the nicest boy I had ever met and smelled better than I knew boys could. He was the best way to use my newly acquired driver’s license and we spent the entire magical summer watching movies and going to summer bonfires with our friends. I’d go to his house, where he cut his sandwiches in triangles and always made one for me with too much mustard. I went to his baseball games and hung out with his younger sister when he wasn’t around. He came to visit me at the Drive-In restaurant where I wore a poodle skirt and my hair would turn curly because of the humidity. It was one of my favorite summers.
But sadly, fall came and before either of us had turned 17, it was over.
Over until…the spring of my senior year when I decided it should stop being over. True to form, I worked hard to convince Jake we should get back together. That we were meant to be together. I put notes in his locker and brought him sandwiches with extra mustard after baseball practice. I called until his sister automatically answered the phone, “Jake’s not here.” I tried to convince him he should take me to prom, but he had made other plans. He started dating a girl from Calculus. And since my math career ended after Algebra, there was nothing I could do to stop the love letters they were no doubt sending each other via TI85 calculators.
We didn’t go to prom and never rekindled what we had, but after high school we stayed friends and kept in touch. And now I had an email waiting.
“Kindra, Whilst purging paper, I ran across a notable one from last century. See attached. It shall be spared from the shredder. Thought you might get a kick out of it. Hope all is well. – Jake”
I looked at the attachment – a scanned handwritten note from me, written that senior year when I was running as fast as I could to catch him. “Jake, I came to your house, but you are never here. I’m going to the Drive-In now; call me if I don’t see you.”
Reading the note written in my high school handwriting, I had a moment of clarity. The majority of our relationships will, by nature, be short lived but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get all wrapped up – that we shouldn’t chase them with everything we’ve got. Because giving your all, even if the story doesn’t end the way you thought it would, leaves a mark.
A decade, another century later, a note a bold girl wrote to a sweet boy was still tucked safely away in a box storing his important memories. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
I have a bold girl. She knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to chase it. And while there’s a lot less heartache in playing it cool, I say, “Run baby. Run.”