Photography : Mikkel Paige
It was 2001, I was starting my sophomore year in high school and I’d finally convinced my mom that I was ready for contacts; my glasses were awful! I was starting to get noticed & it was certainly a different experience that year . . . I’d felt like Laney Boggs, after her make over in “She’s All That”!
I had begun dating a senior from another high school, which apparently was so cool. Going to my classes day in and day out I’d never really noticed John. In fact I had no idea who he even was. He was the grade above me and we only had one mixed-grade class together, and that was chorus; yes, we both sang in our high school choir (and you should’ve seen the concert outfits!)
One day, we were having a rehearsal for our upcoming concert in the auditorium. At the end of rehearsal a friend of mine pulls me aside and says “John Oley has a crush on you!” I’m thinking, and I say, “Who?” She points over to him as he’s sitting on the risers waving to me. He was such a dork, but he was so sweet and innocent back then; and he hasn’t changed one bit! Now, as a high school teen who has NEVER been noticed before, has a boyfriend and now this guy crushing on her, I obviously had a melt down! “Oh no what do I do?! My life is SO complicated!” Oh to be a teenager again. I ended up telling John that I was really sorry and that I couldn’t pursue any type of relationship with him because I really liked this other guy I’d been dating. John was definitely crushed and things were awkward for quite sometime when we saw each other now.
Time had passed and I’d constantly see John now outside of class at friends’ parties and there was certainly chemistry there. I distinctly remember one night, I was at my friend’s house for her birthday party and she let me know that she’d invited John over. She wasn’t sure he would come because he’d expressed to her that it was difficult being around me knowing that we could only remain as friends. He did make it to her house that evening and (while he will KILL me for saying all of this) I remember seeing from a distance, him standing outside crying, he’d been saying it was just too difficult to be around me and that he had to leave. Oh my heart.
Well, his heart break didn’t last long because I started to realize that maybe my “senior boyfriend from another school” didn’t really matter and that I haven’t been “cool” ever so maybe I should stop trying to act like I am something I’m not (contacts had really changed me!) I was still that dorky and sweet girl inside and I wanted to give John a chance. I broke it off with my boyfriend, who I found out was cheating on me anyway, and made sure that John knew I was now single. As we approached the final chorus concert of the year John had told me he was anxious to talk to me alone. To paint this lovely high school picture, we’d gathered in the cafeteria before it was our turn to go on stage for the concert so John took me down the hall and around the corner near the lockers by the gymnasium (this feels so much like “Mean Girls” minus the girl drama!) By those lockers we shared our very first kiss and it was a kiss that I still have not forgotten about to this day.
Finally we are officially a couple!
John being a Junior, he had his first high school prom approaching. He’d already promised his friend that he would take her so he was sad now that he couldn’t take me. I was the grade below so I wasn’t allowed into the prom unless I had a junior date to get me in. So along came operation: get Michelle into the prom. I feel horrible today about what I did then but not much I can do about my teenage decision making! My friend and I had convinced a mutual friend of ours to go to his prom with me. He didn’t have a date and I really buttered him up so he’d want me to go with him. We did the whole corsage, boutonniere, limo, couple photos thing and I hung around him for a bit but as the evening developed John and I spent more time together. We had shared our first slow dance to “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo (which we played at our wedding after our first dance.)
Sadly, this moment of lust and happiness didn’t last much longer. Back then, I was very loud and outgoing, and John was very much the opposite, keeping mostly to himself and just very shy and quiet. A rumor had gotten back to me that John was “embarrassed” by how loud I was and my 16 year old self certainly wasn’t going to tolerate that kind of crap! So we’d broken up, and I knew I’d be sad and would need time to heal but never could have imagined that I’d NEVER stop thinking about him for the next 12 years of my life!
We both went on to date other people for the remainder of our high school careers but always had this strange chemistry that we couldn’t seem to figure out. We made fun of each other, would get into pointless arguments about nothing, and then we’d be friendly and nice on other days.
Once we were both out of high school, around 2003, we’d reconnected after I had one too many at a house party with some friends. I begged them to call him so I could let him know how much I’ve missed seeing him. High school is your entire life at that age, once you graduate it feels strange to not see all of those same faces walking through the halls every day; and John was one of those faces that I missed. Well they called him and we all ended up hanging out for the rest of the night in a McDonald’s parking lot, classy I know but it’s what we did! John and I had dated this time for approximately 3 – 5 days, maybe even a full week – woo! I’d realized how much he’d meant to me and through all the years I’d never stopped thinking of him. Unfortunately he didn’t seem to miss me as much leading to our rapid start and end this time around.
A year later, 2004, we dated again, I wrote him a letter confessing my true feelings but he’d told me that he’s just wasn’t looking for a relationship or a girlfriend. Completely heartbroken and devastated I cut off any communication with him; so really just my AIM account!
We’d always agreed to be friends no matter what but it was always too hard. Summer 2007, we connected again, and John was finally saying the sweet loving words he had been saying back in high school. But I was about to move to NYC for college and didn’t want a boyfriend or serious relationship. Fast forward the clock because we’d went a couple of years without speaking, it’s 2009 and I’m about to graduate from college. John contacts me through Facebook saying he was in the city a lot for work and that we should get together for lunch or maybe dinner. We both had very serious, long-term relationships at the time so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to actually try and be friends; we couldn’t possibly have loving feelings for one another, right!? Well our Facebook conversations never made it to a dinner meet up. We had spoken everyday for weeks and then it just sort of stopped . . .
2012, I’m supposed to be running the NYC Marathon for my first time, but unfortunately Hurricane Sandy ruined that and everything else! John contacted me again through Facebook expressing his compassion for how devastated I was after all the hard training I’d done. He continued to turn the conversation into a game of Q&A asking me why things never worked out between us and saying that he missed what we had so long ago. Anytime the topic was brought up it just made me so emotional, why after this many years do I still think about John in this way? Why do we never want the same things at the same time? It was so frustrating and no matter how many boyfriends and relationships I’d had I would ALWAYS think about John, wonder what he was doing, where he was, if he was happy, if he thought of me too, the list went on and on.
Time passed and it’s spring of 2013. I’d received a message from John that I’d never thought I would see in a million years. He’d expressed his true feelings saying things like “I can’t imagine my life without you.” “You are the person I want to marry and build a future with.” “I should’ve said these things sooner but was afraid.” He’d told me that I was all he’d been thinking about for years and that he just had to see me. I was in complete shock . . . I remember visiting my sister to go with her to her first sonogram for my nephew and asking for her advice on whether or not I should even bother, how many times had we gone down this path, and I was afraid of being hurt. She said to me “you know you’re going to see him anyway so you don’t need me to tell you, just go see him!”
We’d set up a time to have dinner and we truly never looked back.
Sitting at that dinner it was insane to think of where we had began, and now as adults finally ready to be serious with one another. Each time we saw one another it was like we were meeting for the first time. Our back and forth love story began in 2001 and we were finally going to see where it all ended up. John moved in with me 3 months later & we were ring shopping about 6 months after that. We were engaged about a year from then and this summer we’ll celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary.
Photography : Mikkel Paige
It still amazes us both, the journey we took to get here. We slow dance in the kitchen some times or John will look at me a certain way as we reminisce high school days. We share a love that nobody could ever understand except for the two of us.
Photography : Mikkel Paige
I truthfully feel as though John and I were put on this earth to be together. Life may not always be perfect or easy, but we can say with confidence that we are very lucky in love. Remember the true wealth in your life, hold on to it and cherish it forever.
Please feel free to share your love story with me, I’d love to hear it! [firstname.lastname@example.org]