secret heart

This very secret
That you’re trying to conceal
Is the very same one
You’re dying to reveal
Go tell her how you feel
– “Secret Heart”, Feist

Can I tell you a story?

In middle and high school, I had what must rank as one of the worst crushes in history. Years of unrequited yearning. It was like a drug, a pang in my heart every time I thought of him. I found a way to tie him to every song lyric I heard. The level of obsession only teenagers are capable of.

I sometimes made weak, awkward gestures, but it took a school retreat in my senior year to work up the gall for more direct overtures. At this optional camp, we were encouraged to open up our inner emotional lives and help each other. Having confessed my feelings to supportive female friends, I returned determined to write a letter to him: in theory, explaining myself more calmly and rationally than I could ever do in person. In an extravagantly dramatic move worthy of a shoujo manga, I typed it up and slipped it into his locker.

I remember the first time I saw him after that. I had emerged from the art department, where I was hard at work on a series of murals, and passed him in the hallway. He said “thank you”, nothing but kind and gracious. The rest, I don’t remember; I only recall that after we briefly talked, I looked down at my clothes and saw white paint splattered all the way down the front. Embarrassing? Yes. But on some level I felt relieved, like it didn’t matter anymore. This imperfect messiness was just another part of me, which I no longer minded him seeing.

This love story is not in classic Taylor Swift tradition, no. That confession did not generate mutual affection as my crush-addled mind might have hoped. Rather, it showed me the self-love and empowerment arising from genuine emotional expression. I know this because in that moment, in my paint-splattered body, I felt lighter – and when I reflect on that afternoon today, that’s still the primary feeling which surfaces.

And so I humbly suggest to any unrequited lovers out there, anyone struggling with whether or not to say something important: just go for it. You are your only companion through all the emotional pathways of life. Therefore, you deserve to love yourself and your choices, free of regret or compromise. I believe you have nothing to fear because vulnerable honesty will lift up that ancient, stony heart – and in its place, you will find a fount of inner strength.

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