Ten years ago, I got this letter from a boy. It was at the end of a notebook of letters I’d been writing to him for a year (really, a diary) and finally gave to him; he gave them back with this on the last page. A nice note for my sixteenth birthday. One that probably wasn’t easy to write considering the circumstances at the time. It’s unbelievable to me that ten years have passed since then. In many ways, it truly feels like yesterday, like if I skip over my senior year of high school and college in Baltimore and Denver, it’ll feel like “That was just a few months ago, right?” (And what that of course means is “if I skip over Nathaniel,” which is how I know that way of thinking is ridiculous. Perspective–my goodness.)

For a long time (maybe it’s just that notebooks of your writing that you bring yourself to read once more so you can finally get rid of them make it feel like a long time), I was a sad, embarrassingly lovesick girl. You can apply to that girl any cliche you would a teenager: “you’re just hormonal,” “you’re overemotional,” “future-you would tell you to laugh it off now because life will get so much better.” But I feel like, of course, I knew very little; but I also knew a lot, even then. I learned a lot (by expressing a lot). I’m glad I was that girl for a time in my life.

I met Nathaniel when I was seventeen and beginning to try to be on my own for the first time, really. Since I was eleven years old, I loved a boy who, I mean, was probably just like any other teenage boy. For a ridiculous amount of time for two kids, we were in a tumultuous relationship. It seems incredibly silly now, like so much energy wasted on what has to have been a version of what many teenagers have; I’ve got to believe most teenagers in love hurt and feel hurt badly by each other. Regardless, it shaped so much of my life. In these letters I wrote, I repeatedly said I did not want to be with anyone else, I refused to believe I would meet someone else, even though I’m sure I knew I would and I was a just stubborn twerp. And then, just like that, I did, and now he’s my husband. I’d tell young-me what was going to happen if I could, but it likely wouldn’t make a difference. It’s easy to look back at what I’d written and think “God, I’m so different now,” but at my core I’m probably the same. I felt things so strongly then, and I still do. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

So now I’m twenty-six and I have a husband who I adore, who I’m laughing and joking with every single time we talk; something the two of us built from age seventeen on. He’s the brightest, warmest, most wonderful, most content and easygoing person I have ever met. I have had so much fun in my life with him. I’m the luckiest person in the world to know him, and my amazing friends who’ve been with me almost all my life, and my fantastic parents and sister. Life is so, so good. Twenty-six is going to be a good year.

When I read through these notebooks a few weeks ago, I felt such embarrassment. Everything seemed big at the time I was writing them, and even if it was, it’s not anymore. I’ve considered every option over the past few years, at times daily, and I think (in this and other relationships gone awry) you get to a point where all you can do is forgive and hope you’re forgiven and keep some perspective. There’s a balance in taking responsibility for your actions and having grace with the kid you were. At the end of last year, I wrote in my journal that if I’d learned one thing, it was that life goes on; people move on. At the time I was sad about it, but now I feel like–what else is there to do? I’ve been striving for it for years: love and light. That’s all I want to expel and all I want to take with me.