It was Freshers week 2004 at Glasgow University. I was a fresh faced 17 year old straight out of high school, enjoying a freedom that previously had been alien to me. I never really enjoyed school, I achieved good grades and then wanted to leave as soon as possible. I never drank, rarely went to parties and led a fairly dull existence if I’m quite honest. University was where that all changed. In my eyes it was the first step into adulthood and to an extent, the real world (although years later I would come to learn student life is not ‘the real world’).
Freshers week was where I finally let go. The buzz around campus was truly addictive and I was lapping up every second of it. Only a few days in and I was getting female attention that had alluded me for most of my teens. On one particular night I was standing outside of the guy’s toilets waiting for a friend when a girl milky-skinned with celtic dark features approached me. She said nothing, just pointed at my hair. A few awkward seconds had passed when my breathe was taken away by the most incredible Irish accent – “I love your hair.” I was instantly smitten, to say I had fallen hard and fast was an understatement. A year older than me her name was Jennifer, we spoke for a few minutes, exchanged numbers and arranged to meet the next day. The following night we watched a then unknown band by the name of Biffy Clyro take the student union by storm. Later that night we ended up at a small gathering thrown by a young lad called Dan from Manchester – to this day the only person I’ve ever met with a poster of Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin. We had been lying on the floor (as students do) and had been quietly chatting away for a good couple of hours when we realised that there was actually someone else sleeping on the floor just a few feet away from us. Curled up in the corner we asked each other “who is this guy?” we’d never seen him before and hadn’t even noticed him entering what was a very small room. We weren’t bothering him but Dan awoke rather angrily and told us to leave him be. Little did Dan know that this guy (whoever he was) would wake up moments later in a drunken state and urinate all over Dan’s floor and much to our amusement, his vast CD collection. Hilarious as it was this was our cue to leave. It had been a memorable introduction to student life and Jennifer, it seemed, was about to become my first love.
We dated for a year. It was incredible at first, so young and naive, not a care in the world just happy to be in love. When I think back to that time I always laugh about how horrifically we used to dress and what our poor mothers must have been thought. I used to walk around in flared, black chords and band t-shirts, I long shoulder length hair and two lip piercings. Jennifer had a penchant for multi-coloured leggings, chunky cardigans and generally anything that was six sizes too big for her. As the months passed by the relationship soured a little, Jennifer became consumed by homesickness which sadly became the focal point of our relationship. She was counting down the days until she could go home for the summer whilst I dreaded them, in the end I think I was just there to help her get through the remaining months of first year. I put up with a lot during those months, I don’t know if I felt sorry for her or if I was just madly in love – perhaps a bit of both.
When the summer came she beamed, whilst I was heartbroken. When she left I had zero concerns for our relationship, in spite of the hardships of the previous months I still had complete and utter faith that we were happily in love but youthful naivety had struck once again. A few weeks had passed when I was awoken in the middle of the night by Jennifer calling. She was having a panic attack, “I just love you so much, I never want to be without you” she cried. I hadn’t been particularly worried up to this point but it was certainly some welcome reassurance and after calming her down I fell back to sleep. When I woke up the very next morning I had a text message, “I’m sorry but I don’t think we should be together.” I had to read the message four or five times for it to sink in, what had the phone call during the night been all about then? I replied to her message still rather confused, but sure enough it was over and by text message! For the very first time in my life, I was completely and utterly heartbroken.
In the coming months I struggled desperately to get over her, I was still absolutely certain that when she returned after the summer I would win her back. When she did return however I met a ‘new’ Jennifer, I honestly didn’t know who this girl was anymore. Gone was the sweetness of the girl who had curiously pointed at my hair that night and in her place was a party animal who seemed to be dating a different guy every week. I never held it against her, after all that’s just what we do in our teens but the heartbreak was still devastating. We lost touch soon after, I left university and she moved back to Ireland.
I hadn’t spoken to Jennifer for about 9 years when in the summer of 2013 she messaged me out of the blue and asked to meet up. I had mixed emotions to say the least, would it be too awkward? I hadn’t spent years thinking she was the one that got away but we all hold a special place for our first love no matter what, don’t we? I hesitantly agreed to meet up but was actually quite pleasantly surprised by the outcome. When I saw her, I felt nothing. When we spoke, nothing. It was a bit like chatting to a distant relative, she was pretty but I wasn’t attracted to her anymore and found her a tad dull in comparison to the girl I once knew. It wasn’t that I had gone on to better things and she was a mess, she’s actually really successful and still a quite lovely person, but it did make me think back to those heartbroken days. At times I had been truly inconsolable, but it just goes to show that sometimes things do happen for a reason and that’s something I suppose you could say about most broken relationships. No matter how bad things seem, they definitely do get better.
So what was the purpose of my first love? I don’t think she was ever supposed to be ‘the one’. When I thought long and hard about this the purpose of that relationship actually seemed really simple – it was to learn. They say that everyone always remembers their first love and this is true, but for me it’s more like remembering a mentor or guardian than a lost love. That relationship taught me so much and to Jennifer, well I just hope she realises how grateful I am to her. She taught me so much about women, introduced me to music that existed outside of the top 40 and of course got me out of my shell by making me wear ridiculous clothes. I don’t miss her, I don’t think about her and I don’t love her, but I’ll be forever glad that she was my first love.