It was Fresher’s week 2004 at Glasgow University, a fresh faced 17 year old straight out of high school I was enjoying a freedom that previously had been alien to me. At school I’d never been particularly sociable, I achieved good grades but then instantly wanted to leave as soon as possible. I never drank, rarely went to parties and led a fairly dull existence. University was where it all changed – in my eyes the first step into adulthood and where life truly began.
Fresher’s week was where I finally let it all go. For my overseas readers, Fresher’s Week is basically a week long party before the hard work starts. The buzz around campus was truly addictive and I was lapping up every single second of it. A few days in I had kissed what we call in Scotland a few ‘horrors’, one girl from up North approached me saying “I’ve just won a bet with my friends that I’d be the first one to talk to you” at the time I thought “Oh wow what is this wonderful place?” but looking back I realize it was merely a rather poor chat up line – which I fell for hook, line and sinker. There was also the girl who gave me a rash from her stubble and the girl who confusingly declared me a womanizer when I refused her advances. Then one evening like the calm after the storm, I was standing at the bar waiting for a friend when a girl milky skinned and with Celtic dark features approached me, she said nothing just pointed at my hair. A few awkward seconds had passed when I was blown away by the most exquisite Irish accent, “I love your hair.” I was instantly smitten. 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 then unknowns Biffy Clyro take Glasgow’s student union by storm. Later that night we ended up at a small gathering thrown by an old-school rave enthusiast, Dan from Manchester (the only human being I’ve ever known to plaster his walls with pictures of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin – much to my horror I might add). We had been lying on the floor (as students do) and had been quietly chatting away for a good couple of hours when we realized that there was actually someone else sleeping on the floor just yards 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 enter the room. Dan woke up and told us to leave him be. Little did Dan know that this guy whoever he may be would wake up moments later in a drunken state and urinate all over his floor and much to our bewilderment, Dan’s vast CD collection. Hilarious as it was this was our cue to leave. It had been a memorable introduction to student life and as for Jennifer, she was my first love.
We dated for a year, it was incredible at first, so young and naive but not a care in the world just happy to be in love. When I think back to that time I always laugh about how oblivious we were to our truly horrific dress sense, I can only imagine what my mother must’ve been thinking. I would walk around in flared, black chords and band t-shirts with long shoulder length hair and two lip piercings. Jennifer on the other hand had a penchant for multi-colored leggings and chunky cardigans. As the months passed the relationship soured a little, Jennifer became consumed by homesickness which in all honesty became the focal point of the relationship. She was counting down the days until she could go home for the summer and I began to feel like something to keep her occupied in the meantime. I knew this deep down but at the time couldn’t quite bring myself to admit it. I put up with a lot during those months, I don’t know if I felt sorry for her or if I was just in total denial.
When the summer came I was heartbroken to watch her leave as we parted ways at the airport, she on the other hand had the biggest smile on her face with home awaiting her. When she left I had zero concerns for our relationship, in spite of the hardships of the previous months I still had complete faith that things would work out but this would soon prove misguided and highlight my youthful naivety once more. 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.” I hadn’t been overly worried anyway but it was certainly a welcome reassurance and after calming her down I fell back to sleep. When I woke up in the 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 and how in the space of a few short hours had it turned to this? I replied to her message completely bemused but sure enough, it was over. For the first time in my life I can openly admit I’d had my heart broken. It’s funny saying those words ‘my heart is broken’ it evokes the very strongest of emotions in us all. It’s incredible how an experience or period in your life can so quickly become a distant memory but I honestly believe you haven’t lived until you’ve had your heart broken, that’s when you know you’re alive – not when you start fresher’s week.
In the coming months I struggled desperately to get over her. I convinced myself that when she returned after the summer I would win her back. When she did return however, I met a ‘new’ Jennifer. I didn’t know who she 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 throwing herself over a different guy each week. I never held it against her, after all that’s what we do in our teens experiment and explore but the heartbreak was still written all over my face. 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 last summer she messaged me out of the blue and asked to meet up. I had mixed feelings about the idea, would it be too awkward? Would all my old feelings be unnecessarily dragged from the dirt? In the end I agreed and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I felt nothing.
It was like chatting to a distant relative. I didn’t even find her attractive anymore and found her dare I say it a tad dull, she’d certainly mellowed at the grand old age of 28. It made me think back to those heartbroken days. At times I had been inconsolable but it just goes to show that sometimes things do happen for a reason and perhaps that’s something we can apply to any broken relationship. No matter how bad things seem, they really will get better.
So what was is the true purpose of our first love? I thought long and hard about this and the truth was simple, to learn – at least for me anyway. That relationship taught me so much. As I mentioned before this had been my first steps into adulthood and so I’ll always be grateful to Jennifer for being a part of that period of my life and for everything she taught me about women – intentional or not. They say that everyone will always remember their first love which is true, but for me it’s more like remembering a trusty teacher or guardian rather than a long lost love. If you do long for them, just appreciate the time you had together and if you feel like they were the one that got away, try not to be too disheartened you might just look back and laugh one day.
When people say everything happens for a reason, don’t try and prove them wrong – just be patient.