Now that I have examined some of the pivotal events in my life prior to graduating from high school, it is probably a good time to look at the years between eighteen and twenty-five. I didn’t randomly choose these ages. I believe that this is the second definable period of my life. One could argue that it’s the third, if you count birth up until age eight as the first. There is a good argument for that, seeing as how I have already explained that I really have no memories from that part of my life. Logically it would follow that the time between age nine and eighteen would be the second section, complete with vivid memories.
My argument against this is simple; I could seriously sit down and divide those years up into several different sub-categories if I wanted to. I could even go year-by-year and make this very complicated. If I was more organized then that is probably the way I would do it. However, most of the thoughts I sharing come to me out of order. They randomly pop into my head and that is the way I record them. At times there seems to be no rhyme or reason to this, and I guess that is partially true. I am scatterbrained and that’s how the memories come out. Hopefully, it isn’t too distracting.
I chose the age of eighteen, along with high school graduation, as the second marker because it does signify the transition from childhood to adulthood. I now realize that I wasn’t much of an adult at that point, but from a worldly standpoint, that is one of the benchmarks that we aim for. Also, as I mentioned in the last chapter, I was ending certain relationships and beginning new ones. Although some things remained the same and some friendships survived the transition, my life did change drastically. Some people exited my life completely, never to return, while others entered it, never to leave.
I guess I should mention my high school girlfriend at least one more time. We did briefly reconcile but were never able to reestablish the relationship that we once had. Towards the end of her senior year (I was a year ahead of her), we began talking on the phone again. We made tentative plans a few times but they always seemed to fall apart at the last moment. I should note that this was going on while I was still trying to sort out my feelings for two other young ladies, which I will get to in a moment. The truth is, I was trying to do the right thing at the time but I wasn’t exactly sure what that was.
I have confessed that I had a sexual relationship with her, albeit brief, and had justified it at the time by telling myself that we loved one another and would one day be married. Once I realized it was never going to happen, I had to decide what to do with those feelings. I did apologize to her on a couple of occasions but there was always a twinge of guilt lurking in the back of my mind. The final straw came when she invited me to her graduation in June of 1989. I accepted and honestly planned to attend. The girl I had been seeing at the time had just told me that she needed some space. The other girl I had feelings for had seemingly distanced herself from me. It seemed like a door was opening.
I must stress here, in spite of my twisted logic, I was trying to do the right thing. I still hadn’t made that decision in other areas of my life but this was one one of the things I was trying to get right. Depending upon how you view God’s will (fate or whatever you call it), I either messed up big time, or I made the best decision of my life. Two days before the graduation, my girlfriend, the one who needed her space, called me up and wanted to get back together. I was conflicted about what I should do.
On one hand, there was my high school romance. I was seriously trying to decide if I was going to give it one more chance. There was no guarantee that it was going to go back to the way it had been, in fact, I was sure that it wasn’t. We were trying to repair our relationship but I knew that we had some serious obstacles in our way. We had been sexually intimate with one another so there was that connection. I do believe there is a spiritual aspect to sex that many people either don’t believe or don’t understand. I felt that we were bound in some way. If there was any way to fix that relationship, I thought I should at least pursue it.
On the other hand, there was my current romantic interest. We had not been dating long and had already had two or three hiccups, for lack of a better word. I should point out that she was a couple of years older than me and had a child at the time. It would be an understatement to say that my parents were very wary of her. I had met her through her cousin, who was dating the drummer of the band that I was in. We hit it off and started going out. I can’t truly know her intentions but the majority of the people around me felt that she was trying to hook me in so her son would have a daddy.
If that wasn’t complicated enough, there was the third girl. I had met her the summer after I graduated from high school (I told you that was a pivotal moment). We both worked at the same pizza joint and became friends. She was also a year younger than me and was getting ready to start her senior year of high school. We spent a lot of time together at work and even “went out” a couple of times. I really liked her. This was before I reached out to my high school girlfriend (we still weren’t speaking) and before I met the second young lady.
I didn’t recognize it at that moment, but the timing wasn’t right. We were obviously attracted to one another physically. I had even given her a kiss one night after one of our first dates. We really made a connection and I didn’t understand why the relationship was not moving forward the way I wanted it to. I made my feelings for her perfectly clear and she seemed to share them, but things stalled. It frustrated me. It caused me to start thinking about other options. That is actually one of the reasons I eventually reached out to my first girlfriend.
I should point out that I had always wanted to get married and have a family. I know that sounds like something that girls grow up thinking about, but I did too. Most of the guys I knew at the time were not thinking about those things. Some of my friends were out to hook up with as many girls as they could. Marriage and parenthood were nowhere on their radar. I, on the other hand, never wanted to be that guy. I didn’t want a bunch of girlfriends and I didn’t want to sleep with every girl I met. I wanted to find the right one and fall in love. I wanted my soul mate. For most of high school, I thought I had found her. When I realized I had been wrong, that made my search all the more crucial.
There were a couple of other girls that popped in and out of my life rather quickly between June of 1988 and January of 1989. I mention that just for the sake of honesty. Although I thought I had strong feelings for them at the time, they really were just blips on the radar. They never stood a chance when it came down to the other three. That may sound horrible but it is the truth. Fortunately, none of those relationships ever progressed to the point of being sexual. Like I stated elsewhere, in spite of my skewered morality, there were just some things I didn’t do. Sleeping around with whoever was available was one of those things. It never appealed to me and thankfully, I never engaged in it.
It may be important to mention a couple of other things here since they pertain to the current topic. I quit the job at the pizza place in November of 1988 and went to work at a pharmaceutical factory. I took a job on the night shift, packing I.V. bags into cardboard boxes. I worked on the “pack line” with a bunch of women. They were all older than me. Some of them were MUCH older than me. With two exceptions, they were all African-American. So, imagine me, an eighteen year old white boy, straight out of high school, working with a group of people that I had nothing in common with. To say that I got an unexpected education would be putting it lightly.
There were other guys in our department but they were not on the line. I did get to know them and started to hang out with some of them in the morning when we got off work. Many of them were African-American as well, so I soon found myself immersed in things that I had no previous knowledge of; especially music and movies. In some ways I felt as if God had given me a second chance to redeem myself for the way I treated people in high school. I never shunned people because of the color of their skin again. I believe that job helped me to change the way I looked at others.
It wasn’t all good though. I was already drinking quite a bit by that time and my new co-workers were all over twenty-one. Now, I didn’t go out drinking with the ladies on the line. To my knowledge, none of them did that sort of thing. A couple of them were religious and involved in church, so we talked about that sort of stuff. They would even get on me if they knew I had been out drinking the day before. I took it in stride and assured them that I was eventually going to change my evil ways. I wish there had been more of those conversations while I was there with them. Mostly we talked about the previous day’s soap operas. Guiding Light was my favorite and for a couple of years I could I have told you every little detail. That, however, is embarrassing and really doesn’t have anything to do with this story.
My next job there at the plant was as a material handler. I basically moved things around with a forklift. I sometimes ran the machine that made the boxes. I eventually moved to that job full time when the guy running it switch departments. The important thing about this period of my life is that it was consistent. I worked at the plant from November of 1988 until March of 1992. For the majority of that time I worked the night shift and enjoyed it. It wasn’t until I got married in 1991 that I decided I hated it. That, however, is not part of this current chapter. I will get to it when the time is right.
I said that things were consistent. I still went to church. The Wednesday nights slacked off because I was usually sleeping, but Sundays were still non-negotiable. I still lived with my parents and I still obeyed their rules. I may have disagreed with them and complained to myself, but I did what they said. Mom had started nursing school and Dad worked at the same place I did. I had a group of friends from work that I would hang out with in the mornings when we got off. We mostly drank and played video games. I drank a lot. There are a lot of blurry gaps in my memory around this time.
I was also in a band for much of that time. I joined it during the summer of 1988. We broke up in June of 1989 when most of the guys graduated from high school. A couple of us put it back together in the fall of 1990 and I remained in it until the fall of 1991. There was a lot of alcohol during that time as well. Later on there was some marijuana, but we were mostly drinkers. I did help start another band not long after that. I stayed with those guys until the fall of 1992, when I quit without warning. There is a lot to that story. In fact, there is a lot to both of those bands. That probably warrants an entire chapter, so I will leave it at that.
Perhaps it is now obvious why I have taken the stream of consciousness approach to this. Some of my memories are vague and some of them are blurry. Some of them are completely gone. I had difficulty just pinning down the times I was in those bands. It hasn’t been THAT long ago and I do remember being in them but I drank so heavily at the time, certain details and events get scrambled. That was consistent with my life as well. I don’t know that I was full-blown alcoholic, but I was a drunk.
To close out this little chapter, I want to tidy up the story about the three girls I was involved with. Well, I want to tidy up some of the story. One of them gets her own chapter so I will briefly deal with the other two. Before I veered of track, I was sharing how my high school girlfriend had invited me to her graduation. We had been talking again and trying to decide if there was any hope at restoring our previous relationship. I also mentioned the girl that I had been dating. At the time, she had decided to take a break from me so I was questioning where we were headed.
I decided to go to graduation and spend time with my high school sweetheart. I was happy about the decision and had every intention to go. That was when the other girl called and asked if I would give her another chance. As I mentioned earlier, there were doubts about both of them. I wondered if it would work with either of them. I had resigned myself to the idea that the third girl, the one I really wanted to pursue, was no longer in the picture. With that in mind, I had to decide which one of the other two I was going to commit to. Even though I was young (just nineteen) and immature, I was serious about my decision. I told myself that whoever I ended up with would be the one I stayed with for the rest of my life.
For reasons that are no longer clear to me now, I chose the second girl. I kept a journal at the time and I know I wrote a lot about it. Those books were lost years ago and as I have said numerous times now, a lot of that time is blurry to me now. I do know that my high school girlfriend and I had a lot of baggage. There were things that we disagreed on and I felt that some of them were important. We also had a nasty break up. She said some things that hurt me and I know I said some ugly things in response. Although there had been apologies, some of those things were still lingering around. Truthfully, we had burned our bridges and there was just no way to get back to where we had once been.
So, there I was. I was back with the girl everyone said I couldn’t trust. Honestly, I think that may have been part of the reason why I chose her. Sometimes we go for the things that seem forbidden or dangerous. I did care deeply for her and her son, I must say that. I did intend to stay with her and to eventually marry her. Like I said, I was trying to do the right thing. However, I want to close this chapter with this. I have now had twenty-six years to look back on it and think about all that was going on. I really believe there was another reason why I chose her.
I said that I had given up on girl number three and that is mostly true. At the time she was seeing some other guys and our communication had waned. I had written her a long letter in which I spilled my guts. I told her that I cared deeply for her (I used the word “love”) and that I wanted to be with her. When I didn’t receive a timely response I took it as a rejection. I though that I was the last thing on her mind. Truthfully, I still held on to the hope that she would come around. Even when I was dating girl number two, I thought about her. Even when I was trying to reconnect with girl number one, I thought about her.
I now believe that I chose girl number two because I KNEW it wouldn’t work. I really do believe that I would have stayed with my high school girlfriend if I had made that choice. I always wanted to be married and have a family. In spite of our differences, I acknowledged that there was a spiritual connection between us. Even if it made me miserable, I don’t believe I would have ever left her if we had gotten back together.
I knew that and it scared me. I knew that I had very strong feelings for girl number three. I knew that I would never have the opportunity to express them or act upon them if I went back with girl number one. I also felt that girl number two would eventually leave me. As much as she talked about being together, she had already broken up with me three times by then. I went with her because I knew it was not going to work. It sounds terrible to say, and I probably should be ashamed to admit it, but I used my relationship with her to permanently end it with my first love. The good thing is that it paved the way for me to be with my true love. That, however, is the next chapter.