02 03 The Rhineheart Roost: To my previous love interests. 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

To my previous love interests.

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A few nights ago, Tanner and I *finally* opened our wedding presents. Naturally, a bunch of cards were in the mix. As we went through the gifts and cards, I was struck by the amount of love being poured out to us through the kind words being said in the little cards we received.

The evening was a good one, and as things began winding down and the last few gifts were opened, I noticed an envelope addressed specifically to me. I took it out of the pile quietly, and read it to myself. It was from a young man I had had a crush on all throughout my high school years, and rather than wishing me and my new husband congratulations on our marriage, it was an apology letter. It expressed regret for any amorous advances made towards me, and any subsequent confusion it may have caused.

As I thought about the strange note, my first reaction was to laugh. Obviously I had moved on! Did he think that, perhaps, my Tanner was an extreme form of a rebound? Did he think I was emotionally scarred by holding hands with him occasionally over the course of 4 years? Why did he feel the need to bring it up over a year later, at my wedding? 

I don't know that I'll ever get answers to these questions, but now I don't think it's as funny as I did initially. Rather, I feel sad for him and that he feels those years were a waste of time. Had I the opportunity to go back to high school and change anything, I wouldn't. Because those years were difficult at times, but wonderful nonetheless. Do you know why they were so wonderful? Because of him, and other boys that came into my life at one point or another and gave me a little taste of just how awesome romance can be.

Perhaps it's just because I have always been a tad (read: very) boy-crazy, but I honestly think that having crushes and having those experiences have made me into a better person! I don't regret anything I've done; instead, I'm grateful for the small romantic interludes I had every so often.

And so, I would like to write a little letter in response to that note- but rather than target that specific boy, I'm going to address this letter to all of my previous love interests over the years, because they really shaped who I am and influenced my choice of a husband.

Dear past crushes,

I would like to say, first and foremost, thank you.

Thank you for helping me grow into the woman that I am today. Couldn't have done it without you!

Thank you for being brave enough to hold my hand the first time. It may seem small and inconsequential now, but at the time it made my heart pound, and I couldn't sleep because of how happy it made me. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate even the simplest forms of physical affection, and to enjoy the feeling of someone's hand in mine. It's still one of the most comforting feelings, and you made me realize the beauty and security that holding hands fosters.

Thank you for the little notes and treats you gave me for my birthday, Valentine's Day, and for no reason. I still have all of those sweet little treasures, and when I was younger I had a few of your letters almost memorized from reading them so much. Thank you for teaching me to enjoy the small, handmade gifts. They mean the most, and are so sincere. Please never stop writing notes to your future wife. She will appreciate them more than you know, and keep them for years to come.

Thank you for being so entertaining to talk to, because it taught me the importance of being able to talk to my future spouse, and the importance of being able to have deep, meaningful talks one moment, and silly, pointless banter the next. Communication is so important, and you helped me realize that.

Thank you for allowing me to imagine a future with you. Granted, you never knew it because I never talked about it to you, but I loved dreaming about our potential future together. I would imagine our story, how it would be different from everyone else's, and how romantic it would be to tell our children how we met, holding hands and smiling as the old feelings came rushing back alongside those precious memories. I loved picturing the two of us growing old together, surrounded by grandchildren. I loved secretly trying out your last name (every girl does this, I'm not crazy), and quietly saying it out loud to see how it sounded.

Thank you for being so kind and caring with my little brothers, because it made me realize that having a man who was good with kids was a non-negotiable item on my mental checklist of marriageable qualities. Plus, who doesn't enjoy watching a guy play with little kids? Yum.

Thank you for being my best friend, and doing random, crazy things with me. I knew that I would want to marry someone like that someday- someone I could laugh with, cry with, and go on completely random adventures with. Thank you for being the kind of person I could tell anything to, and thank you for never judging me for my feelings.

Thank you for breaking my heart, and for letting me experience the feeling of emptiness. As hard as it was, it built me up into a stronger person, and allowed me to appreciate the power of loving myself. It taught me to be independent, and showed me that my happiness did not rely on the approval of male counterparts.

Thank you for being a jerk. Thank you for texting other girls while you were on a date with me, and thank you for making me feel stupid by acting like my superior constantly. Thank you for being inconsiderate, because without your sour example, I wouldn't have decided that I was worth someone's full attention. I was worth being treated as an equal, and I was worth someone who would be KIND to me. Thank you for reminding me that settling never makes anyone happy.

Thank you for all the lessons you unknowingly taught me through the years. Without you, I would never have found someone who had all the qualities I both wanted and needed in a man. I don't regret any of the experiences I've had over the years, because if I hadn't had them, I wouldn't appreciate Tanner for the true gem he is.

So never apologize for your past feelings. Even if we didn't end up together, we had a good time, and we both learned a lot. I hope that you don't feel bad for any feelings you had towards me, because I don't regret having liked you. I am excited for the future you have ahead of you, and I pray that the woman you eventually make your wife will appreciate the man you have become because of those experiences.

Best of luck,

~Haeley

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