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I was the perfect, loyal girlfriend. I noticed his every move—the way his dark hair fell bluntly over his eyes, the way he walked, ran, sat, and ate. I knew where he lived, the color and model of the family car (green-and-brown station wagon), the color of his bike (red), and every possible combination of his wardrobe. I could spot him instantly three miles away in traffic with a heavy fog. All this, and we’d never even spoken a word. 

It was my first crush—one that I was destined to suffer from for three long years. And did we ever speak? Ah, yes, one momentous time. 

I was standing in the hall during recess with another girl when—oh, wonders!—he approached. And then she said the one thing that I had lived in dread and fear of having exposed. “Mark, did you know that Kris likes you?” 

In shock and horror, I said the most natural and most revealing thing possible. “I do not!” I gasped, hitting her in the arm. “That’s not true!” All the time my face burned red with shame. 

And he, the visitor to my dreams, the sun and moon of my life—what did he say or do to ease my embarrassment? 

He laughed. And laughed. And while I stood there with my world tumbling around me and my hatred of men (or boys, as the case was) growing, he laughed—until he finally ran down the hall (no doubt to inform all of his friends), still laughing so hard that he was bent double. 

Sad, but unfortunately true. 


In the future I was always careful to make sure that whomever I was interested in didn’t have the least suspicion. Strange, but I never connected the fact that none of my interests noticed me or my apparent lack of interest. Which, for the most part, was all right with me. I wasn’t taking any chances. 

But what happens when you wake up and realize you don’t know how to show interest and affection and emotion anymore? What do you do when the extroverts of this world are winning all your secret loves, and all you want to do is curl up in a corner and let them win because risk is too painful? Rejection is a fearful thing, especially in the face of past rejection. 

Too often failure and rejection are cyclical. If we’ve failed once, it seems logical it will happen again. If it does, our expectations are reinforced. We burn our bridges before we get there and go out on a limb with a chain saw in hand. Then we say, “See, I told you it wouldn’t work.” Negative thinking is a lot more productive than many people think. 

Almost every time I became interested in someone, I told myself that it would be the same as last time. I’d like them, suffer in the hope they’d notice me, suffer when they did (because it was just a hello), and suffer when they didn’t. Finally, after weeks of this, the old flutter when I saw them would subside to a faint thud, and they’d retire to the backstage of my heart. And nothing would ever “happen.” 

Such is life, I thought. 

Until the last time it happened, and I rebelled. “I refuse to go through those same pains again!” I told myself. “This time it’s going to be different. I’m going to think positive, even if it kills me.” (And I was sure it would.) 

With my teeth gritted and my fists clenched, I went out determined to show some interest and to get to know those I had previously admired only from a distance. Even if it meant rejection, pain, and feeling like a fool. I was sick of watching with glowing eyes from afar, of hurting every time I saw him (whoever he was) because I was too afraid to be friendly. 

Like all good Disney stories, this one ends well. No, I didn’t marry him—this isn’t a fairy tale! I did make a friend, though, and some happy memories. But most important, I learned an attitude. An attitude of caring despite the possibility of being rejected. Learning to be friendly without worrying about the other person’s reaction. I’m trying to take life as it comes, without planning for failure, rejection, and pain. 

The laugh in the corridor? It still comes echoing out of the past sometimes. But I now have other, better memories with which to replace it. Memories of laughing lovingly, laughing in happiness, and most important, laughing together. 


This article originally appeared in the January 14, 1984, issue of Insight. At that time Kris Coffin Stevenson was a senior journalism major at Pacific Union College in California and president of the Adventist Intercollegiate Association. She served as assistant editor of Insight from 1984 to 1986. She holds an M.A. in international communication from the University of Maryland and taught academy English for nine years. She has authored four books, her latest being Beneath The Baobab Tree: Where Poverty Dies and Hope Begins. Currently she and her pastor-husband live 

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