Chapter 3, LOREN

Your 20’s can be a scary and confusing time in life.  You are unsure of what your future will look like or what you really want out of life. This is the decade of finding out who you are and who you hope to become. Some of us go to college right out of high school and have a concentration we are set on. Some of us will change our minds several times and maybe even change schools before landing the perfect fit. Some of us start our careers and gain life experience learning a trade or trying out different fields. Then, for some of us, marriage and starting a family come first. One thing I learned about this decade of life is there is no wrong or right order in which to do things. There is no “backward” or “forward”, “right” or “wrong”, (unless you choose prison or a life of crime. PSA: Don’t choose that path!). There are, instead, several routes to take, and I advise you to take as many as you possibly can!

For me, my 20’s started off with my first marriage.  Yes, for those that don't know me or may not know me all too well (just yet), I have been blessed enough to have been married twice. My first marriage was to a man named Ryan, who I met when I was 18 years old. He was fresh out of boot camp, and I was still a senior in high school. A very dear friend, who was my wild wing-woman at that time in life, introduced us. The moment our eyes met, it was instant. I laugh at the term “love at first site”, because it was mostly lust at first site. However, something in both of us said, “Oh there you are. Welcome home.” And we have both been home for each other ever since. 

Our love was fast, passionate, and every bit of a whirlwind from the start.  I knew the moment I met Ryan that our love was like no other I had felt and likely ever would again. We dated for 8 months before he proposed, and we waited another year and a half before getting married. 

My parents did not approve of my marriage, so like every young couple, naturally, we ran off to the courthouse and vowed to love each other for the rest of our lives. While we knew our love was real, we did not fully know ourselves individually, nor did either of us know how to grow and thrive in a new marriage. After a rocky, yet party filled year of marriage, we decided to separate; our insecurities both getting the best of us and equally tearing us apart. Our separation had a bigger impact on me than I was prepared for. It’s easy to say the words, but putting a breakup into motion, especially a divorce, is a heartbreaking pain that you feel deep in your soul. Ryan truly was my first love, and I have loved that man from the bottom my heart since we met. I still believe to this day he was my soulmate. In fact, nearly 10 years after our divorce, we still communicate and say ‘I love you’ almost every single day. I have no doubt that he will forever hold the most special and tender place in my heart. 

Soulmate is a strange word and I feel like we throw it around a little bit too often. However, I can say that after knowing someone for 13 years, through the good, the bad, the ugly, and having felt unconditional love and forgiveness from one person...

I do believe soulmates exist.  To me, soulmate means more than just matching your soul with another human being. It means aligning yourself in love, life, understanding, and forgiveness. It means letting go, no matter how badly it hurts. It means watching the other half of your soul from a far and cheering them on in new-found love and new life chapters. It means being there no matter what the other person is going through. Regardless of how tragic I saw my divorce to Ryan, he gave me a love that provided me with the strength to get through the rest of what my 20’s had in store. No matter what I went through going forward, I was always reminded of the love we once shared and how strong I felt when I was loved the way he loved me - the way he still loves me. 

If I knew then what I know now (don’t we all say that), I would have appreciated that innocent, unconditional love and never allowed it to ever go dull. Since we can’t rewind time, I look at the lesson gifted by that marriage- I needed that heartbreak. I needed to learn to love myself and be secure in my own skin before I could ever understand what someone else’s love felt like.  

I am blessed to be able to call my first ex-husband my best friend to this day. It’s a gift many may not get, and I certainly do not take it for granted. We have had our spouts throughout the years where we would lose touch or keep our distance while the other was heading into a new journey. Heartbreak or tragedy has sadly been what brought us back together throughout the years, one of those times being the passing of a very close friend to suicide. We've had several loves come in and out of our lives, but we always found ourselves coming back to one another, affirming to each other that we are loved, we are forgiven, and we are whole as a person. Ryan will always be a beacon of light in my life. He's one of the most caring, compassionate, and gentle humans I've ever had the honor of knowing. 

So by now you might be asking yourself, “Why are they not together?” “Why are they not married again?” This answer is both simple and complicated all wrapped into one. We are two very different people than we were at 18. Back then we were young, wild, and carefree. One thing I have learned is that love changes over time. Today, we both lead very different lives, i.e. careers, children, locations. Combining our two worlds seems nearly impossible anymore. While we still share a deep love for one another, and likely always will, that love is not enough to piece us back together…at least not for now. In the meantime, we both continue to applaud and love one another, unconditionally, from afar...until God says otherwise.

My First Forever Love