I had to switch math classes my junior year in high school because I was failing Honors Geometry. I had a brain for Algebra but just could not comprehend the concept of shapes. So, after Christmas break, I got moved into a regulars Geometry class and got seated behind a boy named Zack. In March 2009, Zack asked if I wanted a summer job as a lifeguard! Me and my “I’m independent and need my own money” self jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know what failing geometry and a chance encounter with Zack would bring me.
The next month, I attended a CPR training to get the first part of my lifeguard certification. I arrived at a neighborhood pool and spotted two cuties sitting in the corner. They were broody and aloof which, to a 16 year old girl, was very alluring. I struck up a conversation with the one I deemed the “Bad Boy” (shoutout Nassim) and ended up talking to him and the other boy I called the “Catholic Cutie” for a little bit. I remember going home and telling my mom that I hoped I was working at the same pool as the “cuties” *Y’all, my 16 year old self was embarrassing* We didn’t end up working at the same pools and nothing ever really came from our brief interaction at training. Months went by with no “Bad Boy” or “Catholic Cutie” sightings and my teenage mind wandered to other boys.
I’d gotten to be good friends with my supervisor (shoutout Bobby) and, one night in June 2009, he invited me and my sister to play volleyball at a neighborhood court. I gathered some other friends and we headed out. We arrived and saw many familiar faces, one of those being the “Catholic Cutie”. My heart did a little jump, but I was playing the field at the time so I didn’t even think about it. We played for hours and the Catholic Cutie didn’t speak to me at all, not even two words. In the sweltering Houston night heat, we all decided to be rebels and jump the fence to take a swim in the neighborhood pool. A few of us made it over and I thought it would be super cool to take off my shirt and do a back flip off the lifeguard stand! *Again, heavy eye roll at 16 year old Shan* Catholic Cutie stood on the outside of the fence with the scaredy-cats looking broody and cute. I secretly wondered what he was like.
^Baby Will and Baby Shan Summer 2009
After our rebellious dip in the pool, we piled into our cars and headed to the nearest Sonic to hang and indulge in a refreshing slushy. I was sitting at a table with my sister and friends when I felt someone slide on to the bench next to me. Glancing over, I see Catholic Cutie looking at me, and moving his slushy in my direction. “I used to work here, try this,” he says with a smirk. “Um, no thanks,” I reply, fully freaked out, and move to another table. (Mmk, I know what you’re thinking “You called him cute, why would you move away?!” Y’all. I didn’t know him at all and the first the first words out of his mouth were asking me to try a slushy he created. All my true crime consumption has told me to RUN.)
Weeks went by and our supervisor got another group together to play Fugitive on a hot July night. Among the dozens of faces in the starting parking lot, I spotted Catholic Cutie. Part of me was intrigued, but most of me just hoped he would try to feed me again. This time around, I learned that Catholic Cutie’s name was Will and he was 18. Again, intrigued. If you don’t know the game Fugitive it goes like this; you get a big group of people together at night, and they need to make it from one end of the neighborhood to the other without getting caught by the “police”. The “police” are 2 people from the group driving in a car with flashlights. If you get caught by a flashlight, you’re out and go to the end spot. It was my turn to be the police and was waiting to see who my copilot would be. My supervisor, Bobby and his friend (shoutout Nathan) made an attempt to shove Will in my passenger seat with no avail. Zack got the seat. Little did I know, Bobby, Nathan, and Will were beginning to hatch a plan to get us together.
Later in July, Bobby got the group together again for another game of fugitive in a different neighborhood. In the middle of the game, I got separated from my friends and began to run around looking for anyone I knew because it was hella creepy. All of a sudden I hear someone running behind me. I turn around to see Will about 30 yards behind me and my heart skips a beat. My true crime obsessed self and my 16 year old flirty self were very conflicted about this potential interaction. Will catches up and stops next to me and simply says “Hey”. I was nervous as heck and I have no idea what we talked about. All I know is we spent the rest of the game running together and talking. My 16 year old flirty self won the battle; he was charming. I ended up having to race home because I was very late for my curfew. I woke up the next morning to a post on my Facebook Wall from Will, asking if I’d gotten home. Through a cringe-worthy comment conversation, he got my number and promised to bring me a Sonic slushy to my work that day. (Is it me or are slushies starting to sound romantic?) I thought for sure he was just flirting, and he wasn’t actually going to bring me a slush at work. However, I’ll never forget the butterflies in my stomach as I saw him walk up to the pool gate with that giant slush in his hand. We talked for a few minutes and he left to go to his own shift. As he drives away, I hear my phone ding. It’s a text from Will asking if I wanted to go to the movies with him on Saturday! I wanted to play it so cool, but I’m pretty sure I texted a big fat “YES” immediately upon reading it.
^Our 2nd date
The rest of the week was filled with anxious daydreams that only a lovestruck 16 year old could create. When we ironed out the details for the date, I made sure to tell him he had to come to the door to meet my parents before I would get in his car. He did just that and seeing him shake my dad’s hand gave me butterflies. He picked me up in his little blue Pontiac Sunfire, and I was smitten (because just having a car was super cool). He played me a mix CD he’d burned of all his favorite songs, and I listened intently as he explained each one and why he loved it. We joked, laughed, and sang along as we made our way to the movies. In the small theater, we sat near the front, and I couldn’t pay attention to 500 Days of Summer. I was so nervous sitting next to him, and he smelled really good. On the way home, I remember praying he would ask me out again. However, there was a problem. Will was 18 and had just graduated high school. He’d be leaving for Texas Tech in just a few weeks. Despite that unfortunate detail, he did ask me out again. I then proceeded to pretend he wasn’t leaving; we were going to stay in this perfect fairytale.
For the next 7 days we spent almost every ounce of free time we had together hanging with friends, driving around listening to music, visiting each other at work, and going on dates. I was totally and completely head over heels for this boy, and every fiber of my being hoped he felt the same way. We met each other’s families and spent the summer nights at the pool. After our 5th date, he still hadn’t kissed me and I was dying inside. On our way home from the date, I was determined to make it happen without looking desperate (lol). He was taking me home and I was leaned over the console just starring at him for most of the way home. I think he got the message because at the next red light, he laid one on me! Sparks, fireworks, butterflies, all of the above. “Finally!” I said and we both giggled. (We now kiss every time at that intersection when we’re back home.)
On August 14, 2009 Will told me we “had to talk” and my heart felt like it was going to explode. We met at a local Starbucks, ironically on the same intersection we had our first kiss. I arrived early to mentally prepare myself for a break up, but also to think of anything to say to him to make him consider long distance. I’d even burned him CDs for his road trip up to Tech. He sat down and asked me what he thinks we should do about “us”. Vulnerably, I confessed that I wanted to give this a chance and see if we could make it work After all, whats a 9 hour drive? My heart felt like it was going to explode again when he said he wanted us to be official and do the long distance thing. To my 16 year old heart, long distance sounded so romantic and grown up. Little did I know how gut wrenching it would be to have to continuously say goodbye.
I left for family vacation to Colorado on August 15th and returned the day before Will left for school. When it came time to say the big goodbye, I was a wreck. We were hugging by his car and he whispered to me “have you ever wanted to say something so bad, but didn’t want to seem dumb?”, “I love you too” I said. He drove away and I cried for hours. It seems silly now, but in that moment I truly did love him and I believe he truly did love me too. We’d spent the past two weeks bearing our souls to one another, as only two love struck teenagers can. He accepted me as the goody church girl that I was and respected the boundaries I wanted to put on our relationship. He made me laugh uncontrollably and felt so safe at the same time. We understood each other and wanted nothing more than to just be together. He felt “different”.
^Saying goodbye before he left for Tech
The next few months were filled with sappy text messages, hours of phone calls, music filled Skype dates and one surprise visit. We sent care packages and burnt CDs to express each and every angsty feeling. For Thanksgiving 2009 we both happened to be going to New Orleans to visit our extended families. Our families were about 6 miles apart in New Orleans, so we got to go back and fourth to meet everyone and spend our first Thanksgiving together! Christmas came around and I got to have him for a WHOLE MONTH. That break looked a lot like summer, spending every ounce of free time together and taking forever to kiss goodnight. We spent time with each other’s families and baked a ridiculous amount of cookies. Our deepest conversations happened when we’d sneak off to drive around town. We could drive for hours talking and listening to those burned CDs.
^Will sent me a pair of shoes he decorated!
^Thanksgiving in New Orleans, First Christmas, Will decorated my room for my present
The rest of the semester continued much like the first. He came home for Spring Break, Easter, and surprised me a few more times! We had some hard times too. Mostly, we just had “I miss you” fights and arguments, but some real world stuff hit us too. We had to learn how to be honest with one another and communicate extremely clearly. Getting to still know each other from 500 miles away wasn’t easy by any stretch of the word, but we were committed to one another. Fun fact: On Spring Break, in his childhood bedroom, with a James Avery ring, Will got down on one knee and asked me to marry him one day. SWOON. Young Shannon squealed yes, and meant it with her whole heart.
^Will surprising me at one of my soccer games!
Before we knew it, it was Summer and we had 3 months together. My heart couldn’t freaking stand how excited I was to have him back home. I was working at the pool again and he was working with his dad across town, so all we had were nights and weekends to make the most of our time together. Then, poof, he was gone back to school. Our relationship, now stronger than ever, was ready for another year. I decided to apply and planned to go to Texas Tech as well. I told myself, and everyone else, that I was going because I loved the campus. While that was true, I was going because Will was there. I couldn’t wait to be at the same school as him and see what life would be like in the same town. Those daydreams and plans got us through the first semester with him back at Tech.
After a year and a half of dating, important conversations began to come up. After all, he did ask me to marry him one day. Yeah, we were 17 and 19 but the love was real and we really meant the promises we were making each other. We dreamed about our future and what our lives would be like when we got married after college. In January 2011, religion came up. He’s Catholic (hellooooo Catholic Cutie) and I was not. Young Shannon was insanely stubborn, rooted in her faith, and was determined not to be Catholic. Young Will was insanely stubborn, rooted in his faith, and was determined to raise a Catholic family. Both of us were unwilling to bend in that area, causing us to question why we were doing this. We took a few days to think things over and figure out if we were willing to compromise.
The night before Will left to go back to Tech for spring semester, we broke up. Standing on my front porch, we gave each other back our class rings and hugged goodbye. He drove away and I watched his taillights go all the way down our street until they turned. My mom was there to catch me as I collapsed into a ball of tears on our living room floor. I couldn’t breathe when I realized what had actually just happened. Because of how we loved Jesus differently, we couldn’t be together. How was that possible?? It was awful, heartbreaking, soul crushing, and horrible. I cried for weeks and could hardly eat anything. I truly thought I might die from a broken heart. I honestly don’t have the words to write about because I try to block that month out of my mind.
Now, you know this story has a happy ending, but we have many more obstacles to get through before that happens. Stay tuned for part two of “Thank God I Failed Geometry”.