LSS: On the art of appreciating your husband’s ex-girlfriends

Somewhere out there, probably somewhere around the West Texas town of El Paso, there’s a woman I need to thank.
I’ve never met her. I don’t even know her name. I’m fairly certain she’s unaware what she did for my family and how it has positively affected our lives for decades and continues to do so today.
Apparently, she was attractive.
She had gone to a fancy private girls’ school in El Paso, Texas. My husband went to a big public school not too far away. They both graduated that May and ended up working together at W.T. Grant’s through the summer.
He liked her. He thought she was great.
“She seemed older than me,” he said. “Basically, I had a crush on her.”
He asked her out. They even went with her parents to the wedding of one of her family friends.
One day in mid-summer, the two of them were talking during a break at work. He asked her something about work later that week. She told him she wouldn’t be in that day. He asked why.
“Because I’m going to register at UTEP that day,” she said.
UTEP is the University of Texas at El Paso, a great school that literally sits right along the border of our country, with only Interstate 10 between it and the Rio Grande.
I’m unclear on exactly how the rest of the conversation went, but somewhere along the way, she said, “What about you?”
And he said, “Oh yea, I’m registering later this month.”
Here’s the thing: until that moment, going to college had not been a part of the plan for my husband.
He was the oldest child. His dad had died unexpectedly four years earlier. He was doing everything he could to live his life and help his mother and the rest of his family survive. Somehow college had not entered the equation.
Until that girl said she was headed to college.
“If she was going there, I was going there,” he told me last week.
As things turned out, he couldn’t get everything together quickly enough to get registered for the fall semester, but he was there in January.
Once at college, their paths didn’t cross as often as he anticipated. “She started dating someone and eventually got married and dropped out of school,” he said. “A semester later, I started working full-time at the newspaper and going to school part-time, but I graduated. I probably wouldn’t have gone to school—certainly, not back then—if it wouldn’t have been for her.”
And in trying to impress a girl, he changed the course of his life.
Our lives, for that matter.
From time to time, I think about the impact that almost-summer romance and quick conversation had. It’s such a great example of just never knowing the effect of our words and actions. Beyond that, it’s also an illustration of how the people you hang around can influence your life—for the good or otherwise. Realizing their sway might not be possible at the time, but it’s there whether you like it or not.
In other words, your mother was right. “Hang around people you aspire to be like—people who make you a better you.”

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