High school sweetheart

What do you do when you are afraid of the one thing you've always wanted?

Published March 7, 2003 8:12PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

What do you do when you are scared of the one thing you've always wanted? I have been in a five-year relationship with my high school sweetheart.

I have a friend, however, that makes this idyllic little world a bit more complicated. I knew her when I was young as well, and we've stayed in touch and become incredibly close over the years as I try to advance my journalism career and she flits back and forth from city to city, working in various bars.

I was in love with this girl before I met my girlfriend, and the feeling never really went away. But this friend was working the bars, living the waitress lifestyle, and generally living it up during her youth.

Now we're 23, living in the same city, and it's all coming out. Dependable and lovely and beautiful as my current girlfriend is, I've been dreaming about this friend for nearly six years, and now it looks like I have a chance to go out and take her.

But it petrifies me. She's more experienced than me, relationships have meant nothing to her in the past, she swears that she loves me to death and will never hurt me, but her past behavior at various times has led me to doubt -- not her intentions, but the person that she is.

I don't know that she can actually pull this turnaround off. She's never been with anyone like me, who can leave town with no warning to chase stories, who would rather stay in a newsroom until 3 a.m. than go get hammered, go dancing and fuck. She wants to come with me to B.C. this summer when I go to work at a paper out there, and my heart leaps at the thought. But if that happens, it will either fly or crash and completely burn.

Do I throw away the stability and unconditional love that I've always treasured from my girlfriend for the chance at the kind of passion I've never experienced. I mean, I'm only 23, right? I should be taking these kinds of chances, and it is what I've always dreamt of, so why can't I just fucking do it? What is to blame for these ridiculous doubts?

Too Many Questions for One Little Reporter

Dear Reporter,

This might sound overly simplistic to our more complex and nuanced friends out there, but between you and me, I think every young guy has something he has to get out of his system, and more often than not it involves somebody's body he has to touch, although sometimes it involves a set of wheels and a road that shoots like an arrow into the prairie, and sometimes it's a certain wall of rock that needs to be climbed or a certain point break that catches a 10-foot northern swell. Whatever it is, it eats at you until you confront it, and then once you confront it, sometimes it swallows you like the whale swallowed Jonah and you disappear into it and it takes a couple of years to recover, and maybe you're never really as happy and carefree again, but at least you are a man. On the other hand, sometimes the thing that has been eating at you turns out to be an unexpected gift from the universe that you were too scared to open, and next thing you know, because you finally opened it, your life is right.

You can't know. I can't tell you what to do. I think you know in your heart what to do, though, and I can tell you that if you do not follow your heart you will shrink, you will dry up, you will slowly disappear.

You are going to hurt this girlfriend of yours if you take off and shack up with the barmaid. The key is to make it count. Don't squander your hurting. Make it mean something. Make sure it's what you have to do. But then do it with all your heart.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.

By Cary Tennis

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