The Love Letter That Changed My Life

The first love letter I ever wrote was in the third grade.

It was penned to a boy I thought was the sweet in ice cream. He was smart with shiny blue eyes, crooked teeth and the cutest bowl haircut I ever saw.

I wanted to express how I felt, but I was too nervous to approach him let alone actually talk to him. Writing a love letter seemed to me the most appropriate way of getting my message across.

Needless to say, it didn’t shake out the way I imagined.

My carefully crafted letter was confiscated by the school librarian and never reached the object of my affections. It did, however, land me in the principal’s office. who called my strict Catholic mother who lectured me the whole way home about the inappropriateness of writing such things, which led to a nearly decade-long case of writer’s block riddled with shame and fear.

The principal called my very strict (and very Catholic) mother who lectured me the whole way home about the inappropriateness of writing such a nearly decade-long case of writer’s block riddled with shame and fear.

That led to a nearly decade-long case of writer’s block that was riddled with shame and fear.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I would add a whole lot of valuable lessons, too, because deep in the fine print of my love-letter tragedy I learned a lot about finding my own voice, being authentic and showing up as myself. In retrospect, it was arguably the most valuable lesson I learned as a writer.

Here’s how it went down:

As a little girl, I was always drawn to words that were exciting, engaging and heartfelt. I loved reading stories of adventure where characters dared do amazing things. A good story changed me, it seemed, and always left me wanting more. But how to create that feeling in a love letter, I wondered?

My eight-year-old self knew nothing about writing love letters.  And since no one in my family really spoke English (let alone read or write it) I had no idea where to start. Should my first sentence begin with “Dear so-and-so?” Or, should I keep it casual and open with a simple “Hi!”

Confused, yet undeterred, I decided to turn to the only place I knew where people made big, passionate declarations of love:

Daytime Soap Operas.

As a latchkey kid, I’d come home every day to an empty house, a home cooked meal, and the last half hour of General Hospital where I watch the drama-filled “stories” of Luke and Laura unfold. During the summer months, I obsessed over the romantic adventures of Beau and Hope on Days of Our Lives. I thought if anyone could teach me about passionate love, surely these couples could.

For weeks, I watched closely what they did and how they spoke. I wrote down what they said and highlighted the phrases that seemed to evoke the deepest emotion.

You know, stuff like, “I just can’t live without you” or “I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you” or “If I can’t have you, no one can.”

No doubt, it was those declarations that landed me in the principal’s office. The school librarian, who found my letter tucked between the pages of a Ramona book, must have gasped when she read those words written in 8-year-old scrawl. They must have come across as the rantings of a stalker.

And when asked why I wrote what I did, I couldn’t answer. How could I explain I had no idea what the words meant or why grown-ups say the things they say and do the things they do. I just wanted my blue-eyed boy to like me. And the best way to go about that, I thought, was to sound fancy, like the glamorous couples I saw on TV. I never considered what I would say.

Needless to say, I got detention for that stunt, which put the kibosh on my love letter writing ambitions. It wasn’t until years later when a high school English teacher asked me to write an essay about myself, that I revisited that moment. I described how painful it felt to invest my heart and energy into an endeavor that was only met with criticism and disdain. I described how much I loved the written word, how I aspired to be a writer and how while I didn’t always know what to say, I knew no one else’s words could take the place of my own. I described how, in that moment, I would write what was in my heart and not be afraid of how it was received. In some ways, that essay was a love letter to myself.

I received a “golden apple” for that essay, my teacher’s version of an A+. And it gave me the courage to write again – this time from a place of authenticity.

I don’t know what ever happened to my blue-eyed boy. But can I assure you, if I were to write him a love letter today, it wouldn’t get me detention 🙂

About The Author

Brenda Barbosa

Copywriter + Business Storyteller