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For the first, we will start with the one before the first.  It’s a story you’ve read before if you’ve been following long enough or been brave enough to go back far enough to find it.

He was a road warrior, early 20’s, with a street name I refused to call him and a real name I had to sneak out of him like a pickpocket.  I was 17, even less socially inept and more self-conscious than I am today, and either brazen or stupid depending on which side of a body bag this particular adventure landed me on.  After graduation a friend and I took a trip to Nashville for the biggest Country Music Festival around at the time, and by the end of day one he had already upstaged Kenny Chesney in my mind.

I couldn’t tell you now if he was as cute as my memories have made him since then or if my attraction was based on the fact that he looked at me like he adored me and spoke to me like no one ever had.  You see, at 17 years old I had not had a guy as much as ask me for my number or a dance as I awkwardly tried to act as if it were no big deal to be ignored.  But here I was, on my own in a strange city, and not just one, but a handful of guys were there bending over backwards to make me feel like the Gypsy queen of Nashville.  We danced in the streets in the rain.  We spent a night in the back of someone’s pickup singing American Pie.  He introduced me to one of my favourite drinks, SoCo and Diet Coke, and I saw my first insulin pump.  We snuck him in to a concert or two, and he helped me gather the nerve to go in to a store that sold souvenirs, fudge, and bullwhips.  I smuggled him into my hotel room where he was my first kiss, then I chickened out when he tried to do anything more than kiss me.

The experience in Nashville taught me a few things besides how to be thankful in retrospect that my body was never found floating in the river.

First, it taught me to come out of my shell and believe that I am a fun, interesting, attractive woman.  I mean, if I could keep anyone’s attention as a gothy, inexperienced, SAT obsessed teenager afraid to show the world anything about herself in fears of being rejected, imagine what I’m capable of now when I let down those same self-defense shields.  Had I never had a chance to learn to disarm them before the decimating traumas I experienced in college, I may never have done so.  Who would I have become?

Second, it taught me to live in the moment and not in the fear, to take chances and live life instead of just surviving it.  I left Nashville knowing I’d never see him again, and it didn’t make the experience any less valid or wonderful.  It simply was what it was meant to be, and it shook me from that societal training that tells a girl that every man she feels anything for has to be there forever.  My only regret from the trip was that I let fear hold me back from experiencing him in all the ways I’d wanted to.

I waited a long time to open up to the world and all it had to offer me.  While I occasionally wonder what became of the first man to ever give me a chance and the others who each made me feel worthy in his own way, my experience in Nashville was just what I needed.  I have no negative parting to soil the memory of my first kiss.  Instead, I have a fantastic story and a bullwhip that came with a pound of fudge.

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