It was this time of the year, six years ago, when I experienced my first “real” breakup. He was a two-month crush whom I fell swiftly for, only to find myself with a bruised heart and lots of unanswered questions.
He broke up with me the day before I had an appointment to get birth control for the first time because that’s what he wanted and I thought I was “ready.”
I don’t think you’re ever ready – for sex, for love, for heartbreak. They all just kind of find you like that new kind cereal at the grocery store. You didn’t walk in looking for it, but once you see it, it’s all you want. Okay, maybe not the breakup and associated heartbreak, but those find you too (or at least have, in my experience) when you’re least expecting it…but once it happens, it feels like your whole world is affected by it.
That love (if you can even call it that) six years ago was the first time I felt like I had that “ah-ha” moment you see in the movies. The one where you click with a person and they just get you. Well, he did (or so I thought). We called it “reading each other’s minds,” but years later I know you can do that with pretty much anyone you get to know if you’re on the same page about whatever you’re talking about.
Today my Instagram decided to bring up some old-ass posts of my most recent ex’s profile as “suggested content.” Scroll, scroll, and I find that almost all of the photos we’d taken together over the last five years on his account were gone. Not that he posted that often, maybe half a dozen photos a year, but it was like all of those years were undone in an instant – like they never happened.
All at once it felt like a blast from the past, because this is exactly what boy from six years ago did as soon as he dumped my ass in front of a pleasantly generic Chipotle/ Starbucks. I’d never dated someone prior to that guy who felt like he had to erase we ever happened in order to move on. I find the whole “delete all” move a little abrasive, because then you’ll have to censor your stories and memories when that person comes up in conversation (because let’s be honest, if they mattered at any point in time, they will, it just happens).
Understandable, sure. I get it – it’s definitely a buzzkill to try to date someone new with pictures of an ex all over the place. At the same time though, those two people shared something (emotions, memories, hell, time at the very least) and I think it’s exponentially important to recognize if you’re the ex or the potential new partner.
The person you’re dating now wouldn’t be the same person he/she is today had they not met ex’s 1, 2, 3, etc. I know from my own dating escapades, every tryst, awkward encounter, and passionately love left me changed (for better and for worse). It was jarring to see that all that’s left from a relationship I thought would endure the test of time is a handful of group photos where I could easily be explained away as a friend from years past.
(After I wrote this post but before it was published, my happy ass clicked on his profile one more time to find it’s now private and I’m no longer a friend – in real life or online). I guess it’s fitting that I got back the deposit for the apartment we shared today. Literally everything’s wrapped up and while it’s sad to let it go, I think (no, I know) it’s for the better.
I must be a unicorn because I’ve never deleted a picture of an ex. To me, I’ve always felt like they’re a part of my story. Each and every person taught me something I didn’t know about myself (and/or others).
There was the guy that told me I was too passive about what I wanted, so now I’m unabashedly upfront about my intentions.
There was the guy that told me I cut him off too often when we fought, so I now consciously try to slow down, listen, and process a situation before getting mad and metaphorically word vomiting.
There was the guy who told me he couldn’t date me because I’d never had sex, and now I shake my head at him because if he cared about me, that wouldn’t have mattered.
There was the guy who told me I spent too much time with my family, and now I see that he struggled to have a relationship with his and resented mine; that’s something I will never apologize for, because I know others would do anything to have it with theirs.
As a kid I loved reading this series of books called “choose your own ending,” where you’d skip to different pages in the book based on your answers to different questions throughout the story. Each question would switch up the story, so you could read it five times and never get the same ending (provided you answered the questions differently). I was always so impatient, I’d skip to the end of the book to figure out which ending I liked the best and then circle back and figure out what questions I needed to answer to get to that ending.
Not much has changed as far as being impatient, but I think that if I had the same option in real life to fast-forward and pick an ending, I don’t think I would. Every choice I’ve made thus far has propelled me in the direction I’ve needed to go.
It’s not very often that I’ve picked the most direct route to get where I’m going, but it’s worked out for me, eventually. I’ve dated people who’ve treated me badly because that’s what I thought I deserved. I’ve pulled the all-nighters because that’s what I thought I had to do to get things done. I’ve ignored sound advice because I thought I had to learn things on my own.
Every misstep has taught me that resilience is learned; you aren’t born with it. A strong work ethic is built up over time; it’s not found over-night. A kind heart, while some inexplicably have from the get-go, is cultivated through the kindness and love of others towards you and others. Relationships are work, but if you’re willing and able, they’re some of the most incredible things to experience – both in friendship and romance.
It’s crazy to think that six weeks ago I was an unconsolable mess over a guy whom I’ve come to realize never loved me the way I loved him; today, I’m weeks away from graduating from law school and dating a new guy who’s crazy sweet and probably reading this… because he’s one of those guys who actively takes an interest in people and what they do (something I’d forgotten was possible to find in a partner).
It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling to know this is the end, but that’s how you know it’s time to start a new chapter (right? I think so). I was petrified of relationships before I met this last guy of five years, but because of him, I know I’m capable of being in one for more than five minutes.
I’m always amazed at life’s timing.
Five years ago I was weeks away from graduating from college and again, I find myself weeks away from another academic milestone. It’s pretty exciting to think where I’ll be five years from now. I couldn’t have pictured my reality then, now…and I think the same is true about what’s to come.
I guess we just have to trust that every choice we make meaningfully contributes to a happy ending. Even though we don’t get to “choose” it, per se, it’s better to not know what’s coming our way…because what fun would that be if we could anticipate it all, the good and the bad? We’ll just have to live blissfully in the present and life intentionally in everything we do.