Fall has always been the season of new beginnings. I’ve believed that my whole life.
But beginnings can only start with an ending.
It’s been almost five years since I met my ex-boyfriend. It’s been over two years since my first — and only — relationship ended. We haven’t talked since that day — over two years ago — when I walked away with tears in my eyes, climbed into my car and drove that route from his house to mine for the very last time.
Two years later, I don’t think I know that route anymore. I had it memorized for so long.
It’s only one of many things that have faded over time. The longing to see his contact name on my phone with an incoming text has faded over time. The memories accompanying the songs we used to sing in the car have faded over time.
His presence in general has faded over time.
In the months immediately after we broke up, that inevitable loss of memories used to bring me a lot of mixed feelings. Someone who was a large part of my life is now just … not a part of it anymore. Those months after were filled with sadness, anger, frustration — practically every emotion you can think of. But eventually, time went on. He came into my thoughts in sporadic waves.
And now? It depends.
I can go weeks without thinking about him, and then suddenly, he pops into my head every day. It takes me a great deal of thought to remember when and where we shared our first kiss. But then every time it rains, I’m reminded of how much he loved the rain.
I hate the rain.
Going through a breakup is strange, because not only does someone not have the same presence in your life anymore, but naturally, you start to forget. You start to forget some of their catchphrases or their drink of choice. You start to forget the common interests you two share, the dates you two went on and the promises you used to whisper to each other.
You start to forget the person you used to hold so dear.
For a while, that was something I struggled to grapple with. I got frustrated with myself. If this person meant as much to me as I claimed they did, why was I finding it hard to remember simple facts and memories I said I would never forget?
But then I realized, about a year after the break-up, that just because you may not be able to remember specific moments anymore, doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Read that previous line again. I have to remind myself of that often.
So what has changed since that mild May afternoon? I’m a different person now, partially from that break-up but mostly from time. Everyone’s bound to change in two years. My view towards relationships in general has changed. My view towards how I handled our break-up has changed. My view of him has changed.
But does any of that matter when the relationship is already over?
I would argue that it does. It’s essential.
Sitting with your feelings right after a break-up can be difficult. There was a lot of crying in the shower and lying awake at night thinking about how it went wrong. Not to mention that my break-up occurred during the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown, so I truly had nothing else to distract myself from feeling everything.
Sitting with your feelings over two years later is just as important too. There was a night last week when I was focusing on a specific memory of him and me when we were friends. I just kept thinking about it while simultaneously being mad at myself for thinking about it. “I should be over it, right?” I asked my best friend over FaceTime. “It feels so stupid to be thinking about this still. It’s been so long.”
“It’s not stupid,” she gently reminded me. “There’s no right timeline for stuff like this. You know that. You’ve literally said those words to me.”
Thank goodness for best friends.
So what hasn’t changed? He’s still a part of my life, even now. Maybe in incredibly small portions, but he is. And I’m trying to continually celebrate that — despite whatever bitter feelings I may still harbor. No matter how much you want to lie to yourself, every ex left something of theirs behind with you. Whether it’s the gifts they bought you or the memories you have at that specific ice cream shop you always went to together.
Another thing that hasn’t changed? My morals. My values. My ability to love.
That ability may have wavered a bit, but with time, it’s come back stronger than ever.
Time is your best friend and worst enemy after a breakup. Feel everything you feel. Remember, it’s like fall. Beginnings can only start with an ending.