As the new school year begins, and you all start your new forevers, you’re supposed to feel nothing but excitement. And some of you, no matter how much you try, just can’t do that. Because you’re dealing with the devastating pain that is saying goodbye to your old “forevers.” A great many people are sitting in a dorm room right now, surrounded by virtual strangers, and feeling sad, because they just broke things off with their high school boyfriends. Maybe it was your choice, and maybe it was his, but in either case, it doesn’t make the separation any easier. The person you love more than anyone — who maybe taught you what it even means to be in love — is no longer part of your life. And you feel like you will never be able to move on. And well. That sucks.
Let me preface this by saying that I, professional frat blogger, am a little bit older than you, professional frat goer. Between five and ten years older, I reckon. So the life you’re living is a memory I’m comfortable recalling, but no longer actively living. I was in love with my high school turned college boyfriend for three years. A lot will change in the next five to ten years of your life, but not as much as you think. You’ll still go out and get tanked with your friends. You’ll still overanalyze every single text that every single boy who has ever looked at you will send. And you’ll still social media stalk people from your present, past, and potential future all the way back to their prom. But things will change, people will change, and your relationships will change.
And so, as the moldy oldy who can fully remember how you feel, but successfully came out the other side, a story.
My ex-boyfriend — my first boyfriend who mattered — is getting married this weekend. In France. To a skinny girl who very closely resembles the girl he slept with before me, but that’s neither here nor there. And of course, I know about it. I could say that I know because we still have a few mutual (if only by social media) friends, but in truth, I just know, because the first person you ever loved doesn’t just get married without you knowing about it. People texted me. I got screenshots. And sure, I stalked his bride-to-be once or twice throughout the engagement to figure out the date.
Publicly, I’ve been tempted to subtweet…something. The institution of marriage, maybe, or the entire country of France. “Yeah, but have you heard of America?” “If they really loved each other, they could just do it here.” My friends have chimed in that their beautiful French countryside wedding is extra, completely glossing over the fact that I am the most extra person in most rooms. But when it came down to it…I just don’t really care.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a monster. I’m interested, at least on some level, in the fact that someone I once shared everything with is starting this life milestone with someone else. But I expected to feel…something when it happened. I thought I might be angry, and bitter, and looking to tear apart every detail of their day, judging it against my own (which is still so far off that it’s not even in sight). I thought I might feel defeated that he was “happy first.” I thought I might feel some kind of sadness that this chapter of my life was officially closing forever. I thought, for sure, I would cry.
But I felt none of that.
Because, well, the person I knew only exists in my mind now, and he doesn’t even exist there all that often any more. Sure, he stops by when I have conversations about losing my virginity or kissing by my locker. Or when I find an old sweatshirt of his in my childhood bedroom. Or when I reflect on how my relationships — my “big ones” — shaped who I am in life and relationships today. But thoughts of him? Of us? Just because? Those have pretty much all but disappeared, and with them, so does the person I knew. He’s grown, and changed, and had different life experiences. He’s had new jobs, and lived in different cities, and fallen in love with someone else — maybe more than one someone else. And so have I. I haven’t seen his face or heard his voice in years. And I’m not saying that hyperbolically. It’s been long enough that when I think about him, it’s like he’s not even real. It’s like he’s someone I dreamed up one time. He’s nothing but a memory.
Theoretically, I want him to be happy. And I suppose I’m glad that a positive influence on my life has gone on to continue in positivity. But I don’t actually feel happiness. Because how are you supposed to feel anything for someone who doesn’t even feel real?
And so I’ve written this, in part, as a means to deal with my apathy — because apathy in the presence of an event that would seemingly call for an emotional response is a strange experience on its own. But also to conclude some things for the very many couples ending things with their first loves right now, as they part ways, go on to college, and start their new adventures, and new lives, and become who they were always supposed to be — individuals, without each other, for the very first time.
It doesn’t last forever. And you’re wrong about how you’ll “always feel.” You think you’ll “always love your first love,” because a Hallmark card and a movie once told you so. And because maybe it takes more than one new relationship to put the first one so far in the past that it feels like a different lifetime. You’ll always remember your first love, and hopefully you’ll always remember him or her fondly. You’ll always be affected by them, in some way or another as your experience together set the foundation for all of your future relationships. But love? For better or worse, that exists right now in this moment, which is what makes it so amazing to have while you have it, but also what makes it okay to let go of..