The trouble with innocently scrolling through Facebook is that sometimes you’ll see something that shakes you to the core. No, I don’t mean a graphic video, or your estranged uncle’s seventh campervan purchase, I mean a photo of a baby. A baby you didn’t even know was on the way until that very moment. Or, maybe, the photo of a proposal, or a wedding, or even just a loved-up profile pic. They sound nice enough, so what’s the issue?
Well, one of the people is someone you loved. One of the ones that got away.
It’s uncanny—in a moment reminiscent of the end of La La Land, you play out your entire relationship in your head, but then you keep going. You construct a life together, the ups and the downs, the trips, the tragedies, and then maybe the weddings and babies. You think about how tall your kids would have been, how athletic. You name them after characters from fantasy books, just like you always said you would. You coo at them in your second language and marvel as they overtake you with their brain of sponge. You watch them grow and encourage them to learn how to play an instrument, or a sport, or both, and… And then you remember you don’t even want kids.
And this happens over and over again. In a world of serial monogamy and social media, this mental torture isn’t a one-off when you hear your highschool sweetheart remarried. It’s never ending. Some people like to believe that love isn’t real, isn’t significant, if it lasts a short while, but that’s bullshit. Love slaps you in the face and draws you in close and stares you down in an instant, holding you there for a long time after the person stops being, well, your person.
No matter how much time passes, if you loved someone, seeing them loving someone else will always give you a jolt. Will always tug at your heartstrings. My mother sometimes talks about the love of her life, and confesses that she still wonders how life would have been if they had stayed together… almost 30 years after they went their separate ways. T h i r t y y e a r s.
These thoughts aren’t limited to those you used to love, either. They can even creep up on you when you’re looking at someone you love right now. Knowing that, chances are, you won’t last forever, and realising that some day you will probably scroll to a picture of their new love, their life together, their children.
It’s easy to get carried away in these moments. To dwell on what could have been. To get bogged down in the what ifs. But it’s not helpful. It’s not healthy. We tend to view the past with rose-coloured glasses, erasing all the arguments and the incontrovertible differences, remembering only the sweet stuff that makes our heart ache. So let this be a reminder, to you, to me, to whoever needs it: there is a reason it didn’t work out, whether it is clear to you in this moment or not.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.
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One thought on “The Ones That Got Away”
Oh, how true! That’s happened to me over the last several years, and your heart definitely takes a proverbial hit. Whether I’ve dated a girl, slept with a girl, it’s a hard issue to face when you then see them happily married (with kids or otherwise) with someone else.