I have this old grey sweatshirt that I filched from my ex. I joke that it's the only good thing I got out of the relationship. At least, that's what I used to joke. It's a men's extra large, so it's pretty big on me, but otherwise it's just your standard issue dark grey zip up hoodie from Old Navy. I wear it when I don't feel like dressing up, or I'm really cold, or I'm sick... you get the picture. It's even my "Laney armor" as you can see.
After all these years, it's pretty worn. It's soft, the cuffs are frayed, and there are random holes in the arms from where I would wear the sweatshirt to play with the dogs. The boyfriend comments about the holes and tells me what a shame it is because it was such a good sweatshirt. But what I think is that at this point it's pretty much the perfect sweatshirt. More importantly, after all this time, it's lost all association with my ex. It's really just a great sweatshirt.
The point of that story is that all things fade with time. Even the worst moments in our lives, the breakups that feel like they're going to tear us in half, the deaths of loved ones, the realization that things aren't going to work out the way we planned - we have an amazing coping mechanism built into our psyche. That coping mechanism is time. "This too, shall pass," was said for a reason. We will always be able to carry on, even if we don't really feel like it at the time.
And yet, I went to my first biology recitation of the semester and met (through the class introductions) a man who is an AP Chemistry teacher. Since I am taking chemistry this semester as well as biology (and since I do not have a shy bone in my body) I decided it would behoove me to get to know this person. So I sat down next to him, offered my hand and said, "Hello. My name is Emily. I'm taking chemistry this semester. Nice to meet you."
He laughed and said, "Hello. My name is Ben."
Now, if you didn't know me, you probably wouldn't have noticed the slight hiccup in my speech when I responded with a smile and "I'm sure I'll be asking you a lot of questions this semester." The conversation continued smoothly from there. But I noticed, and it made me so angry. What it meant to me was that even with all this time and even with all my effort to put that whole relationship behind me, little pieces remain, and those pieces are always going to be there. What it symbolized was that I couldn't control everything, and that the best I could do was never spare a thought for what had happened, but freeze up slightly when I encounter someone who happens to have the same name as a guy whose actions brought me to my knees. And I don't want to think that any part of him, even his name, has any power left over me whatsoever.
It was a humbling experience, and it passed in a couple of seconds, but it left me thinking.
I don't think it's that I'm not over my ex. I don't even think it's that I have any residual regrets or feelings about how it ended. I've made my peace with my past. I think that what it means is that I will always remember what happened, and for the longest time I was trying to forget. But the past shapes you and makes you who you are, right? I'm all that much stronger for what I went through, and my life is on an entirely different path because of it. It was a good thing, and even if just for that fact alone, I need to remember it. If those memories are stirred up by a name, well, I should consider myself lucky. It could be so much worse.
Besides, I got one hell of a great sweatshirt out of the deal, right? There's always a bright side - even if it takes you years to see it.