Last week, I saw my ex-boyfriend for the first time in almost a year. It was bizarre.
I’ve been sorting through all of my possessions, trying to condense a little before the big move, and I found a few things that belonged to his grandma. So I sent him a message and asked if I could give the things to him so that he could give them to her the next time he saw her. He said that would be fine. I drove to his house with his grandma’s stuff in tow, and when I saw him it was like seeing a ghost. He hugged me, which I thought was strange, and once I had given him his grandma’s stuff we started talking. It was the strangest sensation to think that a year ago, I was in love with this person and that he knew me better than anyone else, and vice versa. And now, standing face to face with him, I felt nothing. No connection to previous happy times, no nostalgia, no nothing. I was baffled how someone that I gave two years of my life to could become a stranger to me in half that time. The conversation was fascinating to me because after a year of silence the present was too big to tackle. We had no idea where each other stood on any level except what we could see, and thus, it was awkward scripted small talk, void of any depth.
All of which is to say: if I have any fears about leaving the country for a year, it’s that this will be every conversation I have when I return. I’m not afraid of going to a strange place and meeting new people and getting to live a new life for a year; I’m afraid that once I leave, everything will have changed so much by the time I come back so as to be indistinguishable, and irreparably so. I’m afraid that the people who have come to mean a great deal to me will quietly fade out of my life as a result of distance. It’s always said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and sometimes that’s true, but distance also makes the heart forget. When I came back from South Africa, I had a difficult time of relating to people because I was different but I didn’t have the words to express to them how profoundly the experience changed me; I felt like I could only have a meaningful interaction with someone if they could understand my experience, but no one understood, and thus I felt alienated. That is probably my greatest fear for when I return.
I’m aware that this is probably an irrational fear, and even more so after writing it out. I know that change happens whether I want it to or not, and all I can do is find the best way to adjust to it. And I know that in our technological age, there are countless ways to keep in touch with people and it’s possible that, as a result of that, it will be like I never left. And I know that sometimes relationships just dissemble over time, and it’s no one’s fault. I’m not trying to be over-dramatic or morose, but time is constantly on my mind as of late and I’m trying to figure out how to respect it so that it will treat me kindly. Time is entirely predictable but also entirely unpredictable, which is worrisome. I feel happy, however, to know that even though this fear exists in my head, it isn’t going to deter me from this adventure. I think that’s a good sign.