“I could feel my insides sink.
My knees too.
So I sat on the ground, against the wall, letting it support me.
I thought I knew what heartbreak felt like.
I thought heartbreak was me, eating by myself at a famous café in the city.
That was nothing.
This, this was heartbreak.
The pain in your chest, the ache behind your eyes.
The knowing that things will never be the same again.
It’s all relative, I suppose.
You think you know love, you think you know real pain, but you don’t.
You don’t know anything.”
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about my first crush, about the first guy I ever had any real feelings for, and how I put him on a pedestal. Thinking about our time together, how he made me feel, all our hopes and dreams together, I realise now that I held a lot of guys to an unfair expectation all because I fantasized about the what could have been’s with a man, as it turns out I never actually knew.
I mean I can see now how misguided I actually seemed. I knew Hero a very long time ago, we were both completely different people and in another life, we could have been the greatest love story ever told. I don’t mean that to sound like I thought so highly of us, but it’s just at the time, emphasis on the what was, we were so madly in love, we could have been each other’s soul mates. Life wouldn’t have it that way, we made decisions that could only lead us to become distant. Life is funny like that, you spend so long searching for your happiness, but sometimes when you find it, you actually realise that you’ve got to do the right thing in order to play out the life that has already been planned for you.
In doing just that we found that our love story wasn’t ready for its happy ending yet.
I thought that meant we had a potential future someday, maybe once we figured out the things we needed to.
I didn’t anticipate meeting my partner Hubert who I love with all of my heart. I spent most of my adult life, before Hubert, believing that deep in my heart, Hero was my true home. That I could fall in love, be with other people but ultimately our connection would be enough for us to make our happy ending happen.
As time went by, my belief in this perfect man, Hero existed. It’s what kept me going after every breakup and bad day. I kept our romantic stories from yesteryear in my heart, deep down I prayed that I’d sort out my life soon so that I could go home to him.
When I wrote my blog post, I was still harboring that love for him. I feel guilty for saying this by for the sake of upholding my promise to you, that I would be 100% honest and real, I will tell you. Hubert and I talked a lot about Hero. I would tell him the stories that for so long I kept deep in my heart. Hubert knew I loved him, I loved him so deep and true, but he also knew that part of my heart would always be reserved for Hero. I believed that but really, I need to correct myself now, that part of my heart was reserved for the memory of Hero, because the truth is, that Hero doesn’t exist anymore.
The bubble has burst and so has my hope of someday finding my way home to him.
For many years I was under this illusion that the man I met all those years ago would be waiting for me, that he too would spend his years meeting and falling in love with people, discovering himself, but that he knew someday we would find our way back to each other. Because I had fallen so in love with Hubert, I knew that I could never be mad at him if he did find someone he loved more than me or even someone he would never want to be without. I knew the likelihood of that happening was great, and I had prepared myself for it already. I knew what was meant to be would be and it was enough to keep his old memory in my heart.
To be quite honest, I was excited to see him again one day. I was excited to catch up, to see him and how he had grown. If he had a wife and even kids, to see how he was as a husband and a father. I fantasized about him being such a loving partner, a fantastic father. He was always so gentle, kind and loyal, I knew whoever he ended up with would be so incredibly lucky, I prayed that his future partner would be just as great as him. I hoped he would be happy and content, wherever life led him. I got quite teary thinking about his hopes and dreams and wondered whether he had managed to achieve those boyish wishes. I hoped he found comfort in thinking of me too, thinking about the summers we spent together, the special memories we had made together.
It’s funny how things work out; I am always so amazed by the progression of society. How the Internet has connected so many people, you hear all about those success stories and cheers those brave few that find love through such uncertain ways.
One of my friend’s Dad was going through a difficult divorce and one day he reconnected with his first love, as it so happened, she was also going through a difficult divorce, they both had 3 kids each, and had both moved back to their hometowns. They bonded through memories and hope for the future. They’ve been married for 15 years. Its stories like that that fills me with so much hope, the idea that there are ways of connecting with people that we can’t even imagine. That people can find ‘lost’ people when all other ways seem hopeless.
Never did I think I would find myself finding a lost person myself.
Over the holidays I went back to my old hometown. A familiar place with familiar faces. I found myself reconnecting with old friends and trying to find happiness. Like I told you, 2016 had been a very tough year, it really tested me as a person, my strength internally was just as important as physically. One day I heard my phone beep, and when I picked it up, I saw that I had a notification from Facebook. Someone had added me. When I pressed to see who it was, I saw his face.
The same face I had spent so many years thinking about. Hero. He hadn’t changed much; he looked the same but much more grown up. I mean it had been 10 years since I last saw him. He had only just created his Facebook page and he’d already added friends and some of my family members.
I was so surprised, I felt a little like he had been reading my mind. I mean it had only been a few days when I posted that blog post about him, I doubt he would have read it, but still I thought about how strange the timing was. Even though I thought about him, it was only that week that I had actually spent a great deal of time thinking about our memories and wondering what he was up to. I was also talking about him with my sister’s and Mum. How I was so happy to be reconnecting with old friends but part of me was sad because I thought I would never be able to speak to him again. But here he was, on my Facebook page, requesting to reconnect.
It took me a little while to get over the initial shock, I was overthinking everything, I was afraid to talk to him again.
“I’m scared that he will be disappointed at who I’ve become,” I said to my sister, trying to get as much advice from her as possible. She acted all uncomfortable and resisted my insistence at speaking about an old Lover. I know now why, but that’s for later. “I’m afraid that he won’t like me.”
Outwardly I was afraid that I wouldn’t be who he remembered, but secretly, the biggest part of me was scared he would burst my bubble. That he would have changed so much that I would no longer have that one man who could do no wrong. That after all these years, I wouldn’t have a memory of a perfect man anymore. When you’ve been broken, hurt and abandoned by those you love as many times as I have, you learn to become protective over memories that can remind you of happiness.
Hero to me was the idea of what my life could have been like. He was the constant reminder that I was once a good and honest person, that I was capable of having a genuine smile, a true happiness, a sense of purpose. Hero existed back when life had not tainted me yet when I still believed in the realness and purity of love. Back when I didn’t know what betrayal meant when I thought of him, I thought about all the good times, Hero meant the world to me because of what he meant, what he stood for, what he brought into my life, even if he was essentially a figment of my own imagination.
Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I accepted his request. Almost instantly he sent me a message and that’s where it started. We spent hours and hours talking, about our lives, what we had spent the past 10 years doing, how far we’d come, what we still had to achieve. He asked me about my family, when I planned to visit my grandparents again, how my studies had gone. I asked about his family, where he lived now, what he was doing. We caught up on what felt like the time we had missed, and part of me was giddy because he hadn’t really changed. He looked almost the same, just a lot taller, older, more lived, his eyes looked like they had seen a lot of things, his skin like he’d worked a hard but fulfilling life, he looked like Hero. I poured my heart out in those first few hours, talking about everything I had wanted to say, a little more animated than I meant to, I was just so nervous. I told him all about my experience at University, my career hunt, but most importantly about the love of my life. I was honest and upfront about my relationship status, and it didn’t seem like a problem at all, we got along, I felt like whilst a romantic relationship may not happen anymore, I had gained a best friend, it was clear we still had a lot of love for each other, but my wish was for that to be strictly platonic, my need for him to be in my life was reignited and I was so happy that it finally felt like this could happen. I shared with him deep and personal things about myself, but it turns out he kept the most important fact a secret from me.
It had been a few days of us talking when he finally told me; he had a wife and a daughter. I mean, what can you say to that? Was I surprised? No? How could I be, he was a grown man, I never expected him to wait 10 years for me. I think what took me by surprise was the fact that he didn’t tell me this straight away. I mean we talked about personal things, was he waiting for the right time? When is the right time? Is there even a right time to tell an ex-girlfriend that you now have a wife and kids? It’s none of my business but I thought that our renewed friendship and our past warranted for a little more honesty than he was willing to give.
Our tone of conversation seemed to turn a little after he admitted this information. Like now he had told me what he seemed to be hiding, he could finally stop pretending to be who he wasn’t. Like for some reason, maybe for my sake, he was acting like someone he wasn’t. But once all truths were told, I noticed how the way he wrote seemed a little, strange. He wasn’t as polite, not that I’m saying he was rude, but before he seemed to really think about what he would write, it seemed careful and controlled, whereas now it sounded arrogant and braggy. He wasn’t bragging about anything in particular but it was like he was portraying this careless and carefree playboy who liked to work hard but play even harder.
It put me off straight away when he laughed at how much better his life was in the city than back in the province where his wife and baby daughter were living. I pictured his dutiful and loving wife, raising their baby; waiting for whom she believed was her faithful husband working hard in the city to come home to their little family. It hurt my heart a little, to hear him talk like he had no care for his actions or how it could hurt his wife. He never out rightly said he cheated on his wife, but how else was I suppose to take it when he said that he preferred living away from his family because he could do whatever he wanted without anyone finding out? And when I told him I hoped he was being good and doing what was best for his family, he responded with ‘I’m good alright, I’m good when I’m sleeping.’
I have to admit it made me feel sick. Hero, well he pretty much died then and there. I actually cried about it. How could a person have changed so much, I know it had been 10 years but is 10 years enough to change a person inside? It was upsetting because I had hoped he was a good guy. He was the one person I believed would be good until the end. It was probably so unfair of me to have expected so much from him, but I didn’t think it would be too much for someone so humble and good as he was. Back when I knew him, he did no wrong; he loved so deeply that I was afraid he’d someday be used by a nasty girl who had bad intentions for him. Whilst part of me hurt to hear he had a wife and daughter, I was happy that he had found a good woman. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that he would break a sacred vow, especially now he had a little baby who was being raised by a wife who loved him enough to have his baby in the first place.
Am I naïve? Am I so much of a naïve, idiotic romantic that I genuinely believe that no matter what kind of person you are, good or bad, the moment you have a baby with someone that’s it, your life stops being about yourself, or even your relationship and everything to do with doing what is right by your child? Am I such a believer in love that I genuinely thought that by saying his vows, Hero was promising the sun and moon to the woman he loved enough to marry? I felt sick at the thought that if he, the guy I had compared to with all my other relationships, could commit such a sin, such a betrayal, then who was to say other good men couldn’t be the same?
That night I cried and cried, then called Hubert and through my tears and sobs, I thanked him for being a good man. For instilling in me the belief and trust that we were dedicated to each other, and we didn’t need kids, or vows to know that we were both in it for the long haul. Hubert spent hours consoling me, reminding me that I didn’t really know Hero and that I was allowed to cry about it tonight, but that I needed to make sure that in the morning when I woke up, I would treat it as a new day.
Hero’s betrayal made my bond with Hubert stronger; he made me see just how wonderful Hubert was and how all this time, I was comparing him to Hero but actually, Hubert was my soul mate and that from here on out, I would only compare people to Hubert. Though Hubert has made me cry, though we’ve had loud and angry fights, we may have had to spend some time apart, there has never been a night when he hasn’t reminded me of how much he loves me, every night we’re together, we kiss before bed, and never will I have to worry about him hurting me and cheating on me. When Hubert tells me that I am the love of his life and that he wants to grow old with me, I believe him.
Part of me still hurts thinking about Hero. After that conversation, I tried to keep up pretenses in terms of responding when he talked to me. He told me how he had named his daughter after me, I mean, whilst part of me wanted to be flattered, it just made me feel bitter. I was angry at him, that he could tell me so much but at the same time for it to mean so little. How could he tell me those things about his behavior and antics and expect me to see him as more than just a cheating bastard. I felt so much pain for his wife and daughter and I resented Hero for living guilt free. I felt his guilt; I felt the burden of knowing and yet not being able to do anything about it. I had no way of contacting his wife and even so, I don’t know if I could tell her, I couldn’t break up a marriage, not when such an innocent little baby is involved. The fact is you can judge me for not saying anything but it wasn’t my place to say. I had no way to even know how to contact her, in fact, his family live near my family so surely one of them would probably know what he would get up to, shouldn’t one of them tell her? Maybe she already knows? Either way, I don’t exist in his life, I can’t be held responsible for their marriage, their relationship, it’s too much for an outsider to take.
This bubble I created for myself for 10 years. This bubble I felt safe in, my one safe harbor when things were getting too tough, my go to haven when I felt my heart would never heal, well it burst. There was no way that bubble could exist when the Hero of this realm no longer existed. The man I truly believed would form the basis of my knight in shining armor was no longer the fantasy I envisioned him to be.
It turns out the Hero of my mind had grown up to be a deceitful and sleazy guy, I truly believe that good and honest men are hard to come by nowadays, but then again so are women.
But the one thing I have taken from this whole experience is that I never needed that bubble to feel safe, I had my knight in shining armor with me all along, and my soul mate was never too far. I have to thank Hubert for helping me find my way, for making me realise that true love exists, but also that I shouldn’t rely so heavily on another person for my happiness.
The truth about reconnecting with an old Love is that it almost never plays out the way you think it will. No amount of planning or overthinking is ever worth it because you just don’t know what will happen. I think for the most part it’s a very painful experience to have to go through. You have to weigh out the pros and con’s of meeting with someone you used to love, will it benefit you in the long run? Who are you doing it for? What are you looking to get from it? The truth about reconnecting with an old love is that it can damage you far more than you realise. Chances are you’re thinking that you’ll be seeing an old friend, but the truth is you’ll meet someone you don’t recognise, old hurts and painful memories will undoubtedly resurface and it will be that much harder to get over, you’re not the same person you used to be either, you have both changed so much and too much time has passed for it to be anything but painful.
For the rare few who has a good encounter, I applaud you, yours is a truly unique story, but it does give those of us who are still hoping for a way to come to terms with losing someone we used to care about some kind of hope that it may happen someday.
And as for me? Well, I’ve accepted that those what could have been’s were never meant to be anything more than dreams that thankfully got me through some pretty tough teenage heartbreaks. I have to be thankful that I got to share some past precious memories with Hero, but that’s where he has to stay, in the past, where our old dreams, old selves, and past romance lives. Unfortunately, that means there’s no room for the new Hero to be in my life, that has been the hardest to accept, that we won’t be able to form a friendship anymore, it’s too hard to be a friend to someone who represents so much of what I hate in a person. I would never be able to trust him and I just don’t have time for people I can’t trust. I’m grateful that life has given me the opportunity to reconnect with someone I used to know; it’s given me the chance to find out the answer and a glimpse at what could have been and feel lucky for how life panned out for me.
Hopefully, someday you can find the strength to come out of whatever bubble you’re living in. Maybe form true bonds with people who are in the present, here and now. I hope you can move forward from your first love, and for Hero, I wish him nothing but the best.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday but most importantly, you proud every day!
Peace and Love