By the time I finish this story, Valentine’s Day will be over in Japan. Right now? It’s 11:54 p.m. here. I’m in my apartment hearing a bike passing by, far, far away.
Exactly a year ago, I was just coming back from an incredible evening with my girlfriend. Tonight? I’m back from a nice one with friends but it feels like so many others.
Did I not enjoy it? Did I feel alone? Did I feel surrounded? Did I feel loved? No. None of these. There were no positive nor negative feelings. In a way, you could think that means it was a negative experience. After all, “emptiness” isn’t exactly what I’d call “positive”.
And yet, I know I’ll remember tonight in a good light a week from now. My confused feelings will be gone. That’s what memory does for you — Thank you, dear brain of mine. Right now, though? I’m in full-on nostalgia-mode.
You’ve probably already been through all sorts of nostalgia. The kind that makes you cry. The one that pisses you off. The one that makes you smile. That one which makes you feel confused. You know that one too, right?
Currently, I’m in that last one. Full-on “what the hell” mode. Am I sad? No, I’m smiling. Am I happy? No, I feel bad for smiling. Am I angry? No, I’m just remembering.
I remember last year’s Valentine’s Day, at my friend’s fiancee’s parents’ restaurant — I know, it’s a mouthful. The mother talking to me and my girlfriend, apologizing for bothering our precious day and yet staying with us. Making us feel unease. Making us laugh. Making us appreciate the welcome. Such an incredible evening. It was magical.
But your brain knows the drill, right? What happens when you think about an ex? The previous one pops up! And then the one before. And the one before that.
Memories overflow. They remind you what you’ve had. What you’ve lost. What hurt you. What developed you. What changed your core.
Every single experience changes us. The most hurtful ones change us the most.
“It hurts because it matters.” — John Green
Last year’s Valentine’s day was magnificent. You know what wasn’t? The year prior to it. I remember it clearly. I stayed at the office until late in the evening just so I wouldn’t be alone. It hurt. Back then, I still wasn’t completely over the previous ex. Staying alone on such a day would feel awful. Tonight? I’d have loved it if I could have stayed alone.
Not to sulk. Not to cry. Not drink myself to sleep. Not to smoke my lungs away. Just to appreciate my own time. Just to remember. To look back and think about the past. Who I was. What my relationships were. How things have changed.
I want to feel once more the pain I had before. Because I want my past to matter. I am the man I am because of my past. If it doesn’t hurt me a single bit now, didn’t I really learn from it?
Do I wish I had a lovely girlfriend to spend it with? I’d be lying if I said no. Do I feel awful for not having said girlfriend? I don’t.
Life doesn’t apologize. It does its own thing. It’s playing with me, with you, with your neighbor, and everybody else you know. It’s not going to stop because it hurt you. Life requires you to learn. Whether you decide to ignore your past or base every decision on it, it’s your choice.
My past may be “easier” than yours if you stay objective. And yet it hurt me to my core. Many times. But do you know what else it did? I taught me. It taught me life wasn’t easy. It made me learn happiness isn’t a goal. It taught me I’d hurt many more times and yet live a fulfilling life if I learned from each negative experience.
What did you learn?