Thought Catalog

Things You’re Left With After A Break Up

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You’re left with mixes of music that meant something to you once and maybe will forever. Right now I have three mixes on my iTunes that were made for me by three different boys. I can’t listen to the first one without feeling like I’ve reopened a wound, the second one makes me wince, and the third one makes me feel nothing. I feel nothing. When I’m older though, I can look at these and remind myself that I’ve been loved by a good deal of men in my life. I have to tell myself that though every time I think about deleting them. You should never get rid of acts of love, no matter how small they are.

You’re left with walls that you’ve built up for yourself. When lovers break up with you, they leave behind parting gifts we like to call emotional baggage, which are then inherited by any person you might love in the future. Whenever you do something crazy, your new lover can say, “Gee, what jerk ex do I need to thank for that intimacy issue?!” You become a cumulation of everyone you’ve ever dated. You are a sum of someone else’s private parts. Some people will stick to you forever; they’ll bleed into every relationship you have thereafter. Others don’t fare as well. There’ll be a moment or two when you’ll recognize that they’ve made an impact on your behavior but that’s it. Not every person you date needs to mean everything. Some are there just to prove that they can mean nothing.

You’re left with strong associations. Exes have the ability to ruin people, places, and things for you because of the memories attached. I’ll never be able to go to Jack In The Box on Sunset and Cahuenga or to State Street in Santa Barbara or the stoop on 13th between 5th Avenue and University Place without feeling something. The experiences I’ve had there are so closely linked to a specific period of my life, a period that has ended and is never coming back. Sometimes I wish these places would evaporate as soon as the relationship ends. The Jack in The Box will get nuked, the stoop will be torn down, and State Street in Santa Barbara will get swallowed up in the Pacific Ocean. That way I won’t be reminded of the cruelty of time. I won’t be reminded of the moments I’ll never be able to have again.

You’re left with a digital record. You’re left with Facebook photo albums, tweets, text messages, statuses. Oftentimes people try to delete the digital record after a break up in order to heal faster but I’m not sure if it makes that much of a difference. No matter what, the relationship happened and looking at the Facebook pictures of you two on vacation isn’t going to be the thing cuts you off at the knees. It’s going to be finding an old shirt of theirs in your drawer or running into them when you’re hungover and eating a burrito. The Internet hurts, the Internet can cause you to grieve, but it’s real life that’s going to end up knocking the wind out of you.

In the end, you’re always left with experiences. Those mean more than the mementos. Remembering a day in which you felt safe and in love will permanently lodge itself into your memory. It’s not going to budge. You’re left with the satisfaction of knowing that you were loved and can be loved again. That’s all you need to know, that it will be okay, and you’ll live a life that’s filled to the brim with stuff lovers have left you. You can’t wrap your arms around a memory but you can certainly try. TC mark

image – Canned Muffins

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    • http://twitter.com/CPatrickDood Conor Patrick Hogan

      Good waking up to this post Monday morning. Thanks Ryan

      • http://twitter.com/CPatrickDood Conor Patrick Hogan

        ugh. double post. please delete. I need coffeeeeee

    • http://twitter.com/CPatrickDood Conor Patrick Hogan

      Nice wake up article for Monday morning. Thanks Ryan.

    • EAZ

      How long does it take for those random moments… a whiff of a familiar smell, a song, noticing the way the light is hitting a tree… how long does it take for them to stop yanking on the heartstrings and bringing a tear to your eye?

      • kgb kgbb

        Maybe a long time, but they DO go away.

      • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

        if it was real: forever

    • LazyReader

      Thanks for this.  Resonates today. For no good reason, I looked up an old lover on FB this weekend, only to find out he’s been engaged 2 weeks to the woman he left me for–who he had been on and off with for 5 years.  Now I’m listening to the Cowboy Junkies and looking for perspective.
      He was a period in my life, while I was just a comma in his.

      • http://omgstephlol.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        The last line of your comment was just… poetic. :::sobs:::

      • http://twitter.com/ItsDary10 Dary Guifarro

        That last line of your comment… was just… inspiring….

      • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

        I have to comment on the last line of your comment, too…it was perfect.

    • http://blip.tv/The-Film-Twit The Film Twit

      Ryan, stop reaching into my soul and writing what you find there. Seriously, though, you’re my favorite writer on TC and this post in particular is yet another feather in the cap.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AlecZamora23 Alec Zamora

      Ryan, your articles always make me feel a little better about my shitty love life. It’s like we’re the same person sometimes.

    • Anonymous

      OMG ALL OF THESE. Plus approximately six less pounds. Gotta love the Post-Break Up Diet.

    • CUinNYC

      You’re left with a wall bearing the scars of a collage that once was.

    • Diana

      this is good perspective. perspective is good. funny how even though we all know this, we still find ourselves looking out the window, driving by those stoops and jack-in-the boxes hoping to see their face but only finding memories. great article ryan!

    • Hillary

      I have a few mix CDs in my car that I can’t ever let go. It’s good to feel justified in that.

    • http://twitter.com/Picsanya Picsanya

      Exes have the ability to ruin people, places, and things for you because of the memories attached. So true. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Timberman/922794 Steven Timberman

      Seems like you’ve been kicking around the question of ex-lovers for the past few months and this piece feels like the conclusion. 

      Especially like the reminder that the internet is only magnifying our real life problems, not somehow causing them. 

    • Sophia

      “The Internet hurts, the Internet can cause you to grieve, but it’s real life that’s going to end up knocking the wind out of you.”This is so true. You facebook-stalk and feel mildly sad, but then you run into the person and you’re completely blindsided and off-kilter all day. It’s awful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      A body to dispose of. 

    • hallo

      Ah there’s the Ryan I used to know and love :)

    • Jessica

      Ryan, your words never fail to resonate so incredibly deeply with me. This was no exception. In fact, this piece brought me to tears. I feel this daily right now. And while I was doing laundry earlier, I washed a shirt of his that I ‘stole’ because it was so comfy to sleep in. When I moved out in August, it came with me, hidden in an armload of my other shirts that had been in the dresser drawer. As I folded it I paused, seeing him wearing it in my memory…. I just….miss him. Your words remind me that I’m not alone in these feelings, though very often I feel like I am.

      Thank you for that. <3

    • Joy

      “You are a sum of someone else’s private parts. Some people will stick to you forever; they’ll bleed into every relationship you have thereafter.” I usually love your analogies/metaphors/etc (and you probably didn’t notice this when you were writing) but, gross…

    • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan
    • Mm
    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10036647 Aimee Vondrak

      THIS: “Remembering a day in which you felt safe and in love will permanently lodge itself into your memory.”

      The worst part :(

    • Kane

      “You can’t wrap your arms around a memory but you can certainly try.” I need the power, to turn memories into current reality.

    • http://twitter.com/AlkalineSuicide Alkaline Suicide

      I’m one of the people that tries to delete the digital record. It may not make it feel like it never happened but it does feel like some sense of… control? (I guess). It’s like eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, in a way. You can delete it, you can forget. But it still happened and there’s always going to be that imprint somewhere.

    • Kelly

      ughhh ryan. you always get me with these things. so good, keep it up boo

    • Ryan Zarra

      real good writing

    • g.

      Omg. Stoop on 13th St. between 5th Ave. & University Place. Same here — I lived there for a long time, which has left too many memories.

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