I’ve kept diaries since I was 6 years old, and rereading them is one of my favorite pastimes. I love revisiting the person I used to be, reacquainting myself with my biggest concerns of the time, my greatest regrets, my closest friends, and – of course – my most intense crushes. It’s always reassuring to learn that moments that once felt like the end of the world can seem laughable in a few years’ time, and it’s ever better to know that a part of myself will always be preserved in those pages, even as I mature and grow and move on. Social media is the same way, like a time capsule that I can crack open whenever I’d like, except that I’m not just limited to my own past – I can revisit others’ as well. Yes, even exes.
They are a part of my past, and unfriending them would feel like throwing out my old diaries. I like to remember.
My husband and I are frank with each other about our pasts – why wouldn’t we be? He knows all about my past flames, and he’s even met a couple when we’ve returned to my alma mater for football games and reunions. He interviewed one of them for a job at his law firm. Another one was best friends in high school with one of my husband’s groomsmen. I may no longer be romantically involved with them, but that doesn’t mean those people disappear, and it feels silly to pretend that they do. Seeing them appear on my timeline as they graduate from school or move to Australia for a job or fall in love is just as reassuring as turning through the pages of my old diaries. I feel happy for them, and I think fondly of our time together, but nothing more. We’ve all moved on.
Lucky for me, my husband is not the jealous type. Unlucky for him, I am. When I first met his ex-girlfriend at an event for his alma mater (only about a year into our relationship), I watched him carefully for any signs of longing or lust or even regret for having lost her. She was with a boyfriend, too. My husband still follows her on social media and will occasionally say, “Oh, it looks like her boyfriend got into law school and they’re moving,” or, “It looks like she adopted a dog.” Their breakup was not exactly amicable, but I understand that he notes these life updates as I do with my own exes: with the passive affection of someone you once felt close to but no longer do.
It might be different if one of my exes had broken my heart. I never said “I love you” to any of these men, and I realize now that they were all just lessons to be learned along the way before I finally met my husband. I don’t pore over their profile pages and look at old photos of us tagged together and think, what if? But they are a part of my past, and unfriending them would feel like throwing out my old diaries. I like to remember. I like to watch others mature and grow just as much as I love knowing that I am constantly growing myself. To shut the door on that – on them – would be to forget that everything I’ve experienced has only led me to where I am now, which is with my person for life.