By Chris Clemente
Everybody loves to romanticize a failed love affair. Nicholas Sparks is a prime example of someone who is hung up on the notion that tragic love seems to be the best kind of story to tell. I disagree. (No matter how much I liked The Notebook.)
For me, “The One Who Got Away” is a dangerous notion to hang on to in real life for three reasons.
1. It freezes you in time. Living in the past, even just a part of you, will prevent you from making big steps towards something. Hanging on to a failed relationship, an unrequited love, or the idea that something from the past could be resuscitated could prevent you from a job promotion, from traveling, from relocating cities, or from meeting the one you’re really supposed to find.
You’ll be too scared to make any permanent or semi-permanent decisions because it might lead you further away from the path you thought you’re still on.
The truth is, once it’s in the past, that path is automatically changed towards a future you can still actually have. Frankly, a road that leads you backwards should be something you walk away from.
All roads ahead will always lead you to somewhere more beautiful than anywhere you’ve already been if you’re courageous enough to let it.
2. It makes you believe in second chances the wrong way. Don’t try to justify holding on to someone in terms of whose fault it is. Some people think that just because it was their fault a relationship ended, that when they become better people, they could have a second chance with the same person and it’ll all work out. Or, if only they were ready then, if only they didn’t cheat, if only blah blah blah, things would’ve been different.
Well, duh. But they weren’t. And for good reason.
Things happen exactly the way they’re supposed to. No matter how bad, no matter how unprepared you were, no matter how painful and wrong it might feel at the time.
Life doesn’t YOLO around for kicks. You get hurt and you hurt people to learn things you otherwise wouldn’t have learned—to change you in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have changed into. And wen you learn those lessons, when you start moving closer to the infinitely better version of yourself, the second chance you’re looking for doesn’t mean it’s with the same person.
Chances are, your second chance is with someone new, someone better suited for the kind of person you've become. Not for someone who seemed right for you in the past.
3. It makes you think the past is more valuable than the present. It’s dangerous to love the story so much that you’re willing to stretch it out as if it’s something for the books when really it deserves nothing more than a footnote.
You can’t reserve love for a later date and keep living your life like you’re in limbo, waiting for perfect moments. The future isn’t a far-off date. The future is based on what you do in the now, what you build on today.
It’s not an imagined time and space where unicorns flock, pots of gold are at the end of rainbows, and your long-lost love is waiting for you to be the person you were meant to be.
The only story that’s significantly one for the books is the story that someone’s willing to write with you. Not in five years, not when they’re ready, but now.
This article originally appeared on NoInk.
ALSO READ: Daily Diaries: An Open Letter to My Almost-Ex
Banner photograph via Nicholas Sparks.