An Advice Column I Write to Myself, Letter Nine— Q: Dear Kelly, Why All of this Missing?
I have been with Nic for almost five years now. I have been happy. Like, genuinely happy. I have laughed more in these last five years than I probably had in the sum of all the years before. I am happy. (I mean, actually right now, I’m in a pretty hard period, but I’m talking overall.) But HOT SHIT DAMN — do I miss life before him. All you have to do is listen to me talk and you will hear it. I constantly make references to my past. To the cities where I lived without him. To the apartments that I loved without him. To the food I ate without him. The bike rides I took without him. My voice annoys me. My obsession annoys me. But I am like one giant ball of missing my life before him. What the fuck is wrong with me?
Hi! I’ve missed you! And here we are, talking about missing! How cute.
So you miss life before Nic. You miss life before you were deeply, scarily happy. You miss the voyage you were on, before your ship started being steered under the influence of two, not one.
I think a lot of people do. You ever heard of divorce?
That’s not the point though. The point is — why are you asking me? You’re asking me why you miss your old life so much because you aren’t comfortable with the missing.
Let’s go old school, and do a bit of a tally. Statistics — while often confusing — can also be illuminating. (*Fun note. Of course you know this but let me remind you that while you were a natural, asshole-ish sort of innately smart, A-and-B student for the entire course of your life (without studying,) you lost your damn mind in statistics during college. You had to hire a tutor, and you went to every single session of the professor’s office hours, and you still failed the class. I don’t know why but this is really hilarous to me.)
What you had when you were alone: The ability to decide everything by yourself, the entirety of the bed, the high decision over which lamp to buy and where to place it and how much light a room should have, the freedom of not texting someone to relay when you would be home, the safety to eat without any fear of judgement, etc, etc, etc.
What you have with Nic: The ability to bounce your ideas off of someone else who sees the world differently than you, so that you can come up with new ways of moving through it, half the (now warm)bed, someone to fight about lamps with, someone who sends an wide-eyed emoji back and then a thumbs up after you tell them you won’t be home when you thought you’d be because you decided you needed to drive across town to buy this one particular ice cream, someone to clank your fork with in celebration — over a plate of dinner that — frankly — kinda sucks, etc.
We can stop there. You can see the yin and yang. You can decide the percentage of hard vs. happy in all of those situations and things. That isn’t the part that actually matters. Living alone is awesome. Living with someone kind that you love is also amazing. So why are you so entrenched in the missing? Do you really want to know why you’re so entrenched in the missing?
Well. You just unpacked your books in your new apartment, and you let yourself unpack and display all of your journals, too. The journals that call to mind who you were at so many different times of your life. The journals that were essentially just the two of us right here. You and me. Me and you. Since the very beginning, my friend, you were most comfortable with just you. You made your entire life story one that was hinged upon one truth that you valued more than any other thing. And that was solitude.
When you were around twenty, and you met your boyfriend’s aunt, and she was in her sixties and had had a partner for like thirteen years but lived alone, away from him — independently — you wrote it down in one of your little journals and vowed to copy her. In her, you witnessed the highest form of lifestyle you had ever seen. Certain love. (13 years!) But certain independency. (More importantly.)
When you met Nic, and you realized you would probably never not know him, you told him you guys could live in the same apartment building, but across the hall from each other. So that you could maintain your solitude. And so all the decisions surrounding your living space would still be up to you. And he laughed, and said, ‘Well, that’s really dumb financially, but if that’s what you want, I guess that’s what we we’ll do.’ And then, when you realized you had never felt anything near to the joy you felt when you were in his presence, you practically beat his front door down and ran in with all of your possessions. You moved in. So that you could soak in the entirety of his company.
You miss your old life because your old life was one you built in ideology. You got an idea in your brains and you etched it across your eyelids and then you sat down and painted your life to look just like it. It was a fuckin’ masterpiece. You. Conquered. Life. You twisted it up in the palm of your hand, and declared yourself the master.
Now. Well, now you’re a pawn in a very traditional-looking little board game. You’re a woman who comes home to a man, a key looking for it’s lock, a ship that is no longer sailing, but just sitting at the dock.
This is joy, and that was victory. They are not the same thing.