This, the first issue of Share yOUR Inspiration, was originally shared on July 26, 2015. The author of this essay has requested to remain anonymous.
All people involved in this tale of love and loss have had their names changed to protect their privacy and identities. Other than that, the story is 100% honest. Promise.
hen I was 18 I fell in love with my best friend. It was a hot summer night in July and we were hanging out in our high school parking lot post-graduation waxing philosophic and being incredibly afraid of the future. We were both leaving. We were both growing up a lot faster than we wanted to.
When I think back on Anna I remember her smile. She always had this endearing quality of being completely honest with her smiles. Nothing was ever forced; nothing ever had to be tense. She laughed loud and she laughed often, usually drowning out the room when something really tickled her humor. She was one of those girls you couldn’t see a funny movie with because she’d be laughing so hard that you’d start laughing too and couldn’t hear the movie. Everything we did that summer, we did together. We went for hikes, we went out to nice restaurants, we saw two dozen movies. We never had to say how we felt about each other. She would just smile and I would nod and there would be that understanding that something special was there and no word, phrase or otherwise could explain it better.
regretted never telling her.
he moved away. So did I. She dated other guys and I dated other women. We would call; we would text. Sooner or later every long distance relationship becomes artificial. It’s just the nature of being physically away from someone you were once close to. We would talk about our lives and struggles but even those conversations became fewer and farther between. For all intents and purposes we were just acquaintances now. The only thing that lingered, 6 years on, was my regret that I never confessed to her how I felt that summer. I never told her about all the wonderful things that made me happy when she was around me. I never told her about beautiful her smile was.
carried that regret with me for a very long time. I started to pile a lot of regrets up, each one from people I had known or lost. Things that I never said to people that died, things I said too loud and too angry to people that were right in the room with me. I started to live with regrets the way people live in apartment buildings. I didn’t always have to look at them, but every once in awhile one of them would throw a mean rager down the hall and I would have to go and check on them.
round springtime 2012 I met Morgan. Our first date was, for lack of a better term, absolutely f*cking fantastic. She originally had plans for the evening, but was so excited to go on a date with me that we decided to hang out at this great hipster-level-max coffee shop in an Ivy-league college town. What was was going to be two hours sipping coffee and learning more about each other turned into a 12 hour date, crashing a frat party, going to a disco-bowl across the state border and then laying in a field, counting stars while my car screamed out My Morning Jacket. I got home at around 4am when I was due at 4pm and found my roommate sleeping on the couch, patiently waiting for my return.
y relationship with Morgan started hard and was furious. In an age where people announce relationships via social network, we were “facebook official” within two weeks and after six months she had moved in with me. We had taken road trips by this point, spent entire weekends watching Dr. Who re-runs and even got to writing a couple of songs together on a cheap pair of ukuleles we got for each other on coincidence for a move-in gift. Life for me was good.
t was only a month after she moved in that she came out as polyamorous, something that I had only heard about on Reddit and thought to be totally made up. As a guy who had been cheated on in the past, I thought that this was like the last time it had happened: she would come up with some lame excuse to try and vindicate her cheating. Here’s the thing - Morgan hadn’t cheated on me. She hadn’t sought out anyone and wasn’t currently interested in anyone but me. The reason she brought it up was because she wanted to be honest with me about who she was and what she was about. More so than that, she wanted to engage with other people. She wanted relationships outside of ours. My jaw hit the floor so hard that folks in L.A. thought the the big one was coming.
had a tough time understanding what it was she was looking for. I had no concept for what polyamory was and it all just smelt incredibly of the vicious stink of infidelity. Suffice to say I chose the couch for a mattress for about a week while we fought it out. She did eventually find the way to explain to me what was going on. She asked me this question: “Do you love me the way you love your ex?” My ex referring to the girl I dated last before her, the one who cheated on me. I replied with a resounding no. How could I?
hat was what caught me off guard. It was something I had never thought about. Every girl I ever dated, every girl I ever loved was different. They might have had similar hairstyles, one or two of them may have liked the same kind of music and two were even amateur models but each one was incredibly unique in the way that I approached them romantically. They all had their special little things that got me to laugh, got me to smile, got me to fall in love with them.
organ was different in that she didn’t see the point in isolating those different people to different times in life. She wanted to experience each one of them simultaneously, as often as she could. Each person can give you a unique experience and why would you turn one down just because you say you’re devoted to someone? She believed that you can devote yourself to more than one love. They all deserved you and you deserved all of them.
understood. I got it. It took a week of beating it into my sore noggin, but I got the message. The only thing I was still uncomfortable with was her with other men. The compromise became that she would see women and women alone. In hindsight I should have been more specific, but Morgan had more life lessons to teach me before we were done.
o be quite honest, once Morgan opened herself out to other relationships, ours grew that much stronger. She brought a lot of energy home and was smiling and laughing even more than when we were in the throws of the beginning of our love. We did the odd double date, where she would sit in the middle of me and one of her girlfriends and the three of us would have an honest-to-god good time together. I became really good friends with the boyfriends and husbands of these other women, even so far that we would take camping trips together up North while the “women had some free time”. It was a surreal experience.
t was starting to get serious; more serious than even I had originally wanted. The idea of marriage, which always sounded scary, was suddenly creeping ever closer. Buying the ring was perhaps the most nerve-racking event I’ve ever gone through. It wasn’t just purchasing an expensive item, it was investing a future I was suddenly ready for.
hen, about two years after we met, I came home and she was gone. Her stuff was gone; her phone charger, her jewelry, her perfumes, her shampoo. Those everyday items that I become so accustomed to were now just empty cupboards and open spaces. I wouldn’t hear from her for a week and when she finally got in touch with me I had to drive down across the state line to come see her.
ou see, she had found “someones” new. She had met a lesbian couple and they were going to start a three-way relationship with one another, and Morgan was planning on moving in with them. It was, in her words, the perfect relationship for her. It offered her the fulfillment she sought. It offered her, essentially, everything that I had come to get from her.
eturning that ring was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
was lost for a long time after she left. Morgan and I tried to retain some form of friendship, but I was angry - at her, at myself and at the whole world. I came to loathe every second of the relationship, including all the parts that I loved. Everything that had happened between us became bitter to remember. I was alone in that grief. Morgan was too busy moving the rest of her stuff.
e stopped talking shortly before her wedding to her wives. It just became too painful for me and I’ve never been known as a masochist. Our last time seeing each other, we sat down at an Olive Garden and did a fair amount of reminiscing. We talked about that first date a lot and how beautiful it was. She still remembered exactly how many stars we counted, and that she identified the Big Dipper before I could.
asked her how she could look so fondly on us, when things couldn’t work out.
he told me that she loved me, and that she would always have a piece of her heart dedicated to the memory of that night and all the nights we spent together. She regretted the way things ended; that maybe she could have let me down easier or been more open about what she was seeking. Ultimately, she looked at what we used to have as something altogether amazing and singular and unique, just as she viewed all her relationships with anyone she had been involved with. Being poly meant for her that each relationship was special and that no one was greater than the others, because they all made a sum more incredible than just the individual parts.
got home that night and thought about Anna and that summer. I thought about all the summers without her, and the ones that I regretted. I thought about her smile for the first time in years and suddenly there was no pain there. I no longer regretted not telling her how I felt. I called her up and we shot the shit for two hours, laughing and joking about the bright days of our youth and how excited we were at the bold new days coming up.
egret is a funny thing. It only exists in your own mind. No one can share it. The things you say, you regret, belong only to you and you can’t expect any sympathy for what you carry along for the ride. People who say say they live without regrets are fools who just ignore their problems. People who live with them take it too far the other way. There is a simpler path, a middle path. A path where memories don’t have to have pain or joy attached to them. You can just observe them as they were and revel in what you were feeling in that moment. They are autonomous. They are conscious expressions of your own soul. You can enjoy them or leave them at your own leisure, without any ties constraining you to some obscured past.
will always love Morgan, just the same as I will always love Anna. But, in reality, I’m in love with a memory. That scorching night in July trying not to crack too much when given a smile, or that Ivy-League frat not realizing I wasn’t rushing (or even enrolled). They can exist alongside the pain of letting each person go. They don’t have to be tainted because ultimately it’s all on you. Each person is unique. Each person is amazing. Each person you meet is going to offer you something- good or bad, and it’s your job to make the most of that experience.
’m not polyamorous. It’s just not who I am. I like dating a single person and growing with them and focusing on them. But I won’t deny that deep down there’s an 18 year old version of me that’s sitting on the hood of my car waiting for Anna to pull into the lot and give me a big peck on the cheek. That’s okay, because ultimately the real me will hold a job and date a pretty girl and get married and raise a couple of kids and live out the rest of his days making new memories. Somewhere out there will be an older version of me who will have a whole lot of stories like this one to tell other people. Maybe they’ll laugh, maybe they’ll cry. Maybe they’ll learn something too; about themselves or about someone they know. That’s the real benefit of keeping a memory: everyone can share in the story.