Hey. I wanted you to know that I thought about you today. It’s not like before and that’s what I wanted you to know.

 

It’s been ten years and some, maybe ten and a half, since you stole my heart, since I fell so hard for you that it changed the course of my life forever. I was seventeen, you were sixteen, and I didn’t know what love was, but I learned from you. And I know, in the years since those breathless and angst-filled days, the summer runs, the evening swims, the sweaty moments in our parents’ cars and the nights under your twin bed sheets, I’ve been the definition of the annoying ex that never lets go, that never moves on. Believe me, I know.

 

But when I thought about you today, I realized, it’s not the same anymore.

 

Years and years have passed since there was anything real between us, and maybe there never really was. Maybe for you it was just moments of passion, a first experience with love and heartbreak, something you put behind you long ago. But despite the passing of a decade, despite the months, days, years, thousands of miles, millions of happy memories, more friends than I can count, casual flings and romantic encounters, my mind has always wandered back to you.

 

When I made love to her, I felt guilty because I thought of you. And when I slept with him, I was always looking for you in his eyes. And when I loved her, really, really loved her in a way that almost paralleled my love for you, I also felt this aching uneasiness… because I felt in my heart, that if you suddenly reappeared, I’d leave her quicker than my heart could skip a beat.

 

But even all of that is years ago now, and it’s only been me against the world for several years.

 

There were still flings and hookups and moments of temporary love but mostly, there were nights where I fell asleep alone and often, all too often, I would reach beside me and caress the empty space, the space where you once laid, so close to me, so warm, with your exquisite scent and your beautiful eyes, your smooth skin next to mine, your calm voice talking nonsense while I uncomfortably avoided telling you “I love you” by singing about rubber ducks.

 

But I found myself. I found myself in solitude. I found myself and I found meaning in everything we once had, and I guess that’s what I wanted to tell you.

 

I’ve cried so many tears for you. I think I could turn Lake Michigan and maybe the other Great Lakes to salt if they were all collected and dumped into the Pure Michigan waves. Therapists, friends, and lovers have heard me process all the memories, all the pain, anger and grief.

 

And even after a decade, I felt the same breathlessness, I felt as if you were the most important thing in the world to me, as if my life was for you.

 

What I’ve realized today, is not so much that I was wrong or foolish or clingy, although that may all be true. But, for better or worse, and truly, I think for better, the love we once shared, the obsession and passion I’ve had for you, it made my life more beautiful, more exciting and far happier than I could have ever imagined.

 

At first I tried to impress you, I tried to become the person that I thought would win you back and then I tried to run from the pain, or bury it. And yes, I know, none of that sounds healthy and a psychologist might have advised me against many decisions if they knew the motivation, but they’ve been made long ago now and when I look back, I can’t help but feel grateful.

 

I’ve traveled the world, through South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I’ve learned languages and I’ve lived in several countries. I made a life for myself thousands of miles across the ocean from where I first discovered love. I made friends from all over the world. I learned to love, to really love people, showing them love in the way I could never show you. I escaped from the oppression that held me back from being open to you. I found myself and learned the beauty of being utterly content. But most importantly, I’ve come to the place where I wake up each morning and sleep each night feeling like the luckiest guy in the world.

 

I’m so completely and blissfully happy, so content. I’m so lucky to have had this life. And honestly, as bizarre as it may sound, I don’t think I would have had any of this if it weren’t for you.

 

Of course, you weren’t actually present. You were gone many years ago. But you were always there anyway.

 

When I sat at the bottom of the world in Argentina you were there in my mind. When I watched the sunset over the Serengeti, you were in my thoughts. When I lived on a mountain in France for a summer, I would run and listen to the songs that made me think of you.

 

And yes, it has faded since then, your presence in my mind. You’ve become more like an old friend, hiding in the shadows, pushing me forward. You gave me something to believe in, something pure and incorruptible, the epitome of youthful innocence, the icon that defined love.

 

I know there was so much pain. I know I hurt you so much. I know I cried so many tears. I know that there’s no future with you. I know our lives don’t match and haven’t for a very long time.

 

But once upon a time, you taught me what love was and you changed everything. You redefined a life that could have become hopelessly mundane. Instead, because of you, because of the love and the pain, I’ve found an existence better than I could have ever imagined.

 

So, I guess, what I’m trying to say is, thank you so much. Thank you for the love, the pain, the tears and the things you never even knew you did. Thanks for giving me happiness beyond my wildest dreams.

 

I’m not over you. I don’t believe I ever will be. But I’ve moved on. It took me a decade to understand that, and I guess that’s fine. You’ve become the comfortable happiness inside my heart, the casual raison d’etre de ma vie. You taught me how to live even though you never knew it. Because of you, I learned to be whole and independent.

 

Those breathless nights, with your exquisite scent and your calm voice whispering in my ear have faded into the distant past… and honestly, it’s all so incredibly beautiful.

 

Jason Lemon is the Managing Editor of StepFeed, the English-language site of the fastest growing digital media platform in the Arab world. Originally from the shores of Lake Michigan, he now resides in Beirut, Lebanon. And if you didn’t catch it, he’s loved both women and men in his relatively short life. You can follow Jason on Instagram and Twitter

 

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