Firstly a belated Merry Christmas! As most of you know, I’m currently down under, spending six weeks travelling around Australia and New Zealand. As a result, I spent Christmas Day camping in a remote bay, on a Kiwi peninsula … well away from wifi and 3G, which probably isn’t a bad thing, considering I’m meant to actually be on holiday!
I’m over in New Zealand visiting a couple, who I’ve known since I was 17. Last time I was in New Zealand, they were trying for kids. I promised to return and babysit for them next time. They now have two gorgeous children, and so as I planned my travels around Australia and NZ, a Christmas with an excited 3 year old and her baby brother seemed like a great idea. And I had a lovely time.
However, there was one thing I didn’t factor in … My friend, whose family I was camping with, is also my ex-boyfriend’s cousin. Obviously that wouldn’t matter too much normally, considering she now lives on the other side of the world, and we knew each other long before I dated my ex. Except my ex now also lives in Christchurch. Which is how he inadvertently became my Ghost of Christmas Past this week.
To put this into context, I dated the Ghost six years ago. We’d known each other since our teens, and reconnected over Facebook when I was 24. When we got back in touch, the spark was instantaneous. I’d always fancied him growing up, but he’d never been single. Suddenly he was not only single, but very actively pursuing me. Teenage-me would have been very proud – it was as if all her dreams had come true!
We dated during my Masters degree – an exciting time, when the world felt like my oyster, and I was jetting around the globe, making documentaries in various countries. We went on adventures together – learning to surf and canyoning in Newquay, camping around the British coast, doing the Three Peaks Challenge, and doing a 10k run around London in gorilla outfits. We even got tattoos together (thankfully not each other’s names!) We dated for less than six months, but it was a long summer, filled with excitement, and adventures. As a naive 20-something, I thought it was all meant to be. This character from my past, reappearing and sweeping me off my feet. Everything just seemed to click into place. And then five or so months later, he turned around one day, and told me he’d made a mistake. He didn’t actually love me, and he needed to be single. He packed me on a train back from Worcester, in floods of tears. I literally cried the entire journey home, getting on the wrong train in Oxford because I was in such a state, and leaving half my luggage on a train. I was a complete mess.
The Ghost was my first proper love. I’d fallen for guys before, but not had proper relationships. This had been different. I’d loved him, and he had said he loved me. And then he took it away. I was a mess for a very long time. In hindsight, I understand it. He had rushed out of a break-up, straight into a relationship with me, and never taken time to get over his ex. We rushed things, because I was excited, and he wanted to return to the level of relationship he knew well. Only to realise a few months later that he was in a relationship with a completely different girl. Classic rebound. The kind of relationship I would tell my friends to never get into. But it’s always easier to give other people advice.
So anyway … six years on, and the Ghost and I are Facebook ‘friends’. We wish each other happy birthday every year, and I still chat occasionally to our mutual friends. I know where in the world he is, and that he recently got engaged, but that’s about it. As tends to be the case with exes, almost overnight he went from my best friend, to a virtual stranger. Someone buried deep in my memories of the past. A person in photos and videos. A collection of good times and great experiences, but very much a person from the past.
A person, who ended up appearing on the same remote Kiwi campsite as me on Boxing Day!
It wasn’t a complete surprise. The couple I was staying with mentioned at the start of the week that he and his fiancée would be popping by. I tried to mentally prepare myself, but to be honest that almost made things worse. As Boxing Day approached, in all honesty I just got more and more scared. The last time I’d seen him, he had broken my heart. Six years on, and I was a very different person. And whilst all those years ago, I would love to have looked him in the eye, more than happy with my life, and loving the person I’ve become … when you’re suddenly faced with the reality of that situation, it’s an odd one. Suddenly I was about to face not only my ex, but also his fiancée. A girl I’d seen on Facebook, who by all accounts couldn’t be much more different to me if she tried.
Boxing Day came, and I just felt ill. I felt like a sitting duck, not helped by the fact I was on a remote campsite, with no contact with the outside world. Back home I would have called one of my best friends or my sister. Better still, back home I could have just escaped! And yet I couldn’t. I had no car, and I was staying on the campsite all week. Plus I couldn’t cause a fuss, as the Ghost’s cousin and her husband were putting me up for the week. And so I did the one thing I could do. I took what little control I had of the situation, and went for a very long walk! Realising the combination of physical exercise, sunshine, and some phone contact would keep me sane, I trekked two hours out of the remote bay, and up to the main road for phone signal. It wasn’t an easy hike, but it was well worth it. At the top I texted the Rugby Boy, watched Christmas Whatsapp messages sent by him and some of my friends, and reminded myself of what a great life I’ve built for myself in the last six years. The person I’ve become in the six years since I last saw the Ghost.
Yes, I may have loved him … but I’ve achieved a great deal since we broke up, and our break up acted as a catalyst for a number of different things. Who knows what my life would have looked like, if things hadn’t played out in that particular way?
I always say that I try to live as many lives as possible in my life. To experience as many things, and have as many adventures as possible. And the Ghost was just one chapter of the past. It was fun, and it was sad, but it was a long time ago, and if he hadn’t been sitting around a campfire with me on Boxing Day, then he wouldn’t have even appeared in my thoughts this Christmas.
The trek up the hill had been a tough one. But it was just what I needed, because it reminded me of how capable I am on my own. How independent I am. All the things I’ve achieved without the Ghost. I marched back down the hill with a renewed spring in my step, and by the time I was back at the campsite, I had a broad grin on my face. I didn’t need to be scared of the Ghost. After all, he had been the one who messed me around. If anything, he should be feeling more nervous than me.
In the end, it was a surprisingly nice evening. His fiancée was more like me than I had expected from Facebook … which probably isn’t too big a surprise, and we all got on pretty well. There were definite topics we didn’t even touch on, and it was odd at times, having conversations on a certain level with the group, and knowing he knew so much more about the people I was talking about, or the places I was mentioning, but we skimmed over those pockets pretty neatly …
The Ghost and his fiancee left early the next morning. Ordeal over.
I wouldn’t say I’m glad it happened. I still think exes are best left buried in the past. And it was by no means the casual ‘walking down the street, looking incredible, wow how great is my life?!’ rendezvous, which we all hope will happen in future when someone breaks our heart! (I was on a campsite in the middle of nowhere, wearing no make-up and my pjs and glasses for most of the evening!). But it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
It can be easy to build up things in your head. To over-think stuff. To worry unnecessarily about a situation. And that was exactly what I did. There’s nothing embarrassing about having loved someone and been hurt by him. Most of us have been through it. It’s the ups and downs of life and love that make us into the adults we recognise today. I don’t regret going out with the Ghost all those years ago. Yes, it hurt at the time, but we had a lot of fun together too, and he changed my attitude towards a lot of things. Teenage me is also still rather proud of 24 year old me for dating him!
But 31 year-old me is even more proud of 31 year-old me. Because I got through Boxing Day, with a grin on my face. It was one of the most awkward situations I’ve found myself in for a long time, and I took it like an adult! I smiled, and told anecdotes, and was myself. Because I rather like myself, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.
Often the best way to confront a Ghost is by acknowledging he’s there, and moving on ….
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx