At age 23, the outdoors were foreign to me. Sure, I had scrambled up trees as a youngster, and as an adult, I would live for days spent at a local swimming hole or late nights around a bonfire. But it wasn’t until things began getting serious with a former partner that I understood what being “outdoorsy” really meant, because one of the many things he shared with me was his love for all that was wild.
Over the course of our two year relationship, we summited mountains, backpacked deep into the wilderness, skied the backcountry, watched countless sunsets (and sunrises), and created even more memories. Like any couple, we weren’t without our lows, but overall, we were happy.
When our love fizzled, there were no hard feelings. We were adults, after all, and we understood that our time together had come to a conclusion – c’est la vie! It was months later that I received an unnecessary message from his new partner notifying me of his infidelity throughout the entirety of our relationship.
I’ve read articles about the outdoors strengthening relationships, what to do when your significant other doesn’t like the outdoors, how to attract outdoorsy people on Tinder, or even how to deal with a BF who is obsessed with GTS (getting the shot) – but there was no literature on what happens when your once-trusted adventure partner cheats on you.
I was naturally overcome with waves of confusion, vexation, and dejection, which subsided – as all post break-up feelings do – with time.
However, I couldn’t determine what to do with all of those memories… Backpacking through Glacier National Park, skiing Mt. Adams, touring the Wallowas, driving across the country – these were experiences that shaped me, accomplishments I was proud of, and now they felt artificial, fake, inauthentic, even foreign.
I found myself in this unfamiliar limbo. Was I supposed to look back on these adventures with the same happiness, or rather disdain, or perhaps just indifference? When I tell the story of the deer and my sock or the Mt. Baker avalanche, do I mention his name?
The discovery forced me to challenge and doubt all the intimate moments shared – late night one-on-ones under the stars, the pep talks on hard hikes, or the “I love you’s” – was our relationship a sham all along? I questioned every moment – did he mean it when he said this? Or that? Were the fun times a farce? Was he thinking of her?
I never struggled with losing him, but it was the idea of losing the memories and most importantly, the sentiment attached to them, that was difficult.
After all, isn’t it preferred to reflect on a beautiful, life-changing moment shared with a loved one, rather than one with a person you likened to a snake and dubbed “he-who-must-not-be-named?”
It has been a year since we last spoke, and since then I have summited mountains, backpacked deep into the wilderness, skied the backcountry, watched countless sunsets (and sunrises), and created even more memories…
… And I discovered those shared with him are just as much mine as they are his and it is unfair to me to let his actions devalue the significance of these adventures.
We can’t punish ourselves for someone else’s wrongdoings and we can’t let another person ruin the experiences that make us feel whole.
The demise of a relationship can steal a lot from a person – confidence, trust, and vulnerability, as well as those happy memories shared. Sink your fingernails into these, hold them close to you, and fight for them, because you are the rightful owner of these qualities and these experiences; you’ve earned these, you deserve these, and someone can only take them from you if you let them.
Rumi said, “Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.”
Be like a tree – strong, sturdy, resilient, and adaptive to change – but more importantly, learn to let go of the things that don’t benefit or grow you.
Yeah, maybe he didn’t mean it when he said this, and maybe he didn’t mean it when he said that. Maybe all the fun was a farce, and maybe he was thinking of her while we trekked, skied, and explored, but I have come to realize this: I don’t care. I have learned to look back on these adventures as my own and when I do, I reflect on my experience, my feelings, my point of view. And everything else? Well, it doesn’t matter.
And P.S. for the record, I’m happier than ever.