Riding in lifeboats with ghosts.


With permission, I have posted the email below.

Afternoon Hannah,

I’m moving to Athens, GA in three weeks. I know absolutely no one. I’m taking out a loan to start graduate school after I worked so hard to pay my way through undergrad to be debt free. And I’m going into a field I’m not 100% sold out on. And when I leave this Texas town that I’ve called home for the past four years I’m leaving behind my best friend. Only, he doesn’t realize it. He ended our relationship right after graduation in May because he doesn’t have his life figured out and cannot ask me to wait around. We were friends before we ever dated and have remained friends even after. But for whatever reason, the guy who shared my common desire to talk deep things and look beyond the surface level, he isn’t that person anymore…not with me anyways.

And that’s the thing. I woke up one morning in June and realized that I’m going to be okay. I’m ready to move on and let go. And I’m so excited to venture into the unknown. But like how a ticking clock ‘s tick becomes louder when you start to listen, this nagging in the back of my mind still remains. He was my friend…and still should be. The world awaits for me and I see him settling for mediocrity. Staying where it’s comfortable. And I’m torn. What if I’m the one person who can speak into him? Should I? People are happy that I’m ready to move on. Heck I feel pretty good about myself too. But I can’t watch him sink in the clear water of conventionalism while muddy challenges are meant to be seized. What do I do with someone who always asked me to hold them accountable, talks of appreciating those who are willing to say the hard things? Am I crossing the line? I’m supposed to be “letting go”. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do and I don’t know if anyone else would do it. I don’t even know if he would receive it.

But I have two-ish more weeks. I’ll see him at church and when we go visit the old lady we’ve been seeing every Friday night for the past two years. And then August 4th will come and he won’t see me again. And he doesn’t even realize what he’s losing (at least it appears that way).

Any words?

Future Georgia Newbie

Dearest J–

I have this friend from Atlanta who thinks we all have ghosts. That is exactly how he said it to me one night as we were driving through the mountains of north Georgia: “We all have ghosts.”

“Mine has green eyes,” I told him. I didn’t even flinch. I knew exactly what he meant. I knew I was guilty of my own ghost hosting— keeping someone around to haunt my memory. Finding threads of him in love songs. Dwelling on the “what if.” Letting the “what might have been” rock me to sleep at night. 

People notice when you have a ghost. Not always but usually. Some people see it quicker because they have their own ghosts.

And while I’m not an expert or a ghost buster, I think a ghost gets born out of a constant wish that maybe you and another person might have more to say to each other. Like maybe you never reached the point of finally saying everything. And maybe, just maybe, if you can manage to keep a person in your orbit or your memory a little while longer then you’ll never have to face the real truth: you can’t fix everything. You are a human. Not a fixer. Not a maker. Not a lifeboat with enough seats to save a slew of green-eyed boys if you needed to. 

I’ll write that again: You’re aren’t a lifeboat.

There is a savior mentality stitched into most of us. We want to save. We want to fix. Because thinking we can be saviors and lifeboats is so much easier than letting go of someone we learned how to love with our whole body.

And this guy probably doesn’t need saving. I could be wrong but I think I might be right. You just want different things and that’s hard to swallow. Maybe you two are the pretty, yellow parallel lines in the middle of the roadway— you’re both going somewhere but you might not touch again. 

And I only say all of this because I used to think I was a lifeboat and I used to (wrongly) think the whole world— my family, my town, my friends— were for my saving purposes. There was a harsh little wakeup call waiting for me around the corner of that prideful purpose I’d given myself: Not everyone wants what you want. And not everyone wants to save the world. Some people want air. Some people want a family. Some people want dreams they can’t even touch. Calling is different for everyone but the mistake is made when we start thinking the way we measure our own success defines what other people’s mediocrity looks like. 

You want something different for that guy of yours. You might be willing to fight for it, struggle for it, and claw for it. But, sadly, that doesn’t mean you’ll win out for him in the end. He has to want to win himself. And we don’t get to put our own definitions of “winning” onto someone else. 

It took me a long time to stand in this space of believing all of this for myself. I wasted a lot of time telling a love story that always ended the same— that green-eyed boy never went back to who he used to be. I really should correct that for all my years I said it wrong. While it’s true he never went back to who he used to be, I really should have been saying something different all those years, “He never became who I wanted him to be. And that’s the expectation I should have never put on him, this expectation that he was supposed to please me with his becoming.”

One random Saturday night in college I met a boy at a party.

I was two years into having a ghost with green eyes. This guy was tall. He was Irish. I think for five minutes I thought about how Irish our babies would be. I was just happy he wanted to talk to me. You know that feeling, it’s just really nice to feel like the center of someone’s universe within a sea of red solo cups. I liked the way he leaned his head against the door frame and watched me talk. We left the party holding hands. I remember there was this strange fog that seemed to sit in the air that night, as if there was some sort of shelf we couldn’t see holding that fog at eye level. We got to the spot where our paths split and he kissed me at the bus station. I wasn’t really used to kissing strangers but I liked the way his eyes looked when they were on me.

And then he pulled back and stared at me.

“Someone hurt you really badly in the past,” he said. “I can see it in your eyes. I’m sorry.”

He released me from his grip. “I don’t want to be that guy to you but, if we keep this going, I will be.” 

At that exact moment, Joey Potter and Dawson jumped out from the bushes and screamed, “YOU’VE BEEN PUNK’D!!!!!!” 

No, that didn’t really happen. Not the Dawson and Joey part. But yes, he said those words. And yes, you are right, I think he was probably hiding the fact from me that he wrote the scripts to Emmy award-winning dramas when not in biology class. I mean, those are Dawson’s Creek words. 

I winced when he said that because I already knew the ghost standing in my own eyes. And I wanted so badly for the ghost to release me. 

I turned to walk away from him. I trudged up the hill to my apartment with tears in my eyes. I pulled my laptop out off of my desk when I got back to my room and I started to type a letter to him— the ghost. I wish I could remember all the words but I know somewhere in there I said what needed to be said for the last few years: I had expectations for you. And you didn’t meet them.

It had always been his fault to me until, in that moment, it wasn’t any longer. It was no one’s fault: We loved one another once. And then life brought us in different directions. And we would both be okay. He just wasn’t mine. I just wasn’t his. And maybe a ghost gets born on the day you can’t accept the hardest fact: someone else will love them, someone else will love them in a way you know you can’t. 

And then it was over, J. Like that. It was over when I finally found the final words. I still thought of him, yes. I still found him in random songs, yes. But I let go when the truth tumbled out of me: you can’t always love someone how you hoped to after they choose to become someone other than who you thought they’d always be.

Some people call that forgiveness. Other people call that closure. Sometimes it’s just letting go. Letting someone off the hook you built for them. Final words shift the atmosphere though. 

If it’s going to kill you to not say something to him then say it.

Maybe write a letter. Send it or don’t send it. But try your hardest to find final words for this because your mind is already made up on certain truths that trump your hope to keep you both standing in one place: you’re going away. You’re starting something exciting and new. It’s gonna be good. You don’t love him the way you used to. You both have different callings. The past is a square tin box that looks smaller every time we go back to it. But no, it isn’t your job to try to fit yourself inside of it.

And as for that boy not seeing what he is losing? I guess we don’t know. But you should take the inventory when you walk away for good. You should know exactly what anyone in this world loses when you walk out of the room– not in a prideful way or a boastful way, just in a “you’re kind of awesome” sort-of way.

So here’s the inventory, the thing you get to pack when you head over to Georgia come August 4th: You’re whole. You’re doing this. You’re gonna be okay. You’re ready. That’s the big one: you’re ready. And after the “ready” comes the “set.” And after “set” comes “go.” So take the ready in your fists and make the set, J. And when you make the set, be sure to go. I guess that’s all that is left to say: You’re ready to go– without all the lifeboats and without all the ghosts.


I would appreciate if we could keep the conversation going for J. Please post a comment of blessing, a lesson, a mini love letter. Whatever you please. She is reading and I know she would appreciate it too.

70 thoughts on “Riding in lifeboats with ghosts.

  1. J, there is a whole new world out there waiting for you. Go, capture it, make it your own. Cry for a little bit, listen to that Taylor Swift or Sam Smith song one more time and then let him go. He’s not worth it if he can’t see how amazing you really are.

    Take it from someone who knows.


  2. J, I’ve been where you are – I am where you are, I guess, because there’s a boy I wish could see how he’s changed. A boy I wish I could drag into 2008 and say, “Look who you used to be. Look who WE used to be.” But there’s never going to be a moment for that. And he’s never going to understand what I want him to understand – because it’s my expectation for him. It’s my wish for him. And so I’ll be writing him a letter, and then will set it on fire in our backyard this weekend and roast smores over the flames. And I hope that, in some way, you’re able to do that too.

  3. I carried my ghost around for years after I met him in college. But he wanted the dream filled with a house and a family and a lawn to trim each and every weekend. And I talked of continents and danger and poetry and violent summer thunderstorms. We felt the chemistry, but our eyes could never align – my vision fell too far from his.

    I carried him around longer than I realized and even when I began talking with other boys and dating on weekend nights. It was when I moved 14 hours from home – all the way from MD to Nashville, TN – that he began to actually fade. Because I was meeting new faces by the hundreds and acclimating to a new way of living. A month into moving, I met a fellow, and after a couple months of me resisting him, I gave in and one date led to other dinners out and dinners in and holidays with each other’s family. Now I’m two years deep in Nashville and 1.75 years deep in a relationship with this Nashville boy, and the ghost isn’t so much a ghost anymore. He’s just a memory. And a blurry one at that.

    So hang in there, J.

  4. Deborah Copaken Kogan (her book is one of my favorites: http://www.amazon.com/Shutterbabe-Adventures-Deborah-Copaken-Kogan/dp/0375758682) writes about how our lovers are like books in our personal library. There are some we only read once, but are richer for having seen, there are others we feel we ought to read but just can’t quite get into, and then there are the ones we read again and again, even though they can’t all be the one that’s permanently installed on our nightstand. So maybe this boy is a book to re-read in your mind, reminding yourself of the good chapters and the chapters you learned from… it’s a way to keep him in your heart and head as a life experience, without giving him the power to be a ghost.

  5. This. Thank you! I’ve carried a ghost for many years; even when I had him, he was a ghost. I’m finally letting go but it’s still painful releasing the expectations you had for someone else’s life. Realizing that’s not your responsibility or bag to carry gives a sense of freedom, but along with that freedom comes sadness and pain for what you’re losing. But when we live trying to make someone be what we want them to be rather than what they are, we set them and ourselves up for a lot of heartache and frustration. Letting go is hard, but holding on is even worse. Thank you for writing this so we can all be reminded to release our ghosts and let them live how they want to live, while we learn to do the same. ❤

  6. Sometimes we cling to someone – maybe even just this idea of a someone – for so long that we miss that there are better, happier, fits out there for us. 😉

    Big hug. ❤

  7. J, you are stronger than you ever realize. I believe we all have ghosts that can pop up and haunt us. But we all have the power to move on too. And that’s what life is about! It’s about freeing yourself from ghosts – even if it’s baby steps at a time. Georgia is a great place for a fresh start. And I’m just up the road in Knoxville, TN! I’ve struggled so much with a ghost of a boy, who has pretty much prevented me from moving on. And I so needed to read this today!

  8. I used to cling to these ideas of boys like ya used to cling to that loose tooth that was hanging on by a mere thread. It was kinda painful, sure, but the pain was so constant and biting that it became numbing and comforting. It was fun to play with. Entertaining. Distracting. It became a part you. A part of you that never left you lonely. A part of you that reminded you that it was always there. Ya didn’t want to let it go. The presence of the pain was better than nothing. At least ya had something. Something other than a gaping empty hole. A hole for all to see. A hole to be dwelled on and obsessed over by yours truly. But. Reality is, eventually, you’d forget about the hole and missing pain. You’d move on. And something better would fill in that gap. And, one day you’d wake up, smiling because the pain was gone. Smiling because losing that painful something didn’t actually leave you with the big ol’ gaping nothing you had feared would take its place. Smiling because that nagging pain distracted you from that plethora of better somethings either already surrounding you or waiting for you to catch their glance and give them a chance. Smiling because the pain was gone and its absence actually felt better than its presence. Smiling because you finally felt whole again.

  9. J, I’m in the same place right now, and I know how the ache sticks in the heart. There was a time when a dear, dear friend and I talked almost every day, sharing thoughts and hopes and dreams and wonderful, wonderful ideas. For a period of time we clung to each other; we needed each other. He helped me be me, and I helped him be him, and we got each other through some pretty rough times. Then, he stopped needing me, though I wasn’t (I thought) done needing him. We went from close friends to barely acquaintances in a short period of time, and that hurt. But like Hannah said in her response to you (a response, Hannah, that I needed so much, to help me tie up loose ends) I realized that I was selfishly trying to make him fit *my* idea of who he should be. I’m learning to let him go, although as I, too, move on in life there are things–fulfillment of dreams– that I just want to tell him, like “Hey! remember that one crazy idea I had… I’m doing it now, and you helped me get here. Thanks.” You know? Anyway. Know you’re not alone. My love to you, and best of luck in Atlanta. It’s a wonderful city!

  10. I was set to marry someone whom I met in college, or so it looked like it from the outside. We had dated for a year, and he had bought the ring towards our first year anniversary. But slowly I realized he was not whom I imagined he was. Like you, J, I thought he should want and be more. But no, it was me who wanted more out of him. I had my head in the sky, and was in love of the idea of him, and not for who he was. I was being selfish. This was my mistake that I had to take responsibility and change for myself. I knew the longer I stayed in the relationship, the harder it would be to get out. Not a day went by without feeling like a fraud, afraid that I would get caught. Anyways I knew it would not be fair to both of us, if I had dragged it any longer. So I ended the relationship, before the start of a new year. I remember ringing in the new year with a broken heart… it felt like I just lost a limb, but at the same time, I felt strangely free and relieved.

    I began dating again in the next two years, not without many heartbreak, of course. Sometimes it is hard not to blame oneself in the journey of finding that special someone, especially when we harbor expectations on them. But all the ghosts in your life will serve the purpose of teaching you lessons that you have to go through in order to finally get to the other side. Most importantly, I learnt that no one owes us their presence, and the same goes for you. Harsh, but true. You should always feel like you have the choice to walk away, when you are unhappy and not able to give anymore. You can only choose to keep opening and trusting your heart.

    And you know what? My ghost is now engaged to a lovely lady, and myself? I have since moved on and recently met someone else whom I have never been genuinely happier with. But know this to be true, at the end of the day, no one can make you happy, but yourself. So keep growing and learning about yourself. Celebrate and embrace all the goodness in you, and you will meet someone who will love you for that. Good luck!

    P.S I’ll leave you with this quote: “This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”
    ― Marilyn Monroe

  11. J. I am 52 and just walked away from the best man I have ever known and loved because we were the 2 parallel lines and I wanted him to be something he wasn’t. My spirit was dying slowly. If I stayed I would have done him a disservice because while it hurt him terribly for me to go, the spirit he fell in love with was dulling, dying…..and soon the me he loved would be gone. So I made the hard decision, at this late age in life, to love me enough to fill myself up with all that makes me happy. Life is so short, likely shorter for me than you. Don’t waste a moment of it trying to fit yourself into someone else’s life. Live your big beautiful full life, never compromise yourself. You are a beautiful ray of light……we all are.

  12. I didn’t even know to call my ghost a ghost until I happened upon this post (just like I did not mean to make that sentence rhyme !) I’m not ready to let go of him yet– I don’t want to let my ghost off the hook yet for the ways he has changed and how those changes shaped pieces of who I am now. I’m not ready to not have him as my final thought before I drift to sleep, or to not play his voicemails to our infant daughter who so deserves the man he was once. I think right now I need those memories to push me forward. I’m sure that makes me weak in some ways, but I loved him once and there is a strength I cling to from knowing what we were together. Thank you J for showing me, us, that it’s possible to move on. Not easy, but possible to pick up and chase down new dreams that deserve us. Georgia is lucky to have you…

  13. J,

    I’ve been there. I was someone’s lifeboat (as Hannah puts it) for almost 4 years. His name was C. We started dating the summer after I graduated college. I wanted to go to law school. He wanted to graduate college and go to graphic design school. I went to school, he did not. He flunked out of college and stayed in our little, tiny town, living like he was still a “college kid.” For three and a half years, we had a long-distance relationship while I was 4 states away for law school. We talked about marriage and family and career and “seemed” to have the same goals in life. But as I was trying to move forward and work towards a better future, he stood perfectly still.

    My life changed, my outlook changed, and I started thinking about a realistic future. In a word, I became an “adult.” And he did not. We would talk and talk about what we both needed to do to keep our relationship strong, but we started drifting apart. He would ask me what I needed and wanted from him; I would tell him plainly. He would promise to do better. He never, ever did, and he made excuses for every setback.

    And every year it got harder and harder, and friends and family finally stopped telling me their opinion on the relationship because I wasn’t listening (for in my mind, they just didn’t know him like I did – couldn’t see his potential).

    As I approached graduation and the prospect of coming home again, I realized that I had two paths. I could continue to move forward into the big, brave world, or I could turn back and live the exact same life I had before – a life of half-hearted promises and mediocrity. And I couldn’t do it anymore.

    I finally told him. And I thought a slow transition would be best… wean ourselves off each other. Even that felt like I had ripped my own heart out with my own hands and sawed it to shreds with a serrated knife. I didn’t sleep. I hardly ate. (I did pass law school finals though. God’s grace.) I finally did break it off for good after he accused me of cheating since that was “the only explanation for my behavior” despite the numerous conversations we had to the contrary. That’s when I began to see his true character.

    Our break was so final. But he was still in my life – same church, same friends, same hometown. Every time I saw him, my heart would cry for him again. But I resolved to be stronger than my feelings and to continue to do the right thing. My mind had no doubts it was right. Not. Even. For. A. Millisecond. But my heart… oh my poor, shredded heart.

    It took over a year to fully let him go. I dated other people, broke up with other people, and finally learned to be ok with myself and my singleness (a whole other story for a whole other day). When I finally got to that point, my heart was blissfully quiet. And willing to be quiet until I found the one person that made my heart sing with no fear for the future.

    And I’ve found him. And married him. And he is my sun and my moon and all my stars. And I would have never known him if I had stayed with C.

    All this to say, your sun and moon and stars is out there waiting. You won’t have to pull him along with you or “help” him become the person he has potential to be. He will see his own potential and be working towards it on his own. That’s the mark of good character. (The funny thing I’ve learned about potential… the person has to choose it himself. Love will not make him choose it. Even love from a true friend like you.)

    So yes. Let yourself be free. Seriously. You are only in control and responsible for your OWN happiness. No. One. Else’s. Read those sentences again for me. Just yours. Believe it. Embrace it. And let your hands release from holding on to his happiness. You can’t give it to him. You have only yourself. So fly.

    Georgia will be here when you land. 🙂

    With love,
    Anna from Atlanta

  14. Dear J., It’s so much easy for me to meddle in my husband’s life than to live my own life well. Other people’s issues look easy and I think, ” I can help them,” even though at the same time I am neglecting my own messy, complicated issues. The more desperate I feel about needing to save others the more likely I need to just keep on walking and choose my own path carefully.
    Enjoy fully your new adventure in Georgia and wish your friend well as your pathways separate. Trust that your rich conversations served their purpose and you both have more courage because of having had a deep friendship. Sent with love from one who married a Texan decades ago.

  15. J,
    We’ve all got those ghosts…but sooner or later they pop up less and less – and become less scary…or traumatizing. Plus, guess what? You win. You win because Athens is amazing. You’ll love it here. Good music, amazing food, and delicious coffee. If you ever need a friend or an ear – I’m here in Athens too. One stranger on your side! Be sure to grab a drink at The World Famous and the white chocolate cheesecake at Last Resort. You will be happy for this adventure one day! And on the difficult days — just know there is a local rooting for you!

  16. Dear J,

    You’re not in this alone. I don’t know why I just thought of this, but have you watched a movie called “A Beautiful Mind”? I keep thinking about how he had to start ignoring the ghosts, the people who were not real. Stop speaking with them, even when the pain was unbearable. He would still see his ghosts every now and again, but they didn’t talk to him anymore and there was a sense of finality, an air of peace. His ghosts no longer owned him.

    You are so brave, darling. And I am in love with your journey. Releasing lots of peace and direction over you tonight.

  17. J,

    I may only be eighteen-years old, but I believe I am the owner of an old soul. I have faced a lot of heartbreak for someone who has never even casually dated a guy. I hope you can listen to the words I am about to tell you. It’s times like the one you are currently going through when it is perfectly acceptable to be selfish. You are about to embark on an incredibly new chapter in your life and it’s okay to be so totally stoked about that. You need to prepare your mind, your heart, and your attitude for what is about to come. However, with that being said, preparing your belongings for this journey also involves getting rid of any burdens that might weigh you down. One of my favorite quotes comes from Taylor Swift: “There is a time for silence. There is a time for waiting your turn. But if you know how you feel and you so clearly know what you need to say, you’ll know it. I don’t think you should wait. I think you should speak now.” The fact that the thought of letting him know of your hopes for him is even jogging through your mind is proof that he deserves to know. He may not like what you have to say because he doesn’t want to face the harsh reality, but wow, he will most certainly appreciate what you want to tell him. You never truly know what a person needs to hear until you say the words yourself. Everyone deserves to hear the truth, whether they like it or not. As a result, this brave act of letting go will make you feel the happiest of highs and ultimately, your life will be filled with the greatest karma.

    J, I wish you tremendous luck in your next journey. I hope you can find closure and happiness.

    1. We are all such powerful spirits, if we could just feel our power. Everything happens in perfect order, to teach us. We are here to learn. My favorite saying is ” All will be well, everything is working out for my highest good, and out of these experiences, only good will come. I am safe, I am so blessed, the World is conspiring in my favor, and I am grateful. Amen, Thank you, thank you, thank you”.

  18. J,
    I’m sorry that you have to deal with ruins of a relationship and watching a friend seem to flounder just as you’re getting ready to begin a new adventure. I don’t know all the details of what’s going on, but I know that eventually you’ll think less and less about your ghost which will be sad in some ways and happy in others. Hannah’s advice that you aren’t a lifeboat is so true. We want to save others, especially those who are important to us, but probably the best we can hope to be for them is a lighthouse. You can be a beacon guiding them, but you can’t actually make them head towards your shore.

    Best of luck to you, and enjoy Athens!

  19. Hi Hannah. After I read this I could only think, “How can one become so wise in so few years?” We all have our ghosts and it seems on reflection that the more selfless we try to become in these relationships the more selfish we really are.

  20. J- Thank you for writing this. H- Thank you for responding to this.

    I have a ghost. He also has green eyes. His alcoholism haunts me. His hate of his own life haunts me. His destructive lifestyle haunts me.

    I constantly feel like I am personally responsible for his well-being, even though we rarely talk and have been disconnected for YEARS. I am constantly dreaming of him, texting him to check in, and stressing out about how he’s doing. Being a lifeboat is drowning me.

    I needed to read this. I needed to hear that I don’t have to be his lifeboat.

    But, J, IF you can better a person without damaging yourself, do it. IF you can verbalize his potential right in front of him without breaking your heart at the same time, then you owe it to yourself to say you tried. Don’t drown yourself doing so, though.

  21. J,
    You know, while reading this I kept on thinking maybe the best way to move on would be to get all those unsaid things off your chest. I’m not saying that you need to sit down and have this conversation face to face, because let’s be clear there are a number of ways that could end up going.
    Maybe just write him a letter. Anonymously. Pour out every word, every syllable that’s been lying in your heart just waiting to be said. If you’re anything like me, then you probably made up scenarios in your head of all the big confrontations and conversations that could possibly happen. And I’d understand if you’d be scared of those situations, I’d be too. Sometimes those scenes play out better in our head than in reality.
    Which is why, write to him. And then leave that letter with him, without him knowing that it’s from you, and go off on your adventure. I know the notion sounds slightly romantic, but what better way to start anew. Just get that off your shoulders.

    And if you don’t want to, then that’s okay as well. In this situation you should be thinking about yourself. What will make you happier and make your life easier?

    Good luck!

  22. J. Your life will take you to undiscovered shores that you could not reach if you stayed in one place. The ghosts we carry–and I carry a couple–can only haunt us while we invite them into our lives. I think this life is full of moments that shape us and some shape with love and some with pain. The future you will always treasure the good times you shared with him. But the future you will have golden opportunities because of your brave heart that’s outgrown his world . Listen to Mandisa’s song “Overcomer” And Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” for inspiration. And keep reading Hannah’s blog(thank you H!) and try to focus love on yourself and your dreams, your future you depends on it.

  23. J, I have been in your shoes a bunch of times. I start over all the time. It’s scary and stressful. I have a ghost from my past and I live in a place he haunts. Not the actual house because I couldn’t mentally handle that, but in the city. He’s not actually here, but he’s haunting this place, my life. He was my first love, but I was not his. It’s a hard thing to reconcile. That one way love. You will go to Georgia on August 4. You will start school and meet wonderful new people. Everything will fall into place. Write the ghost a letter. I only know Hannah from her blog, but she has wisdom beyond her years.

  24. J, you said he ended things with you because he didn’t think it was fair to keep you hanging around while he figures out what he wants to do with his life. Your response was excellent. You are moving on with your life, continuing your education and moving to a new place. Good for you! If it was meant to be, it will work out. If not, then you are beginning anew, on a different path where exciting opportunities await. My boyfriend and I moved cross country and then broke up. It was scary and difficult, but I found my own place and got a new job. I decided I needed to be the person he fell in love with and not the one he fell out of love with. And if we didn’t get back together then I was on my way to a new adventure. I had so much to say but decided action speaks louder than words. That was almost thirty years ago, and I am happy to say we have been married and raised a beautiful daughter together. So be brave, move on with your life and don’t look back. Your friend has to see for himself what a great catch you are. Moving to Athens may help him to see it. If not, he was not the one for you and God has someone else in mind.

  25. This whole scenario, this particular writing and the stories in this post all remind me of 500 Days of Summer. So good, so real–”And then life brought us in different directions. And we would both be okay. He just wasn’t mine. I just wasn’t his. And maybe a ghost gets born on the day you can’t accept the hardest fact: someone else will love them, someone else will love them in a way you know you can’t.”–so true.

    1. Sometimes we outgrow the person or have different goals in life and that’s okay. It takes courage to let go and allow the person to be who they are as they are. We can not change anyone; only encourage. Expectations on the other person creates resistance and more heartache between partners. Change is inevitable and something to look forward to. I mustered up enough courage to leave an alcoholic, inattentive husband while being a stay at home mom of three children, obtained a nearly useless graduated degree and have been on my own for nine years now. Maybe writing him a letter expressing you wish what he wants from life and grateful for the experience so you have a healthy closure and get it off your chest.

      1. That’s really awesome; I’m glad you had the strength and ability to do all of it! I’m not really sure if you meant to respond to my comment or just comment on the post above, but I was just quoting a segment from the actual post and said it reminded me of the movie 500 Days of Summer. I, personally, am not in this scenario though.

      2. No I meant to reply to the first post but I’m learning. Thank you, it was difficult period. Oh I will have to watch that movie.

      3. “Sometimes we outgrow the person or have different goals in life and that’s okay. It takes courage to let go and allow the person to be who they are as they are. We can not change anyone; only encourage. Expectations on the other person creates resistance and more heartache between partners. Change is inevitable and something to look forward to. ” = So well put. Great advice. 🙂

        And way to muster up the courage during that personal life situation you brought up. That’s huge. So hard to do. Many don’t. I’ve watched someone very close to me who didn’t leave to become more and more miserable with time. It’s a horrible way to live. Your actions give hope to other women. Just hearing that someone else did it can be enough to inspire someone. anyway, Way to go! And I’m sorry you ever had to make that decision. BIG HUG

      4. Awe thank you! You are very kind. BIG HUG back to you. I know I have courage now and didn’t before. We chose to live life with fear based or love based. I had faith and felt my ancestors and guides lift me up during that period, unexplainable the strength I felt. Yes, if my experience helps another, what a wonderful gift. That must have been difficult to watch a friend chose that road.

  26. Life is it’s fullest when we’re living it with our eyes facing future rather than past. Have a wonderful life, keep your eyes on where you’re going.

  27. I think what he did for you is one of the most selfless acts I’ve heard in a long time. He knew, or at least sensed, you had yourself and your life more figured out than he did, and it may be that you always will be a step ahead of him, and he knew if he didn’t let you go, then one day you’d run from him, screaming, full of anger and regret.
    Enjoy this new adventure as you discover your future.

  28. I would like to share this with my ex husband. I did it to him and I feel bad, but I just don’t love him like I used to him. He will always be my kids father but that is it to me. He can’t let go. Very sad situation.

  29. What a beautifully written post. Ghosts can linger until we consciously let them go. But there was one man in my life, whose path diverged from my own, who never became a ghost. This man is my husband. Several years into our 28 year marriage, I was on an managerial path in my career. My husband, working in sales, wasn’t. I came home each night with the “you should’s” packed in my briefcase. I’d unpack them and give them to him. The next day he’d take my “you shoulds” and push them to the back of his closet and go back to his sales. He’d come home happy. I’d come home concerned. He wasn’t advancing. Finally I stopped giving him my “you shoulds” and instead kept them for myself. I advanced, learned, and love what I’m doing. He didn’t advanced, learned, and loves what he’s doing. And now, we both come home happy and we leave our concerns at work.

  30. Well, like most, I have been there many times – multiple actually. Everytime, ive had my heart broken, I have found me praying for it to be the end of the world for me. But the truth, everytime, I found a new ghost. SO today, I have a bunch of them, when I look back and yet the present has me unaccompanied. All I want to say is that life goes on – we move on and are more often brought to deeper, complexer ideation of love.
    You had me teary and also looking back on the letters I wrote to so many of them (never sent any) and now, when I see them, I realise, this is not the one who was meant to be. Although it was and made me feel awesome then.
    Good luck for your future and thanks for this. It was much needed.

  31. J – I concur, write to your ghost. Put all the things you cannot or dare not say down on paper and then re-read them several times. Picture yourself in their shoes, hearing the things you have to say. This may help you to decide whether or not you have to share all of your feelings with your friend and ex-lover. Understand that it is impossible to begin such a conversation from a neutral standpoint when your shared history will ensure any encounter is emotionally charged. However, a little reflection will help you gain perspective before making a decision to speak to your friend or not. If you do decide to have the conversation and find they do not feel the same way and do not view the relationship as something they wish to rekindle, be kind to yourself, respect their wishes and allow both of you some time and space to mourn the relationship in your own way.

  32. J – I recommend doing whatever you feel deep down that you need to. You need to do whatever you can to leave as much of the ghost behind you when you leave as possible. Don’t get me wrong that ghost will probably hang on to you for awhile until you are completely ready to banish it once and for all, but that will get easier when you are out there experiencing new and amazing things and filling your life with new experiences (and your brain with studying 🙂 ).
    Relationships are all encompassing and when they don’t work out saying it is over does not magically eject all those feelings you had for one another. Emotions like that don’t disappear unfortunately they demand to be addressed and dismissed one by one.
    I would recommend writing a letter to him, that way you can perfect what you want to say. He might not be ready to hear you at the moment so if you talk to him his ears will be closed to you, but if you write to him he can read it and re read it when he is ready to hear you.

  33. J,
    I just moved 3000 miles away from home to pursue my dream. It is scary, different and I miss home. I moved here to be more independent, but I had to ask for help in the process of getting here. But it was the right decision. I have a ghost, and you know what, he doesn’t haunt me here. When I came here and saw this beautiful view and I knew with every fiber of my being that this is exactly where I need to be right now. Even if it isn’t 100% what I expected, even though I hit a few bumps along the way, even though I do still think about the ghost on occasion, I’m here in a good place. In order to accept this awesome experience full heartedly and make the best of it, I had to let go of my ghost. He spent the night outside in the fresh air thinking about what there is for me here and what there is for me there. Back home, I’d be stuck in a rut hoping he would change. Here, I am changing into the person I want to be. And God only knows when, and if I ever find “the one” but I am not going to let “him” or lack thereof define me or hold me back. You can talk to him if you need to. Write it in a letter if you have to. No matter what, do whats right for you. My darling, you were meant to run. So run and enjoy it while you can

  34. J, wrap yourselves in these words from everyone who’s played the ghost game and know that you’re not alone. Scrolling through all of these comments, that is the resounding cry I have heard through my little computer screen. You are not alone because we have all met ghosts and wrestled to set them free. You are not alone because you are safe in the arms of a God who writes exceptionally good love stories. And you are not alone because there is a girl inside you who is brave and she won’t lead you wrong.

  35. J,

    I held on to my ghost for many, many long years, and the thing is, this ghost had nothing to do with romantic love, but familial love. I was his lifeboat for thirteen years before I decided to run away, and it took me several more to learn to forgive and, since I am unable to forget, to let go.

    The presence of this ghost in my life prevented me from moving on and finding my own happiness. For some reason, the fact that he hurt me so much made it impossible for me to trust anyone at all, possibly because I was so young when he began to use me to keep himself afloat, and in fact, to keep himself human. I began calling myself “content and moved on” when seeing my ghost in person no longer made me feel like dying, but what I didn’t realise was that I wasn’t content or moved on yet – I was merely taking the first step on a long road leading in that direction. It is only now, three years after labeling myself as such, that I have allowed myself to trust someone enough to love romantically and give a part of myself to someone else. And now, now I can honestly say that I am on my way to being really, truly happy.

    I still occasionally struggle with that ghost and I still get irrationally scared of a lot of things, but every day, bit by bit, I’m learning, and I’m healing. Healing is a long and slow process, but I know for a fact now that I’m winning. I’m winning, and so are you, because you’re taking a chance. All of us have our own ghosts, and scrolling through the comments has made the awareness of that fact move to the front of my brain from where it had been merely floating in the background. It’s reminded me that I’m not alone and I hope you always bear that in mind, too. We all have our ghosts and they will hang around for a while but in time, slowly, they will fade away, and they will become less frightening than they used to be. And one day, that ghost will merely linger in the past, a part of what formed you into the person you have become – a lesson you had to learn to grow.

    Congratulations on beginning again and starting anew, J. Your bravery has inspired me to be braver myself. 🙂

  36. Hannah- J just shared this with me and as a mentor of J I want to thank you for the awesome response. I also want to say that I learned something from this blog too! Thank you and keep writing!

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