Do Shared Memories Still Exist if One Party is Trying Really Hard to Forget?: Notes on Losing 5 Years of Travel


Not a selfie, Bucharest, Romania, 2008



This one has been worming its way through my head for about a week or two now. It’s a tricky one, one I can’t quite articulate without giving too much away. I write publicly, but I have boundaries.

I need to tread carefully sometimes.

I’m going to make this one about a specific thing that happened recently, about a specific person. However, in my life, this has happened many times so I figure it’s real and not just my own current, personal neuroses.

It’s about doing stuff with someone where emotion and interaction and time are a factor, whether it be extensive travel together or shared projects or just a lot of really good times spent in each other’s company. These can be platonic or romantic or whatever a third category might define itself as. At some point, things fall apart. The center cannot hold. The usual. People go their separate way and their travels and projects and time spent together become something that happened in the past but are unlikely to happen again.

Here’s the scenario: about a week or two ago, there was a glitch on my Facebook newsfeed. My ex (who had unfriended and blocked me within minutes of our break up in Bali, two years ago) had tagged a mutual friend in a photo and somehow I saw it. I hadn’t seen or known anything he had done since then because… well, because. I didn’t feel ready to go there.

The photo was his wedding photo. From last year at this time. Right around the time I had Thwack.

You know that it’s a bad sign for a relationship that had lasted nearly 6 years, spanning 4 continents,  when both parties were married to someone else within a year of the breakup.

But I was happy for him, just as I’ve been relieved for myself. We were both good people with good intentions who just weren’t good for each other. No hard feelings. Some inevitable leftover sadness, sure, but happy memories of a  lot of interesting adventures together (see here and here and here, etc).

I was stupid though, and curious. After two years of adamantly not looking, I looked at his Facebook albums. We had filled a lot of albums together- Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Morocco- and a few were still there, but any trace of me having been there had been deleted. There were a lot of pictures of beaches and Buddhas. No people. No us. A lot of the earlier albums had simply been deleted entirely.

My first thought: fair enough, new marriage, new life, sure.

Second thought: How do I now think about all of these memories, all of these years, when the other half of the memories is doing his (valid) utmost to forget them?

Do these memories still exist? Yes, of course they exist, I’m thinking about them now, but how can they be now be interpreted or processed when the one you shared them with wants nothing to do with them?

They aren’t the same.

I thought about this in the context of old friends as well, people I’d stupidly fallen out with during my more volatile years. So many places and actions and ambitions that were sliced in half when one party just said no, no more, fuck that shit. I’m outta here.

How much of a shared memory depends on both parties holding on to it? How much is lost when one (or both) decides they no longer want it?

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.