College Crisis: The Ex-Files

Our college years are full of dramatic “I’m not a grown up!” moments- mostly unexpected, and typically unwanted. Anonymous Valley writers discuss it all, from avoiding basic responsibilities to dealing with the big, bad future. Let’s talk about it.


Some argue that it’s best to leave the past in the past. So why is it that when we move on to college, we find it a challenge to leave certain things behind us― particularly our ex boyfriends?

When I arrived at Penn State as a freshman I was excited by the possibility of so many new relationships. Fresh off the heels of a nasty break up with my high school boyfriend, Chad*, I was ready to get back on the horse and start living my life again. I vowed, like people always say, to put the past in the past and move on.

My self-proclaimed pact to regain my independence lasted only three days. As soon as my phone buzzed, the screen flashing his name, I was pulled back in by Chad’s games. Overwhelmed by pangs of homesickness, I felt myself constantly missing him and putting off all other boys who didn’t compare.

Having had identified myself as “Chad’s Girlfriend” for so long, I wasn’t even sure who I was on my own terms. In this defining moment of my life, I felt lost.

Over the course of the year I worked to discover who I was without Chad, something I hadn’t imagined before. I found that I enjoyed doing new things and meeting different people. However, every once and a while the familiar pangs of heartbreak would return when my phone flashed his name with a text.

Having had decided on being friends when our relationship ended, I should have expected this. Friends check up on each other and ask how they’re doing. But every time I spoke to Chad I found myself incapable of being just friends- there was always more to it, some other feeling that was there. It was as though we decided to remain friends just so that we wouldn’t have to cut each other out entirely- something I don’t think either of us really had the heart to do.

I’ve been left to question, is talking an ex a sign that our feelings aren’t 100% in the past? And if that’s true, when do these feelings go away for good?

When relationships end, there are two roads to take. Some people choose to part ways entirely. These are the couples that I like to say have found someone better. They know deep down in their hearts that in the end, they just weren’t meant to be. Then, there are couples like Chad and me, who decide to be “just friends”, an ambiguous term used to mask its true intention.

Perhaps putting Chad behind me would have been easier had I known what his true intentions were. With questions of whether or not he still loved me, I couldn’t really move on- and I still can’t. I’ve opened a drawer of the ex files that I just can’t seem to close.

*names have been changed.

Photo by Shantelle Williams


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