Manila — In my last column, I wrote about growing old with "the one." As I was writing it, I thought about the people who didn't make it as "the one," on one hand, and the people who lost them, on the other. I suddenly thought that not all people find or end up with "the one." Not all people get to strike an agreement with someone with a promise of forever. For reasons we don't quite understand, we don't get to keep the person we thought was our big love, the one.
We don't stay together; we part ways. We could have ended up marrying them but we let them go. That is why we call them "the one that got away."
In these times when the norm is increasingly more about first dates, interludes and hookups, having huge expectations about a love that will last for life may be too much in the real world where two people who hang out for days after a meet-cute or who used to be a couple for some time are suddenly saying goodbye in a breakup song even before they think of calling it love.
A friend who says he is "happily separated" but feels pressured by people around him who try to pair him up with a prospective second wife told me one lesson from his marriage that didn't last, and that is, not to have grand illusions of eternal love and let those who left a huge impact be part of a beautiful past.
To most people, letting go or losing someone is a personal tragedy. Perhaps, it would also be on their top three list of biggest regrets in life. But I have a different take about walking away from that one defining moment in life when a person supposedly says yes to a partnership that promises to be a long-term, committed one.
I think it is also wise not to look for the end-all and be-all of a relationship. If we allow ourselves some latitude, for those not the in the married state or sort of permanent relationship, seeing "the one" walk away should not be a catastrophe.
First, do all people even get to meet "the one" at all? Second, if we were not able to keep them but are still around, why do we even call them the one that got away?
I know of someone who said many people really don't end up marrying "the one" because she herself didn't, but her true love remains that kind of love to this day. He didn’t get away. He is just there. He loves her, she loves him. But why are they not together? She says they pursued different activities, had different dreams.
But what she has are great memories. When she sees a bookshop, she remembers him because they met in a bookshop. She enters the bookshop and savors the moments they spent together. She goes out of the bookshop smiling, bravely facing the world with the thought that she was loved and it was real and it still is until today.
So the one that got away may be the most significant person you ever met. He might have just been a romantic interlude on the sides of a conference but you learned from him more notions about life that you will never get from someone you might be married to in a lifetime.
Sometimes, the one that got away might have been someone you met as an expat in another country who speaks eight languages but who shared with you the best memories in just five months. He might have gotten away but he is just there, staring at the same sky as you do every day, and the moon when it is out at night.
He made a great impact in your life that you kept in touch -- that one guy who just messaged you with "I saw the moon today and I thought about you."
Diana G. Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila.