Three years ago today, my boyfriend and I sat crisscrossed in his basement crafting Valentine’s Day cards. “Will You Bee Mine?” he scribbled on one, adding a drawing of a bee underneath. We’d only started dating two days prior, and I didn’t know how to approach him on this holiday dedicated to love. I assumed he felt the same, so we devoted our energy to making punny cards for our friends instead, trying to distract ourselves from the elephant in the room.
Nearly everyone has a story of a First Teenage Love or a high school flame, so I’ll give you a quick rundown. We dated senior spring and the summer leading up to college. He drove me around in his family’s cranky green Mazda. After prom, staying true to our dorky selves, we played chess until dawn. When we both went on vacation, we sent each other long, rambly voice messages, too lazy to type up emails. The night before I left for college, we stuffed ourselves with tapas, got a parking ticket, both cried a little. Before I left his house, I stole a stuffed animal pug off his bed and wiped away my tears. In short, I loved him and he loved me.
A couple months into my first year at Yale, I broke up with him over FaceTime in a private Bass study cubicle. I told myself teen romances are meant to end, and resolved to quickly get over my lingering romantic feelings so we could return to a platonic state. I buried the pug in my sock drawer, took the postcards he’d sent me off my dorm room walls, and changed my phone’s lock screen to a cute photo of me and my girlfriends. Finally, I opened my Google Drive and created a new folder among the disorganized chaos. “dont open this until 2027” I named it dramatically, before dragging and dropping two video files into the folder.
Over the last few years, I’ve tried to forget about the guy, the love, and the folder. We filmed the videos the summer before college, on a late July or early August night. I’d recently gotten my driver’s license, and we’d been putting off the conversation about whether to do long-distance or not. Inspired by an episode of “Master of None” in which a couple films a vlog to their future selves, we decided to do the same.
I dreaded opening the folder. I could recall certain snippets of what we said into the selfie camera that night, and the cringiness far outweighed the sweet naivete. But in the name of honest research, I returned to my roots and planted myself in a Bass study room to watch the videos — seven years earlier than I originally intended to.
“Hello future, we’re here in Bethesda. Alice got her license today, she passed, so we’re inside her mom’s car.”
“Today is July 29th, 2017.”
“We’re 18 right now… hold on, I’m going to appreciate Alice driving, I haven’t ever seen this.”
“I apparently hit the accelerator too much. Hopefully you’re a better driver now. Hopefully you’re living somewhere where you don’t need to drive… Okay we’re going to go make out now, have fun, hope you guys are happy.” (Ha ha, good one, Alice.)
“So hope you guys are doing well. You might be together or not. But hopefully you’re friends,” he says a few minutes later.
“If you’re not, go call each other or something, hang out. Because you won’t regret it!” I say.
“Or you might, if one of you still has feelings for the other, and it’s awkward like that.”
“Well if it’s like that, then wait.”
“Wait a little bit, listen to some sad love songs.”
A few minutes later, I address my future self: “Alice, if you guys aren’t friends, just remember you really owe it to him for driving you all the time. Even if he broke your heart, or even if you broke his heart, you should still be friends.”
“Hope your acne’s a little better,” he says to his future self. “That’s like a long term goal.”
“I hope you’re a better driver. I hope you know how to park. I hope you have lots of meaningful friendships and a good relationship with your parents,” I say. “I hope you’re happy … this is kind of weird.”
“Yeah if you think about it too much, it’s pretty weird,” he says. “What will I wish I said when I watch? … I’m really interested in where you’ll be living and what you’ll be doing.”
“If only there were a way for them to speak to us … This is pretty trippy.”
The vlog ends with us parked and smiling into the camera. I look so young and tan and skinny in the videos, and the endearing look I give him as he speaks is incredibly alien but also familiar.
When I buried the files back in 2017, I still agreed with the version of me in the vlog. I couldn’t imagine life without him in it, even as a friend. On our last night together before college, we had vowed to stay in touch because we had more than romantic love bonding us — we shared the same friends, values, and God. That seemed like it could be enough. And we did try to stay friends, meeting for coffee and lunch after our breakup until we realized “friendship” was keeping us from moving on.
I’ll gloss over the ugly back-and-forth that ensued after our initial breakup — the “what if we got back together” and “oh shit, I shouldn’t have drunk called you” moments. If I’d watched this vlog during that messy period, I might have called him up and asked to give things another shot. Look at how hopeful we were! Don’t we owe it to them?!
Watching the videos now stirred up feelings, but not those of longing and loneliness I probably would’ve felt two years ago. A part of my heart aches for the innocent teenager who just got her license, who is so excited to drive her boyfriend around, who thinks relationships can last forever. The two people in the frame seem more like strangers from a past life than evidence of a missed opportunity. After my own fair share of unsuccessful flings following that first love, I’ve since lost the untainted optimism I exhibit in the vlog, the unwavering confidence that we could stay friends and wouldn’t regret it. I still feel hopeful, but also jaded in a way that would break my 18-year-old self’s heart.
I wonder how I’ll feel — if I’ll feel anything — when I open the folder again in 2027. Maybe I’ll share the vlog with him then, too?
Alice Park | email@example.com