I had this odd feeling last night.
I felt like I was wrong.
I'm back in my hometown, the small town, the one where I spent most of my time in a relationship with Michael. I've been away for nine months, and now I'm back for the winter, hoping to take on a program as an English tutor in another country come spring.
For now, I am staying with two friends who I introduced and who are now dating. One is a friend from high school and the other a friend from camp. They are now lving together and raising the high school friend's daughter together.
Upstairs lives their landlord, another high school friend of mine, (I told you, small town) with his wife, kid, and another kid on the way. I chatted with him yesterday, catching up, and he showed me around the house, which is gorgeous, and which they just bought this year. He'll be paying for it somewhere between 18 and 30 years, but it's what you've gotta do when you're married with kids around here.
Last night, with the friends I'm living with, the topic of Michael came up. They are, of course, friends with him. He's a great guy, after all. In fact, he's the godfather of the friend's daughter. The topic of him came up when I mentioned missing my dog, the one Michael and I got together.
"Do you think you'll go to see him?" Friend 1 asked, meaning the dog.
"I don't know. I haven't talked to Michael since I left. I'm not sure how I'll react to seeing him."
Friend 1's eyebrows raised, and she took on a tone that was a bit, well, "sorry Charlie," is the best I can think of...
"Well, you know, we're friends with him. I told him you're staying here, but he comes over sometimes, and he still might."
I was feeling a lot of things as she said this, both due to her tone, her seeming defensiveness, my confused feelings about Michael, so I just tried to keep my expression neutral Friend 2 knows me better than Friend 1 though, and I saw that she saw my struggle, though she didn't say anything.
Friend 1 continued. "He's practically married again, you know."
"Yeah, that's how he does it," I laughed a little. It's true - when Michael falls in love, he really falls in deep, and begins "acting married." It was how he was with me, and it was how he was with the girlfriend he had before me.
"She's nothing like you," Friend 1 went on (friend 1 is quite the talker).
"That's a relief," I started to say, but Friend 1 was already talking over me.
"...she washes the dishes, makes him breakfast, tells him not to make the bed because it's the 'woman's job' to do that. Very traditional, but still a nice girl to hang out with."
"Well, good for him," I offered cautiously. He deserves that, I was thinking of saying, but Friend 1 had already moved on to some new topic.
Predictably, after such an exchange, I had many mixed emotions. The one that struck me hardest, though, was that "wrong" feeling. That feeling that my choice to leave the relationship was wrong. The feeling that what I'm doing with my life is wrong.
It really just isn't an easy feeling for me to handle. I'm so confident most of the time these days, and it took me a long time to gain that confidence, so I'm loathe to give it up.
I can't sit here and ponder "what ifs" though. At the same time, I know, because I remember, that I wasn't happy in that relationship at the end of it. When I started to be honest with myself about what I wanted in life, it didn't match up to what Michael wanted. There was no way for us to both be happy and for us to be together.
I made the right choice, damnit.
And there's probably a few people in this small town who don't believe I did, or who believe that I was somehow the "wrong" part of the relationship, or the...
...wait. I think I've got it.
I was the "wrong" girl for Michael. At least, for after I graduated college. That is true, because the person I was after I graduated was not the person who could make him happy.
Hopefully, this new girl is someone who will make him happy.
Because he does deserve it. He deserves happiness.
Just like I do.
And I can search for mine in my way, and in my corners of the world, while he pursues his in his own.