‘Have a good life’ is less of a brush-off than I thought

My ex-boyfriend is getting married.

I’m grappling with my feelings on this. Not because I’m grappling with my feelings for him — no; those feelings long ago warmed to nothing more than friendship . . . and today, not much of anything. I certainly don’t “hate” him — that would require me to feel much more strongly about him than I do. I don’t really feel much of anything about him, in fact.

The truth of the matter is, while we dated for more than two years, we were never in love. In the four short months in which I’ve known Spencer, he consumes so much of my daily brain power, thinking of the face I’ve probably seen just hours before — the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles; the tiny cleft in his chin; the way I feel when he takes my hand, pressing his palm flat against my own. I feel . . . happy. Loved. Secure. And beyond that? Excited. Giddy with the possibilities of it all. Eager for life and everything still to come. Happy to be a freshly-minted 25-year-old, a woman who found a man who makes her smile so much and so often.

P. was not that man. Though both technically “adults,” our relationship was childish — built more on an initial friendship than anything. At the time, I needed someone there to lean on; and at the time, he was there. We outgrew each other, plain and simple, and maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so ugly in the end if I’d been brave enough to face that. But I wasn’t.

Regardless, he’s getting married this month. Of the four men I seriously dated in six years, he’s the one I would have least expected to learn was tying the knot. Coincidentally, he’s also the youngest. I wish he and his new wife happiness, because I have no reason to wish them anything but pleasant things. Life is hard enough without carrying a grudge. And as I said, my feelings have fizzled and become so muddled toward P., being unhappy about his marriage would require me to care about his marriage.

I mean, it’s not that I don’t care. I’m not rude or heartless. I just mean that I don’t care care. I don’t care in the I-can’t-sleep, up-all-night, sick-to-my-stomach way. Not even remotely. In typical fashion, I’m just thinking that P.’s marriage means time is marching on — and I’m thinking about what all this means for me.

When I turned 20, I was reminded that I was the same age as my parents — high school sweethearts — when they got married. Now that I’m 25, I’m reminded that my mom and dad were both 25 when their first born — yours truly — came into the world. Now I’m the age they were when they became parents.

Growing up, it’s hard to fight off the ticking clock over your head. No matter what I’ve done, that timeline has been in the back of my mind — the age when they met; the age when they married; the age when they started a family. No one has forced this on me or declared that this is the way it should be; it’s just that, over time, I’ve absorbed that. Whether or not I meant to, I’ve always felt like I was on a schedule — like I should be getting ready for the next event.

When we’re in school, we advance through the grades with a clear goal in sight. For a while, it’s all about finishing high school — donning that robe and strolling down the aisle with your family and friends nearby. Once that’s done, you apply to college — get your degree, do the whole graduation thing again. Fine and fine. Done and done. Since I hit that milestone in 2007, I’ve struggled with finding my “place.” I was lucky to find a full-time job I enjoyed. But without the next clear goal in sight, a little voice in the back of my mind started chanting, “What next? What next?

It’s only recently — probably since I met Spencer — that I’ve decided to clock out of the whole “this is how your life should be” mentality. For me, that means spending less time on Facebook reading what my “friends” (most of whom I haven’t spoken to since high school) are doing — and concentrating on my own life. Who cares if Suzie B. is getting married? What difference does it make if Laura N. is expecting and sharing constant updates on her pregnancy with those of us fortunate enough to be in her Newsfeed?

I’m not Suzie, and I’m not Laura (all totally fictional, by the by). I’m me. I’m Meg. And where I am and what I’m doing has nothing to do with what everyone else is doing. “All in good time,” as they say. For now? I feel happy for the life I do have with the people in it — the people who have, over time, proven they belong in my world. I’ve lost friends and made new ones. People I never thought I’d lose touch with have evaporated. It’s the way of the world . . . and the way of my world.

One of the last times I spoke to him, P. and I had the requisite “I hope you have a good life” conversation — the kind you share when you know you’re probably never going to talk to someone again. At the time, I thought it was stupid — meaningless; almost unkind. Is there any bigger brush-off than someone saying, “Hey, have a good life!”

But now, I understand. I get it. People come in, people go — we watch them, hopeful that we’ll find the right people join us on the whole journey. So I do hope P. has a good life, wherever that life might take him . . . and I’m happy here, in my good life, just soaking up every moment while the sun shines.

19 thoughts on “‘Have a good life’ is less of a brush-off than I thought

  1. It’s hard to get over those “this is how my life should be” feelings. Personally, I grew up in a small town where it seemed that EVERYONE got to all those big life moments (marriage, kids) before I did. It got me down for a while, or it weirded me out when friends and exes took those plunges, but eventually we begin to see that those paths are probably not for us if we haven’t followed them. All in good time, as they say.

    Glad you’ve found such joy in Spencer. And “have a good life” can be a very VERY healthy thing. πŸ™‚

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  2. Oh I feel ya. I’ve sooooo been there. I was feeling that big time in my late twenties.

    The good news: the right guy is worth the long wait. (Hopefully, it’s Spencer) And years from now you’ll realize, some of the folks that quickly married and such – won’t get the best outcomes.

    I married when I was almost 31. πŸ™‚

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  3. I love these glimpses into your life. Wonderfully thought out post! I’m still in graduate school, so I have that finish line, but I’m not too keen on ever graduating so I can keep it in sight ;).

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  4. This blog is so beautiful. You’re right, people do move on, and grow, and change. And it’s not a bad thing at all. The time I had a guy friend I was attached to (we never dated, I just had a crush on him. A really bad one) I never thought I’d move on. But I did. And I’m happy. He wasn’t the right one.

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  5. the other day i went out to lunch with one of my old friends from high school that i haven’t seen in years and we were talking about exactly this. after graduating we’re both feeling the pressure of ‘what’s next in life’ and ‘what do we do now’. and seeing our old friends getting married and having kids doesn’t help.

    it’s great to see that you got out of that mentality and you’re just enjoying life now. i’m happy for you that you’ve found spencer and happiness in life. πŸ™‚

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  6. I was just talking to my friend Amanda about this exact thing, the arbitrary timelines we put on ourselves and then how off we feel when not meeting them, even if meeting them wouldn’t make us happy. Again, such a well-written post Meg, I feel the same way.

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  7. Meg you are a fantastic writer and I love your insightful posts, glimpses into your life that abstract into human nature, I am in my late twenties and I am under LOTS OF PRESSURE, there are three girls in my team, one is pregnant, another is on maternity leave, the third recently came back from her maternity leave … I can’t help wondering if there is a deadline and I should hurry up

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  8. welcome to the unorthodox side of life! i’m so glad you could join me over here. i know exactly what you’re saying.

    ant and i met in college in 1992. we dated for a million years, and people constantly asked us “when are you getting engaged?”.

    when we finally got engaged (on our own schedule, not the rest of the world’s) in 1999, the questions morphed to “when are you getting married.”

    we skipped along, happily engaged for 18 months and got married.

    i kid you not, at the wedding reception people started asking us “when are you going to have kids???”.

    so funny that people have this preconceived ‘life-line’ in their heads. it’s almost 9 years since our wedding day and we STILL don’t have kids. you can’t imagine what nosy-parkers some people are (not just family members!).

    ant and i came up with a line for those people who ask (and they DO!) “why don’t you guys have any kids?” i put on a solemn face and say “we can’t.” that usually silences them. and then anthony adds the punch line: “we have white sofas”. mwa ha ha.

    so, megster, i’m glad you aren’t worried about what people think YOU should be doing. do your own thing–whatever makes you happy. life is fleeting and you should enjoy every second. xoxoxo

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    • White sofas! Hahaha. Oh my. That slays me. πŸ˜‰

      I love novels, so don’t you worry! It feels good to shuck the timeline and just relax. Just as you and Ant are doing what’s right for you (and keeping those couches safe), I’m doing what’s right for me.

      I think. I hope. πŸ™‚

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  9. I felt the timeline looming whenever I went through a break up in my early or mid-twenties. I didn’t get married before 25 and won’t manage to have kids before 30 or hit other arbitrary marks, but right now I’m enjoying what my husband and I have. The more you concentrate on the timeline, the more stressed and less happy you’ll be (“but we have to get engaged by this date so that we can have this much time to plan so that we can get married by this date and then have kids before this age” isn’t good for anybody).

    Good luck!

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  10. hearing that kind of news
    is always so awkward, but you’re
    handling it very well!

    and hey, you’re super happy with
    spencer right now. just enjoy things as they happen. i’m glad that it seems like you’re going with the flow and just seeing how everything will turn out.

    also, good thing you’re facebooking less.
    i always feel so unfulfilled after scrolling
    through the newsfeed. like, what am i looking for? πŸ˜›

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  11. On the other hand, I sometimes crave for Facebook – for the company of real people I have met.

    At first, I thought, since P. got married, now you feel like you want to get married too! I’m such a child. Reading on, I understood your point – there’s no time line. God never stated a specific age to “go and multiply”.

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  12. I loved this post, because I can totally relate. I’m 31 now and know about the constant pressure to get married, to have children, to experience what all the “Facebook friends” are posting about. But our goals and timelines are always going to be different. While it might be right for Laura or whomever to get married by 25, that might not fit in with where you are in life.

    Seeing an ex move on and get married inevitably stirs up a lot of emotions and causes us to evaluate what we have in our current situations. But if you are genuinely happy, then that is where you need to be πŸ™‚

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  13. I feel like that internal clock of mine is ticking too…my parents were married when they were 22! Insanity. I haven’t even met someone worth marrying. It definitely worries me, but it makes me feel better to see that you are 25 and doing JUST FINE, if not 2128013x better than that! Gives me hope!

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  14. I seriously want to run up to you and give you a big hug. Because honestly, it seems to me like you have achieved something I’ve been dying to achieve: clarity. And it’s something I’m still working toward. If I found out that my ex-boyfriend was getting married, I’m not sure how I would feel. And maybe that’s because unlike you, there is a part of me that is still so bitter about how badly things ended. But like you, I am in a great relationship with a wonderful man who adores me. But still, I have those doubts – that timeline stuck in the back of my head and I wonder what will happen if I somehow fall behind or fall off. Maybe I still just need a couple years to figure it all out. After all, I’m graduating this year and I still don’t really have my gameplan figured out. But maybe once I do, once I find my place – a job, a home, ect – maybe then, I’ll find the kind of clarity that you seem to have found.

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  15. I hope that self-imposed time clock doesn’t get to you too much. Those are things that we see over our lives and soon realize that they applied to our parents or whomever, but not necessarily to ourselves.

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