Some Things You Just Should Feel Bad About

For about a year while I was on a college hiatus, I rented a house in downtown Annapolis with two female roommates. One was about my age and one was a little bit younger. We had some similar interests, especially in regards to music. I was learning how to play the guitar and sing (I am still learning). One of the girls was a decent singer, far better than myself. The other girl was a highly skilled violin player. In the summer, we would sit in the backyard or on the front porch and we would sing and play Bob Dylan songs together.

The older of the two and I had a lot in common and we became good friends. We spent a lot of time together, listening to music, walking around town, and sharing ideas. We both wrote songs and poetry, which we would discuss with each other at the coffee shop where we would sit, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes. We both had strong personalities that were stronger, more resonant, together.

One day, we were talking and the subject turned to relationships. She told me, in so many words, that she was not getting any younger and she needed to start thinking about the future and that included commitment, marriage, children, etc. I had been in some pretty crappy, even abusive relationships until that point and this conversation terrified me. I became cold and withdrew.

Our relationship was never really the same after that, reaching its low point with me standing her up one night when we were supposed to meet at the coffee shop. We both went our separate ways eventually and one day I was talking to a friend about it. Looking for some consolation, I told him that I felt bad about my behavior towards her because we had been good friends and, even if we wanted different things from the relationship, I should not have left like I did. My friend looked at me and said plainly, “Well, Robert. There are some things that you should feel bad about.”

 Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

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