I met my partner a little over two years ago, and he changed my life.
It was love at first conversation, and John and I worked together to quickly build new and reformed lives. He’d just been through a divorce, and I’d just gone through some sort of catastrophic quarter-life crisis. We were each exactly who the other person needed to grow strong again, and since we met, we’ve been carrying on lavish lives of constant doting, adoration, and honeymooning.
I knew when I met him that I never wanted to be codependent with anyone ever again. Regardless, love feels good — beautiful, in fact — and as more and more time went by, I failed to reconnect with some of the things that made me who I am. But as time goes by, I’ve seen that I can have it both ways, I can have everything, and I can maintain my individuality while being in this great romance.
Most of my finest accomplishments in life were a product of solitude. If I want to really be myself and not be reliant on my other to “complete me” and put responsibility on them that they never asked for, all I have to do is go back to most of the things I loved as a teenager. (Being a real adult is when you enjoy the same things you did at 13 without the former embarrassment and lack of conviction).
What did I like back then, 10 or so years ago? What made me who I am?
There was my love of running that got me through five seasons of varsity cross country and made me a half-marathon finisher at 16. There was my love of reading that made me expertly familiar with literature across multiple centuries and continents. There was my love of going out alone and taking myself on fancy dates; for many years I sought out entire weekends to get on the LIRR west and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Guggenheim by myself or simply around the corner to a local movie theater with zero company and a cell phone turned on silent mode. And, of course, there was my deep love of musical theater.
Since I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be a better partner and a better person myself, it was startling to realize that I’d left most of my passions behind years ago and never went back to them despite longing for a sense of identity again. Where was the girl who sang show tunes in the shower and spent every second she could alone? Could I go back to my passions while being immersed in my partner and our adult responsibilities?
I started asking myself these questions and proceeded carefully. I needed to not be selfish or too immature about rediscovering myself, because being an A student in graduate school was my top priority, and so were my contributions to my shared bills. Could I return to the old me just a little bit while staying grounded?
Ernest Hemingway always felt like an old friend. I met his books as a younger teen and was tantalized. So a few weeks ago, I went to my local Barnes and Noble and bought a copy of one of the works I hadn’t read yet, A Moveable Feast. I took it home and prayed that my attention span would go beyond my stupid cell phone and that I’d be able to enjoy it free of anxiety or expectation.
I did just that. It felt like home to read about Hemingway’s version of Paris bundled up in my bed, except this time I wasn’t reading to protect myself from isolation or teenage angst. I was reading because reading is good, and I read that book with my partner sitting in bed next to me, turning the pages comfortably knowing I still had a home with my loved one even if I was going to go back and find some of my old self.
I got myself a Vogue subscription so that I could start following fashion again and pop-culture-loving Heather came back. I revamped my wardrobe from thrift stores and stylish Heather came back. I bought a new pair of running shoes and runner Heather came back. And when the semester ended and I was ready again, Heather who writes came back, too.
Being in love is a beautiful thing, and I highly recommend furnishing yourself with the vulnerability to fall head-over-heels if you get the chance. But I also believe in the quaint power of being alone, not lonesome, and protecting your passions from the hustle. If I found a happy medium where I can pay bills and get A grades while returning to my youth’s passions, I know you can, too.
I hope that you have the opportunity to do something that you love today. I know that I will carve time out of my life for myself today, and you deserve the same.
I met a girl at a bar last night. We matched on Bumble. We were talking about our dating lives when she asked me, “So how’s your Tinder experience so far?”
I gave her a knowing smile. We both laughed when she realized her mistake. She’s using several dating apps at the same time, and she’s been on too many dates that she’s confusing one guy over the other.
I had no problem with that of course. Even I used multiple dating apps. Though I have a notepad to remind myself which girl is which.
“So why are you on Bumble? And Tinder?” I asked.
She shrugged, “Why not?”
I nodded. And after a short pause, I asked, “Why bother?”
She thought for a while. “Honestly?”
She sighed. “Something to change my work-home-sleep routine?”
“How about friends?”
“We hang out. But it’s the same people, the same stuff. Dating is a bit different, at least.”
“I’m overworked and underpaid. I don’t have the money, time, or energy. Dates take an hour or two over beers. And then I’m done.”
I’ve been in a similar situation before. And the idea of swiping left and right compulsively out of boredom, and meeting people for drinks just to change the routine, wasn’t appealing to me. Boredom dating is like boredom eating: You do it just because it’s there. But it’s tasteless. And usually unhealthy.
In my experience, boredom is a symptom of something else: an unfulfilling career, a fear of the unknown, unattended personal issues. It’s easier said than done, but I’m happier when I deal with one of those symptoms first before heading back into the dating pool.
Boredom dating is like boredom eating: You do it just because it’s there. But it’s tasteless. And usually unhealthy.
We’ve all had disastrous dates. Now and then, we’d have good ones.
But if you’re in the dating pool and you’re consistently getting mediocre dates, then one or more of these reasons is probably the cause.
1. Showing up at a potluck expecting to eat, but not bringing any food.
Years ago, I thought a date becomes interesting because people did interesting stuff, like visiting a curious museum or motorboating through New York like Will Smith in the movie “Hitch.”
But interesting dates only happen when interesting people are involved. And interesting people have interesting things going on in their lives. That’s the food they bring in this potluck we call dating.
I can’t count how many people in the dating pool have shown up with bland dishes and empty pots.
Unfortunately, you can’t control what other people bring into a date. But you can decide what you bring. And the first thing you don’t bring? A bucket of expectations.
Don’t expect your date to be something. Instead, ask yourself: “How can I bring out interesting things from this person?”
Despite the blandness of some people I met over the years, I discovered that there’s always something interesting and unique about them if you look attentively enough.
“But that’s too much work!”
Contrary to popular belief, a great date does take some work. If you’ve been on a great date without exerting any effortyour date was doing all the work for you. Don’t be that princess.
2. Qualifying dates.
Look, I get it. We’re now more able to filter the kind of people we meet. Online dating makes it even easier: You can specify what height or pet preferences you want from a date. But these specifications lead to missed opportunities.
Contrary to popular belief, a great date does take some work. If you’ve been on a great date without exerting any effort — your date was doing all the work for you. Don’t be that princess.
Instead, think of the ONE thing you want to have from a date. And be honest with yourself. Are you looking for a fuck buddy? A friend to geek out with? A good, but platonic conversation?
Don’t look for: A good conversation with someone who’s into dogs and who’s also watched Sense8 and who’s cute enough to fuck and they’re not looking for a relationship right now, but they might consider it if the stars align in your favor.
This makes dating unnecessarily difficult. And it’s selfish. Dating isn’t about looking for and getting what you want. That’s what jerks do. Have you ever felt drained and used by a person? Then you just got jerked! And we don’t want to jerk other people unless it’s the pleasurable kind.
Dating is an experience where people can explore their potential connection together. Instead of a laundry list of “qualifications,” consider telling yourself something like this:
“I want my date to be passionate about something (a cause, a passion project, etc.) that I’m also interested in.” Or,
“As long as they communicate their thoughts and feelings honestly, I’m down.” Or even,
“Someone who is [insert physical description] and could hold a decent conversation.”
Keeping it to one or two qualifications can open pleasant possibilities that you might not have considered.
Besides, you can’t truly know someone based on their dating profile. We all tend to be on our best behavior for first impressions. By looking for just one or two things, you’re more likely to spot who really has it.
So decide on that one thing you want. And then focus on it. Be willing to let go of other qualifications. Consider those as bonuses instead.
3. Being too preoccupied with oneself.
Dating is like taking a walk in a huge eco-park. If you’re too busy worrying about your undone shoelace, or the smudge in your boots, or taking Instagrammable shots to show your friends how much fun or not-fun you’re having, you’ll miss the entire experience.
I think this is the main reason why most dates suck: When people are too preoccupied with themselves.
That’s how we end up with dates who are distracted or who aren’t listening.
And it’s easy to fall into that trap. When was the last time you tuned out of what your date is saying? (Special exception if they’ve been talking about themselves for the last 2 hours — in which case, you should’ve paid attention and left an hour ago).
It’s easy to be too preoccupied with future or past concerns that we’re not in the moment.
And we’re closing our eyes to the slivers of opportunity that could’ve made a mediocre date great, or a disastrous date end faster.
4. You’ve been on too many bad dates and you need to stop.
You’re burned out from dating. You’ve become cynical. And it’s starting to show.
Dating burnout makes you more judgmental and closed to new experiences. So you’re not in the best mindset to meet someone new. You’re almost always subconsciously waiting for your date to trip on your red flag minefield.
Step back and do other things.
Have some fun again.
Go on a solo trip (or plan one if you can’t travel yet).
Hang out with your activity group (hiking group, running group, yoga besties, etc.)
Most importantly: Uninstall your dating apps if you have them.
Compulsive swiping is real. And swiping out of boredom or anxiety won’t get you anywhere. The cycle will just repeat itself.
So, delete your dating apps, step back from the dating pool, and have some personal fun and relaxation. When you’re energized and positive, begin again.