Friday, 28 November 2014

A Year of Single: What I Learned About Dating

So... I've been single now for almost a year, and my oh my, what a year it has been.

I'm always pretty honest and open about my life on the internet, I figure - why not? People will judge you regardless, and at the end of the day, you're only ever really what you choose to reveal. And if you're a good person with good intentions, honesty can't really backfire too much, I hope.

When I first became single back in December 2013 - my first instinct was PANIC. For three years I'd known routine - and even though my happiness levels had plateaued below a comfortable level, it was still a daunting feeling to have to start from scratch. Square One. I'd made the fatal error of allowing a boyfriend to become more than just a boyfriend - my social life was lacking, my business took up 50% of my life, and he was the other 50%. All of a sudden I had this gaping hole in my chest and in my life, and my mind was screaming, FILL IT. FILL IT. 

And that's what I did. I jumped head-first into the first guy who caught my eye. 

Lesson 1 - Panic dating is not a good idea. 

This guy was lovely. Great conversation, nice stable job, great with kids and seemed to really care about his future and want to settle down. No drama, nice upbringing. He was ready, I was ready - what could go wrong? A lot, apparently. Whilst I won't get into the details, I learned from this lesson that's when you're panic dating, you ignore a lot of the essentials that you had forgotten you required. His offer of stability made me totally forget that I thirst for someone who has adventure coursing through his veins, who can get up and go exploring at the drop of a hat. In fact, I've never really liked stability at all in a guy. I've always been attracted to guys who are searching for something, yearning for something, constantly trying to put their finger on what it is about life that makes their feet want to run. And after a couple of months, and the initial post-break-up mist had cleared, I realized that I had completely forgotten what I was looking for.

Lesson 2 - Recognising a Summer Romance

This year, I also had my first ever summer romance. As soon as I met him, I knew it wasn't meant to be anything more than a friendship. And yet he had a music taste that had me yelling "I LOVE THIS SONG!" every time he shuffled, and a backpack that was ready to go at all times. Hiking, adventure, camping, guitars, roadtrips. Exploration at every corner, and just a real fondness for each other. In recognising he was a summer romance, I had no desire to assert any kind of control over his life, or attempt to divert it's course. It was incredibly liberating. I've always been a hopeless romantic and a relationship-girl. As soon as I see a guy isn't for me - I carry the hell on and don't look back, and I'll usually know in a matter of weeks. This time round, though, I let myself enjoy the friendship. I let myself get close to someone, all the while knowing the expiration date would come. And we left it on great terms, with an incredible summer of memories, and a fantastic friendship that will last a long time. It was one of the only "relationships" I've ever had that have been nothing but positive. When he set off on his next adventure, I felt zero pangs of sadness, no yearning, no "what if". Just a "Have an amazing time! Catch you soon, friend."

Lesson 3 - Tinder is not good.

Tinder. Well. Tinder made me feel very good about myself - new matches all the time, endless inquiries from an ever-growing queue of hopeful suitors. I think I was one of the lucky ones never to get harassment or straight-up sexual offers, I was always very much treated with respect on Tinder. I went on a couple of dates with incredibly lovely guys, but the experience as a whole on app-dating was horribly unemotional. 
I found myself in bars mentally swiping people that I walked past, and men felt so easily disposable all of a sudden. I never knew how MANY guys were out there until Tinder. "Good looking? Check. Ambitious? Check. Well travelled? Check. But wait - he lives 53km away, and is 23 when I ideally want someone at least 25?... NEXT."
It was TERRIBLE. I enjoyed the ability to swipe for around 3 weeks, and then deleted and began properly enjoying getting to know people again. No one should have access to that many options - because as Sylvia Plath put it -
"I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

Well said, Sylvia. Who knew your gorgeous poetry could describe Tinder so precisely?

Lesson 4 - Single is a default, not a status

I feel sometimes that as a woman, we are conditioned to spend our whole lives waiting for Prince Charming to rock up and give us permission to finally begin enjoying our lives. From every DAMN DISNEY MOVIE EVER forced upon us as children, to every teen magazine emblazoned with ways to impress men, be attractive for men, EXIST for men - to romantic movies (or, every movie I can think of), - I found it a very uncomfortable situation to have no romance brewing at all, whatsoever. Zip. Nada. Hmm.

There became a time when I was wide awake on some random Tuesday at 3am. I was considering re-downloading Tinder, I'll be honest. And then I thought, "I love Sylvia Plath quotes, but I don't know anything about her." And I wiki-ed her. 

This 3am changed my life. For the next month, I spent every night from 1am-6am (some nights, I didn't sleep at all) LEARNING. I googled every single person I could possibly think of - Plath, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Shakespeare, The Bronte Sisters, Frieda Kahlo, Timothy Leary, Steve Jobs... I started INHALING wikipedia at an ungodly speed. I watched documentary upon documentary, I invested all my time into everything and anything that captured a moment of interest in me. I wrote poetry, I started conceptualizing for photography again, I listened to incredible music, I learned, I learned. 
I learned about Islam, I learned about the universe, the Fermi Paradox, I blew the dust from old Philosophy textbooks, I learned about revolutions and stepped back in utter wonderment at this incredible world I had been apart of for 23 years, that I had only ever skimmed the surface of. 

At first - I was captivated. Gripped by this unfamiliar thirst for knowledge, amazed at the people who have stood on this same earth and stared at the same stars as ME! And then, I was sad. I was disappointed in myself, in society, that I had allowed myself to be deprived of so much wonderment for so long. All that time I had been waiting for Prince Charming, I'd been waiting at the window for his car to arrive, only to ignore the fascinating, captivating, incredulous world that lay on my doorstep, waiting patiently at my feet to be acknowledged. 

I was saddened that society does not teach women to search for this. How had I missed out on all this LIFE? Why have I been brainwashed to need a man, when all I need is the dirt beneath my feet and the infinite galaxies that hang above my head, just to feel alive? Single is not a status. Single is my default. I am an incredible being - I can move matter with my mind. I live in a universe which mysteries remain unsolved and I have the opportunity to ponder, to question - and this ENTIRE time, I've been taught that I should be thinking about what colour to paint my nails to best impress some guy?! EH?!

But you can't dwell on the past, and I have a lot of making up to do. Big lesson, that one.

And so,

Lesson 4. Wait for the "Fuck Yeah!"

In my opinion, the "Fuck Yeah!" can only come when you know yourself, and the world, very well. I have not known myself for 23 years.  I have not known the depths of my interests and the depths of the worlds behind my eyes, until now. I am so enthralled by being alive, and learning, that right at this moment - I could happily be by myself for the rest of my days. Just give me some wi-fi and my cat, and there will be no problems here, my friend.

The "Fuck Yeah!" comes when someone shows up in your life, and you question what it is they can bring to your already fabulous, fulfilling and exciting existence. And they impress you. Not with promises of escape, romantic gestures, expensive gifts or rock hard abs. Oh no.

I have found myself impressed with a man that can teach me things I've never considered. I am turned on by an extensive vocabulary, by a man who knows even more than I do, even after months of wiki-mania. The conversation is fluent, unfaltering. The wit is perfectly timed and the laughter is belly deep and leaves my jaw-aching. To stay awake and discuss philosophy, science, dreams, art - not because it's cute to do this with a guy because I saw it on a movie or a pinterest list somewhere, but because I need to know if he knows himself, too. I have to know this guy. I have to turn him inside-out and empty his body of all his knowledge, and pour it into myself. 

Do I need a man in my life? Nope. I don't. Do I need this man in my life? Fuck Yeah.

And if he doesn't seem captivated by me? That's alright. Because I have a world at my fingertips that I can lose myself in, any time, any day. Rejection isn't scary when the alternative is time to learn, time to grow, time to build and conquer.  I mean, I am pretty awesome. I'm a total catch. Why would I spend any time on anyone who doesn't see the magic that's overflowing from my boots? Who can't hear the music? Who doesn't see the point of the excitement for life that's glittering in my eyes?
Oh no, no.

Wait for the Fuck Yeah.
Wait. For. It. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

In the meantime

Something switched in my brain this year, that has always been present, but dulled and somewhat faded the last few years of my life.
I've always considered myself a life lover, a feeling feeler and a world taker-inner. Nothing new there. It seems that my days alive right now are a continuous examination of my soul and what makes it tingle. It's as though my brain is a mass of mixed-up wires all tangled and messy, and as soon as the clock strikes 1am, I enter a mental quest to untangle myself, lay each strand down and study it, re-lay it, twist it around a bit, cut it to pieces and stick it back together or just shut it in a drawer and forget about it.

Music seems to make sense, it seems to capture feelings so very well and I love music for that. I read last night that other people can never fulfil your needs, only distract you from the intensity of said needs. That resonates. In my earlier twenties, I didn't really know what my needs were, let alone how to achieve them. So I've written myself a nice little list, in the meantime.

My needs:

1) To be kind, happy and peaceful.

Can't have any of the above without the other. I'm very pleased to have ticked this one off many years ago... at about 17yrs old I found being kind was the answer to most of life's immediate problems. Walk down the street and think positively of other people, and hey presto, meet Self Esteem. Not being negative about other people or circumstances welcomes an absence of bitterness and an overall sense of guilt-free living. So very, very important.

My needs require that I never forget the importance of being kind, and surround myself with people who are also kind. Win win win.

2) To Adventure.

Adventuring on your own is awesome, in the meantime. I highly recommend anyone who wants to, to leave their bed at 2am in the tumbling rain and simply run through empty streets and spin around a bit, in the comfort of being totally alone and totally free to do whatever you like. Feel like a kid again. Drink in the smell of the air and let yourself be brought to tears with happy memories.
This constant tugging at the corner of my mind's t-shirt from my little friend Adventure is both a huge blessing and a tiny curse. I struggle so much with this in relationships, because I'm forever unsatisfied and unfulfilled with anyone who doesn't possess the same magic beans. My needs require my mind to be forever captivated for as long as my lungs wish to exhale the air that I shall run in at 2am.

3) To be happy with an inexpensive life.

This is a relatively new addition to my list. As much as my pinterest boards burst with swanky apartments with huge windows and beds made out of wooden pallets, reality is very different. The worst times in my life are when I cannot sleep for worrying about money. My hair doesn't react well, either, and has been known to fuck off and leave me when times get rough. My needs require that I live a comfortable life in a place I feel cosy, homely and inspired, but also one which is not expensive. The ideal scenario is that England endures an unexpected, yet pleasant shift in climate change, which leads me to build a fantastic house-on-stilts atop a beautiful hill with breathtaking views and cheap floor-to-ceiling windows which can be slid open all day, everyday, with a lovely little lake to swim in each morning. Mortgage free and starry skies every evening. However. In the meantime, I shall make the most of my little lovely countryside apartment, keep it clean and cosy and put up more fairy lights!

4) To be loved in return.

I was having a big old sad think about this the other day - I think I've always been the one who loved more in my previous relationships. I've come to learn that we all express love in different ways though, so next time round I'm going to choose someone who I understand and who understands me, and who is as happy to communicate what they need from me as they are to give to me. In terms of what I need from love though... that's a whole new story that I'm still working on. But the list begins with kindness, magic and adventure. The rest is negotiable! In the meantime, though, fun and romance is always a winner. I've learned to cut my expectations right down and appreciate people for exactly what they are.

5) To learn.

So lately, I've been filling my 3ams with endless wiki-ing and reading and documentary watching, and I cannot believe I haven't done this sooner. The last week, I've thoroughly researched lives of Sylvia Plath (obsessed), Ted Hughes, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Steven Hawking, The Bronte Sisters, Steve Jobs, Shakespeare, and Anais Nin. I've watched documentaries on the universe, started reading my old Philosophy books, and generally begun my slow metamorphosis into a sponge. The more I can learn about this world while I have the time to do so, the better. So much out there. What's the point in being alive if you aren't going to learn as much as possible? My needs require that I always make time for learning, and spend time with people who can teach me new things always. Everyone knows something you don't... and in the meantime, I'm on a mission to find it all out.

In the meantime, I plan on being the nicest, coolest, happiest and best person I can be. I'm gonna leave this world with stars in my eyes and grass stains all over my clothes. Yep, yep. That'll do it.