maybe I should stay like this.

“Do you ever wish you’d just like… break your leg or something?”

My barista pressed a button that set something to whirring and then raised her eyebrows at me. I waited for five seconds while she said nothing.

“Or maybe that’s weird…” I continued slowly.

“No!” she said finally, her voice really high up there. “No… I’ve thought that before. Kinda.”

“It’s just… it’s not that I don’t love my job and enjoy my classes and ALL of that; I do! You just get tired sometimes, you know?” She nodded, agreeing with all of this. When my drink was ready, she placed it onto the bar.

“I hope the rest of your day goes well and that it ends with you in one piece… or not?” she smiled.

I smiled back at her, taking the mug with my left hand. I didn’t know what I really wanted to have happen, either.

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And on my way out of this cafe, which is actually inside of a library, I walked along glass walls and then out through glass doors. Just outside of these doors are 6 potted poinsettia plants: candy red, just beautiful. I’ve been noticing them for the last week.

I love plants AND weird, awkward things, so – just for fun – I asked myself: “What would that police guard and team of desk librarians do if they saw me pick up a poinsettia plant right now, like it was nothing, and then continue walking away with it?”

I didn’t do this (of course — that would be STEALING; see here for my feelings on stealing), but for kicks, I kept imagining doing it and then imagining how strangely it could all play out — what kind of chaos or lack of chaos would ensue. I wanted to star in and film the whole thing. (Sidebar: I’m auditioning for Matilda in February… isn’t that cool?!)

Anyways, thoughts like these made me chuckle as I neared the car, and when I passed by a young couple who’d obviously seen and heard me chuckling to myself, I thought to myself that they probably thought I was crazy, and this made me laugh until I cried.

***

“So you spent a lot of time on boats, then,” I said, summarizing things. This was inside of a different cafe, the evening before the imagined poinsettia incident.

“Only a year,” he clarified.

Even sitting in a chair he looked tall; this six-foot-whatever ex-army-or-navy dude I’d met on Bumble. I had been gently declining his invites to meet up over the past couple of days, but when he’d been sorta insistent about seeing me this evening, I thought that maybe the universe was nudging me toward the one. Ha. He’d wanted to order a brewski when we first got there but they weren’t serving alcohol for some reason, so he’d settled on an iced cold brew. I was extremely happy with my white chocolate peppermint latte.

“Then I started flying planes,” he said.

“Interesting. What kinds of planes?” He told me about them. I like learning about various modes of transportation.

“Was it very scary — falling asleep on a ship with a million billion weapons and then flying around everywhere?”

He shook his head no. “The only scary thing was when my instructor asked me to intentionally spin the plane out. I had to do this because he needed to see that I’d know how to correct it.” I loved this. I will always remember this about him.

Algae (not his real name) was VERY interesting, no doubt; tall, wealthy, brilliant… hunk-like, I guess… he was, by most girls’ standards, a real catch. But there was no chemistry between us.

He was in Alabama for another week and then heading back up to DC, where he’d be working about a mile from the pentagon. At some point during our conversation, he’d talked about maybe flying down to Brazil without any kind of excitement — like it was as ehhh as maybe walking into Publix for some Eggos. Meanwhile, I had looked forward to visiting Ecuador for 10 stinkin’ months; dreaming of it, planning for it, talking about it incessantly… and I’d have it no other way, really. I’m glad it was such a big deal for me. I always want it to be like that.

I’d made my decision in less than an hour, so I told him I needed to go grab food for my roommates from the grocery store next door (and I did; I don’t lie). We left the cafe then and when I gave him a side hug goodbye, I noticed his eyes drop to waist-level just before I turned away. Dummy.

I bought 5 frozen burritos and drove home.

***

“Do you really think there’s only one one?” a friend asked recently.

I thought about it, but only for a second. “Nope,” I texted back.

I used to think there WAS only one one, back in the day, but now – older and wiser and way less naive – I believe (like my friend) that there are lots of people we’re compatible with and that different folks will compliment us slash change us (because change is inevitable) in different ways. Statistically-speaking, out of 11 in-person dates, I’ve already found three guys I’m very compatible with: Corey, Matt, and the stupid Captain. Do I still miss the captain? Yes, somewhat… and I cannot STAND it, because he obviously isn’t thinking about me AT ALL. The grand idiot. If he was a STUPID latte, he’d be a size GRANDE. Unless that’s not actually the largest size.

Anyways, the same friend who asked this question also sent me a podcast about love and dating apps. (She sent three podcasts, in fact, and threatened to unfriend me the very next day if I hadn’t listened to at least one of them… #HIGH #MAINTENANCE.)

So I listened to half of one to appease her, and what I heard during those ten minutes is still sticking with me. It was something about how there are different facets to love, or to a successful relationship: there’s chemistry, yeah (and that’s what we all get the most excited about), but then there’s also behavior… and not just “beginning of the relationship” behavior, but trends. Behavior trends. How the person is, and usually is; how they react to this and that, and how we feel about their temperament and these reactions. It takes time to observe these things.

And then there’s a third thing that I’m just going to throw in there (because it makes sense to me): lifestyle. Lifestyle and behavior are two different things, I think.

Basically, the podcast people and I were discovering that chemistry, alone, isn’t enough for a relationship to stay cohesive. Neither is having a similar lifestyle if the chemistry isn’t there. And it ALSO won’t work if your lifestyles vibe and the chemistry is there but the person’s behavior is, in some way, irreconcilably off from what you’re okay or comfortable with. (While a little bit of adjusting and compromising is normal, there’s definitely a point…)

Try picturing a successful relationship as a triple threat; you’ve heard of that, right? A person who can sing, dance, AND act? Well here’s my version of a triple threat: a latte. It’s coffee, creamer (aka 2-3 three pumps of flavor), and whipped cream. And a healthy, balanced relationship will have these three components in harmony with one other.

When I think about lifestyle (the thing I added), I think similarities (as in interests/hobbies). Like:

  • “We’re both vegetarians!”
  • “We both like to hike!”
  • “We’re both into chillwave music!”
  • “We both can’t stand Donald Trump!”
  • “We BOTH think kangaroos are frickin cute, you stupid idiot man!”

But in addition to sharing some hobbies and interests and a great disdain for presidential assclowns, the lifestyle component has another VERY important aspect to it, and I’ll demonstrate this with an example:

One guy I was talking to (on OK Cupid) was really funny and exceptional, so we made plans to get dinner together. Then, BEFORE our dinner date rolled around, he let it slip, via text, that he’s a christian.

Mannnnnnnnnn, I exhaled. This was an immediate deal breaker for me.

I canceled dinner and then accidentally scheduled lunch with him (I know! what the heck!). So now, I’m trying to figure out how to cancel that, too, and just straight up tell him that we cannot date.

Do you think that’s insane? Discriminatory? Really unreasonable? Because I don’t. Here’s why: Values. They’ve been on my mind all week. Values are the things that deeply resonate with you; the things you believe in so strongly that you live and, almost without realizing it, judge by them.

Anyways, I spent a few minutes asking myself what my values were on Friday. It was surprisingly easy for me to define them:

  1. Kindness
  2. Honesty
  3. Creativity
  4. Appreciation
  5. Love

The next question I asked myself was, do I want to be with someone whose values mirror my own EXACTLY? Or someone who holds different values that I could benefit from, and vice versa?

Because here’s the thing: You’ll probably end up spending more time with your person than with anyone else. The things they know, you’ll know; the way they think and believe and view the world will, inevitably, influence your own thoughts and beliefs (to an extent).

So you need to ask yourself: Are they going to exert a good influence on me? Challenge me to grow, to become better? Are their unique values going to add to my own collection, or is their influence going to be toxic? Could it be dangerous? Are they going to bring me down, in other words?

Another big question: Am I going to weigh them down?

Whew. I don’t want to ever weigh anybody down, which is why I’m constantly writing — I do this to connect with others, yes, but mostly, to maintain my own sense of clarity and stability. You and your person should support each other, for sure, but not depend on one other. Doing the latter is extremely unhealthy.

You’ve gotta fix yourself — nobody else can. They can help DISTRACT you from yourself, but then you’re just letting shit fester forever. My strongest piece of advice today? TAKE A DEEP, HARD LOOK AT THE THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE… because I promise: You’ll feel better as slash after you figure it all out.

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this is me in the middle of figuring everything out

I know I’ve gone for those savior-and-saved relationships before because I wanted to feel needed; it made me feel safe. But now, I just want to be wanted — as in: My presence and company enhance another person’s existence; they aren’t the focal points of their existence. This is a pretty big shift, yeah, and while it makes me feel really vulnerable right now, I think that, in the end, it’ll be a lot better for my self-esteem if I know I’m with someone who wants me instead of needs me.

But going back to our example (Christian guy): If I were to date a Christian, having been a Christian myself, I know how it would go: They’d be all worried over my “salvation” and hoping I’d “come around” while I’d be annoyed that they were bugging me about my “salvation” and “expecting me to change.” So forget about it. Forget ALL about it, man.

And I’m not JUST avoiding Christians, either; anybody who’s devoutly religious and into any creed has my respect, for sure, but they’re also NOT on my dating list. Why? There’s a severe contrast in values there. We both may feel the same about not lying, not cheating, and not stealing, and you’d think that’d be enough… but they’ve got a god that their life revolves around, and I do not. Religion is a value, and it’s a very strong one. This is how I feel about it, anyways.

Friends have even suggested (mostly because of how “moral” and “prude-like” I am) that I just date a christian who’s not “super into it”, but I’d respect this person even less for half-assedly adhering to something that, if it really DOES resonate with their soul as being true, should have all of their devotion.

So my dating pool = atheists and agnostics only. And I’m shooting for ones who have their own weird, made-up morals, like me.

Now, I’ve got my list of 5 values; yours may be different entirely or, more likely, there could be a shared space between us. I think having a shared space (like on a Venn diagram) and not a mirror image of values is key. Why? Because then, there’s a strong sense of familiarity while still allowing room for both people to stretch, see things differently, and grow because of each other.

My dad, for instance; I can tell you that one of his consistent, deeply-embedded values is having nice things. I wanted to try the violin out when I was 15, right, and specifically asked for a piece-of-shit starter instrument (because I, reasonable and thrifty as ever, didn’t know how things would go yet), but he insisted on getting something name-brand and fancy anyways. He’s always into the newest phone, greatest TV, latest whatever. Nothing wrong with that at all… he just appreciates having and using nice things.

Well I went on a date with a physicist yesterday afternoon and then called my dad later on in the evening to tell him about it. Right in the middle of me beginning to talk about another guy I was getting to know (a forester-farmer who sends me videos of creeks and cows and pictures of sunrises), my dad said: “The physicist.”

“…yeah,” I said, pausing to switch gears. “I like him, dad! We’re getting lunch together next Saturday.” And I do like the physicist; despite his smartness and stability (warning signs of boringness, haha), Zach (not his real name) has got a fun, quirky side. He keeps interesting lists on his phone, for instance (like: dumb horror movie plot ideas, original puns and insults, and media suggestions with friends’ names attached to them so he can gauge the quality of their future recommendations), and we both spent fifteen minutes happily thumbing through and describing gumball charms in an antique shop yesterday afternoon, pretending we were on one of those weird QVC sales channels. Again — he’s fun. I’m definitely going to keep seeing him.

“Forget the farmer guy… this physicist could take CARE of you,” my dad continued. “You could live in a MANSION.”

“Padre… I don’t WANT a mansion,” I laughed. “And you KNOW this. I don’t like things. I want a small old home on some land, for the shepherds, and I want to travel. That’s it. As long as the little house is warm, and the food is good, and there’s a river or a creek nearby, I’m happy.”

“Are you high?” my dad asked later.

“WHAT? No, dad! Jeez… it isn’t legal here yet. I’m only high when I’m in a state where it’s legal to be high.” I paused. “But I’m looking at socks at Target while talking with you, so it’s basically LIKE I’m high.”

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= me trying to pick one pair of socks @ Target… chaotic

***

One day last week, I went to pick up Indian food on my lunch break. When I arrived, the veggie samosas weren’t quite ready yet, but I told the server I was happy to wait. As I danced on the balls of my feet, Charlie and I’s favorite waitress walked by; with dark hair and dark eyes and the VERY best accent, she’s a completely magical character, just full of mystery and intrigue.

Whenever she speaks, I try to memorize every word she says. I remember her asking us, back around new year’s, whether we wished to go backwards or forwards in time. We both answered and then when I asked her which she would do, she just said “2012” and walked away. I wanted to know so much more.

“So… how are things?” she asked me.

“Goooooooood,” I sang out, smiling. I raised my eyebrows at her. “I’ve actually been dating a bunch of guys recently, trying to find the one.” I know there’s more than one ONE, but I still like to say the one.

Her jaw dropped and she reached her hand across the counter, taking mine in it. She fell silent for a minute, and it surprised me a little.

“It’s hard,” she said finally, awkwardly patting my gloved hand. “I am single. I want them to take me to dinner, to movie… this is not what they want.” She paused. “American, Indian, Spanish… they all the same. They all cheat.”

I felt heartbroken for both of us.

When the samosas were ready, someone else brought them. I said thank you to the person, took them, and then looked over at my friend again; she gave me a beautiful, hopeful, knowing smile. I wished, then, not to go backwards and change things, but to move bravely and cautiously forward. I also wished us both happiness someday.

***

On Friday night, I didn’t want any dates. I wanted to stay home and drink wine and do schoolwork, but I was out of wine, so I just drank water and did schoolwork. Charlie had invited me to come with him to a karaoke party at someone’s house, but that someone was an old jackass I’d dated, so I said no thanks.

My other roommate, Jordan, stayed at home to watch anime, and when I asked him, after about an hour of Spanish, if he wanted to watch Airbender with me later, he said yes. So we drove to Publix together for chips and yogurt and ice cream and then sat down on the couch with a fat Shepherd between us, uninterruptedly blazing through six episodes of the show. It was wonderful. I ate way more ice cream than he did and kept getting the names of the characters wrong; we laughed a lot.

I woke up with the same fat Shepherd in bed with me upstairs and another one sprawled out on the floor. The familiar old house was quiet and warm. Looking to the window, I could see bamboo stretching across the side yard, curving the light with shadows.

Maybe I should just stay like this for a while, I thought to myself.

***

I’m wrapping this post up at my favorite cafe and then hanging out with Matt again — remember him? The smart and snarky guy who manages a bike shop? Well he’s going to show me some music production software that he uses and then we’re going Christmas shopping together (his idea!) and getting dinner @ Rojo. It’s our third date and I haven’t scared the guy off yet! Go me! 

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I’ve deleted both dating apps from my phone. I’m going to continue talking with the guys I’ve already met, to see if we can be friends or get married to each other someday, but if everything just fizzles out, I’ll be okay with it. I think I’d rather just see what happens than make things happen, moving forward. I like planning adventures, orchestrating music, and writing stories — not relationships.

Love should surprise you, I think… like Alabama snow, and like the surprise plates mom would make for me and Bobby, back when we were kids. I don’t want to see it coming. I don’t want to know when it’s on the way, how long it will take to get here, or what it’s supposed to look like. When I see it, and when I feel it, I’ll just know.

And in the meantime, everything’s alright already. Like: I got to see red and green traffic lights in a puddle last night and then watch a yellow leaf fall to someone’s driveway this morning. Perfect. And when I had my window rolled down on Thursday evening, driving to my first author reading ever where I actually read something, I could hear two people laughing as they crossed the street. Their laughter was so soul-stirringly beautiful.

Do you notice things like these? I’m beginning to believe that happiness can be very easy to find when you aren’t grasping after it — when you just let it come to you.

If you’d like a song suggestion, here’s my numero uno right now. Thanks, Cate!

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swiping left on dating apps for the next little while… happy rest-of-December, folks!

Still here,

Aun Aqui

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Personal stories, lengthy rants, and lighthearted explosions of optimism, all neatly bundled into one blog.

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