I went on 50 first dates, one in every state, for a few reasons: because I wanted to prove dating didn’t suck. Because I wanted something to write about and dating was prevalent in my life anyway. Because talking to strangers makes me ridiculously happy and energetic. Because dating sometimes equals kissing. Most of all though, it was because I fundamentally understood something about me needed to change, but I didn’t have a grasp on what that something was.
I’ve always written things down for myself. Reminders and affirmations never fail to wind up on notes around my room. But in the privacy of my own journal, there were other kinds of notes (these all taken from college years, about 12 years ago):
Not exactly Pulitzer Prize winning material, sure. I wish I could tell you that my more recent self-hatred was more articulate, and certainly in some ways it was. Poetry. Bigger words. Sleeker insults. Even more constant self criticism. Only slightly less angst combined with a similar level of catastrophizing (at least until about four years ago when I got a lot better at taking things less seriously).
I can see now what needed to change when it came to dating wasn’t my relationship with other people: it was my relationship with myself. Which became even more of a reality when I wrote myself this note early this year:
Things were not getting a lot better. I’d gotten really good at thinking things were better. And I’d gotten really good at hiding that things were bad. And for most intents and purposes, I was absolutely a fully functional human being: doing well at work, making it to soccer, working out. It wasn’t like my self-hatred had let me to lying in bed all day (though I fully admit to wishing I was built that way each morning when I got up).
It’s funny how when you put your mind to something, you really can change. I looked at that post-it note a few times over the next few weeks, and thought about how dire the situation was that even I was thinking somewhat externally, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this and I need to speak to myself in my own language.” I took that note seriously. I did everything I suggested to myself (and one heck of a lot more – which is the subject of several other posts, and maybe eventually, part of the subject of a book).
The 50/50 project eventually showed me that I was chasing the wrong answer because I was asking the wrong question (those cow-print earmuffs if you recall). It had occurred to me that I was the problem, but it hadn’t occurred to me how.
I think everyone – myself included – sort of hoped 50/50 was going to end with a diamond ring (actually, I’d prefer an opal or pearl or turquoise or really anything not diamond related…but I digress); I mean, who likes dating stories that end with being single?
Which leads me to my most recent note.
Sure, there’s not a picket fence and a puppy. But I didn’t come away from this alone: I came away having met people who literally knocked my socks off. I came away having met the people who would push me toward this change. I came away having loved someone else with reckless abandon.
Most of all, I came with a completely changed relationship with myself.
And who’s to say the story is over? When it comes to dating and love, I kind of think the story is just beginning.