Lessons yet to learn

So I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. You all know how that goes. Anyway, here’s a quick summary of what’s been on my mind:

I belong to a small group at my church through the Just Faith program. The nine of us share the desire to become more compassionate, help others, find more meaning in life, and strengthen our faith. I never would have joined a group like this while I was in school, because I always felt I was too busy. I never really thought about personal growth; I was too focused on classes, swim team, and my peers. Which is not a bad thing. But my outlook has changed a lot over the last several months, and I’m grateful that I was inspired and available to join this group.

I still struggle to do the right thing, because the right thing doesn’t always present itself in black-and-white. While I want to give money every time a cashier asks me “Would you like to donate to such-and-such today?”, I have to say no because at my age, it’s important that I save the little money I make to secure my own future. When people I know make ignorant and incompassionate comments about those less fortunate than us, I bite my tongue because starting a debate won’t solve anything. And though being nice to everyone seems like the right thing to do, it often backfires. Especially for me, because men tend to mistake politeness for flirting, and I end up dealing with unwanted attention from all the wrong guys.

But I’m working on it. Sometimes I wish I had a life coach telling me exactly what the right thing to do is. Not just for others, but for myself. Figuring it out on my own is the best way though. While browsing at Barnes and Nobles one day, I read the first chapter of the memoir “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”, in which Anna Quindlen writes about this idea:

I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space, but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It’s a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error.

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My dating standards

  1. A laid-back personality. There is nothing I hate more than someone yelling–at me, at other people, or just yelling over a football game or something stupid like that. My guy can absolutely not be short-tempered. If there’s one thing I won’t tolerate in a relationship, it’s someone picking fights, starting debates, and getting worked up over petty things.
  2. Kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and caring. Not just towards me, but towards other people. Especially the poor, hungry, and powerless. They say your character is how you treat those who can’t do anything for you. My perfect man should have great character.
  3. Sweet and affectionate to me. And only me. I can’t stand guys who flirt with everyone. He shouldn’t give me any reason to doubt the relationship or feel jealous. It’s that whole trust thing.
  4. Crazy about me–but not literally. Sure, I want someone who wants to spend all our time together and is always thinking about me. But sometimes guys overdo it. They become obsessed: calling ten times a day, sending text after text even when I don’t respond (“hey”, “what are you doing?”, “Helloooo?”, “????”, “r u alive?”), wanting me to give them all my time and energy. The ideal guy will not develop an unhealthy obsession with me.
  5. Open-minded to my faith. I’m not too picky when it comes to religion. I’m Catholic, but I won’t try to convert whoever I date. I just ask that they do the same. Like, don’t question what I believe or try to convince me that organized religion is wrong. I want to get married in the church, and if, when the time comes, he isn’t willing to go along with that simple request, maybe he’s not the right one after all.
  6. Tasteful. Not just in the movies they watch, the music they listen to, and the clothes they wear. But also in their behavior and rhetoric. I find foul language extremely distasteful. My ideal won’t be obnoxious, foul-mouthed, listen to the likes of Miley Cyrus or Chris Brown, like idiotic films like The Hangover, or drive around with rims and a deafening muffler. Bleh!
  7. Fun to talk to. A pet peeve of mine is when a guy texts or IMs me and doesn’t bother to form complete thoughts or sentences. I have no interest in texting someone who sends me the following messages: Wyd?, Hey, Sup, How r u? Is it really that hard to type out a whole word?! And if I text you something and you reply “whatever”…oh no. That word is so rude and lazy. I’m a writer, I like words. Use your words!!
  8. On the same wavelength as me. I can only connect with someone if we think alike when it comes to what really matters in life. For example, if a guy is driven by money and power, he won’t mesh with me because I value the simple joys in life (which are usually free).
  9. Humble. It seems like a lot of guys I know are conceited and arrogant. They always talk about themselves, and never fail to mention how many degrees they have, how much money they make, how many girls they’re going out with. Newsflash: I’m not impressed by any of it.
  10. Then there are the usual things: must love dogs, athletic, sense of humor, no drugs, within 5 years of my age, honest, loyal, not a player. And the deal-breakers: bad hygiene, immaturity, frat boy, judgemental, overly suggestive.

Who are you?

This morning I stumbled upon a wonderful blog by a lady named Dee, who seems to be very spiritually in-touch. In her “About me” post, she says: 

“By the way, my heart is where I really live. It is the place where I am the truest me. My circumstances, experiences, careers, relationships, and possessions do not define who I am…they are blessings, fruits and extensions.. another of the valuable lessons i have learned along the journey.” http://deeclarknz.com/about-2/

This statement struck me, because I feel exactly the same way. When someone tries to get to know you, they typically ask the same questions: What do you do for a living? Where are you from? Are you married/dating? What did you study in school? Etc., etc… I, for one, am sick of answering these questions. Maybe it’s because the answers are a little unsatisfying and don’t give justice to who I am on the inside.

We are so much more than our jobs, our marital status, our education, our salary. In my faith group we discussed a quote that goes something like this: The gateway to life is narrow, not because it is meant to only let a few through, but because we are so vast. Every human on the planet is a vast, extraordinary being, and we shouldn’t rank them based on what they have or don’t have. No individual is more valuable than another.

So instead of getting to know someone by grilling them with the 20 questions, try to discover who they are in their heart, where they are their truest self. They will appreciate you for it.

You don’t know you’re beautiful. Or do you..?

We’ve all heard the One Direction song that goes “You don’t know you’re beautiful…that’s what makes you beautiful.” This song was a huge hit, and I think it’s because a lot of girls relate to the lyrics. They like to think of themselves as the girl in the song; they want guys to think they’re beautiful, even if they can’t see the beauty in themselves. Every girl wants to be told she’s beautiful, especially since many of us are insecure about our looks. Makes sense.

But, ladies, are we insecure? Or could it be the opposite? There is a girl I follow on Instagram who constantly posts “selfies.” She looks nice in all of these pictures, even the ones with hashtag-no-filter or hashtag-no-makeup. Oh, whatever! In every picture, her hair is shiny, her skin is flawless, she has a nice outfit on, and she looks cute (let’s be honest, no girl would post a picture of herself on the internet if she didn’t look cute in it). Well the other day I was strolling through the grocery store and did a double take when I saw this Insta-girl down the aisle. Unlike the person represented on her Instagram account, she looked twice her age, was wearing sweatpants, hair in a messy bun…the girl looked a hot mess!

I couldn’t help but wonder on my way home from the store: why does this girl post so many pictures of herself online but obviously doesn’t take time to look presentable in, um…real life? Is it that she’s conceited and wants to show off when she looks good? Or is she so insecure that she feels the need to portray herself as this gorgeous person to her social network?

  • Disclaimer: I’m not saying this particular girl isn’t pretty, because she is, very much so…but her online image did not match the way she looked in person. I personally think that every girl/lady/woman is beautiful in her own unique way. 🙂

I realized that I am the same way to an extent. I wouldn’t put an unflattering picture of myself online. But I do resist the urge to post selfies. It really is obnoxious and it only tells people that you’re narcissistic and over-confident. Or under-confident and in need of a few “likes” to boost your ego. If a girl posts a selfie more frequently than once a week, I start to wonder about her. In my opinion, this whole trend is a result of my generation’s odd combination of insecurity and narcissism.  

So I decided to change my Facebook profile picture to a picture that looks like the everyday me–not some dolled-up, filtered version of myself. It’s a post-race pic from my most recent 5K, and I look less than perfect. I’m okay with that. My hair is pulled back in a messy ponytail, I have very minimal makeup, running clothes, and of course I’m drenched in sweat. I’m a runner, that’s how I normally look. I won’t get all made-up and edit pictures of myself to convince the world I look like a model, but I also don’t need some boy band to sing me a song about how I’m turning heads when I walk through the door. Thanks for the sentiment, One Direction, but I’m good.

Can’t hurry love

The other day in the YMCA locker room, I overheard an older lady telling another lady that she’d attended two weddings this summer: one for a nephew, the other for her sister. “My sister’s engagement was a big shock,” she explained. “She is 64 and has never been married; he is 69 and has never been married. And get this–they’ve been going together for 40 years!” I thought, this has Golden Girls written all over it! (In case you didn’t know, it’s my favorite show. Christopher Lloyd is brilliant.)

One of my favorite aspects of Golden Girls is that these four women are still dating in their 50s, 60s, and beyond. I especially love Dorothy’s story. You see, Dorothy had married a schmuck named Stan at a young age because she was pregnant, and eventually divorced him when he cheated on her. I love that she gets her chance at true love on the final season of the show, when Blanche introduces her to her uncle Lucas and the two get married.

A lot of people in their 20s feel as if they need to settle down and get married. Sometimes you find someone who brings you some mediocre level of happiness and you decide you might as well stick with them. I mean, they’re good enough, your biological clock is ticking, and all your friends are getting married. But sometimes waiting is good.

I recently stumbled upon this quote, which I saved because it is so accurate: “There are three types of people in the dating world: 1.) the players, 2.) those who are in a hurry to get married, 3.) those who are genuinely waiting for their shot at true love.” As a hopeless romantic (and I do mean hopeless), I definitely fall into the third group.

If you wouldn’t shout from the rooftops how much you love this person, if you don’t tell all your friends about them, if you aren’t proud to show them off to your family, then you need to think: do I really love them, or am I just settling for them? No one wants to settle, and no one wants to be settled for. It’s unfair to both parties.

I listened amusedly as the locker room lady continued, saying, “When I got the wedding invitation in the mail, I thought, ‘Is this a joke?'” I must admit that it’s a little strange to wait 40 years to propose to your significant other. Wouldn’t you know after the first, oh I dunno, 10 years?? But anyway, I’m happy they got their happy ending. 🙂

Love doesn’t have to happen in your 20s. You could find it in your teens, in your 90s, or any time in between. And when you do find the right person, you’ll want to shout it from the rooftops (as will they). Sometimes love takes its time, so you must be patient. In the meantime, have your own life and find out how to be happy without a significant other. By the time Mr./Mrs. Right does come along, you’ll have lots of wonderful traits to share with them.

“Describe the perfect man,”

said my health teacher on our last day of class as she handed us each an index card. I was silently celebrating the end of the most awkward class of my high-school career: sex ed. Our teacher was a spunky, tell-it-like-it-is kind of lady. And we were a bunch of Catholic-school girls in blazers and plaid skirts (some shorter than others, a measurement which was directly correlated with social status). The assignment was to list traits we wanted in a future husband. “You need to start thinking about what’s important to you. You need to set standards,” she lectured. The little cogs in my under-developed brain began turning. And my 15-year-old self concocted the following list, word-for-word (prefaced by the statement “I want to be an independent woman! But if that doesn’t work out, my man has to be…):

  • tall
  • handsome
  • pale
  • black hair
  • conservative
  • well-educated
  • not a slob
  • funny
  • laundry-doing
  • non-jerk
  • likes animals
  • polite
  • loving
  • no drugs
  • no more than 7 years older than me

Okay, okay. So some of these items are negotiable–like, I’m not sure why I thought paleness was an important trait; maybe because the Twilight series had me in a vampire craze? However, I like my list and I’m sticking to it! (Er, for the most part.)

Since I wrote that list, I’ve been on a few dates here and there and I’ve had one long-term relationship. But none of those guys quite fit this description. At the age of 22, I’m starting to see many of my peers get married, and–I’m not going to lie–it’s putting me in a mild panic. While I’m sitting around waiting for Prince Charming/Edward Cullen to come along, all the guys my age are getting snatched up. My pool from which to choose is dwindling.

I know, I know, I’m being a little melodramatic. But dating can be a daunting thing for today’s young adult. Many young people are already divorced. Many already have children. Even in their 20s, singles come with baggage that complicates their relationships. Furthermore, in our increasingly promiscuous society, people have varying ideas of what a relationship entails. Finding a gentleman who isn’t already taken or emotionally unavailable is not easy. And where to find them? I don’t go to bars to meet guys, because I don’t want the kind of guy who hangs out at bars. Nice guys have the same problem with meeting people. I can only imagine they struggle to find a girl who isn’t catty, spoiled, gold-digging, or “plastic.”

It’s taken a while, but I think the lesson my health teacher taught us that day has finally sunk in. We shouldn’t settle for someone who doesn’t meet our standards, even if it seems like that ideal person will never come along. As you mature, dating becomes more than just a fun game; it’s the journey to finding your life companion. Everyone you date will have flaws. You have to consciously think about which flaws you’re willing to live with (it’s okay if Prince Charming/Edward Cullen doesn’t have black hair, but doing drugs is a deal-breaker). I believe the trick is finding someone whose flaws only make you love them more.

The best is yet to come

I went through something of a quarter-life crisis when I turned 21. I realized that after this birthday, there would be no more big (or at least no exciting) milestones. It had always been “13, finally a teenager!” or “16, finally a licensed driver!” or “18, finally an adult!” Then it happened. The birthday I’d always anticipated: 21, when everything becomes legal (except renting a car–why is that?). After that birthday, I had no other birthdays to look forward to. From this point forward, I was simply aging.

You may think I’m crazy for thinking like this, but hear me out–I noticed a marked difference in my birthday messages when I opened my cards on my 22nd birthday. They all read something along the lines of, “Happy birthday! Hope you have many more!” Or in other words, “Have a good day, try not to die this year!” Of course I’m over analyzing, but check your birthday cards and tell me that I’m not right!

I eventually got over my quarter-life crisis with the help of four amazing ladies: Blanche, Sophia, Rose, and Dorothy. The Golden Girls gives a positive perspective on aging in this youth-obsessed culture. These ladies show us that life can still be fun, new, and exciting, even after 80. Just look at all the adventures Sophia gets into. She’s still dating and going to parties. And check out Blanche—proof that you can still look great when you’re over-the-hill. The quarter-life crisis phenomena is real (I didn’t just make this up), and characterized by the feeling that life is over because you’re no longer a teenager or even a college kid, but a full-fledged adult. Of course, I am nostalgic for those high school days. And I’d love to stay in college forever. But the Golden Girls inspire me. I feel like there are more adventures and great friendships yet to come. If anyone else is dreading leaving college behind or turning another year older or going through some life transition, I strongly encourage you to sit down with America’s sweethearts and try not to worry about it. In my personal experience, I’ve found life gets better as it progresses.