Two weeks ago, I shared some of the conversation I have with myself before going on a date. These are moments of alternately being critical of and being kind to myself. These moments are vulnerable and filled with anxiety. Maybe you were able to empathize. Maybe you saw yourself in that conversation. Maybe this helped you understand what the person on the other side of the dating spectrum might feel like.
This week, I thought I would share some of the conversation I have with myself after going on a date.
I ask myself, was he kind?
I ask myself, did he seem interested in you?
I ask myself, did he ask good questions?
I ask myself, did the conversation feel natural?
I ask myself, did he seem nervous?
I ask myself, did he put some effort into his physical appearance for this date?
I ask myself, did the time go quickly?
I ask myself, did you find his personality attractive?
I ask myself, did you find him physically attractive?
I ask myself, is there anything you talked about that you want to follow up on?
I ask myself, is he relationship material, or only good for/looking for casual dating?
I ask myself, can I see him fitting in with my friend group?
I ask myself, did you feel more anxious or happy while you were with him?
I ask myself, did he respect your boundaries?
I ask myself, did he seem open to talking about himself?
I ask myself, does he have ambition?
I ask myself, if you had met at a party, would you have been interested in him? Why or why not?
I ask myself, was there a connection?
I ask myself, would I rather just be friends with this person?
I ask myself, if he doesn't want a second date, would I be disappointed because I really wanted to see him again, or because I feel rejected?
I ask myself, did he seem honest?
I ask myself, is he your "type?" Is it okay if he isn't?
I ask myself, did he make his intentions clear?
I ask myself, did smiling during the date feel easy or forced?
I ask myself, was he polite?
I ask myself, are we too alike?
I ask myself, are we too different?
I ask myself, where can we go from here?
I would love to hear some of your pre and post-date analysis!
Twentysomething is a word I see floating around all over the internet. It's a way that people, particularly women (it seems to me) describe themselves in profiles, posts, and about me sections. Twentysomething is like an identity, a way to quickly place yourself in space and time.
And yet, I can't help but wonder if this term is harmful. I will turn 25 in a couple of weeks. Every year I have fought my battles and gained ground. Every year I have grown, doubted myself, lost friends, made friends, changed my mind about things, changed my style, changed my priorities. If you tell me a year, I can tell you something important that happened to me during it. I can tell you 5 things, probably.
To me, twentysomething almost wipes away the struggle of each of those years, blends them into one. That decade becomes one long, playful year, and when you reach 30, you're ready...for what? For the years to start mattering again?
We have likely all heard about the lost 20's. About people taking longer to grow up. About people using their 20s to explore, delaying career and family decisions until their 30's. About people taking more time with their education, with identifying identity. Lost meaning delayed. Lost meaning "life" has been pushed back a decade, in lieu of (?) something else.
Maybe this is where the word twentysomething comes from. Twentysomething means, I'm there in that mess somewhere. Twentysomething means, I'm figuring it out, maybe.
Or maybe twentysomething is just brevity. Twentysomething is, it doesn't matter to you whether I'm 20 or 24 or 29; that number doesn't tell you about my struggle, my story. Twentysomething is, I don't update this bio very option, so it will stay accurate much longer this way than if I posted my actual age. Twentysomething is, you don't need to know my actual age, a protection of privacy. Twentysomething is, here, you get the idea.
It is likely that I've described myself in this way before, with this term, as a twentysomething. Many of you likely have this word attached to yourself in some way. Good, let's talk about it! My aim is to start a discussion. My aim is to encourage us to think about the ways we identify ourselves, to think about the language we assign to ourselves. We live in a culture of buzzwords, of word vomit. We consume it all day and it becomes us. It is called word vomit because it comes out without thought, because we cannot help it. I don't want a key descriptor of myself to by involuntary.
And yet, there too is the word 30's, used earlier in this very essay. Is this the same as twentysomething? I could almost say yes and shut my mouth about this whole thing...but the connotation seems different to me. It's something with the word "something," I think. It's the way it dismisses the latter part of the age where a 4 or 8 or 1 should be with a wave of the hand. 30's doesn't attempt to guess. It admits to its scope.
After I passed my thesis defense, my advisor asked me what my plans were after graduate school. I told him I didn't know. I told him, I'm only 23. He said, don't do that.
In fiction workshops, we always ask, what does this character want? We ask this because desire is the primary driving force for action. This is an important question for life, too. Perhaps the most important question. That's what he was asking me that day.
I have been asked this question many times since then, mostly in regards to career, and I still don't have a great answer to it, but now it's not because I haven't thought about it. I have, and I'm reading, and I'm trying things out, and I'm thinking about it every.damn.day.
Perhaps I have digressed a little. What I mean to say is that your years matter, and whether you are making big decisions or small decisions, whether you are on a career path or not, whether you've started a family or not, whether you have a 10 year plan or are still figuring out this question of what you want in life, you are moving forward every day. Or at least, I hope you are.
Maybe your age doesn't tell your story to anyone else; everyone has their own path in this world. But, those years matter to you. That number means something to you. Be aware of the passing time, be present, be thoughtful. And don't let anyone–not culture, not yourself–rob you of that.
I tell myself, ask good questions. Don't let the conversation lull too long.
I tell myself, smile.
I tell myself, it's okay to be nervous.
I tell myself, you are too fat for anyone to love you.
I tell myself, you are a catch and anyone would be lucky to have the opportunity to be with you.
I tell myself, just enjoy the process.
I tell myself, this is good research. This will come in handy for some writing project down the road.
I tell myself, if you change your attitude about dating, it will be easier and more enjoyable.
I tell myself, I don't like dating.
I tell myself, don't drink too much. You need to be able to drive yourself home.
I tell myself, don't forget to send the address to a friend.
I tell myself, not everyone will be your soulmate.
I tell myself, it's okay to be with someone who is good for you right now.
I tell myself, more awkward people than you have done this.
I tell myself, he's just as anxious as you.
I tell myself, laugh at yourself.
I tell myself, don't wear the lipstick in case it goes well and there's a kiss at the end.
I tell myself, don't wear the lipstick in case it moves while you're eating.
I tell myself, wear the damn lipstick because you'll feel pretty in it.
I tell myself, guys don't expect a woman to be perfect.
I tell myself, this guy will not be perfect either.
I tell myself, people are inherently interesting.
I tell myself, it's your job as an interesting person to draw it out of them, to find their story.
I tell myself, you are so boring.
I tell myself, you're allowed to leave early if you're not having fun.
I tell myself, you're allowed to stay late if you are having fun.
I tell myself, you can survive anything for an hour. That's all you owe him. One lousy hour.
I tell myself, sit up straight.
I tell myself, listen, and look like you're listening.
I tell myself, this outfit says everything about you that it needs to.
I tell myself, you are too dressed up.
I tell myself, embrace the awkward. Lean into it.
I tell myself, he doesn't expect you to be hairless.
I tell myself, you can laugh about this with your girlfriends later.
I tell myself, you will never meet people sitting at home every night.
I tell myself, one of these days, one of these things will lead to something real.
I tell myself, maybe even this one. Maybe even tonight.
I tell myself, if it doesn't work out, it wasn't meant to be.
I tell myself, act like a lady.
I tell myself, screw being a lady.
I tell myself, you are not terrible for hoping he pays.
I tell myself, check your account balance just in case he doesn't pay.
I tell myself, you never know who Mr. Right will be.
I tell myself, he did not take that thing you said on the last date/text/message the wrong way.
I tell myself, it's okay to make mistakes.
I tell myself, love yourself. Be kind. Give yourself grace.
I tell myself, breathe.
I've also been struggling with the fact that I haven't been working on my own projects, a trend that started with school burnout and continued through some mild *depression* (I am not diagnosed, but it feels this way to me. Malaise may be more appropriate. Sadness. Disinterest in life. Perhaps I should stick with funk), busyness, lack of energy. I've been thinking about writing a lot lately, started feeling those whirrings again in my brain, rethinking while in the shower or falling asleep some of the things I've written but never felt were finished, starting to look at the world through a writer's lens again. That feels good. But, no real writing as of yet. No sitting in front of the computer and knocking a few pages out. I haven't even dug out a notebook to start writing ideas in again. But, this morning, I did get up when my alarm went off, early enough to write before getting ready for work. I did not write, I cleaned. Well, I am writing this. Hopefully, tomorrow I will get up when my alarm goes off and actually sit down in front of my computer and open a word processor. This is what progress looks like.
Then, there is the question of blogging. I've been asking myself, why haven't you been able to keep up with this blog? Is it because I don't actually care enough about it? I don't think so, because the idea of not having this blog makes me feel strange–guilty or sad maybe, I'm not sure which. Not free, which I feel like I would if I truly didn't want to do it anymore. I listened to this podcast the other day and Gabrielle used the term essay blog or essay bloggers in reference to what she wasn't, and something about that phrasing clicked with me. Those two words: essay and blog. I thought, maybe that's me. I thought, maybe that's what I actually want to be doing.
I wasn't a blogger in the early days of blogging, and I never really liked the idea of those strangely personal, diary-like posts (and yet, here I am). But I also find myself feeling unexcited about creating the pinable, audience-targeted content that has become so popular either. Which is not to say that content is bad–I still love consuming that content, I still appreciate it, I learn so much from it–but I've been trying to force myself to create similar content to the stuff I like to consume and I've stopped being terribly excited about writing it. This may not always be the case, and I like the idea of having a space that is open and I'm able to share a makeup post or whatever if I feel like it, but mostly I just want to write. I want to write about being a person in the world right now, and I want to talk about it with you.
Is that something any of you readers out there are interested in?
This has been terribly long and rambly, but that's where I am right now. I guess this is finding yourself in the 21st century. That will be the title of my first memoir, haha. I've thought about creating a new blog, a clean space to start with new content and new voice, but I'm also a little hesitant to slough off everything I've done so far here, because evolution is life. I'm also really excited to rekindle another online project that fell by the wayside, but I have to do a little research and backstage work and put a little money in before I can get that going. I'll share more when it's ready.
If anyone of you have stuck with me through all of this, I would love to hear your feedback. How have you pushed through your doubts and insecurities? How do you motivate yourself to pursue projects in your limited time? What job seeking secrets do you have?
Yours Truly, Jen