I’m talking about relationships, but this goes for everything, so I’m going to do a quick intro before I dive in. Just a warning, though: this post is going to be all over the place. It’s one of those days where my thoughts are racing, and I was actually worried this morning that I might be too emotional to go into work. I’m at work, and I’m fine, except I’m too distracted to get a lot done. Anyway, buckle up, friends.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book on how to prepare yourself for the job market after getting a Ph.D. (The book is The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky, if you’re interested. It’s an incredibly useful book, but I don’t have time to gush over it right now.) In the book, there are examples about how to tailor things so that your overall goals fit with the job you’re seeking. I was reading through the examples she gives, and I think Wow, she makes it sound like she knows exactly what she wants. How can I sound like that? It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to figure out that the way to do this is to know exactly what I want. Instead of thinking about how to secure a high-ranking job at a fancy schmancy university, I need to think about what my overall goal is, what I want to accomplish. I’m starting to get a pretty good idea about that, and maybe I’ll explore it later, but that’s the thinking that the next events are framed around.
Let me just say this up front. Yes, I get lonely sometimes, and that makes me want a relationship. However, I’m not lonely all the time. It’s just a passing feeling. I have a pretty fulfilling life and I’m generally happy, I’d say. I don’t want a relationship just out of loneliness, but I also can’t ignore that it’s a factor. I also want a partner in life. I want a person who supports me and we’re on each other’s team. And I want someone who I can have fun with. The thing I miss most about my former long-term, long-distance relationship was that every weekend he visited felt like a mini-vacation because we had so much fun together.
Aside from those things, I don’t know what I want. Somedays I think I want to be alone my whole life. Other times I want something casual and fun, and other times I want someone I can lock down and marry and reach security with ASAP. It’s all over the place.
Last Sunday, I went on a spur-of-the-moment Bumble date with a guy who was a very nice person, but a god-awful fit for me. He had the best intentions (presumably), but he’d refer to things as “gay” if he found them unpleasant, he was against anything that resembled hipster, he had to be right about everything, and he had a pretty narrow view of the world. Still, his experiences and lifestyle were very different than mine: he wasn’t college-educated while I’m confined to the ivory tower of academia. He was in a band and had tattoos, he grew up in Chicago and lived in the Midwest his whole life, etc. I knew pretty much right away that we weren’t a good fit for each other, but I was originally willing to force it because I thought it would be good to have someone with completely different experiences for me. I was conflicted on my way home, thinking about it, because I couldn’t figure out of if that’s what I really wanted. But then I remembered that he had casually stated that Paul McCartney wasn’t that great of a musician, and that pretty much solidified the answer as a fuck no. Regardless of what else I’m looking for, if they can’t acknowledge that my future husband is one of the most talented human beings that ever graced this planet, they can FUCK. OFF.
And then last night happened, which is what set me into this high-intensity emotional state. I’m sorry to say this, but last night was a fairy tale. It was a rare situation where I imagined the best possible scenario of something, and that’s exactly what happened.
I was at my figure drawing group that meets every other week. It was only my second time going, so there were a lot of people I hadn’t met before. I almost instantly hit it off with a tapestry artist sitting next to me, who was really nice and amazingly talented. She showed me a lot of cool techniques and invited me to join another drawing group that she belongs to. Next to her was a guy who maybe is around my age, maybe in his thirties, I’m not sure, named Brayden. He was cute, but also, his drawings were fantastic. They had an interesting perspective, palpable creative energy, and still demonstrated great technique. We talked for a lot of the 3-hour class about drawing, and he gave me some helpful pointers too (that I had asked for—he wasn’t being preachy or anything). He complemented my work a lot and acted impressed by it (whether it was out of politeness or genuine awe, I don’t even care). We got along really well, and our artwork was very different, but in a way that made it similar. I overheard Peter, the studio owner, telling Brayden, “I wish I could see the world the way you and Iris perceive it.”
After the session was over and we were packing up, he asked me about my lab, and we continued the conversation into the parking lot, lingering a bit after everyone left. He offered me a ride home, which I accepted in the hopes that he wasn’t a serial killer because everyone else at the session seemed to know him pretty well. On the drive to my place, we had a very rich conversation for two people who had just met, without it being overly personal or expositive. We talked about what we wanted to get out of life, our backgrounds, etc. He mentioned a personal family thing, started to tell me about it, and then confessed that he didn’t feel comfortable talking about. Maybe this sounds weird, but it was really nice to hear him speak openly and honestly. Instead of lying and saying it didn’t bother him or feeling obligated to dive into very personal details, he politely let me know his boundaries, and so then I was able to respect them. After he dropped me off at my place, we stood talking in the middle of the street in the dark for a bit. He asked me if I’d be back, and told me he would tell me about his secret art project next time we saw each other.
It was such a beautiful encounter, and everything about it felt pure, authentic, and full of potential. I was experiencing so many happy, delicious emotions.
And then, of course, fucking Lynette texted me that night asking to hang out. Lynette is the person I’ve been casually dating for a little while who had made it pretty clear last week that she wasn’t interested in me. She has a habit of doing this. She’ll send messages saying she’s not interested, so I’ll give up on her and move on. Just when I’ve started to move on, she senses it and pulls me back to her. This time I swore I wouldn’t do it—I finally had enough of her. But, of course, I am only human, and so I told her I was available pretty much all weekend to hang. It bothers me though because I originally thought I wanted her, but now I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted her because she was there, and we weren’t really a good fit for each other. Or maybe she was The One.
Then again, maybe I only thought this magical encounter with Brayden was something special was because I wanted it to be because I want someone. Maybe I’m projecting on both of them to fit them into some generic relationship that I want to have just to check off that box in my quest for a well-rounded life. Maybe I just want someone, so I’m going after everyone to get that. Maybe I don’t want anyone and that’s why nothing actually seems to last. I don’t even know if I should hold off for the perfect person or satisfy myself with someone who is good enough. But also, I don’t know what good enough entails, and I don’t know if the perfect person even exists. The perfect person might not even mean the same thing day to day.
It’s hard because if I invest in one person, I have to burn all the other bridges, and maybe that’s the wrong person, and I have no way of knowing because I don’t know what I fucking want. Do other people know what they want in a relationship? Should I just go all-in with someone and hope for the best, or does the fact that there appears to be no clean solution imply that none of them are satisfactory? Does it even matter if I’m going to be moving in 2 to 3 years anyway?
As I’m writing this, I’m regretting texting Lynette back. Regardless of what I want or our compatibility, I deserve better than what she’s giving me. At least that much I know.