Despite having other things written, I felt strongly that this should be my first post for this blog.
In the lead up to taking this year “off”, I have discussed my decision with many friends and the most consistent question has been “what if you meet the man of your dreams?”
“What if, what if what if...” - What if purple monkeys fly out of my butt?!
Living life for the possibility of “what if” is the same as living in fear. If I make this choice, what if I miss something better? So, you sit around not making any choices and miss out on all kinds of amazing adventures that are happening right now. What if I miss out on my dreams because I’m waiting for ‘the one’? There is a always a ‘what if’ to worry about.
The expectation is that I will stop and run off with whoever this mythical person may be – false! That doesn’t really change anything from its current state. This year isn’t about not having another person in my life, it’s about making me a more important person in my life and if I run off with the first person who bats his eyelashes and says pretty things to me it defeats the whole purpose. That’s what I always do: put the needs of others before my own. This year is about putting my own needs first.
When I tell people about taking an entire year to focus on my own development, I get looks like I’ve just admitted I’m an alien from a far off planet here to study toenail fungus. Why is it so hard to understand the benefits of not expending energy towards romantic relationships for a year? It is only 12 months. I’m 31 and have yet to find “the one” in all that time (374 months); what are the chances he will come along during this year if I keep questing for him? And why should that search trump spending a year just focused on my own personal growth?
No matter which way you slice it – relationships (even if they are just sexually based) take up a lot of time. If you are a person in your 30s (especially women), think back and try to calculate how many hours, days, weeks you have spent seeking, discussing and developing your relationships. It all adds up! Now, take all that time and imagine how much you could accomplish if you directed that energy toward your personal goals.
Even a “Friends with Benefits” relationship still takes up a considerable amount of time and focus. From my experience, one person is always much more invested than the other and that leads to complications (which take up time and energy). Having been on both sides, you are either trying to analyze if the person may actually be into you even when they say they don’t want anything else or you know the other person wants something more and you go into “troubleshooting mode” trying to make it clear that you have no intention of pursuing things further. Sex is complicated. Thinking back over my sexual history, I was trying to come up with one instance where it was clear cut and simple, but have come up short. The closest I can come would be “The Lamplighter” and “The Cowboy” (I’ve given nicknames to protect identities). The Lamplighter was a guy I met out in Vancouver at a bar. I was only in town for 4 days, so there was no expectation beyond that time, but we hit is off really well and I was sad to leave (even shed a little tear... after we parted). I got attached. The Cowboy was the reverse. I met him on a trip to Mexico and we had a fling, but for the rest of the trip he was at my side. I was travelling with a bunch of friends and was good to get together in the evening, but had other plans for the rest of my days. He was scheduled to leave before me and was actually looking into extending his trip for the duration of mine. I was flattered, but also ready for him to go, so I had to delicately persuade him that staying longer would be a bad idea. And those are my two examples of the no-muss-no-fuss sexual encounters, yet they still each took up the better part of 4 days.
Now picture how much time is spent on relationships that actually interest you. Basically every ladies night I’ve ever had has been spent discussing boys, relationships and sex. I love these times with my girls, but they are only a fraction of the total amount of time I actually spend thinking and analyzing my interactions with guys I like. Did he get my text? Why hasn’t he responded? Is he interested? Let me re-read the entire conversation to make sure something I said wasn’t misconstrued. Maybe I should just back off? He hasn’t texted in 4 days and I know he said that he would not have any cell signal or internet, but you would think that he could at least find a courier pigeon or something?! (Okay, last example is a bit of an exaggeration... but it feels like that sometimes.) Just the thought of a year without any of that angst I feel when I meet a new person that I’m interested in is enough to make me cheer. I need a break!
Now, you might be saying “you’ve just had bad luck in relationships, they can be wonderful!” Yes! Clearly! If I had good luck in relationships I would be married with a brood of squealing toddlers running in circles around me (well, maybe not the toddlers, but likely married and happy). I make bad relationship decisions. This is why I’m taking a year off. I need to look back, reflect and figure out how to change my relationship patterns.
Relationships are a distraction. Often a pleasant distraction, but then again, so is alcohol and many recreational drugs. Stay with me here... It can be lovely to have a nice cold beer on a patio during the summer, but when the alcohol starts to consume your every waking moment and prevent you from getting on with the rest of your life (whether it is drinking it constantly or panicking about when you will next be able to drink), it becomes a problem. That’s the point I’m at with relationships. My fear of abandonment has become so prevalent that I spend most of my time worrying about why I’m not in a relationship or thinking about how to make the one I’m in last. It becomes all-consuming and I stop working (well, I stop putting in my best effort forward and all my side goals fall to the side). It is a bad addiction. I need to detox. Or, my new analogy is “I’m taking a sabbatical year.”
Dating can feel like a job. And with any job, sometimes it’s good to take some time away to develop your skills so you can come back and be better at your job. It’s not that I don’t love it (sex ranks pretty high on my list of all-time favourite activities... currently, I can’t really think of anything better). I’m beginning to feel burnt out and need a break. It’s time to figure out a new approach to this job and the only way to achieve that is through careful contemplation once I’m removed from the situation.
All the “what ifs” dance through my head like sugar plum fairies, but I made a decision years ago that I would start putting myself first. I’ve worked really hard to rebuild my life into something that I’m proud to call my own. I’ve built a world where I feel confident and safe. Now, it is time to deal with some of the issues that had to be put on the backburner while I was building to this point. I need to break the bad routines of my past and develop healthy patterns for my personal and emotional life. So, to the question “What if ‘he’ comes along?” If ‘he’ arrives in my life on the day I start this experiment, well, a year isn’t such a long time and if ‘he’ really is that person I’m supposed to be with, then I know he’ll want the version of me who is grounded, happy and confident in herself rather than the one who is like a lost puppy just wanting someone to love her. If not, then ‘he’ really isn’t that person, now is he?