I love Houston. I love her food scene. I love her museums. A lot of my close friends live in Houston. I love the diversity of the population and I love the art! If you’re in Houston from now to February 22, I strongly recommend checking out the Bruce Munro Field of Light exhibit at Discovery Green. The field is illuminated between 3 to 11 pm. If you’re not in Houston on these dates, check out the link anyway as Bruce Munro has multiple traveling exhibits.
I had so much fun setting up a borrowed tripod and taking these shots. The one photo of me was taken by my photography coach and friend for life, Thomas L Chen. You can read more about this night from his perspective on his blog.
We’ve known each other for years and I’ve always admired his curly hair. He keeps bottled green tea for me in his fridge even though he doesn’t like the taste. He has in just a month’s time met so many important people in my life. He rewards me with cupcakes for small victories and suggested I stop apologizing when I accidentally headbutt him, because he knows accidental headbutts and elbowing are just simply going to be an ever present thread in our story. I always leave him feeling drunk whether or not I had a sip of alcohol. Sometimes we cuddle together with one of our dogs (we have yet to get both dogs to cuddle at once) and I am feeling so content it almost makes me sad because it’s impossible to be anywhere forever no matter how happy I’m feeling. He once offered to hold my coat in a bar and I teased him.
“What will I do if I get used to this kind of treatment and you’re not here to hold my jacket or spoil me?”
“Linda, I don’t like your life philosophy sometimes.”
“What do you mean?”
“When something good is offered, you should enjoy it instead of worrying about not having it.”
So here I am. Enjoying us and trying not to worry.
My 2014 has been a transitional year, a liberated year, a magical year. A year full of surprises, adventure, and so many little but love filled moments with my friends. I’ve always prioritized relationships and adventure so they always show up as themes when I write these year end recaps, but this year, there was a boundless feeling to 2014. A buoyancy I haven’t ever experienced. I had so much joy in previous years, I didn’t know I could feel this happy, this light, this free as I did this year. This year was my first full year as a single person in nearly a decade and I reveled in the delicious ambiguity. There were more flowers in one year that I’ve received in all my years in a relationship, gifted by family, friends, and even myself. There was more dancing in one year than I’ve done since college. I checked off a lot of old items on my bucket list. There were more celebrity sightings and more rooftops and more sunsets. 2014 generally had more of the really good stuff.
I rang in 2014 with one of my closest friends. I hadn’t had a New Year’s with her since 2008 and it gave us an opportunity to do our New Year’s tradition on the actual first day of the year. We woke up on New Year’s Day and had cinnamon buns and coffee on a quilt while we wrote on our prayer lanterns our hopes and dreams for 2014.
I also learned how to make kimchi and strawberry chocolate jam. When I look through my Instagram feed for January, there were a lot of desserts and meals out. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the year. Most of my meals in 2013 were home-cooked. Most of my meals in 2014 were from eating out.
I had “cook a whole chicken” on my bucket list since high school. I was intimidated by this but a dear friend of mine did it first and then so sweetly held my hand and provided a whole chicken for me to roast on my own. Like a lot of fears faced, it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be, and quite delicious! I tried to ignore my favorite holiday for the first time but Anita brought Valentine’s Day to me by coordinating a card making, movie watching couch date. I spent Valentine’s Day night with my roast chicken coach and our mutual friends. We dressed up and ate good food and chair danced in our seats. I also started reading my favorite book of the year.
I went to Arizona for the first time and visited the Grand Canyon with girls I met on Youtube over four years ago. It was the first time we were all together since Vegas in 2012. The photograph of them sitting on a cliff is one of my favorites I’ve shot in 2014 and I wish I was actually in it! We were in L.A. for a hot minute before and after the Grand Canyon and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean. The next weekend I was back in Texas and celebrated a friend’s birthday in Galveston Island, smelling the salty air of the Gulf. Two beaches, three states in two weekends. I also developed my first crush in years. It never took off beyond a few dates but I enjoyed the butterflies. March was fun and light.
I started the month in Houston to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. I went to the first of three weddings where I snapped that photo of that sunset. This year I made a point of being outside for more sunsets. I ate really well at media dinners and the Austin Food and Wine Festival where I was able to see one of my food heroes in the flesh.
After rarely being home in April, I spent more time home in May. I read more and hosted a seven hour brunch. I went to Houston to celebrate Mother’s Day and attend a friend’s bachelorette party. It was during this trip that Thomas gave me a long exposure photography tutorial and I shot light trails for the first time, igniting a curiosity and passion for nighttime photography.
June was filled with flowers. I started the month frolicking in a field of wildflowers on private property and feeling like my life was a movie. I went on a few dates with a man who was compelled to give me elaborate bouquets every time he saw me. The first few times charmed me but then my threshold of enjoyment was reached. He was one of a handful of very kind men this year I didn’t feel real chemistry with. This year taught me the pain of walking away from who Dan Savage calls GGG men. Good, giving, and game. I ended the month in Dallas after photographing a field of giant sunflowers with Anita and Ashley.
Sweet July! I scratched off three new states in a long weekend during a solo road trip. I drove in and out of North Carolina three times and visited South Carolina and Virginia. I saw the amazing Angel Oak Tree in South Carolina and was in awe of all the beauty in the Carolinas. I fell in love with Asheville and added it to my growing list of cities I want to revisit. I was in the area to begin with for the wedding of one of high school friends. I then experienced truly the best birthday I’ve ever had. I showed up to a dinner I planned and a 90s sing-along ready to spend time with some of my favorite people and eat noodles. I had no idea my friends (some of whom still haven’t even met) collaborated with each other and surprised me with a fancy lens for my DSLR camera and a video that I still watch from time to time. The same day as my birthday celebration, Austin CultureMap listed my food blog as one of the top food blogs to follow in Austin. July rocked my world!
I had a photo taking date with my good friend, Aaron. We walked around during sunset and chased the light between skyscrapers as we shot downtown. It was during this friend date I met my first unicorn. In August, I started seeing a friend, met Vince Young, and ended the month in Greece, a trip I had on my life list since high school.
I started the month of September in Greece. My favorite island was Santorini. It was in Santorini where I skinny-dipped for the first time. That has always been on my life list and I assumed I’d do it first in the middle of the night at some unremarkable apartment pool. I love that instead of that unremarkable pool in the dead of the night, it was in the daylight with Anita in the Aegean Sea. How’s that for an upgraded story? The rest of the month wasn’t too shabby either. Anita and I went to a Chris Guillebeau signing, our third time meeting him together. We also went to a party where Ethan Hawke was in attendance, and were sitting close to the front row for a Wendy Davis talk.
October emotionally wrecked me. It was the one year anniversaries of the break-up of a six year relationship and the deaths of two friends. I also experienced more heartache when the friend I was seeing and I had a brutal falling out while on a group trip to New York. Though these parts of October weren’t pretty and caused me a lot of pain, I had some big highlights of the year in October. I finally got to see Oprah with Kimmy. Kimmy is the friend with whom I have the New Year’s tradition and every year we wish to be in the same room as Oprah. We attended a weekend event with Oprah’s Life You Want Tour. I saw Kimmy a few days ago and we both listed this weekend as one of our best moments in 2014. Also in October, I started a tradition with my mom and flirted with Neal Patrick Harris. Not so bad for a grim month!
The first part of November involved moving from North Austin to South Austin which reduced my work commute from 2 hours a day to 30 minutes a day. I moved in with Ashley and it’s been a blast so far. I spent a lot of November practicing self-care and nursing a tender heart. I went to Houston for Thanksgiving and swung on swings with Kimmy and together with Thomas we dabbled in nighttime photography and sneaked on a skyscraper rooftop. November has always been one of my favorite months.
I am back in Austin after spending a week in Houston for Christmas. My dad has decided to join in my dates with my mom and I love that photo of him reaching for the coffee. His weathered hand symbolizes so much to me.
December makes me laugh. I had started the month writing a difficult blog post and was open about my dating experience. It felt vulnerable to share. What makes me laugh though is in the post, I acknowledged how 2014 has been an amazing introduction to dating with minimal damage and I was already flirting with the possibility of a charmed romantic life in 2015. I had already moved on to 2015 despite still having three more weeks of 2014. A week after I published that blog post, I invited a friend as my date to a holiday party and by the end of the night we were holding hands and I was feeling butterflies. It was as if 2014 was telling me to wait, that she wasn’t done surprising me yet.
I am hosting a small New Year’s Eve Party with Ashley and Anita and tonight we’ll cook and prep for it. Tomorrow, I plan on ringing in the new year around happy humans and a sparkling dog.
2014, I’ll miss you and will carry you with me forever.
I’m 31 and since I was 18, I’ve been in 3 relationships lasting 4 years, 7 months, and 6 years. Which means I never did a lot of casual dating and definitely not in the age of Social Media and dating apps. The two big relationships I had were with men who were extremely wrong for me. I naively believed if I loved them hard enough, I could make it work. All of the these facts culminated to one big challenge, I have a lot to learn regarding dating.
This year, I treated dating as exposure therapy with a “come what may” attitude. I signed up for online dating and accepted dates if the men came across as decent people. What resulted was first dates with 33 men this year. About a third of these men were met organically at events and through friends and in line waiting for tacos, and the rest were from online dating sites and dating apps. My goal was not only to possibly make a lasting connection with someone but also to learn all the things most people learn in their 20s that I didn’t learn. I want to learn what I want, what I need, what I don’t want, what I don’t need.
The whole experience has been fun, scary, exciting, eye-opening, humorous, humbling and surreal. I mean, I had my first first kiss in over six years and then a few more. I trespassed on private property on a second date. I tried dating a friend. I went out with engineers, writers, doctors, comedians, and a puppet maker. I ran into someone I was supposed to have a first date with the next day while giving my number to someone else. Someone asked me out while I was waiting for a date to arrive. I dated younger and older, poorer and richer. I hurt a few people’s feelings and had mine hurt. The range of experience in just a year was wide and varied.
Of course I took detailed notes to try make sense of it all and discover patterns. And here are just ten of the lessons learned.
I learned meeting strangers or acquaintances over coffee or dinner gets easier and easier the more you do it. The first few first dates I’ve gone on, I’d fret about what I’m wearing and was sweaty with nerves up to the point of meeting them. In time, I found my prep before a date is now just reading a book or watching a show right before having to leave.
I learned that the advantage of meeting people already vetted by your friends is you feel safe enough to let them pick you up for a date. Being picked up for a date adds a bit of magic to the date.
I learned that I’m picky and that though I’m cautious and skittish, I’m not completely closed off like I feared. Of the 33 men, I was willing to pursue the possibility of a future with two of them. I had a huge crush on one the first quarter of the year and developed feelings for a second towards the end of the year. I was brave and I let someone in! I’m still standing!
I learned that I’m scared of getting what I want and this manifests itself as nitpicking and making up superficial deal breakers. I have to be aware of any self sabotaging instincts and behaviors.
I learned that I need a mix of intellectual conversation and play time. I want someone whom I can have long meandering conversations with that keep me engaged and someone who is willing to dance like penguins with me in the parking lot of a bowling alley. If you’re not willing to be stupid with me, it sets off alarm bells.
I always try to treat people with care, but dating has really brought into light that though no one likes the sting of rejection, being the person rejecting is hard too. And I had to learn to carefully, honestly, and compassionately choose words when letting someone down. I learned that even if it’s easier to ignore text messages, sometimes there has been enough time spent together to make that uncomfortable conversation kind and needed.
I learn that the people you casually date can also just become friends. I was under the impression that when you’re done, you’re done. I managed to keep some of the men I went on a few dates with as friends. This also hinged on the previous lesson. These friendships were made possible because I didn’t just disappear and forced myself to have those uncomfortable conversations.
I learned being out and open can lead to happy accidents. I had a spontaneous first date with a stranger while reading a book in a coffee shop. He was brave and approached me and I didn’t have anywhere else to be and he seemed normal enough. We ended up having a conversation over coffee for over an hour.
I learned my primary love language is definitely words. You can be attentive and give me gifts and do acts of services, and though I’m very appreciative of these actions, I don’t hear your message behind these kind acts unless they come with words. I very much need to hear or read actual words to register someone’s feelings towards me.
I learned that though my goal is to find someone I can build a life with, I’m comfortable with the idea of living my life without a romantic partner. This feels like power. I can hold out for someone who is the best fit for me and don’t have to settle. I don’t have to settle because if I end up living my life alone, I’m confident I can make it a beautiful and happy one with my pursuits of adventure and with my friendships.
With the dawn of a new year looming, I’ve been reflecting on 2014. It has been a hard and amazing year and dating was a big life change in 2014. I’m curious to see what lessons in dating I’ll experience in the new year and remain hopeful that maybe 2015 is the charmed year when it comes to romance.
Tell me about some of your lessons learned while dating!
I mentioned October was a force to be reckoned with. It was extremely hard for me emotionally and then there was one final surprise punch the very first few hours of November while I was on a trip to New York. I spent the rest of the month regaining my footing and licking my wounds. Luckily November tends to be great for my soul because of the reunions that start happening around Thanksgiving.
There’s a lie I tell myself often. That I’m unlucky in love but very lucky with friendship. The lie is I’m not unlucky in love and I should stop telling myself that because I will manifest it. When things fall apart for me romantically, as it kind of did with a new person in New York, I am always humbly moved by the depth of love and friendship my support system instantly extends me. Hours after upsetting news even in New York, I was able to spend time with close friends who live there. They offered me warm shelter and a trip to famed bookstore, The Strand, and bowls of noodles two days in a row. How lucky am I to find that kind of comfort and love when I’m in New York? One of my friends even took me to New Jersey so I can cross another state in my 50 states quest, bringing this year’s total to 5 new states. I was only shooting for 4 new states this year!
The week I got back from the trip to New York, I packed up my life in three days and moved from North Austin to South Austin, which cut down my work commute from 2 hours a day to 30 minutes a day. I have a new roommate and marveled that last year I was packing up my life and sobbed the whole way through. In just one year’s time, I moved again and though I wasn’t sobbing, I wept over another man. It amazed me how far one year took me. If you told me last year that in an exactly a year I’ll be crying over someone else, I’d dismiss your general credibility.
I went to the second reading party of my life (hosted by the same person of the first reading party). It’s one of my favorite kinds of parties. I had many coffee dates with friends and was reunited with two of my best friends in Houston for our Annual Day of Magic. This year’s Day of Magic included swinging on swings with children in a park, admiring a field of light, and sneaking up to a rooftop of a skyscraper to take photos. I am newly resolved to hang out on the rooftops of skyscrapers at night more often in 2015. It lit a fire in me!
Not depicted on Instagram, a comped ride to and from the airport from Blacklane. I wasn’t otherwise compensated for trying them out. It was such a welcomed sight to see the driver greeting us with a sign, “Monkeys in Austin.” When you order luxury rides from Blacklane you can customize the greeting sign and it tickled me to surprise my friends with our self-ascribed group nickname of “monkeys.” Also not depicted on Instagram was me fulfilling a bucket list item by riding a mechanical bull. 2014 has been a successful bucket list year for me!
I’m drinking warm tea from the very first mug I bought myself. I got it from a dollar store and it has a photo of a Golden Retriever wearing glasses. I remember feeling that the mug represented adulthood. I was finally living in an apartment, not my parents’ home that was already stocked with drinking ware or a dorm room where there was no room for dishes. It has survived over 10 moves and now resides in the community cabinet at my workplace. I share it with my coworkers and today it sits on my desk and it makes me smile that it has been a companion to me as I wade deeper into the trenches of adulthood for over a decade. The CEO has told me it’s one of his favorite mugs.
The first couch I owned was originally my parents’. My boyfriend in college tackled me onto the couch and broke one of the legs. It survived two years in my living room with a stack of textbooks as stand-in for the missing leg. It was my couch the first time I lived on my own sans roommates. It was the place I moped and watched a ton of movies. It was the couch I had when I experienced my first heartbreak by the same boyfriend who helped me break it. It was the first couch my younger brother ever experienced. I have photos of myself kissing my new baby brother on that couch. It was a piece of my childhood offering somewhere to rest when I was on my own for the first time.
Today, I’m newly moved into an apartment and we are without a couch. I had sold most of my furniture when I moved in with the ex. Cohabitation with lovers can be very bad for furniture. Living without a couch has made me wistful for that three-legged ugly couch.
I know years from now I will remember coming home to my current apartment. Seeing my friend and new roommate on the floor. Both of us laying on the hardwood floors and exhaling from a long work day. Earlier this week the pizza delivery guy knocked and she got up and I remained motionless, flat on my back in the middle of the floor. The pizza guy peered over Ashley’s shoulder and laughed. “Is she okay?” Laughter. “We just moved.” I will remember our first night together sitting on the floor and watching Youtube videos of romantic proposals. Her eating candy corn, me eating cereal. “Ready to watch other people be happy?”
When we look back at the moments we thought we were just merely making do with what we have, we’ll learn with the rosy tint of hindsight, that we were in fact very rich.
October was a force to be reckoned with. I am someone who pays attention to anniversaries, even the sad and heartbreaking ones. October contained the one year anniversaries of the deaths of two friends and the anniversary of the breakup of a six year relationship. The first week of October was hard. I nearly missed the anniversary of one of my friends’ passing. Luckily Treavor so sweetly sent me flowers in her memory and reminded me. I nearly missed it because I had a sick puppy and it hit me how alone I am essentially. The last time Bob the Dog was sick, I had a work-from-home boyfriend who could let him out every hour. I went home three times in one day while living an hour north from work to clean up after Bob. I threw myself pity parties and then quickly had to switch gears to celebrate the wedding of one of my close friends in Houston.
I went to Houston twice in October. The second time was to have a weekend with Oprah with my best friend. I’m still riding the motivational wave of Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour. In fact, her opening speech alluded to stars and the Milky Way and I paid homage by dressing up as the Milky Way for Halloween in New York City.
I am back from my New York City trip. It was my sixth visit and also my hardest. Just two days into the trip I experienced a falling out with a friend. I felt blind-sighted, disillusioned, angry, heartbroken. I had previously felt so certain that this person was the safest person with whom to have a friendship. He was just that nice and that good. Unsure about what kind of relationship I wanted with this person, I cried and leaned on a few of my other friends. Sometimes clarity comes with well-intentioned advice that feels wrong. A couple of my friends suggested I “fake it till I make it.” They urged me to just act as if I am fine and not give the person the satisfaction of knowing he had that kind of power. “That would really show him!”
I have a long history of swallowing grievances for the sake of pride and winning. My parents raised me on many of their own mantras, one of which was, “Don’t cry about people who aren’t crying about you.” I was raised by parents who were also taught to never let people see you vulnerable. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized in learning to silently and secretly bear trespasses, it kept the perpetrators in my life for much longer than was healthy. A defense mechanism that developed as a byproduct was very high tolerance for pain. Pain is how we know when something isn’t working or isn’t healthy. So consequently, I also developed high tolerance for people who were bad for me.
It wasn’t till my late twenties that I learned the value of pain. Like a lot of people, I’m hedonistic by nature and I lean on the pursuit of pleasure as my most sought out cure for pain. Sweep icky feeling under the rug and go on a trip or eat a whole half gallon of ice cream! But pain is good. Pain tells you when something isn’t working.
Another thing my loving but humanly misguided parents taught me that I had to unlearn was not using my words. They commanded me to always hold my head high and never let anyone suspect that they hurt me. With a lot of practice, I got to be very good at silently suffering until I felt numb. Which enabled a lot of mistreatment. Which toughened me up for more ensuing pain from these toxic people because they learned they can do anything and I wouldn’t speak up.
So when my friends suggested I fake it till I make it with this person who made me crumble on what was supposed to be a fun trip, I felt a very clear resolution rise from my stomach and into my heart.
I am no longer pretending with people who hurt me that they didn’t hurt me.
In deciding that, every superficial conversation initiated by this person felt like an uncomfortable game of charades. I took two more days to steel myself to speak up and when I did, it felt so good to be honest. Not only to him but also to myself. I felt strong. Powerful.
Who would have thought that in admitting feelings of hurt, you can actually feel strong and powerful?
As I mentioned in my August Instagram recap, I was in Greece the last few days of August and first week of September. In September I was in Santorini and then I ended the trip with a couple of days in Athens. It was surreal to finally cross off a couple of things on my bucket list that I’ve had on my list for almost two decades.
I went to my second Chris Guillebeau book signing with Anita and bought Happiness of Pursuit. Also with Anita, I attended a party where Ethan Hawke was an honored guest at the Arlyn Music Studio and a Texas politics festival where we sat a few feet away from Wendy Davis, candidate for Texas governor.
Not depicted on Instagram was me spontaneously taking the stage of a comedy show for 90 seconds and dishing out unoriginal jokes and having the crowd and stage full of professional comedians in stitches. I’ve been secretly dreaming of delving into stand-up comedy and that experience gave me a fun glimpse into that dream. I also had drinks with three friends and somehow while buzzed, we hatched a plan to go to New York City for Halloween. A week later, still compelled when sober, we booked our tickets. Since then, our trip of four friends have grown to a seven people group trip!
Last month I finally experienced something that has been on my life list since high school, and that is to visit Greece. MJ, Anita, and I spent over a week island hopping around Greece and my favorite island visited was Santorini. I always learn about myself when I travel to new places. In Greece, I learned I can plan a trip around beaches. I assumed I was someone who prefers the metropolitan and urban travel destinations. I thought I’d always pick the Lourve or the Met over sunbathing and reading in sand. The rush of navigating a subway system over wading into a deep blue sea. Greece, and more specifically, Santorini seduced me with its pink and orange sunsets and blue horizons.
Like my trip to the Grand Canyon in March, Greece taught me the beauty and luxury of slowing down. To let moments lap at you. We spent a lot of our time leisurely moving from beach to cafe with a beach view to another restaurant with an amazing view. The beautiful views were so abundant, it felt like an embarrassment of riches. I read four books on this trip and ate my weight in mussels and creamy carbonara. I also skinny-dipped for the first time and was exhilarated I crossed this off my list in the Aegean Sea instead of an apartment complex pool back at home.
I started 2014 in the wake of a break-up of a six-year relationship and since then have been on this journey of self-discovery and rediscovery. I’m so thankful Santorini and other islands of Greece were part of this year’s story.