This weekend, I drove to Houston with my roommate to spend one night with Bri, whom we used to share a Youtube channel with. I’ve never met her but have known her for five years. It felt natural and there was a lot of giggling and the three of us shared a giant bed. The next morning after a jaunt in a Houston park and lunch at my parents’, Ashley and I drove back up to Austin. On the way to Austin she asked, “Want to answer 36 questions and fall in love?”
I’ve heard and read a lot about these questions. They’re designed to make strangers fall in love and it’s backed by research. I only knew about one question. Question 18:“What is your most terrible memory?” I’ve heard about it because girlfriends have told me their boyfriends didn’t fully participate because of that one question. And yet these are meant to be answered by strangers!
Ashley and I are not strangers. We live together and we’ve been friends for five years. We met on Youtube. We’ve traveled together and ate a lot of brunches and consumed a lot of coffee even before living together. I had an idea about what her terrible memory is but never wanted to pry and ask for details. I wrongly assumed I already told her my most terrible memory because it’s such a defining moment in my life that I’ve taken two decades to process. As we listened to each other’s abbreviated life stories (Question 11:“Take four minutes to tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.”) and then sat through each other sharing our terrible memories, I felt my love for my friend and roommate deepen.
It’s such a treasure when someone shares with you their past pain or greatest pain. When you see someone’s light come through his or her personality and your interactions, it’s already such a gift. Then imagine being given insight to the darkness. The light and joy of the person can now be appreciated as a miracle. Here they are, laughing and smiling with you despite really ugly shit. And nobody is spared the ugly shit. It’s the price we pay for the privilege and adventure of being alive (see the last line of this beautiful essay by Oliver Sack). Question 18 is a hard question but it points to someone’s resilience and resilience is beautiful.
I think my favorite question though is Question 4.“What would constitute as a perfect day for you?”
Yesterday was a perfect day. I woke up in an king-sized bed with two beautiful girls and indulged in a high-calorie breakfast with them. I saw one of my best friends briefly at a pretty park and had lunch at my parents’ house with my roommate. We answered the 36 questions in the car and I spent the evening eating and cuddling with Sugarface and Bob the Dog, ignoring the Oscars and mostly just being quiet.
Questions: Have you gone through these questions with anyone? If so, did you fall in love? If not, tell me about one of your perfect days.
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 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.
In August, I had a photo-taking meet up with a friend. We chased the light around downtown Austin and snapped photos to hone and practice our skill. It was during this endeavor that I met a unicorn.
I met up with a couple of guy friends. The three of us sat on a balcony, drinking sake and eating chocolate and shared painful stories, punctuated with humorous anecdotes that relieved us of the ache. After I peeled myself from the refuge of the balcony floor, I received a Snapchat photo from another friend captioned “boys’ night”. I responded with a group selfie with the same caption. We made an unlikely trio and our night of being vulnerable with each other is not typical for us. So much so that I doubt we’ll ever do it again and yet this night was the most comforting night I had in August.
August ended with my leaving for my big trip of the year. Anita, MJ, and I left on the 28th to fly to Athens. By the end of August we had started island hopping in Greece. We sunbathed in Mykonos and walked around Santorini. I can’t wait to show you the rest of the photos from Greece in the September recap.
Not depicted on Instagram, I went on a couple of dates with someone I’ve been harboring unrequited feelings for for months. It hasn’t progressed much after that but it remains a highlight of the month. As painful as it is to not see reciprocation, being around him makes me smile. Oh the angst!
Last year at this time, I was in a long-term relationship I didn’t know I was leaving a few months later. I had the sweetest birthday experience with him in our years together, in that he actually showered me with gifts, something he’s never done. For a couple of years, we had talked about being engaged by the time I turned 30. Every birthday gift he presented me I was hoping that it would be a small ring-sized box. I was very seriously committed to him and would have whole-heartedly accepted. The small gifts never crescendoed into an engagement ring.
We limped along until finally, mid-October, during a conversation while I was preparing him dinner, I knew I had to walk away. I’m not quite sure how I continued preparing that meal but I salted that dinner with my tears. When I finished cooking, I left the apartment and called Treavor and sobbed on the phone for precisely 14 minutes, dreading what I knew I had to do.
The following week, I was absent from our home because of work. There was an evening during the work conference where significant others were welcomed to come. I was hopeful he would really be present that night. He casually showed up and very promptly left to catch a movie with one of his friends. His lack of effort felt like a nail in my heart. A few days later, I ended it. Though I was prepared for a long conversation, it took less than a minute. We lived together for another couple of weeks, still courteous and friendly. Still watching our shared shows. We had light conversation about what life would look like for the both of us.
The day I moved out in November caused an avalanche of emotions. I was so scared to step out into the unknown. I could not stop myself from sobbing much to the dismay of my movers. I used up my precious PTO usually saved for travel to spend days at home because I could not stop crying. I walked my dog crying. I answered the door for takeout crying. Eventually, I started to congratulate myself for small feats. Like putting on pants. Or showering. Or going to work. My friends lured me into the light with food and fun. I was amazed how quickly I started laughing again.
At this moment, I feel like I’m soaring through my life. Since being single, I’ve visited 7 new states. I’ve traveled on on my own for the first time twice. I started dating this year and it has introduced me to very kind men with qualities I have never considered wanting or needing in a partner. Even dating angst feels like a delicious new sensation. I look back to who I was in July of 2013 and I feel like a completely different person today. I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself that not receiving that engagement ring was the luckiest break of my 30th year.
This year, I’m going stag to my birthday party and I won’t be anxiously waiting for something that isn’t coming. And that feels like leveling up.
It’s my mom’s birthday today. She expresses love dominantly through service, but more specifically, through cooking. She would ask me over and over again what I want her to cook for me weeks before my visit home. In fact, I already know she’ll have a bowl of bun rieu ready for me when I drive to Houston tonight. I remember once I thanked her for a very delicious meal and she responded, “Thank you for showing me what it’s like to be loved by you.” It made me laugh for a couple of reasons. First, she one-upped me! Second, I am ashamed to admit that I’ve failed in loving her so much more than she’s failed me. That’s one thing your relationships with your family and loved ones teach you, that if you love someone long enough, you’ll be on the receiving and giving ends of neglect and hurt. No doubt, I’ve been on the giving end of hurt with my mom more than she with me. And there she is thanking me for showing her what it’s like to be loved by me. In just that one line she gave me affection, giggles, and humility.
What does it feel like to be loved by her? It feels very safe. People often ask me why I haven’t moved away from Austin or Texas. I tell them easily that I want to be driving distance in case my parents need me in Houston. I say that but since moving out 13 years ago, it has always been me needing them and driving down to Houston to seek the soft landing spot and a soul-soothing bowl of noodles. She not only loves me but she’ll love the people I love without even having met them. She’ll send my roommates food and has cooked for every significant other way before even meeting them. She’ll ask about them and joke with them, and has endeared herself so much that sometimes my friends in Houston will pop by and visit her without my being in town.
So mom, thank you for showing me what it’s like to be loved by you.
I rappelled down 38 stories this past weekend through fundraising for Make-A-Wish. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done. I cried when I was literally hanging on top of The W Hotel by my toes. I have done a lot of scary things in my life but don’t remember being reduced to tears. As I was crying and stalling, I heard my friends on the ground cheer me by name. Hearing my friends cheer me for the first time finally motivated me to take the first few steps.
I inched down slowly and clumsily. I’ve heard the term “spaghetti legs” a few times from unique sources describing my ungracefulness. I was instructed to descend until my butt touched the ground. After the volunteers unhooked the ropes from me, they asked me to stand up. That was when I realized I couldn’t without help. This was the second time in my life where I felt pins and needles throughout my entire body and all my extremities from the adrenaline and nerves. (The first time was when I heard upsetting news during my first experience with heartbreak.)
The Make-A-Wish volunteers hoisted me up on my feet when it was clear that I needed help. I numbly smiled the biggest smile I could muster to my excited friends waving at me. The volunteers told them I had to return my gear and get my belongings before I could join them.
After returning my gear and retrieving my belongings, I checked my phone. I received so many texts of encouragement from those who couldn’t watch in person. I was stunned by how big of a deal my loved ones were making this to be. I didn’t quite feel like I owned this challenge. I tried to tame my helmet hair before heading out. I was to go on a winery tour for the rest of the day for my friends’ surprise birthday party and my freshly washed hair was now damp with sweat.
Still in a daze, I walked out and was greeted by a neon group of smiling faces, signs, and silly string. Some of my closest friends made it and were meeting each other for the first time. Treavor met my best friend from high school. My best friend from high school met Anita. Thomas was no longer there but he got to meet some of my Austin friends. I felt so loved and lucky and yes, a little undeserving.
The thing is, I often downplay my accomplishments. I was hard on myself for being so scared and not enjoying it. The only enjoyable part for me was being done. I also thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. A lot of people rappel down buildings. No one cares. It isn’t that special. But almost a week later, my friends are patting me on the back still and just today Kim tagged me on a Facebook status bragging about me. I’m seeing myself reflected through their proud eyes and am finally reveling in this feat. They are patting my back not only because they’re sweet and loving, but because I rappelled down 38 stories!
I’ve walked by The W Hotel twice since rappelling this Saturday and each time, I looked up and thought, I rappelled down that. Just as I don’t think I could have made it down if I hadn’t heard my friends’ cheers, I don’t think I could have been proud of myself had I not got a glimpse of my reflection through their eyes.
It’s amazing what you can do if you surround yourself with people who believe in you.
In between the two big relationships of my life which cumulatively lasted almost ten years, I was single for most of two years. I remember I really came into my own during this time. I actualized facets of my personality and my identity that laid dormant between the ages of 18 and 22. My sense of adventure and wanderlust no longer was hidden within me but became a manifestation of how I live my life. I cultivated gratitude, joy, and self-reliance. I learned so much and had so much fun doing it that I almost feel sorry for those who never get to experience the self actualization that comes with living on your own and as an untethered person. I have friends who have never been single in their adult lives and I can’t help but wonder how much they might have missed out on their self-knowledge.
This is who I am when there’s no one to come home to. This is who I am without the context of a romantic relationship. I am someone who likes to read and doesn’t like watching football. I am someone who can eat ramen three times a week because I much rather cook for people than just me. I plan things out and leave slots in my calendar to “rest” but when it’s time to rest I use those pockets to make spontaneous plans. I kill time at the library or book store when I don’t want to come home to an empty apartment. I love to travel. I’d love to do it with a significant other but if he is not around because he doesn’t want to be or because I’m not in a relationship, I will go without him. This is just a fraction of what I learned my first time as a single adult.
I’m not saying there isn’t a lot to learn when I’m in a relationship. I learned what kind of communicator I am and what my needs are from a partner. I learned about boundaries and nonnegotiable after testing them out in relationships. I reinforced my values within the context of being someone’s girlfriend and I know I will go through that again if ever I become someone’s wife or mother. I am just thankful for the time I’ve spent truly on my own. I value the security and connection and love that comes with romantic love, but if I never fulfill that again, I can be happy and fulfilled as I am.
And that feels like power.
Questions: What have you learned about yourself while you were single? While you were in relationships?