Lessons Learned from Starless Skies

photoA few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Sedona, AZ. We’d both heard about the infamous vortexes and New Age culture, but we’re not into that scene. Our decision to go was based on cheap hotel availability, drivability, beautiful landscapes, and the ability to see the stars at night.

That last one was probably the biggest draw for us. We share a love of all things space. Since we’re both long-time residents of Los Angeles, our opportunities to see more than a handful of stars in the night sky have been few and far between. Because of Sedona’s isolation and elevation, we were promised an amazingly clear view.

Before we left, my mother excitedly informed me that we’d enjoy a full moon while we were there. When I shared this with my boyfriend, he said, “Oh…that’s not good.” Amateur stargazers, such as myself, might not know that a full moon emits so much light that the stars get drowned out. To our great disappointment, this was true. The moon looked lovely, but the sky was too bright to see stars.

Even though we both love the moon, those nights in Sedona, we found ourselves cursing it. I tried not to get too discouraged. We did research and tried to see if there was a gap between the sunset and moonrise we could try to catch.

IMG_3114In the meantime, we enjoyed what Sedona had to offer. We climbed to the top of a tall red rock and looked out at the city. We took a day trip to the Grand Canyon. We visited a vortex and didn’t feel anything funny. Then we got into a long debate about vortexes and whether places or people have special energy.

But we didn’t see many stars. The last night of the trip was the one night we had a big enough gap to possibly see some between the sunset and moonrise. We went outside after a dinner of burgers and rattlesnake bites to see if it was finally our chance to glimpse what we’d come for.

The sky was completely black, all the stars hidden behind an impenetrable haze. We both started laughing, finally surrendering to the fact that we were out of luck. We still drove to a lookout point and located a couple of stars peeking out between the clouds. We shared a nice, quiet moment beneath the dark sky.

I told my boyfriend I was sorry we didn’t get to see the thing we most wanted to see. He assured me that it was okay. We had a lovely time, and being together was what really mattered.

A week later, a spectacular meteor shower was scheduled to take place. I lamented our bad timing. We could have had front row seats to something incredible. We tried to see the shower in Los Angeles, but were once again met by a hazy, dim sky. This time, I didn’t laugh. It just seemed unfair. But it turned out that the shower wasn’t as spectacular as promised, so even if we’d been somewhere with a better view, there wouldn’t have been much to see. There was also a wildfire in Sedona, which we would have encountered if we’d been there a week later.

So, everything balanced out. We wanted to see the stars, but had to settle for a fun trip. I got upset about timing, but later discovered that it actually could have been a disaster to go later.

Sometimes I think things happen for a reason, but usually think it’s completely random. The thing I still struggle with is wishing I made different decisions when things don’t work out. But we’ll have other chances to see a bright, clear sky. I could even assure myself that it will happen when it’s meant to, or that there’s a reason things worked out the way they did.

I don’t necessarily want to, though. I’d rather be okay with accepting and waiting.

The Opposite Approach to Dating

I’m not a particularly outgoing person. I’ve always struggled with at least some degree of social anxiety. It’s gotten much more manageable as an adult, but one area where I still feel very socially unsure and awkward is in my dating life.

On a first date, I often find myself saying, “I’m sorry…I can be kind of shy until I get to know someone new.” I’m usually forced to say this after there’s been an unbearably awkward silence, or I’ve stumbled over answering a question, or I’ve gotten flustered and feel like I have to explain and justify it somehow.

I like to think my date will view my honesty and vulnerability as an attractive and endearing quality. However, if I end up having to say that line on a first date, there usually isn’t a second. Apparently, being honest about being awkward and shy is not endearing either. Instead of being frustrated about how unfair it is that shyness is such a turn off on a first date, I decided to try an experiment.

The Experiment: Stop being shy and start acting confident.

I decided to be like George Costanza in that episode of Seinfeld where he decides to do the opposite of everything he usually does when he dates someone. So, for my date last weekend, I did the opposite of what I usually do. Instead of wearing jeans, I put on a skirt. Instead of wearing little-to-no makeup, I used blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. And instead of being quiet and flustered, I was talkative and confident.

When I got to the restaurant, I waltzed up to my date confidently with a smile and told him it was great to meet him. We sat down at a table and started having a nice conversation. I asked him questions, told him about my life and interests, smiled, maintained full eye contact, and used interested body language. I can’t say I pulled it off flawlessly, but I didn’t have to apologize for being shy. Even though we both decided a second date didn’t make sense, I felt good about the experience. I deemed the experiment a success.

However, the one thing I didn’t like about the experiment was how much it felt like an experiment. I’m so used to being endearingly awkward…okay, maybe that’s an oxymoron…but that’s how I see myself. I like that I’m a little shy, a little quirky, and a little awkward. That’s just who I am, and pretending to be otherwise felt kind of like lying. So maybe there’s a balance I haven’t found yet. Maybe I can be a little awkward, a little shy, and a little quirky while still being confident and talkative.

I guess that can be my next experiment: to not only act confident, but feel confident too. I’d like to figure out how not to run from or hide my quirks, but to embrace them so I can be myself and still make a good first impression.

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What are you like on first dates?

Adventures in the World of Online Dating

One of my OKC Profile Photos

I’ve recently started tweeting about some of the ridiculous messages I receive on OKCupid. For those of you who don’t know, OKCupid is one of the major free online dating sites, and it’s the main one I use.

In the past year, I’ve gone on dates with a total of nine people (and counting). I’ve had conversations with dozens more. So I thought it might be fun to blog about my experiences in the online dating world for those who are curious about it, or who do it themselves and need a place to commiserate.

Now, I’m no newbie to online dating. I’ve been doing it for a long time. My longest relationship to date was with someone I met on OKCupid back in 2007 when I first joined the site. He was only the second person I met, so I got lucky. I was inactive (obviously) while we were together and went back on after the relationship ended.

I’ve probably squeezed about a lifetime’s worth of dating into this past year, and I’ve met most of the types you’ll generally run into (more on that in a future post).  I’ve seen a lot, and feel relatively comfortable calling myself an online dating expert. But I don’t intend to give advice. I just want to talk about some of the things I’ve experienced and some of the people I’ve met. And If I dated you, don’t worry – I’ll change your name.

As a little treat for reading this not very exciting introductory post, here are a few real messages I’ve gotten from people on OKCupid recently, along with my commentary on them:

“hi do u think i’m cute?” [He wasn’t.]

“Hi, I’m Thor” [Hi Mom and Dad, I’d like you to meet my new boyfriend, Thor. Oh, and we met online.]

“You’re cute.” [He gets brownie points for choosing the correct version of your/you’re. Believe me, that’s rare.]

“Hiii ;)” [Friendly enough, but lacking substance. And I’m not sure I appreciate the implications behind that winking emoticon.]

“Hello there how are you? Just wanted 2 say hi Hope u Enjoy your day n Thank U 4 the beautiful view” [No comment necessary.]

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If you use online dating, do you ever get messages like these?

Getting Over Heartbreak The Writerly Way

I haven’t been sure whether or not I should talk about the biggest change and challenge in my life right now. About two months ago, the relationship I was in ended very suddenly. Part of the reason I hesitated mentioning it was because I thought he might read my blog, and another part of me wasn’t sure it was okay to open up here.

But as a memoir writer, I think it’s important for me to express myself openly and honestly on my blog. So here it is: The past two months have been really, really hard on me. I haven’t been single for more than a few months since I was 17. I went from one long term relationship to the next. I don’t exactly regret my decision to do so because I learned a lot from my last relationship, but I think I would have benefited from more time on my own.

One of the ways I’m going to try moving through this breakup is by focusing my NaNoWriMo novel around a relationship. I want to explore the way relationships work, especially those first or second relationships one has as a young adult where you’re really just figuring out who you are and how to be with someone. I also want to try to understand what makes relationships tick, and what makes them end.

The great thing about being a writer is that you can always channel difficult experiences into your writing, which makes it more unique and authentic. It can be painful to revisit or work through those emotions, but I think, ultimately, you come out of it with an honest work and a better understanding of yourself.