My ex and I were separated for a year before I began to date again.
It wasn’t the first time I tried, but every effort beforehand fell short. I knew why. It was because I wasn’t ready. I attempted to jump back into the swing of things using Bumble, OkCupid, and Tinder amongst a host of other websites. I would swipe left, swipe right, and swipe left again often matching with people who seemed interesting enough. We would trade a few messages and then the conversation would die. On one side of the screen or another the interest faded and no matter what side I was on, I felt it as a slap against myself.
I can be dramatic. I can be absolutist. I can take a single strike to mean that I’ll never have a chance again. But I took the logical route and realized that I wasn’t ready. Not only wasn’t I ready, but I didn’t want someone else to try to prop me up. So I deleted the apps and took time to myself. I learned to live a life of solitude. A life where I lived in my own space, took care of my own needs and was satisfied with my ability to be self-sufficient for the first time in years.
I took the time to acknowledge the accomplishment. To see the little victories that littered my road to progress and by the time summer 2018 hit I was ready to try again. When I did date again I felt lucky, but more importantly, I felt confident.
She was beautiful, she was educated, she was smart, she was accomplished, and she was witty. She was also into me, and I was… well, I was me. Yet, unlike other times this version of me wasn’t full of self-doubt, wasn’t searching for reasons why I wasn’t good enough. I was confident, I was charming, I was comfortable, and I controlled the date. I felt like an idealized version of myself but I wasn’t pretending. I was simply being, for a change, and she couldn’t see the insecure version of myself that had existed. We talked about philosophy, politics, pop culture, how she didn’t understand music, and I didn’t understand art.
When I was with her there was electricity, a feeling I had never felt with anyone else in my life. When I looked at her I saw someone I could spend the rest of my life with but (isn’t there always one) she was ready, and I was not. We had the conversation about what we were doing once before but decided to keep going. As the summer turned to fall we decided to just let the fun continue and think about it later. Later came faster than either of us expected, and we had the discussion again.
She had her education. She had her career. She was looking to have her family to make her life complete. I was newly divorced, with a child, and not in a situation to make that commitment. Our lives intersected at this moment and I was given a choice that was too easy to make. The past me would have clung on, admitted I wasn’t ready but that I would be eventually. Would have tied her up and held on dimming her light and stealing her years in the process. I let go. I knew the more we saw each other the harder it would become and the more of her time I would take up.
Through this experience, I learned not who I could be but who I am when I let go of all the things that I use to define me. That’s what helped me let go. That’s what helped me fall back and continue to work on myself and not look for someone to fill a void.
Sometimes, I think of those cool fall nights. I can hear the leaves under our feet as we hold hands walking in the Philly night. The warm feeling in my stomach, and the smile on my face. I don’t mourn those nights but I still smile when I remember them. Not because of what was but because of what can and will be.
It’s been six months since I’ve last dated, but I’m not in a rush. I’m not necessarily interested. I will be eventually, but until then I’m going to continue releasing the words I’ve used to define myself all of these years and just live.