It’d hardly be an exaggeration to say that “nostalgia” was one of my six senses. It’s likely on a higher rung than smell. My nose is a fickle friend, but my brain is so laden with memories that touching, seeing, hearing or tasting something is enough to make me tumble back in time. My friend recently started a dating podcast. It’s in its infancy, but both episodes released so far are fantastic. Of course they are, she’s a real life matchmaker. In the most recent episode, she has a conversation with her husband. It’s great. He’s a wonderful dude and he so eloquently and systematically lays out perceptive analysis of himself and his dating experiences. At the same time, so much of what he said resonated intimately with my own experiences. It was like being 20 again, but with the filter only meaningful life experiences can provide.
I was a different person back in my 20s. Naturally some core attributes were still the same. I’ve always loved words and puns, been obsessed with pop-culture. I’ve been fiercely passionate about the things I’ve cared for since I knew how to form an opinion. At the same time, ten years ago I was still very much learning who I was. Hatching from the shelter of an educational system and crawling out into the adult world meant some harsh lessons were incoming. I had to grow and change in order to truly be my own person.
Yeah? I’m sure you’re asking doesn’t everyone? Sure they do. My particular struggles focused around one thing: Confidence. In some areas I strutted by comfortably. I knew I was smart, capable and likeable. Dating though? I had all the experience and wisdom of a child. Years of being overweight had crippled my self-confidence. I questioned why anyone would find me interesting or attractive. I’d say that I crashed and burned, but frankly it was so rare for me to put myself out there that I rarely had the chance. I’d get these deep and debilitating crushes where one conversation was enough to make me obsessively swoon. I’d waste an alarming amount of emotional energy fretting about how to navigate my interest, how unlikely it was that there was reciprocal attraction, etc.
Po, my friend in the podcast episode I linked above, addresses this well. He mentions how outward approval can become your sole motivation in dating. This hit hard. I used to care so much about how the other person thought about me that I’d disregard how I felt about myself. Clearly I didn’t matter, only they did. If I wasn’t the kind of person they wanted, I needed to be. I’d have to change myself to be commensurate with their desires. Po also talks about pedestal-ing, or infatuation causing you to build up the subject of attraction to a level of idolatry. This would happen to me constantly. I’d see myself as some kind of lower life form, which ironically is the least attractive thing a person could do. My response to my own feelings were directly pushing away the people I wanted to get closer to.
Worse, this had a negative impact in any relationships that followed. By seeing the object of my affection as more important than myself, I developed the habit of forcing myself to mould around their desires. While it was great to invest in someone else and care about them, the unfortunate side effect was disregarding my own needs. I’m sure you can see how this would effect long term relationships, right? Of course they all imploded. Unhappiness does that. I’d become gradually more wound up and embittered and that would seep into my view of the relationship. By exclusively catering to them, I also divested them of the opportunity to give back. People who love each other enjoy being able to help their partners and I was stripping them of that recourse.
I’m on the precipice of my 30th year, and certain things are becoming abundantly clear. Time is a gift. I’ve learned that piece by piece with each passing solar cycle. Each rotation only drives the point home. Perspective is everything. It not only helps us understand why the past occurred the way it did, but how better to shape our future. Dwelling with dread doesn’t serve us one iota, but reflection can help us better see the best path forward.
Or am I blatantly trying to justify watching High Fidelity for the 80th time?