Thursday, January 8, 2015

Singleness: A Dating Comfort Zone

When you meet one of my really close friends (Melinda) you’ll notice one thing right away: She and I are total opposites.

She loves to dance and has rhythm.  I can't keep beat to save my life, and prefer to listen to music while standing still.

Melinda enjoys cooking, and well…It’s a rarity that you see me in the kitchen without chocolate and sugar, verses chicken and rice. She loves to cook, I love to bake.

Her personality is bubbly and outgoing. Me? I’m usually friendly and am out going in the right situations, but I frequently stay more mellow and in my quiet shell in areas where Melinda socially thrives.

She's Pentecostal.  I'm (Free Will) Baptist.

Our personalities, our wardrobes, our taste in guys…They’re 100% opposite.

Thinking about it, I think only thing I think we really have in common is our music choice and that we both love Jesus. (If you ask her about all this – she’ll pretty much tell you the same thing. We’ve talked about this 1,000 times - no exaggeration.)

Usually it works out in ways where she gets me out of my quiet, shy shell and I help her think of things in a new perspective. We’re opposites, but we often compliment one another really well.

In a recent discussion, though, we realized that we’re opposites in another way.

While not wanting to be redundant, I know I mentioned above that our tastes in guys are different. However, a few days ago we realized that our comfort levels in regards to having a relationship with a guy are different too.

A few months ago Melinda asked me a brutally honest question…a question no one has asked me before, and a question that made me really think hard about the answer. Her question?? She basically asked me, “Do you think you sometimes use your "Five Year 'No Man Plan'" as a way to hide from the possibility of a relationship? Do you think you’re afraid of a relationship, and this no man plan is a comfort zone?”

She even continued by pointing out, “Even when we’re out and you see or meet a cute guy, you point out he is attractive, yet you instantly start talking to me about your no man plan. You explaining that it doesn’t matter that you’re attracted to him – because you have a plan. You say you’re open to the right guy if God brings him, but it’s like you use it as an instant repellent by mentioning it within ear shot around the guy.”

Woah. I hadn’t really thought about this before, and I really had to be honest with her – and myself. (I didn’t even realize that I do this.)

I’ve never been in a relationship before – but not necessarily by choice.  It was never my plan to spend all of my 23 years of my life in total and complete singleness.  Truthfully, I always figured that by this point in my life I would have at least been on a date or two, minimum - and I realize that going 23 years without going on a date or being in a relationship is extremely unusual in our culture.  (People tell me this all the time - even if it's just by their very obviously shocked facial reactions.)

I’ve never had a boyfriend, I’ve never dated, I've never been in a relationship - and realistically I know I really don't have much control on this matter.  Things in life happen in their own time, and my timing for things to happen may not be the same as our culture's norm...and that's okay.

In the past I've had a few crushes.   I’ve even fallen hard for a couple of guys here and there with an attached hope for him to like me back…With the hopes of having a relationship with that guy. It’s just never worked out for different reasons.

Which, side note: It always cracks me up when people ask me why I’ve never had a boyfriend or why I've never been in a relationship, as if this is 100% by choice because having a desire to have a boyfriend means that I should have one automatically...but life is always a bit more complicated than that.

As I thought about her question, I realized that yes, I do think I use my no man plan as an excuse at times. I don’t always do that, but I think I do sometimes use it as a safety net. Sure, I claim I’m open to a possible relationship if the right guy were to pursue me – but how open have I really been to the idea? Probably not as open as I said I would be. (Although, I have to say…it really is easy to stick to a no man plan when there are no eligible, single, Christian men near me, or any eligible Christian guys attempting to pursue me. This creates an easy, no effort necessary, instant no man plan success. Ha…)

My no man plan has done a really good job with its main purpose: Helping me focus on my school work, getting a job, etc. It’s done a good job in helping me stay focused on the fact that I don’t need a man to live or thrive – because really, I don’t. I’m living in the moment, happy with being single, not focusing on the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend – like many girls my age have a tendency to do when single. (If you read the actual blog entry on my plan, then you’ll see it’s full, logical purpose – all of which are valid points.)

However, I think Melinda is right. My plan has become my comfort zone. I know no other way…I don’t know what it’s like to have a date, or a boyfriend. It is completely unknown territory and that scares me. I’ve defined myself by who I am as an independent person – and I have no idea how I would change, how my life would change, if there were another person so close to me.

A part of it, I think, is that although I’ve never had a relationship – I have been hurt in the past. Sometimes I’ve been hurt by a guy or two intentionally, and there has been a time or two that the hurt hasn’t been intentional.

But then I realize that I’ve even been deeply hurt by past close friendships I once valued so deeply with people I once trusted, yet, I have no idea what even happened between me and some of those friends. I’ve tried to find out, but I haven’t gotten any answers. If you know me well – I thrive the best when I have good, deep friendships and cannot stand having broken ones, or ones that seemingly and mysteriously end. Broken or ended friendships hurt me deeper than I can ever explain.

A guy as a boyfriend? He’s more than just a boyfriend. He is first, and foremost, a friend. And I think that alone scares me. Knowing the sting of lost friendships, I can’t imagine the possible pain of a lost close friendship and deeper relationship with a man.

To have a boyfriend, it means being open and transparent – and I know I’m not always very good at that. In the back of my mind, I think I sometimes wonder in regards to specific friendships, “Well, I use to be good friends with so and so. I was honest and transparent with them, but where are they now?? What’s the point if people keep leaving?”

There’s a certain level of myself that wants to keep things to myself, because I fully trust myself. I feel as though I can protect my heart in ways others can’t and in ways that others have let me down.

For example: In my blog entry "Exchanging the Negative for the Positive" I mentioned the lady who gave me unasked for make up advice so I can “hide" my birthmark "better”. I mentioned it frustrated and hurt…But what I didn’t mention? I didn’t mention that when I got into my car, I bawled my eyes out like a baby. Granted, I know some of those tears were from feeling physically awful from my recent gallbladder surgery, and from my disappointment of not going to DC this summer to attend Gallaudet…(In 2014 I was accepted into the college for the Deaf for 6 weeks of summer ASL classes)…but I know that a lot of it was the frustration in feeling like I’m in this constant struggle of wanting society to accept me as me, facial difference and all. A lot of my tears were from a build up of many hurtful comments that people had recently thrown my way. Yet, I left that part of out of my blog…And I even chose to forgo the fact that I had a major crying session in my car when telling the story to Melinda, and even to my mom – and I tell them both just about everything.

Melinda, on the other hand, is comfortable when she has a relationship with a man. She’s comfortable in having another half, a boyfriend. While I find my identity in being an individual while being independent, she frequently finds herself craving to have a relationship, while uncomfortable being single…often wondering when God will bring her “Mr. Right”.

I don’t know all the reasons as to why that’s her comfort zone, and really, it’s not my place to blog about them anyway. We all have our comfort zones, and they’re all different depending on the person. Her comfort zone just happens to be relationships, and mine happens to be in my singleness.

What I do know is that when I see my friend – I see her for her. I see her personality, her dreams and vision, her humor, her life story. I remember all the joy and laughter she’s brought to my life. She’s a woman who loves God with all her heart and always an honest woman who keeps in me check when it’s needed the most. She’s a woman who hopes to marry one day – as long as it’s the right guy. I see her as a person, a person who doesn’t need a guy to define her.

Just like I see Melinda’s value as being her being herself, I know that she sees me for me. She sees a woman who loves to ramble in her blog, who loves to travel, and who has massive God-sized dreams for her life – while loving God throughout all that life brings her. She sees me as a woman who, although she sees me as an individual, she sees someone who deserves true love just as much as any other woman – even if I don’t always feel like I do.

During the summer we had a conversation where we were comparing our differences and Melinda told me, “I think for the summer, you and I need to switch plans. I should take your no man plan – and you should put your no man plan on hold. We should both step out of our comfort zones!” Ha!

Often people ask me in confusion, “Do you even want to get married one day?” I cannot even emphasis how much I would love to marry in my future, and I hope that’s a blessing God includes in his plan for my life. Yet, I don’t want to put too much hope in something that may never happen…and while a relationship is sometime I desire, it’s also something I am scared to have – hence my comfort zone.

Now that I’ve been honest with myself, God, my friend, and now my blog readers – here’s to continuing in my no man plan, but not using it as a safety net, excuse, or form of repellent.

Here’s to being more open, and more willing to embrace any possible future God may have for my life – man included, or not.

You may be in a comfort zone too. Maybe it’s relationship related, or maybe it’s not. Just in case you need to break out of a comfort zone you’re in too – here are a favorite quote that I have found on doing so as a form of encouragement:

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”
- Brian Tracy

“I'm continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you're uncomfortable, it means you're growing.”
-Ashton Kutcher

“The further you get away from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun.”
- Benedict Cumberbatch

“Coming out of your comfort zone is tough in the beginning, chaotic in the middle, and awesome in the end...because in the end, it shows you a whole new world!! Make an attempt.”
- Manoj Arora

“Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to break the rules. And we have to discover the sensuality of fear. We need to face it, challenge it, dance with it.”
- Kyra Davis

You never know what could be if you’re not willing to try, right?

The Travelin Chick,

PS: To read another entry I've written on dating and relationships, check out my blog entry Challenges for Singles (In a Couple's World).

***Please note, I did ask Melinda if it would be okay to include her in this blog entry. I did not write about her on a such a personal level without her okay, and without her proof reading what I wrote first.***