Sunday. 11.24.13 1:29 pm
The first time, when I visited with one friend, I complained about the lighting and squinted theatrically to see the menu. The free-standing heaters left me in my winter coat, and it was very quiet on a Thursday night, which seemed a bit odd, for a spot with a fully-stocked bar in the "cool" (but actually, yes, cool) part of town. The food was great, but that's the only reason I ever made a gesture to come back.
Two and a half years later, we roll up with a group of five and are given a twenty-minute wait. I walk in hugging waiters and regulars on the way to our seats--seats which are crowded in by all the patrons at the bar--then order a vodka cranberry and a hookah offer that isn't on the menu, and we all smoke, even the people who "don't smoke." Mid-conversation, I look up and see one of my favorite new acquaintances, and, on his way over, he tells me to get up. Thinking it's time for a hug, I comply, but instead I'm pulled onto the dance floor, which is fast and terrifying and perfect. The DJ knows what he's doing, and it doesn't feel cold, despite the nippy temperatures.
This is a very important restaurant, to me, because it practically grew with me. It was founded when I started college, but neither of us really took off until the summer after my sophomore year, and then everything changed. They rearranged furniture and installed hanging heaters into the ceiling over the now larger tables in the front, then moved the smaller tables into the back garden and used the free-standing lamps there. They hired a DJ for Saturday nights and started using Pandora stations to get the right feeling during the day. They trained their waitstaff to enjoy themselves--and they do. The only reason I know so many servers and know the little nuances of the restaurant is because they'll come hang out with the more welcoming patrons and smoke some of their hookah.
Meanwhile, I was coming out of my shell. The introvert in me turned into the manageable anxieties of an extrovert, and I learned that drinking can be a social interaction rather than a pathway to alcoholism (which is how my parents always sold it). I started approaching strangers, and dating, and actually feeling like someone capable of handling the typical social aspect of living. It isn't for everyone, but I'm also dead tired of the superiority complex that some people "subtly" push because they're introverts. If it's a contest, for you, then you probably think something is fundamentally wrong with the way you're living.
I love the way I'm growing. I love the fact that I'm both capable of destroying all my classes and approaching lost-looking tourists to see if they need anything. I love the fact that I can eat lunch alone with a good book, but also hold interesting conversation with anyone who might ask me what I'm reading. That, to me, is fulfillment.
At the end of the night, though, I still panic and fast-walk away from the restaurant, after leaving my number for a new server. Some things don't change.
(It paid off, though, because now we're texting.)
Sunday. 11.17.13 10:58 pm
We're on the beach, and the sun is setting in front of us as we walk. Devon and I are dressed in our finest yuppie attire--being leggings, gym shoes, and fleece jackets for warmth. I have those earmuffs that wrap around the back of my head on, and she's sporting a black sports headband. Wintertime always produces the nicest sunsets, I think; the silhouette of the lighthouse is encased in deep oranges and reds, and the water just slightly reflects those colors, too. It feels quiet, even in the chaos of rushing waves pushing at the shore as the tide comes in. She stops frequently to take photos of the sunset, but none of the photos do it justice.
This is our first workout. See, we're both trying to get in shape--she wants to tone up before next summer, and I want to be able to escape hordes of zombies without having an asthma attack due to the weak-ass state of my lungs.
On our way back, we start to cash in on our agreement to perform one hundred squats before reaching the car.
A hundred. Four sets of twenty-five, and this is our first exercise. By the end of the second set, she suggests that we only do seventy-five, but I'm a good workout buddy and won't let go of our goals.
"I think we can do a hundred. Let's try for it, and if we don't get there, that's okay."
My friend Steve called, tonight. He left my university, last year, but we still talk about every month, and it's always something special. Tonight, the theme was Growth. See, he's realized that his life is structured, and that it's always been structured and goal-oriented...and that this isn't necessarily a good thing. He left our university in order to pursue a better degree program for his chosen field, which may or may not have been worth it (no one can decide that without knowing the other side of the coin), and has been working like crazy to give himself the best chances at doing what he wants with his life. For this, I deeply admire him.
He wants to take a break because he knows he needs it (sometimes you have to step away from a situation in order to refresh your perspective), but he also doesn't want to waste that break doing nothing to better his life.
I didn't know it, when he told me all of this, but our conversation would lead us to a place where I knew exactly what his task should be. Sure, he'll have to get more than just one task done, during that time off. He'll be exploring, and experiencing, and learning things, both in the external world and in the internal. I think this is the best possible thing for him to do, at this point in his life, before he becomes too old and too stuck in his ways. There is, however, one thing that I want him to do, when he's out there in the world.
"I want you to use this time to become more vulnerable," I told him. Before we said goodbye for the time being, he told me that he was frustrated by my advice, and that his frustration just means that I'm very right. The road won't be an easy one by any means, and he knows that...but he also knows that becoming more vulnerable could change his entire life in such a positive way.
The last twenty-five squats are the ones that really have my legs shaking...but, when my muscles really start to feel unstable, that's when they start growing. It's why they tell you not to use machines, at the gym, actually--without any sort of instability (i.e. having to hold the weight in place, rather than the weight being held in place is you lift it up and down in a straight line), the muscle doesn't have as much of a challenge, and it doesn't develop as much. Stable exercises are comfortable, and easy, but you won't grow as much from them.
That makes it all the greater of a reward, when you finally perform that last rep. The air smelled of sea water and victory, that night, as we drove home down the nearly-deserted roads of the coastal area, night all around us, thighs aching with realized accomplishment.
Youth is so full of possibility.
table for one
Wednesday. 11.6.13 9:39 pm
It was seventy-seven degrees and mostly sunny, today, in my beautiful college town. I got out of my last class at noon, and sat around for half an hour doing nothing before feeling this intense sense of Why Am I Here?
So I left. I stopped at the drug store and grabbed a bottle of water, then at the bookstore for a new book to read. My employee discount makes paper novels worth buying, sometimes, in a time pinch with a dead Kindle, and anyway I was replacing a book I'd lost so I could read it a few more times.
Then, I started walking. The funny thing about walking in my town is that, often, you'll get wrapped up in where you're going and not think about where you are. But then, on days like today--which don't come often, by the way--suddenly I can see everything again: the tall palm tress bursting out of the sidewalks, the packed-in historic buildings, the old streets, the sky... After not so terribly long, I found myself at the park by the ocean, and settled in a tree branch to read. The wind rocked me as I read, and occasionally I would look up at the ocean and bask in what I had access to. Living here is a privilege I too often forget I have.
After a long read, I started feeling hungry. I'd remembered passing one of my favorite cozy restaurants, on the way, and how the craving for fresh bread had hit me like a sack of rocks.
So I stopped in, on my way back.
This was my first experience eating alone.
The staff was pleasant, placing me at a table and generally leaving me alone while I read. The only things I had to say to the waitress were my order, and then my request for a check. One of the employees stopped by to ask me about the book I was reading, and what it was about, which was challenging, because it was a Vonnegut novel, and his novels are about everything and nothing, really. I settled on telling him that it was a novel about human choice. Fate, luck, happenstance.
He liked that answer.
He liked that answer so much that, after I'd paid and left, he came running after me with a handwritten note--written on the back of an order receipt--introducing himself and complimenting me. At the bottom, he drew a Vonnegut asterisk.
I smiled the whole walk home. Strangers are wonderful, and so is eating alone.
Unfortunately, I had to think.
I've been wondering a lot why my love life is so shoddy and temporally-limited, and this kind of...added to my ponderment, because I started thinking about idealism versus reality. I think that I see dating as such a weak structure for learning about someone because it's always been an idealist venture. It's hard to form into coherent thoughts, but I have it all in my head, so I'll try to be systematic:
Let's say you start as friends. These two friends see each other in a variety of situations, in the context of real life: studying, watching movies with people, doing the ugly laugh, maybe sometimes crying...you see these people, and you get to know every part of them in a relaxed atmosphere, and then those feelings start to develop, and that's how you get to maybe dating, but mostly a relationship. Friends tend to come as they are because there is no politeness, really, in friendship--you're there to challenge the other person, and that's part of the reason why they picked you.
Then, okay, otherwise, you start as strangers. Strangers, who like something in each other, something that catches attention. The first thought after meeting this person, for some reason, isn't, "I would like to be friends with this person," it's "I would like to date this person," and that brings me to kind of a problematic area.
To me, it feels like it's skipping a step. I've heard others talk about the same thing--how it doesn't really feel real, going through the motions of dating, without ever really breaking the ice. How are you going to break it, anyway? Over dinner? Out for ice cream? No, it's going to be way later, when both of you have started getting invested and doing couple activities, like staying in and watching movies (not that it's always a couple thing), and by then, anything you find out that really, really breaks the deal is found out a bit too late.
(You know I dated a homophobic individual for several weeks before finding out? By then, I was starting to really like this guy. It was an emotionally-elaborate ordeal.)
I've said it so many times before that it makes me ill, because I say it, but I never seem to change the behavior: I hate dating. I would love to go sit out in the grass on a warm, sunny day, and just talk for hours. I would love to bring our own sandwiches and our own drinks and just enjoy each other's company without the overbearing pretense. I hate the awkward pause after a waiter asks if the checks are together or separate. I hate having people immediately say "Together," and pay for me. I like paying for other people, sometimes, but it would be fine, all the same, to me, if we never paid for each other, outside of a relationship (and even then, just whenever we wanted, no expectations).
Relationships--especially marriage--should be like getting to spend tons of time with your best friend, but with sexytimes. That doesn't come from dating, for me. It comes from genuinely seeing that person, rather than a foggy idea of a person.
Monday. 10.28.13 5:34 pm
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