Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I Would Tell My 26 Year Old Self

I’ve lived and loved longer than you have at this stage and I have good and disappointing news. The good news is that you can eat whatever you want and it will not show. Those diet decisions can safely be left unaddressed for another few years when, yes, you will join a gym. You will end up being a girl who likes running on a treadmill, regardless of how disparagingly you speak of people who, “run in the same place just to keep up, and pay money to do it?! Are they stupid?” Yeah, that will be you soon.
You should get that second tattoo. I know you’re thinking about it but I wish you’d get it already before you get to where I am because I’m too paranoid and trust others less to do it right now. Trust me, the design you want is the right one, and you’ll regret it a little if you don’t. Don’t bother with the belly button piercing though- you'll be bored before it even has time to heal!
You’re not going to be a gypsy bartender, wandering the world with a backpack and a map. And that’s not awful because the only thing you liked about that picture was that it’s a picture, right? Don’t lie, I know you. Instead, you’ll be a storyteller, painting pictures using a thousand words. But here’s the deal - you won’t get there alone. Surprisingly, talent isn’t everything. I know you face trouble with people in authority and I have three words for you -- It’s. Not. Personal. Not everyone is trying to undermine you. Sometimes, they really don’t get it. And sometimes, neither do you. So start listening.
You’re beautiful. I know there are many people who’re telling you this these days and you don’t believe them because you don’t see yourself. You’re beautiful in a young, unbroken and enthusiastic kind of way that makes people want to sweep you up and protect you from the harsh spikes of inevitable disappointment. Enjoy this, and know that when they say they love you, they do mean it, but not in the way you’re thinking.
And now for the doozy.
I know Mom’s been trying to get you to ring the wedding bells. She’s telling you that unless you pick someone quick, all the good guys will be taken and then, in another ten years, all your friends will be married with kids and soon they’ll lose sight of you and all the promise you hold. I want to tell you something. She’s wrong. But not for the reasons you imagine.
Yes, all the good guys will be taken because they’re wonderful people who believe in the ever after. But in another few years, they’ll find you on Facebook and marvel at how gorgeous you are. They’ll wonder why they never had the courage to make something happen with you when they were younger and you spent your time secretly wondering how your first name would sound attached to their last. Then, they will regale you with stories of their marriage and kids and their divorce proceedings. Now, soon-to-be/recently separated/divorced they will ask you how you feel about being Friends With Benefits/casually hooking up / a quick grope after dinner. And just like that, many of the good guys will have turned into THAT guy.
But you have to understand something. Those very guys are around you right now. They are young and romantic and idealistic. They walk lighter without life’s inevitable baggage, and have the energy to make their existence follow the path that all the books and movies have promised them is true. Those are the guys who want to marry you now. Some of them are also the same guys who, in a few years as they troll through the profile pictures of their hot classmates from school, will wonder why the hell they got married so young. The truth is, Life will unfold and Shit will Happen for everyone and everyone will be changed for better or worse. Try not to judge too harshly-- the people you know today will be different tomorrow, as will you. And that's the beauty of it all.
So the good guys will always be there. When those good guys turn into THOSE guys, there will be other good guys who will turn up. But as you grow older, and deal with an increasing number of Those Guys, you’ll become much more discerning and find it harder to suspend disbelief. Your time and mental peace will become more important than watching the sun rise after a whole night spent talking with a stranger. You will finally have learned the art of looking after yourself – mentally and emotionally.
In the meanwhile, you’ll have dinners with your friends who did not desert you despite marriages and kids, and you’ll understand it’s because they need you too. You will understand why love is complicated and you’ll become kinder. You will watch your preconceived notions about right and wrong melt away into a relative space, you’ll learn to spend a lot of time alone and enjoy it, and you’ll finally understand that until the end credits roll, this life starring you will have many twists and turns and no one can know how it ends.
So breathe. It’s going to be alright.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Other Guys

Sometimes, the only way you can go after things is when you're certain that failure will not destroy you. In fact, the "chase" is interesting because somewhere at the back of your mind, your exit routes that bypass heartache have been mapped out. It is the nonchalance that springs from not being particularly invested in the outcome that often gets misunderstood to be confidence. And that confidence can be a potent aphrodisiac.

Lately, I find myself struggling to separate interest from indifference when it comes to relationships. They are both dressed alike - in witty repartee and friendly and affectionate hugs. Enough movies and shows have been watched and How to Win Friends and Date Hotties books have been read to give everyone out there a blueprint of sorts to "get the one." And yet, amidst this barrage of information, more and more people are single.

If I look back at my life, at the various relationships I've had, there are a few things that strike a common chord. All the men were extremely bright, talented writer-directors, they kissed marvelously, and loved me in their unique often dysfunctional ways. And of course, none of them lasted in my life beyond the first year of intense all-consuming passion.

But here's where it gets interesting (For me, in any case). If I extend the same kind of scrutiny to my almost-relationships, the 'flings' if you will, I have to admit they lasted a lot longer (Hmm.. weird. Had not noticed that until I wrote it down). Again, the men were bright, talented, very tuned in to music (Again, had not noticed) and did not treat me like a porcelain doll in need of a passion fix. Since there were no words of 'love' bandied about, it turns out we could be nonchalantly confident about each other.

And that's what happened.

For someone who has often been accused of losing herself in relationships, I have to say that over the last 7 years, I have been in "flings" that have allowed me to be my own person. With neither of us ever being obligated or even desirous of being 'everything' for the other, it freed us to be who we are without judgement - independent adults. I have grown with my friends and increased my circle, focused on my work without distractions or pesky "take the day off na, baby!", had plenty of company for dinners and movies for two, and had some incredible cuddles along the way.

All this really happened without my knowledge. When I think of my professed romantic relationships, I remember extremes of sheer ecstacy and suffocating depression. But when it comes to the almost-relationships, I remember being... calm. Not the most romantic thing one can say but here's the clicher - I remain happy friends with all the flings but have barely spoken to any of the other category.

And I have to wonder - are my almost-relationships more normal and... functional? Because if that's true, then does it mean that relationships work only if peppered with a healthy dose of nonchalant confidence and not the all-consuming passion like Shakespeare and Enrique Iglesias would have us believe?

I'm confused.