My younger sister recently shared the following quote with me, and it struck deep.
“Your 20’s are your ‘selfish’ years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time, and all the aspects of you. Tinker with shit, travel, explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground.” -Kyoko Escamilla
I personally think we have every right to be selfish throughout life. As my aunt commented on that post, “and then it happens again in your 50′s!!!”
When friends and mentors offer me advice and feedback, I take their words to heart. The common theme as of late is this: Fear signifies growth; when you’re afraid, lean further into the unknown.
I enjoy challenging myself in all areas–career, financial, health, spiritual, education, creativity, lifestyle, service, and relationships. I love setting slightly uncomfortable goals for myself and then, subsequently, achieving them and moving closer toward my ideal lifestyle. However, there are some areas where the pursuit is downright painful.
“You really need to get out and date more.”
I have heard every variation on this imaginable. And, geez, I get it. It’s good to “practice” being in a relationship, to dip your toes into commitment, to reap the benefits of love, to (possibly) set a foundation for something more substantial and long-term. However, I can’t help but believe that discovering who I am and I what am I meant for are more important than–or at least prerequisites to–figuring out who will make me feel simultaneously loved, supported, and free. I must feel simultaneously loved, supported, and free. That is my non-negotiable.
My best friend often tells me I should just date someone who is off traveling the world or completely entrenched in their life’s work. In such case, I would–conveniently–not be required to talk to said significant other daily or schedule banal dinner conversations in place of my feverish writing sessions. Her idea has more merit than she realizes.
When it comes to the issue of romance, I am cynically independent and a few open acres shy of believing another person could ever contend with the fascinating thoughts the fill my head. In all honesty, it’s difficult for me to put (new) people before my passion projects, to even allow them the chance to compete. My endless patience extends through all area of my life, except the nail-on-chalkboard “let’s get to know each other” stage. It feels like a chore, right in between walking the dog on a 110°F day and cleaning the house the morning after a party while terribly hungover.
I am disenchanted with the extended fumbling and falling that could maybe, in some distant future, lead to true love. Carving time out from tinkering and exploring and immersing myself in activities I love to sit across the table from someone who seems entirely unable to engage is a drain on my energy and creativity.
I don’t know how to talk to people who can’t answer the questions: What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies? Where do you hope to be five years from now? (It seems most people have given these no thought.) I can’t feign interest in golf or World of Warcraft. I don’t understand how you’ve gone 15 years without picking up a book. Stop asking me whether I care that you’re starting to going bald. Be present; you’ve already asked the same question three times. I would appreciate it if you would put aside those blank stares and one-word answers while with me. I wish you would ask me relevant questions, and probe deeper into the topics that clearly interest me. I’m not upset and I am not judging you. It’s just that, as the poster child of introversion, it’s odd being the one carrying the conversation.
I’m selective about using the word “hate,” but I cannot think of a more appropriate word to describe my feelings towards the process of “getting to know someone with the implied intention of potentially developing (or forcing) a romantic relationship.” No, thank you.
It generally takes one or two dates before a guy asks me to “tone it down” or tells me that I’m “too ambitious” and “intimidating.” Needless to say, things always end there. I find it quite fascinating that driven men are seen as desirable and destined for success, yet even mildly assertive women are viewed as going against their stereotypical gentle and submissive nature. The realization of dreams does not require compromising your essence; rather, following you heart will help you discover and develop that essence. Plenty of women are both feminine and business leaders; countless men maintain their masculinity while choosing to stay home with their kids.
I wish I could sit across from someone I just met and spill out my strongest aspirations and deepest insecurities. I wish I could be open, authentic, and transparent without scaring people away. I wish I could explain away all of their misled assumptions. Because there are a lot of them.
And I know that there are many like me. Women who want to be independent and successful, but to also be in loving and committed relationships. To maintain both identities–”me” and “us”–without compromise.
- I am fiercely loyal and selflessly loving. However, I need space in which to practice self-discovery, the freedom to capriciously follow my heart when I feel so inclined, and something more special than worldly adventures to return home to.
- I want to untangle the now entwined notions of ambition and frigidness. I swear that big dreams and a big heart are not mutually exclusive.
- I want to better myself. But I am not going to force the same upon you.
- I want to impact the world. But I have no desire to control yours.
- I am always looking for the next big idea. But that does not mean I’m looking for a new “Mr. Right.”
- I’m not trying to emasculate you. I’m simply trying to embrace myself.
- I will never dumb myself down to appease you, win over your friends, or to make you love me. But I will also never treat you with inferiority.
- I don’t expect to be provided for, and may be slightly offended by your suggestion. However, I do appreciate small gestures of chivalry and support once you recognize them as acts of love, not a means of control.
- I want open discussion and full acceptance. I am aware that vulnerability and honesty are harder than being guarded. I don’t care.
- I don’t need someone else to complete me. I would, however, like to supplement my own completeness with the opportunity to fully participate as part of a paired whole.
- I want to experience being in a relationship. But I refuse to sacrifice my own aspirations to mollify the doubts and insecurities of someone who may just be passing through.
- I have every intention of being more successful than you. That’s not because I want to outdo you; it is because I want to challenge myself to push my limits and discover just how much I am capable of. I’m secretly hoping you have the same aim.
I often wonder the proper balance between self-building and the erection of romantic relationships, if there exists some ultra-secret formula for success. Like all else, I realize that human connection is simply a series of trial and error. Love is jumping off a cliff without a net, shattering your soul on the rocky grounds below, and then laboriously making the climb to the top, and repeating the process until you get it right. Love is trusting that, eventually, someone will show up to catch you. Love is the process and preparation; love is planted long before you “just know” he’s The One.
I don’t think dating an ambitious girl should be seen as a threat to one’s masculinity. Rather, I believe it should be seen as a challenge, an opportunity for a man to step up and strive to discover his own potential. It’s a chance to live in a state of mutual support and continual encouragement. For as long as you so choose.
From afar, zealous aspirations appear to shiny and intriguing. Curiously drawn to the impressive unknown, visitors begin to notice the sharp edges. When something so beautiful is not smooth and predictable, they assume, it must be some type of weapon or trap. Turning their back to the sharp item in favor of safer options, they fail to realize that the sharp knife of ambition could just as easily be used as a tool. I think “driven dreaming” is quality that many think they’re looking for, but don’t know how to manage in reality.
To date an ambitious girl is to be ever-surrounded by a pervasive air of inspiration, novelty, and newness. And the same can be said of self-driven men. It will be uncomfortable and scary. But it will be worth it. A woman’s heart is a kite, whipped about unpredictably by the winds; and you–the man–are to be the solid anchor and the safe return. The interaction is an exercise in stability and trust. It’s a chance to know yourself and to know another, and to grow in a way that is impossible alone.
What are your thoughts? Are your 20′s a time to tinker with shit and travel the world, or the best time to fall in love and lay foundations?
To my high-achieving ladies, have you had similar experiences? And men,what are your thoughts on whose ambitions extend beyond merely settling down and starting a family?