Remember about 3 years ago when I first set out with a backpack on that hedonic quest to Eat, Pray, and Love my way around the world?
You most certainly do not remember that.
Because I have never claimed to be on any such quest. In fact, I’ve proudly announced that I am not traveling the world in the hopes of finding the butter to my bread. And I certainly did not aim to travel the globe just to ponder the existence of my muffin top.
No, no. Nope. I am not, and will not, be one of those women who goes on an independent, wine-soaked gallivant for herself, only to end up tangled in the love knots of confusion with a man. IT AIN’T FOR ME folks and this is not a cuss-filled sequel to Eat, Pray, Love.
Or so… I used to say.
I don’t think I entirely realized the full extent of my shift in views until two weeks ago when I was sitting in a hostel community room in northern India. I was drinking the first bit of real, fresh ground coffee I’d had in weeks, and was feeling particularly pleased with myself for some reason while talking to a group of young, fresh backpackers. I marveled at their gumptions, asked them about their plans, where they would go next and whom they had met along the way.
One girl promptly halted the calm conversation to announce that she was riddled with conflict, madly trying to decide whether to carry on with her mapped out route… or to venture south to Menali to spend the next 4 months with the possible love of her life.
The love of her life—a man she had just spent a handful of days with in a previous hostel. The love of her life—a man who would forever be the reason she did not carry on with her I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR solo-trek across India.
I listened to her conflict.
And my response was as follows:
“Darling, just go to Menali.”
And then everything I thought I knew about myself turned into dancing ponies and glittering dragonflies that flew into the ether.
Then, for the next 12 minutes, I tried to decide why I suddenly felt the urge to encourage women to abandon their solo-ventures just to pursue the cliché waiting around the corner of every imaginary cobblestone street and florist store-front. At what point had I decided it was okay to suggest potential love over self-exploration? And when did I become as tender and vulnerable as a sugarcube in a rainstorm?
So then, naturally, I blamed David.
The man I met two years ago in New Delhi. A man who clearly brainwashed me with his majestic beard, perfectly framing a siren-esque British accent. The sneaky devil… who turned me into a gullible believer in plane-hopping tall tales and rose-tinted scenes from Romancing the Stone. A man who— yes, turned into that bearded man I met for 72 hours in Delhi and in fact turned out to be the butter to my bread.
BUT no, no, he’s an exception.
This sort of thing doesn’t just happen.
Certainly it wasn’t normal for me to meet a perfectly charming human, traveling through India, writing an unintentionally hilarious blog himself about misguided musings abroad.
And no way was it likely for him to end up so oddly similar to myself in every way I could imagine… because these things don’t happen. These stories are in the books.
So I certainly should not encourage a young female traveler to believe in such nonsense… should I?
That was the battle of thoughts running through my mind right after I said to her, “Darling, just go to Menali.” And it was a short-lived battle as I realized something I’m now calling profound.
At what point did we humans begin to tell ourselves that love should be anything less than a thrilling adventure? Why is every other aspect of life meant to be involving of great gumption, risk, trial and error and triumphant redemption over failure?
Why did we start writing articles about How Disney Gave Me False Hope? And how many opportunities are we missing because we convince ourselves that the grandiose—the grand gesture, will “never happen to me”? Why do we settle for contentment when we could have cartoon hearts in our eyes and wake up shitting rainbows?
I’m not saying to leave your sugar pie in the dust because they haven’t run you a bubble bath in, oh, ever… or that he’s not the one because you didn’t meet as he swept you from the path of rogue horse cart. What I’m saying is this:
You write the story you want.
I recently read a “How it all Began” story on a wedding blog (a friend of a friend’s – I stumbled upon whilst droolingly strolling through Facebook, as you do). It was the most boring meeting story I had ever read. I mean, ever. There were fewer unfolding events than my morning shoe-tying routine. But at the end of that yawning paragraph, she concluded with, “I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect beginning to our fairytale.” That story, to her, was exactly the definition of a thrilling adventure.
Because thrilling is defined by you. Romance is written by the churning in your gut, not by an expectation for greatness.
So there you have it. Allow yourself the story you want, and stop telling yourself to expect anything less than heart-fluttering and pre-date nervous shits. Stop telling yourself that your best friend is an exception, and surely you won’t find the same. Go on a few 100 hideous dates, and then do it all again. Because when you allow yourself to seek only the thrilling adventure and unyielding happiness you want from all of your relationships, you’ll be surprised just how quickly that glittering story becomes your own.