My Post-Grad Experience: Abandoning the safety net of love

For months, I’ve been struggling to write a blog post about what I’ve learned since I graduated from college (15 months ago—I still can’t believe it). I came up with a draft about how I felt stagnant for months, worked in retail for half a year, and interned at a local newspaper (but didn’t get any experience with hard news; even if I did cover hard news, I live in a small college town where the most exciting event is the Farmer’s Market—but hey, the white peaches and freshly-popped kettle corn are amazing).

I realized I couldn’t produce any meaningful writing because I hadn’t really suffered or taken any risks—I didn’t get a low-paying entry-level job in my field, move out on my own and struggle to pay rent in a tiny apartment in San Francisco with 5 roommates, or spend a year teaching English in Thailand (all of which are paths that people I know took after graduating). I also hadn’t progressed much either. I didn’t even bother to apply to graduate school (let alone establish connections with my professors or try hard enough to get straight A’s) or apply to any jobs at all for months.

I settled into the uncertainty of post-grad life that had stressed me out all of senior year, but I got too comfortable. I lived in an upper middle class suburb with my parents, I lifted weights three times a week in our home gym, I binge-watched way too many new shows (I’m ashamed to admit I spent two weeks doing nothing but watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians), and my only friends were my kid siblings and my cats. It felt like college never happened at all. I looked through my old photos obsessively and posted them on Instagram, not ready to move on from the past (the #tbt sadness is real). I missed the freedom to be out at 2am without having to answer to anyone (but to be honest, I spent most of college in my room watching Netflix), I missed being able to hike alone to the beach, I missed having friends I could watch scary movies or dance in clubs with, I missed walking around campus and feeling like I belonged when I ran into people I knew. I missed going to meetings and having discourse and educational presentations about social justice issues, and believing that the non-profit organizing I did mattered. I missed having the drive and pain to write raw pieces about self-love and heartbreak for my blog. I missed having an identity outside of who I was when I was back home with my family.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m incredibly grateful for my parents for taking me back in after I graduated and allowing me the time to figure out my own path. I’m especially grateful for how much they supported my decision to quit my part-time job in retail to focus on writing a self-help e-book. I know I’m very privileged, and the fact that my biggest problem is that my life is too comfortable has held me back from writing anything at all. I almost feel as though I don’t deserve to share my voice because my lack of struggle makes me boring and whiny.

Maybe I’m a masochist, but I’ve always believed that pain creates the most meaningful art (my late grandfather, the artist Jose Babauta thought this too). I started Lovescrewed post-heartbreak and my most powerful pieces were about jealousy, breakups, and an abusive relationship. But since I got into a healthy long-term relationship (damn you Nate for making me so happy!) and moved back in with my parents, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any hardships to write about, besides my long distance relationship (which isn’t that bad either—we only live an hour-long plane ride away and visit each other every couple weeks).

About a month ago, I decided to apply for a job at the newspaper on Guam where my great-grandfather, grandmother, and dad all have worked. Guam has always been like a security blanket for me—I know that if I absolutely can’t find work or can’t afford to live in California, I can always come back home and look for a job. My worst case scenario is to return to a beautiful tropical island where all my childhood friends, extended family, and goddaughter live, and I can get paid to write (yeah, my life sucks). After a few interviews and my first time negotiating salary (I’m a big girl now!), I landed my first adult job, as a fourth-generation legacy at the newspaper that brought my family to the island in the first place. My heart swells just thinking about spending time with my baby first cousins, living at my grandma’s house where her backyard is literally a waterfall, reconnecting with all my friends from growing up, and most importantly eating at Jamaican Grill and Capricciosa (the list of foods I want to eat on Guam is much longer than the ones of people I want to see and activities).

Despite all the awesome positives of moving back to the motherland, I’ve been staying up past 3am and sleeping in almost till noon—as I always do when I’m depressed or going through a big life change. Taking this reporter job and living in paradise for a while seems like a no-brainer, but all I can think about is saying goodbye to my four parents, my younger sisters and brothers, and my boyfriend of two and a half years. I know my family will be here when I come back (not knowing exactly when I’ll return makes me feel even more anxious) but I’ve never gone so far away from them for so long. It hurts just thinking that I could possibly lose a whole year of my little sister and brother’s lives, and they’ve already lost their baby voices and are catching up to me in shoe sizes. And it scares the shit out of me thinking that I could risk ruining a happy relationship with the love of my life for a job I don’t even know if I’ll enjoy yet.

The fear of change and loss is so crippling to me that when I first got my job offer to stay for a year, my first instinct was to say no and to just take my safer path and become a teacher. I could probably be happy getting my master’s degree, living in Southern California, and teaching middle school, but my dad asked me: which option excites you more? Undoubtedly, the idea of working in journalism and getting out of my comfort zone (admittedly, into another comfort zone, but without the safety of my immediate family with me) is more exciting to me. Settling into my backup plan, albeit a great one, feels like I’m lying to myself about what I really want. I told him that I felt selfish for choosing a job halfway around the world, especially while I’m in a relationship, but he told me that it hurts to feel like I’m not choosing my partner, but it would be even worse not to choose myself.

I don’t know if this job will make me happy. I don’t know if I’ll love living back on Guam as much as I’ve romanticized it in my head after being away for the past six years. I don’t know if my relationship will stay just as solid while we’re 17 time zones apart. But I do know that if I stay comfortable, if I let my parents take care of me forever, if I don’t take a chance on myself and do what scares me (but ultimately excites me), I won’t get back the drive to write like I had before. I’m afraid of losing the safety net of my parents and the security in my romantic relationship, but I’m even more terrified of how much of myself I’ve lost since college—the pieces of my individuality that keep me staring at old photos of myself from when I knew who I was—and how much more of myself I could lose if I don’t take action by pushing myself to grow more. Things could go wrong, but for the first time in over a year, I’m betting on myself.

Updates on My Best Relationship

I entered an exclusive relationship over the summer and so far it is hands down the best experience of my life. We started dating about 5 months ago and I’ve never been happier!

We started getting to know each other deeply around May this year. Our dates were the best and I always felt more comfortable when I was only with her than I did with anyone else. We went to the beach almost every day to be alone. We’d read The Princess Bride, wade into the water, or just lie down and listen to Grouplove. I spent more time with her than anyone at this point. She was there for me while I was going through a really difficult emotional period, when nobody else was. The nights were less lonely with just her in my bed; I cried a lot less than I did before.

Then around July, we decided to be exclusive. I promised myself I would put her first instead of searching for a new partner to complete me, like I always did in the past. I promised that I would be myself, always, and not change who I was for anyone else. Unlike in other relationships, I knew I never had to change for her, unless I wanted to. At the same time, she always made me want to become a better person.

I never have jealousy or trust issues with her. I’ll admit this is the first relationship in which I haven’t been totally faithful (I’ve kissed a few odd people now and then since we started dating), but I always come back to her in the end. For the most part, I remain loyal to her. I try to remind her that she’s beautiful when she’s feeling down (which can be quite often), and lately she can be completely happy with only my approval. I’ve grown to love her an incredible amount over the past few months.

I’m sure you’re all curious as to who this person is… it’s myself. I risk sounding super bigheaded in this post but dating myself really was the best thing I’ve ever done for my self-esteem and overall happiness. Dating myself taught me that I don’t need anyone to complete me and that I can take care of myself. I don’t need some guy to try to fix me. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m beautiful anymore in order for me to believe it.

Although I think relationships are great, I think that dating yourself is a very important step to becoming emotionally stable enough to date anyone else. After dating myself for several months, I already feel like I’m much more self-reliant and much less needy than I was in my past relationships. I’m on my way to becoming whole and I did it completely by myself. I’m not at the Sue Sylvester level of self-love to the point where I want to legally marry myself, but I’m at a much better place than I was before.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t allow us to make our relationship status official, but whatever, I guess. We’re not really into labels anyway.

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You’ll Be Ready

Here’s a poem-ish piece I wrote in July 2013:

You’ll Be Ready

It is going to be hard.
There will be times when you want to give up.
There will be lonely nights.
Lots of them.
Ones when you’ll wish you had someone beautiful and soft to cuddle up with
To spoon you and curl around your backside so that you feel safe and warm.
There will be days when you hate everyone and everything in your life
And you’ll wish you had that one person who will listen and understand.
There will be beautiful sunsets
Dozens, hundreds, even thousands of them
And you’ll wish you had a hand to hold in yours
To witness the earth’s natural glory
And ground you with their presence.

But you won’t have that hand.
You’ll be alone.
You’ll watch those sunsets and remember that life is beautiful
and love is beautiful
and you don’t need anyone else’s hand
to feel love.
And on those shitty days when you hate
everyone and everything
You’ll breathe.
And write.
And remember all the good things you do have
even if it’s hard.
And on those lonely nights you wish you’d
spent making love or simply enjoying
someone’s arms wrapped around you
as you drift in and out of sleep
You’ll read a book
turn off the lights
tuck yourself in tightly
and lie with the pain, in honesty.
It will hurt
And maybe you’ll cry
But you’ll heal
and grow
And one day, you won’t need anyone
to feel happy or whole
You’ll just love because you want to
Not because you need to.

“Love when you’re ready

Not when you’re lonely”

Breakups are Opportunities (to do more than eat your feelings)

As I’ve said many times before, breakups are the worst. But really, they don’t have to be as bad as you make them out to be. I spent some time reading my journal entries from a few months ago and found some really good advice from past-Chloe to present-Chloe.

Breakups may hurt a lot, but they also give you an opportunity to decide what kind of a person you want to be. In most of my past relationships (and I have so much proof of this in my diaries), I was this small, needy person who over-analyzed every tiny aspect of her partners. Whether it was something they said to me, something they did or didn’t do for me, I dissected the shit out of anything that involved my exes.

But after my breakups, I try my best to reflect on what went wrong and what went right. For figuring out what went wrong, I write a list of things I did that I wouldn’t want to do in any future relationships (e.g. Facebook stalking, waiting on his texts, leaving my plans for the day open so I always have time for him) so I can look back on it and remind myself what not to do. I do the same thing for my ex–I’ll write a list of ways I felt that he mistreated me or aspects about him that were essentially deal-breakers, so I remember not to let anyone do the same to me again (e.g. doesn’t like Community, checks my phone for texts from other guys, swears at me, flirts with other girls right in front of me/behind my back). I know how easy it is to romanticize the past, so I make sure to write the bad memories down to ground me. At the same time, I try to keep a fair account of the good memories too, so I remember that my past relationships did have love and benefits to them.

After every relationship, you’re bound to change somehow, so your expectations and standards for relationships might very well be different from the ones you had when you first got into your past relationship. A breakup is a good time to re-evaluate what you want from relationships, or if you even want a new relationship. My standards for relationships have changed immensely, just in the past few months. As I’m approaching the big 21 in a few months, I’m reminded of the fact that the next person I date might end up being my future husband or wife. With that in mind, I know better than to date someone who doesn’t bring anything positive to my life or somehow help me to become a better person. It’s good to pause between relationships to remember that you are beautiful and you deserve someone who will treat you with love and respect. What’s worse than being single is ending up with someone you settled for just because you were lonely.

Breakups suck, but you can still make the best of them. Re-evaluate what you want out of your life and out of your next potential relationships and always remember that you deserve the best, much better than the last one. Don’t ever let heartbreak screw you up; you are better than staying lovescrewed.
–Chloe

Past-Chloe's sound advice
Past-Chloe’s sound advice

I’m Cookie Dough

 

Growing up, I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A lot. Like I’d walk around my neighborhood at night when I was 11, wearing boots, a faux leather jacket, and carrying a stick around (my stake) “patrolling” for vampires/demons.

Chosen-Buffy

I continued to watch Buffy into my teens, and this quote really resonated with me:

I’m cookie dough, okay? … I’m not done baking yet. I’m not finished becoming… whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I’ve been looking for someone to make me feel whole, and maybe I just need to be whole. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next… maybe one day I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies. And then if I want someone to eat m — or, to enjoy warm delicious cookie-me, then that’s fine. That’ll be then. When I’m done.

 -Buffy, “Chosen” 7.22

Throughout my teens (and honestly, when I was a little kid, too), I spent so much of my time pining over boys and wishing they’d want me back. I wanted a boyfriend who would do sweet things for me, like write me letters, give me white lilies and candy, write cheesy poems about me, and all the other cute things I expected out of my ideal relationship. I was so needy in my relationships and expected my boyfriends to make me happy, but what I really sought from them subconsciously was someone to heal my wounds of insecurities and heartbreak. I needed emotional bandaids and I cried when they didn’t fix me.

Now (at the risk of sounding super big-headed) I have the assets to make me attractive enough to actually have someone want to do all those thoughtful boyfriend things for me. But the funny part is, now I don’t want a boyfriend, I don’t want a relationship, I don’t want anyone to take care of me. I don’t want any of it. I even end up pushing people away who try to get too close to me because I want to maintain my independence. Because the quote really is true for me; I am cookie dough. I’m not whole and I’m not ready to be in a relationship.

I get really lonely sometimes, but deep down I know that I’m not ready to share myself with someone without compromising who I am to try to meet their needs. I need to wait, I need to be alone, I need to be content knowing that I am still baking. It may take years, but someday I will be cookies. And for now, I’m perfectly happy knowing that I am cookie dough, warming up in the oven that is my wonderful life.

–Chloe

Unearthing the Dirty Roots of Jealousy

For as long as I can remember, jealousy has been one of the problems that is most prevalent in my daily life. It’s a horrible feeling. When I get jealous, I feel a sickly combination of fear, anger, and anxiety burning in my heart. I hate feeling this way, and it happens much more often than I’m willing to admit.

I felt it when I was four years old, and my first crush told me that he liked another girl more than he liked me. I felt it when my middle school crush decided to pursue another girl in our class because she had bigger boobs than I did. I felt it when I saw my ex boyfriends Facebook messaging other girls sexually/romantically, while we were still in a relationship. I feel it when my parents do nice things for my siblings, even though they deserve it. I feel it when I see pictures of my friends from Guam doing fun things together when I can’t be there. I feel it when I see my new best friends hanging out with other people instead of me.

Sometimes my jealousy is reasonable, but more often than not, it is unreasonable.

Today, I watched one of my closest friends laughing and chatting with one of our newer friends and for a second, I felt a pang of jealousy. I looked at her having fun with someone who wasn’t me and felt threatened. But why? I love my friend and I think she deserves to be happy, all the time. I want the best for her. But when I began to think critically about why I was jealous about something so irrational, I realized what I was truly afraid of.

I was afraid of being abandoned. Over the past few months, I’ve made many new friends, but this particular friend has stuck with me since our first week of college. She’s seen me at my absolute worst and was there to comfort me and listen to me bitch for hours on end about everything. Looking at her being happy with new friends made me worry that she’d like them better than she likes me. Maybe then she wouldn’t want me anymore. Then who would I call to come over to my apartment to talk to? Who would watch scary movies with me? Who would go to Jack in the Box with me late at night when I need comfort food? I care about her so much that just seeing her have fun with other people scares me.

But it isn’t just her I’m afraid of losing. It’s everyone. I get jealous over the tiniest things with everyone in my life, and it’s a problem that has plagued me every day for years.

I may seem like I have my shit together and I might appear happy and sociable, but deep down, I’m very scared. I’m scared people will leave me and find something better. I don’t mean to badmouth/disrespect my family in any way, and I’m really happy with the family I do have as a result of divorce and remarriage. But as a product of a divorced family, I think I will always have deeply rooted abandonment issues. And it’s sad because my jealousy isn’t just about the fear of abandonment by family or romantic partners; it extends to the way I feel about my friends and other parts of my life on a micro level.

There are a few ways through which I can approach my jealousy issues now that I’m more self-aware of its roots. I can continue to let jealousy rule my life and keep living with the fear that the people I love will eventually abandon me for someone else.

Or I can accept that my past is the past. It happened and it’s over. In the present, I know that the people I love care about me and love me for who I am. There’s no rational reason for them to leave me because I make it a point to show them how much I care for them.

But at the same time, I know who I am. I know that I am smart and I am strong and I am worthy of love. And if people decide that they don’t care for me, I can be content knowing that I’ll always have myself, even if (for whatever reason) everyone does leave me.

Self-love is the strongest weapon you can have to combat negative feelings and deep fears. It’s changing my life every day and it’s what keeps me going. I’m beginning to realize how powerful self-love really is and it’s becoming my mission to help everyone else achieve healthy levels of self-love too. And just so you know, to whoever is reading this, you are awesome and deserving of love too.

–Chloe

A Personal Reflection: Relationships, Empowerment, and New Goals

This is a very long personal essay I wrote in June this year–before I started blogging regularly–which I think (and hope) is interesting because it charts where I was at the beginning of my summer journey of self-discovery. Just sharing it with anyone who might want to read it.

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Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to badmouth anyone I mention in this personal essay. Everything I write about here is only used for me to gain deeper personal insight, and hopefully to help anyone else who reads this.

As ashamed as I am to admit it, I’ve always had a set of goals for life that were focused on a the stereotypical heterosexual woman’s fantasy: romance, security, and domestic bliss as an equation for happiness. Who could blame me, though? I’ve had these ideals drilled into my head, from my parents who married at 19 and seemed so happy and in love while I grew up; the Disney princess movies (which teach that no matter how strong or independent the princess is, her happy ending always involves a prince), and later, the romantic comedies I watched; the books I read (including fairy tales and, of course, Twilight); and our heteronormative society in general. (To quote Wikipedia, “heteronormativity is the body of lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It presumes that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between a man and a woman. Consequently, a “heteronormative” view is one that involves alignment of biological sex, sexual identity, gender identity, and gender roles.”) My plans were to graduate from college; meet a charming, strong, smart man; fall in love and marry him; let him pamper me and take me traveling around the world, to romantic cities; and have children. I didn’t really have much of a game plan for before or after I would achieve those goals.

So I spent most of my life acting in accordance with those goals. I’ve had crushes on countless boys from before I started pre-school to this day. Most of my time revolved around learning as much as I could about my current romantic interest, then creating romanticized fantasies in my head about how happy we’d be if we were “together.” When I was younger, I’m not sure what I expected to happen if my crush knew I liked him; I usually just wanted him to like me back. As I grew older, the fantasies evolved and became increasingly more elaborate. I didn’t just want to kiss a guy; I wanted him to be my boyfriend. I wanted us to text each other sappy things and take couple-y pictures and post them on MySpace so everyone could know how happy and in love I was, and essentially prove that I was pretty and desirable enough to get a guy to care about me enough not to want to be with anyone else. Then, I wanted us to stay together. I wanted us to be each other’s first and only loves. I wanted us to get married someday. And when I became an adult, I took it too far and almost married my grown-up version of a boy crush.

Those fantasies never worked out too well for me. I suffered from the effects of modern technology on our social and (unfortunately) romantic interactions: I got dumped through the worst possible modes of communication. My first “relationships” (if you count “dating” for 1-3 weeks as a relationship) ended through text messages, and the next two boyfriends both dumped me through MySpace messages. My highschool sweetheart broke off our year-long relationship by simply not communicating with me for weeks (while we were doing long distance and I had moved away for a year) and changing his relationship status on Facebook to “single,” assuming I’d just figure it out for myself.

Anyway, as I’d mentioned earlier, these relationships (and in turn, my fantasies) never worked out for me, but I never stopped to think about the real reasons behind these splits. After every harsh, emotionless rejection I received, my self-esteem deteriorated more and more. I knew something had to be wrong with me. Otherwise, why would all these guys keep rejecting me when I gave them my heart, time, and devotion (and then some)? They were obviously perfect boyfriends who had reached the maturity levels of grown men, and wanted nothing more than to find a perfect girl to love… right? Wrong. Unfortunately for me and my poor self-image, I never fully grasped the idea (and I’m still working my way to truly getting myself to understand this) that the problem behind all my short, failed relationships was not that I was missing something in me, or that I was an undesirable person; it was that these were boys, and I was just a girl, ill-equipped to deal with the emotional demands and stress that accompany romantic relationships between two immature, incomplete people.

Thinking about my past relationships through an objective lens rather than with my own emotional biases has led me to become more self-aware and make healthier conclusions about my life and myself. Although I said that my exes were still immature when we broke up, I know I’m not perfect either. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not whole. I am not complete. I do not always love myself or my body. In fact, I often berate myself to the point of tears. My inner voice has constantly reminded me for almost a decade that I am not smart enough, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not sexy enough, not nice enough, not creative enough; not enough. The voice tells me that I don’t deserve anything good and that I had it coming when I got dumped over and over again. I don’t work as hard as I can at anything because I’m afraid that if I actually tried, I might fail, and that’d prove that I really am not enough.

So I half-ass my way through school. I begin to try to care less about the people I date because I don’t want to give my whole heart ever again, because I’m afraid the recipient will see who I truly am, and decide that I am not enough for him. But over the past few months, I’ve begun to realize something: who gives a shit? Your idiotic, negative inner voice needs to shut the fuck up. Or at least become more nurturing and forgiving. Even if I date the most perfect specimen of a human being and let him slip out of my hands (although I don’t believe anyone is perfect), who cares? I am enough for myself. Something better will come along eventually, whether it’s a new guy or a wiser version of myself, in light of the experiences I’ve had; this is the way of the world.

The combination of these epiphanies about relationships, the progress I’ve made in school and extra curriculars, and the connections I’ve fostered with people have helped me to rethink my aforementioned life goals. As my second year of college comes to a close, I’ve been taking the time to reflect on my life and how much I’ve changed within the course of a year. Since last fall, I’ve attended conferences and community events focused on issues of people of color, womyn of color, and so on. These spaces and the friends I’ve made this year have helped strengthen my sense of identity and taught me to trust myself. The help I’ve received from my family has undoubtedly given me the love and guidance I needed to get to where I am now. And of course, the friends I’ve made over the course of my lifetime have provided me with love and insightful advice through my every hardship.

With all these sources of support helping me empower myself, I’m becoming a more confident person. I had second-guessed every essay I handed in for the past 3 months, and I’ve gotten A’s on every single one (and if you don’t know already, writing is one of my passions, so that means a lot to me). I’m slowly beginning to realize that I am smart, I am talented, and I can build my skills to the point of being able to support myself. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, joined communities I’m happy to be a part of, and have taken on leadership roles for the coming school year. I also recognize that there is a fine line between having high self-esteem and coming off as egotistical, and I try to keep myself in check to stay on the humbler side of that margin.

With this newfound self-confidence, I’ve decided to make a few changes in the way I think. First of all, I’m ditching my old notions about love, marriage, and their relation to my happiness. Fuck what our heteronormative society thinks. I am a woman, I am strong, and I don’t need a man to give me what I want or need, much less a boy to tell me he thinks I’m hot (because I already know damn well that I am). I still think I will someday want to get married and have children, but I’m going to stop pressuring myself into finding a potential husband right away. I will fall in love when I’m ready for it, and when the time is right (hopefully many years from now) I can start my own family. But for now, I am going to cherish all the time I have as a single individual and make the most out of my youth. Just like everybody else does, I owe it to myself to focus on my passions, pursue what makes me happy, follow what inspires me. At the same time, I promise to remember the sacrifices people have made to help me get to where I am today, and I will always cherish those who love me in return. So I’m going to try, really try. And there’s a chance I might fail. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter, because I know I have all the tools I need to be happy; all I need is me. I hope everyone else can come to understand this truth for themselves, too.

–Chloe

What to Do When You Want Your Ex Back

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(Don’t listen to Cher Lloyd.)

I had a minor freakout this morning because I thought I had residual feelings for an ex. I blew up my friends’ phones with long texts about my fears, asking them what I should do. I let my imagination run wild and imagined worst case scenarios, in which I was stuck pining over someone who wanted to be with other people. I imagined running into him everywhere I went or seeing him making out with another girl at a party. I told myself I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I even told one of my friends “I’m dying” because I got a small anxiety attack just thinking about everything. I turned to Google, as I do with most of my problems, and went on a fast streak of skimming through Wiki How articles on what to do when you still have feelings for your ex.

Then I took a deep breath. I realized as I read those Wiki How articles that this is absurd. It isn’t a good idea (on my behalf) for us to get back together. I felt all my dormant insecurities creep back and take center stage in my mind. I was letting my fears win. I realized that all of this is stupid. I don’t need him and I don’t need a boyfriend at all. I made a choice to date myself, and I needed to honor that commitment.

When you chose to date yourself, you’re going to get lonely at some point, no matter what. It’s hard to be satisfied with only yourself when you see happy couples all around you, or when you crave physical affection you can only get with another person. But the trick is to wait it out. As my dear Andrew VanWyngarden said, “the trick is to try to be free / and tend to the void, don’t just fill it.” When you get lonely, don’t just find a person to fill the space that feels empty inside (totally not talking about sex either) — you need to learn how to be whole instead of covering up your emotional wounds with a new relationship.

Your emotions are like the tide — sometimes the water will be calm and you’ll be fine with being alone. Then suddenly, something will trigger your negative emotions and amplify your fears; it will get stormy. But you are your own ship and captain, and you can get through the storm.

When waters get rough, talk to a friend. Let out all your crazy thoughts and feelings to a trusted friend. The fears and worries you keep to yourself usually sound insignificant or silly when you actually say them aloud. Plus, your friend can give you an outside, objective perspective on your situation (and if you need a friend, I’m always here!).

If you’re not comfortable sharing your deeply personal feelings with another person, journaling about your feelings can help a lot too. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts, and writing them out can bring order to the chaos in your head. Complicated situations get simpler for me after I sort it out in writing. You can even get creative and turn your thoughts into poetry, which can also be really cathartic.

Remind yourself that you’re awesome. You’re stronger than you think you are. When you get lonely, just remember that the feeling is temporary. As Kelly Clarkson said, it doesn’t mean you’re lonely when you’re alone. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (Kelly Clarkson lyrics are actually great advice).

Note: My friend/cousin/older-sister Emma gave me the Kelly Clarkson lyrics as advice and also made this picture of her face on Kelly’s body just for this post. Enjoy!

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–Chloe

There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea, But Focus on the Fisherman

“You’re so young and there are so many people out there for you.”

This is the phrase I find myself telling my friends more than anything else, in regards to love advice. So many people I know (myself included) get hung up over their own relationship drama. We make ourselves miserable when things don’t go the way we want them to in our romantic relationships. But really, what’s the point?

I’ve spent so much of my time feeling bad about issues I create in my head about guys I like, which only distracts me from the awesome things I do have going for me. I’m not trying to brag, but I love my life — I have an incredibly supportive group of family and friends who love me (for whatever reason that may be), I get to travel to fun places several times a year without paying for anything, I go to a UC and have parents who are able to support me, I’m not in debt, and for 9 months out of the year, I live within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. But most of the time, I forget all of this and let myself focus on the little relationship problems that don’t really matter.

Eventually (recently) I realized that at this point in my life, romance only holds me back from being the person I’m meant to be. When I’m in a relationship, I turn into this needy crybaby who over-analyzes every single thing her partner does. I hope to become better at relationships someday, but I know that I have to work on myself before I get involved with anyone else. Even though it hurt, I took my last breakup as a blessing in disguise. I love being in love, but I realize now that I have to take this time being single to focus on learning to love myself before I can really love another person, without being insecure and bringing myself down.

Part of my realization stemmed from things I read about what people are like while they’re in their 20s. A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me a book about how the 20s are the most formative years of a person’s life (it’s called The Defining Decade by the way, and I recommend it to anyone in their 20s). The book talks about how romantic love is important, but when you’re young, you’re not emotionally or mentally equipped to deal with the stress and other issues that come with serious committed relationships.

I thought about this and agreed —  I noticed that a lot of my relationship problems were a result of my immaturity, or the combined immaturity of my former partners and myself. I see so many other young couples going through crappy relationship problems because both of them aren’t ready to be in a non-codependent relationship in which they treat each other with respect.

Instead, I think young people should spend these formative years focusing on personal growth. We’re young, so we still have a lot to learn about the world and ourselves. Take the time to try new things and push your boundaries. There are plenty of people to fall in love with and plenty of time to do it, but you don’t have all the time in the world to be young or the opportunities you might have now to figure out what you love to do. Focus on doing what you love, and learn to love yourself.

–Chloe

Treat Yo Self: Fun “Me-Time” Dates to Take Yourself On

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If you’re single, these dates will be especially fun. You have no one but yourself to worry about, and that freedom can be an absolute luxury.

And if you’re in a relationship, here’s some good news: these dates will still be super fun!

Most of these dates will require some effort (or maybe a lot of effort), so make sure you go in with a positive attitude and willingness to pamper yourself and get to know yourself.

DIY/craft day

Try something new! There are unlimited things you can make and do. For example, I love making friendship bracelets with my sister, embroidery is fun (and makes great gifts), making handmade cards, sewing, etc.

Learn something new

Learning something new helps you to learn more about yourself in the process. You may figure out you like something you never would’ve thought you’d like before, or you might see that you’re better at something than you thought you were. This date may require you to go outside of your comfort zone, and that’s where the real magic happens.

Check around your area to find a small class you can take — it could be anything from cooking to self-defense.

Try out a new recipe. Plus you can Instagram whatever you cook or bake #FoodPorn

Learn a skill from a YouTube tutorial. Personally, I like to watch drawing or Adobe Illustrator tutorials, but your topic of choice could be anything you want.

Movie marathon

I watch an embarrassing amount of television, but I don’t usually spend as much time watching movies unless I have someone to join me. But if you have an occasion like this, it’s a lot more fun. It’s good to have some self-indulgence every once in awhile, so set aside a day or a chunk of hours when you can relax, watch a bunch of awesome movies, and stuff your face with your favorite snacks.

A few ideas for movie marathon themes:
Chocolate Decadence: Chocolat, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (you can even make the marathon a Johnny Depp double feature with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Like Water for Chocolate. Make sure to stock up on all your favorite kinds of chocolate to make this marathon even more delicious (than it already is with Johnny Depp).

Flashback Friday: Childhood/90’s favorites. This may vary depending on what you liked to watch as a kid, but some possibilities include Disney animated films, Pokemon movies, musical children’s movies (Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, etc.).

Guilty Pleasures: Basically all the movies you secretly want to see but are too embarrassed to actually ask anyone to to watch them with you (and have them still respect you afterward).

Musicals: Don’t be afraid to sing along, either! The Sound of Music, Grease, Hairspray (or the remake too), Moulin Rouge!, Singin’ in the Rain, Pitch Perfect (does this count?), and so on (I’ve omitted Les Mis because it’s probably too depressing to watch while you’re having this alone-time date).

Harry Potter: This one’s pretty obvious (especially if you know me) and will take forever to watch all of them, so you could just watch your favorites if that’s more convenient.

Judd Apatow: Some of my personal favorites. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, This Is 40.

If you’re a scaredy-cat (like I am), you might want to avoid horror or thrillers — you don’t want to end up with paranoia or nightmares while you’re alone. Unless you’re down, in which case you can hit me up for a list of my favorite horror movies, as I’ve become a self-proclaimed connoisseur of the genre over the past few years).

Dinner date

Dress up for yourself. Or let loose and wear your sweats, since you probably wouldn’t have the freedom to be that comfortable on a regular date.

Cook yourself a meal with different courses — foods you’ve wanted to try out but never got around to it, or your favorites. If you’re up for it and want to go all-out for yourself, you can make a meal with appetizers, entree(s), and dessert (apps, tray trays, and ‘zerts).

Pampering

Treat yourself to a mani/pedi or eyebrow wax, massage, the works (if you’re up to it or have deep pockets).

Do an at-home pampering day, with a bubble bath (add soothing music, incense, candles, bath salts, or flower petals for ambience). Treat yourself for no cost with a DIY mani/pedi or facial.
You can even give your place a spa-vibe with a pitcher of cucumber water, use a bathrobe/slippers, or put out a platter of fruit or light cookies for yourself. Plus you could make a mimosa or cocktail/blended fruity drink for extra relaxation 😉

Exploring

If you don’t want to spend much, just try taking the bus out downtown and wander wherever your fancy takes you.

Check out a store you’ve never been in or go out to a nearby park (butterfly preserves are beautiful) and enjoy nature. You might discover something wonderful in a place you used to think was ordinary.

Be careful choosing where to explore, though. It wouldn’t be a good idea to go hiking or rock climbing alone without letting anyone know about it (unless you want a 127 Hours situation on your hands).

Beach day

If you’re near a beach or can take public transportation to get to one, do it. If not, this date also applies to any other waterfronts near you, like lakes or rivers.

If the weather permits (this is a great time for this date because it’s summer), put on a bikini and shorts/tank or comfy dress, grab your shades, a good book/magazine, a few healthy snacks (fresh or dried fruit, a bottle of water, some nuts, chips, crackers, sandwiches, cookies), lie out on a blanket and soak up the sun. Don’t forget sunblock, of course!

Give yourself the time and space to enjoy the beauty of the ocean or other waterfront and relax.

-Chloe