Where are you from? What brings you here?The two questions every hostel traveler hears within moments of arriving.
A few weeks ago I headed over to Manitou Springs, Colorado with the sole intent of conquering the Manitou Incline. While I was there, I stayed at the ColoRADo Adventure Hostel. The unique quality of a hostel for traveling is that you get to meet people and socialize in a way most single travelers don’t experience with hotel life. Everyone wanted to know where I had traveled from and what had brought me to Manitou Springs, CO.
The first answer was pretty simple. I had left my home in central Iowa. As to why I was there, I had driven 14 hours to cross an item off my bucket list.
At least that was the simple answer as to why I was there. In reality, the reason I packed my bags on a whim and headed west was a bit more complicated.
Sure, I was there to hike the grueling “Incline”, but there was so much more to the trip.
I was there to improve myself. Several months into divorce lost and alone in life as a single father in my thirties, I had driven 14 hours to work on a better version of me – maybe even find a new me.
Why? Because of a question a girl asked on Bumble.
“What was the most recent thing you did for the very first time“, she asked.
And I didn’t know what to say. I literally could not think of a single thing I had done in all my free time that was a new experience. I wanted to meet someone fun and interesting, but I clearly hadn’t done much to improve my own adventurous spirit.
I had spent so much time prior to that trip caught up and frustrated in finding the right person that I completely neglected that perhaps I was failing to work on being the right person for someone.
This trip alone wasn’t going to do that. Embracing travel as a hobby wasn’t the key. But both were a part of a larger effort in myself to see if maybe there was more to the version of who I was than the version I had just always locked myself into being.
I had all these standards for what I wanted from someone else – they had to look like this, act like that and be interested in this and that. But I wasn’t taking that hard look at myself to see if I was matching the standards of other people.
Was I adventurous enough? Was I spontaneous enough?
Was I well-traveled? Did I have unique experiences and stories to tell?
Was my hygiene lacking? Was my wardrobe outdated?
Was I becoming who I aimed to attract?
If I wanted someone loyal, I was going to have to show loyalty.
If I expected confidence, I was going to need to be confident.
If I wanted someone to have a certain quality, I needed to hold myself to that same standard – some of which might even seem a little shallow on the surface. Was it really that hard to spritz myself with cologne before leaving the house or take a little more pride in my appearance with a pair of pants that really fit me well?
I kept telling my friends I was looking for the girl that made me happy. Then I’d meet someone and fall head over heels over them only to face rejection days later. My friends would encourage me to keep at it – the right person for me was out there. But what if my problem was that I entirely focused on the girl that would make me happy rather than what I offered someone to make them happy. More importantly, what was I doing to make myself happy as an individual? How was I fixing my toxic trait of neediness and obsessiveness that was pushing women away so quickly?
Don’t Get Me Wrong
We should always seek those that accept us for who we are.
Except, I was searching for a Lara Croft type from the comfort of my couch.
I’d find her.
Then I’d immediately question why she never gave me a chance when clearly “I have all these adventures on my bucket list I’d like to do”.
Probably because I was full of “somedays’ and I had all these adventures I wanted to do instead of a list of adventures I had actually done. I don’t think there is some pre-requisite list of accomplishments to dating, but I was spending more time invested in finding a girl to enjoy life with than investing in myself to enjoy life and just wait for a girl.
Either that or I’d suffocate her away with a need for attention no one should be expected to deal with because I had failed to make myself be the right person for someone by ignoring the baggage of divorce. The truth is, in those cases, I had probably found my right person and then briskly pushed them away by not being the right person for them as a result of ignoring my toxicities and damage from prior relationships.
Here I was, swiping right on all these girls with pictures of mountains in the background. I dreamed of falling in love with an adventurous spirit with a rocking gym formed body. I was thinking I was worthy of a girl with an amazing sun-kissed tan from splashing around in bikinis on tropical beaches. I was a far cry from any of those things and as much as I wanted to be those things, it was just so much easier to seclude myself each weekend to an Xbox, Doritos and the comfort of Doritos than say “this weekend I’m going to be the person I really want to be”.
So I really deserving of all of those qualities in someone else?
Did I really deserve a girl devoted to the gym when I spent more time looking at girls at the gym from my La-Z-Boy rather than, you know, at the gym? Was I worthy of the girl that craved adventures backpacking Europe when I didn’t even own a pair of hiking boots?
I’m not suggesting to pretend to be something we aren’t:
- If you love video games, go out and find someone that will geek out with you playing Mario on Friday nights.
- If you lift weights, go find that person that will drive you to finish one more rep.
- If you love cars, find the girl that will ride shotgun with you to car shows.
- If you love craft beer, seek out the woman that will travel the country with you exploring new breweries.
Listen, it isn’t totally about changing who you fundamentally are. In part, it is also about becoming the best version of who you are – become a better video game player, double down on your gym goals, join new car clubs, and go out and learn how to brew your own beer. However, it is also about expanding our horizons, stepping outside of our comfort zone and accepting criticism of what we would do well to change about ourselves.
The problem is so many of us (myself included) go through life with narrow vision and rejection of criticism to our flaws. Or it gets a little uncomfortable to suggest that maybe the reality we live in isn’t living our best life no matter how much we try to convince ourselves it is. We believe ourselves to be worthy of something but reject the idea that maybe we haven’t exactly put in the work to earn it.
The dating pool is limited and everyone is searching for something different – something that connects with who they are. Keeping yourself in a bubble of interests just restricts how many connections you can make. So much of society (and the dating scene) expects others to conform to their expectations and interests when maybe the answer is working to meet other people’s expectations.
Are we meeting people where they are? I’m not just talking about physically meeting people at the bar.
Are we meeting other people halfway in their interests? Are we meeting other people halfway in working on our faults instead of mindlessly expecting them to take us as we are? Or are we just swiping right and hoping the gorgeous world traveler finally feels like settling down for the guy that hasn’t stepped foot 100 miles from his hometown?
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
If you’ve never traveled before, take a trip and maybe you would realize you found a new love in adventures. In that, you’d have new stories to tell and connections to those who love seeing the world.
Maybe you’re stuck in a dead-end job, and you see successful people flirting their way around the bar while you drown your depression in whiskey. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and do something about your salary.
Or how about the guys that expect to kick back on the couch while their girlfriend cooks and cleans, using “my mom never showed me how” as a crutch to avoiding laundry. Is that being the right person for that girl if you can’t contribute work to the relationship?
Perhaps, you spend your weekend alone gaming from morning until night and avoid as much of society as you can until Monday morning. What if you stepped outside that comfort zone and went out tonight? Grab a beer, chat with the bartender, find people and make new friends.
Maybe you’ve been told you have a drinking problem, but constantly look in the mirror with denial. You say the right girl will accept me for my flaw, love me when I’m blacked out drunk, clean up my puke, and empathize with me because if she doesn’t love me at my best then she won’t love me at my worst. Is that really being the right person for her or just hoping someone conforms to accepting your alcoholism?
Maybe you have an anger issue and instead of seeking counseling you expect someone to love you as a “passionate person“. Take the steps necessary to get help.
I remember after my divorce, I felt depressed and secluded myself from society. My occasional experiences with dating thrust me into facing my trust issues and codependency. I was desperate for that feeling of waking up to a good morning text, having someone there 24/7 and it leaked into obsessiveness in my dating life.
No one should have to deal with that and it was toxic. I could either go forward with a very limited group of women that would accept me for what I was offering in codependency and trust issue while questioning while my 1st and 2nd dates didn’t go anywhere over and over again. Or I could be the right person for a broader group of women by resolving my red flags.
Finding the right person isn’t always easy and neither is bettering ourselves. But maybe the key to finding the right person is to become the right person for someone else.
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