Friday, 3 January 2014

So while I’m still healing

I'm not a huge New Year's Eve person. I don't remember the last time I truly enjoyed it in years. Ok, I do. It was my first year back in Ireland after college. My sister's friend MK came up for a visit and we stayed up watching Surviving Christmas and, I think, a Take That performance. We were dragged outside to greet the new year and then rushed back in for sausages and egg-flip. We stayed up late and, eventually, one-by-one crawled our way up the stairs and into bed. My younger brother and sister remained downstairs as they decided that they'd clean up so our Mam wouldn't have a heart attack first thing in the new year (yes, we were that messy). The next thing I knew my dad was shouting for us all to get up and come downstairs as there was a grand surprise in the kitchen. I remember grumbling and complaining that it was probably just one of the neighbours. I was so annoyed that my sleep had been disturbed (it was!!!) and so I reluctantly pulled on a jumper, scrambled for socks and shoes and made my way down stairs. A screech of excitement poured out of me and the rest of my siblings: My aunt from America was in town! She hadn't told my mam that she was coming and only the two dotes who had stayed up cleaning knew about it. We spent the day chatting, eating and, at some point, in Cineworld watching Happy Feet while my aunt passed out next to us. It was a marvellous  new year as was the one following that (wow,  this is not going well for my post about not liking New Year's!) as another aunt and a cousin visited us from America. My Aunt stayed with us on New Year's eve and we spent the evening drinking, singing, playing games and just having a good time. I think we all stayed up, parents and aunt included, until at least 2 or 3 in the morning.

Most of my New Year's Eves, however, have felt like a let down. There is this huge build up to what amounts to not very much. Maybe I'm a cynic and maybe I've been alone too long but I feel that, much like Valentine's day, New Year's is a couple's holiday and there is a stench of desperation in the air when you are single. "Oh, you're single? What are you going to do for Valentine's/New Year's?" "Oh, who are you going to kiss when it's midnight?" Seriously, who cares?  I'm fine with the fact that I am single and alone on New Year's. It honestly doesn't bother me very much. Do I wish I had someone? Of course, I do...but not for the sole express reason of New Year's Eve. I don't want someone just for one night. I want someone for a long time. Hopefully, someday, forever (the single, independent me got shivers typing that!).  I don't need anyone to make my life complete right now. I'm happy being me and living these experiences. Yes, I want other experiences like marriage, a husband and kids. But, I'm (mostly) ok with the fact that it hasn't happened yet.

There's a point to this story, dear readers, and to this rant, so please bear with me a little longer. Katetastic recently helped Swaglu plan a date for herself. Swaglu went on a date by herself with herself. My mind boggled. What the feck? Seriously? What.....?  However, the more I thought about it and started to reflect on my hang-ups and the things that bother me about dating, the more the idea appealed to me. For example, at the moment dating someone seems like a chore - I don't want to have to consider anyone else in my plans. If I want to go up on a Saturday morning to Seoul, I don't want to feel that I have to invite someone else. I know I'll feel different about it when  I do have a boyfriend or husband but in the meantime, I don't think I'm ready for this step yet. I am having hard enough of a time trying to figure me out without adding someone else to the mix. On the other hand if someone were to ask me out, I (probably) wouldn't say no.

Breakfast and a book
To that end, Swaglu's date with herself inspired me. The weekend that I celebrated my birthday, I decided I wanted to go on a date with myself. I didn't know exactly what to do so I researched.
 I knew it should be something that I wanted to do so I decide to do some reading, eating, writing and cooking. I also wanted to factor in some reflection time and some fresh air. It's getting to be time to decide on whether or not I will stay in Korea, and, unlike last year, I have no real clue as to what I want to do. Taking myself on a date sounded like a good option. I decided that I would get up early so I could enjoy as much of the day as possible and I would dress up using mascara, jewelry and heeled boots. And, unlike normal I decided that I wouldn't plan too much. I had vague ideas of what I wanted to accomplish and the only solid thing I had decided on was that I would read Waris Dirie's Desert Flower.

On New Year's Eve, some friends and I had arranged to go to Noraebang (singing room) and whilst waiting for everyone to be free, I decided to take my book and read at the local coffee shop. Shortly after sitting down, I decided I wanted to start my date early and had started to text my friend to tell her. Before I could send the text she walked in, dressed all sparkly and ready to sing. And it hit me. Yes, my date is all about me. And despite having the voice of a crow, I love to sing. So off we went for a fun time! Sometime around 1, after a tipsy call home to say "Happy New Year", I flopped into bed. 

When morning arrived, I got up around 9.20 and began what would end up being the most relaxing day I ever remember having. I'm one of those people who usually needs about 50 alarms to wake up every morning. I set one and I paid attention to it. I spent my day reading and eating, walking and thinking. It was a perfect day for a winter date. The sky was fairly clear and, instead of bitter cold, the air was quite warm and pleasant. While I did things that I enjoy - walking in the sunshine, drinking tea and reading.  I also did something that challenged me: I ate alone in a restaurant and I enjoyed it. There is something about coffee shops and eating a muffin alone that are just fun but eating in a restaurant alone unnerves me. I've done it plenty of times, but always involuntarily. It's just one of those things that I don't like to do. So when I planned my date, I decided that I was going to enjoy a meal by myself in a public setting. 
The Memorial park I walked to

Nom Nom Nom
I picked one of my favourite restaurants here in Korea, Mt Fishtail in Cheonan, which has delicious Indian food and I set off. I arrived and was seated in a both next to 4 men. A little unnerved at the idea of facing them the whole time, I sat with my back facing them and had a great time. I spent some time thinking of what I want from life. I then read a book on my phone because I had accidentally left my second book for the day laying on my bed. I took a long time to eat - over an hour  -and I just enjoyed the time that I had.

Tea time!
Afterwards, I decided to go for a walk around the town thinking that I could tackle a second thing that I don't like doing by myself: going to the cinema. As I made my way up the several escalators, I was giving myself several mental claps on the back for being brave. And then, I go upstairs. The Hobbit wasn't on, and since I truly wasn't really enamoured with the idea of going to the cinema by myself, I decided it was time for home. Although, had The Hobbit been on, I think I could have done it and enjoyed it! Unfortunately getting out of the cinema proved difficult as I spent 15-20 minutes wandering around trying to find the exit. I even took a lift (elevator), which is not something I embark on lightly, to the 1st floor only to have to go down tons of escalators because I somehow managed to get up 5 floors ABOVE where I had been. Eventually, I found the exit and proceed home for more tea and relaxation.

You might think I'm mad to go on a date with myself. You might think I'm mad to be scared of eating alone and of elevators. Well, let's address elevators first - I've been stuck twice in them and had to be let out both times. So that is a reasonable fear. I have been in them plenty of times but I don't like being in them. Regarding the eating alone. I personally think it's ironic that for someone who enjoys food as much as I do that I don't like this activity but then I think of what a meal means to me: It means sitting around the table with my family, people jostling for the best seats and the biggest plate. It means conversations and laughter, ribbing and memories. However, as I discovered on New Year's day - eating alone has value too. I just need to channel my alone-ness better. As for dating myself, it isn't because I don't want to date someone in reality, it's because I need to get to know me better. I need to look at what changes and challenges I want to face in my life. There are things that have been on my list for years like eating alone and going to the cinema by myself that I have never gotten around too.

I have decided that I am going to commit to 11 more dates this year and for each of them I am going to do something that challenges me. February's date will be about going to the cinema alone. I don't know what the rest will be yet, but I hope that this challenge/resolution has a lot of value for me as a person who wants to grow and be the best version of herself that she can be. For someone who wants to get married and have a family someday, that I can be ready for the things that will scare me then. Like getting married and having children. When I was younger I was fearless but somewhere between the last year of college and now, I lost my courage and my freedom. I became shy and scared. It doesn't matter why it happened, it matters that it did and the only way I can get some of my freedom back is to challenge myself. So while I am challenging myself to find some healing and courage, "just try and have a little patience".

PS. This post was inspired by my New Year's day, some great memories and some great people. It was also inspired by Take That's "Patience".

PPS. Thank you to Rucy for recommending the perfect book to get me to look at my life from a different perspective. I highly recommend everyone reads Desert Flower, especially if you are interested in the topic of FGM.