In my early 20’s, I learned a very important lesson. I learned that in order to be happy one should always dream, make them into goals and set plans to achieve them. That’s the first part of it. The second part is that you are to be flexible.
Many times, those are two conflicting desires for a strong headed person. I’m as stubborn as hell and in my adolescence if I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, I would just turn around and decide that I didn’t want anything to do with it at all. I could not negotiate, I could not compromise, and I settled for nothing less. The only times I would be flexible were the times I didn’t care.
Then I became an expat and started traveling. Loads. I wasn’t able to stick to what I wanted because there were so many options I didn’t even know existed. I remember nights in Taipei when I decided that all I wanted to do was order food and eat it, and whatever that looked like it would be okay. It’s pretty terrifying to order food when you can’t read anything on the menu and no one speaks English. You just point at photos on the window and pray for the best. I became grateful every time I ordered a meal without duck blood or tofu, and learned how to just go with the flow. Once when I thought my Mandarin was getting better, I ordered a bubble tea with mango, coconut and green apple (vague guess) and ended up with three different bubble teas, one flavor each. I just took them all home as punishment for not studying harder. When I traveled, I used to have a list of places I absolutely HAD to see. I remember when I went to Bali, I was so set on going to this touristy beach for some reason, to see the sunset I guess. Then we met some locals who threw us on the back of their motorbikes and took us to these amazing cliff bars (haha like the power bar! but really, they were restaurants engraved on sections of a cliff) at the edge of the sea, and there I also saw the sunset. It was better than anything I could have planned on my own, and there I realized that having plans only take you so far. My place of work has a saying for this, and we call it ‘Embracing the Adventure’. Love it, live it.
Sooo. The man named Joe.
We got a little ahead of ourselves, and I’m pretty sure we were the only ones completely blind sighted. Long story short, it was like a beautiful slow-motion trainwreck. We went from long distance idealizing and romanticizing the crap out of each other to living in my petite studio together and discovering that we were human. We were devastated that it wasn’t perfect, and I forgot to be flexible and watched it fall apart instead. Still, miraculously, we pulled ourselves together like the mature adults we are and had an incredible summer playing all over Oregon. We went hiking, road tripped down the coast, ate at my favorite restaurants and tried new ones, went wine tasting in Hood River, went to strip clubs, rock climbed, etc. We became friends, and then adventure buddies, and when I had to say goodbye to him at the airport I realized I had deeper feelings for him than I ever did before. It was not possible for me to care and miss him so much prior to his visit because we had not experienced life together (five hours in a casino bar in Las Vegas doesn’t count, really). I tried to play it off cool but I missed him so much last week I ate a ton of burgers to fill the void.
What I’m trying to say, boys and girls, is that planning and being flexible applies to relationships. Find your person (probably the hardest part) and embrace the crap out of that adventure. Date someone you deserve and who deserves you, and plan a future together, but be flexible with what that could look like. Choose to love each other, and be open minded to what the future might become. This might be the only way it can work. As for me, we’ll see.