It really sucks that we are so bad at learning from others’ life lessons. At least I am – if you’re one of those mythical creatures that floats through life because you take to heart what others have warned you about, let’s chat.
My mentor Hiba did her best to steer me on a better path. And the longer I stood in her shoes (well, I wore flats instead of heels), the wiser she got.
One piece of advice I wish I would have heeded far earlier:
“Take yourself on a date. Be selfish, and take care of you, too.”
Giving tends to be my default mode. “Alright, I’ll figure it out. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” was my answer to every problem – my old staff made fun of me because of it.
Hiba, on the other hand, urged me to take a break.
So tonight, I finally did.
I put on a dress I haven’t worn since freshman year of college. I got my hair cut in it. I went out for sushi in it – and actually bought a drink other than water! I found a necklace that I really liked and spent money on myself for fun. I went to a coffee shop with a flawless view of downtown to watch the moon rise above it. I turned my phone off and told no one where I was going.
Not going to lie, I felt vulnerable all night. I felt guilty spending money on myself with no practical application. I was on display – each person I interacted with said, “I’d hoped I’d be the one to get you.” A single female on a Saturday night, wearing a formal dress and looking content: I was a curiosity. They wanted to know my story.
Tonight, I had no name. Tonight, I wasn’t calming emergencies. Tonight, I wasn’t fixing problems. Tonight, I wasn’t building friendships or asking questions or catching up with my family. Tonight I wasn’t reading the news or a novel or anything where it was someone elses’ words and ideas. Tonight, I was just alone with me – in the constant company of the girl in the red dress.
“Take yourself out on a date,” Hiba urged me.
It’s a scary prospect. I didn’t find it lonely – par for the course of a solo traveler, more people talked to me when I was alone. But being alone meant that I actually had to listen to my inner voice.
It’s in there that I’m vulnerable: tender, quiet, exposed. My soul peeks out from the shadows where it hides, protected.
Take yourself out on a date. Learn from my mistakes, because I didn’t learn from my mentor’s.
It will probably not be bright and beautiful, because to allow yourself to be open the raw emotions and experiences of solitude is frightening. But it is revealing. It is cleansing. It is needed.
Take yourself out on a date. And find your own story.