When I was eighteen, I dated an older guy who my friends said had popped out of a storybook. He was handsome, very successful, and always managed to say the right things. He'd pull out my chairs for me, open my doors, take me on carriage rides through Central Park, and treat me to some of the best dining Manhattan could offer. It was a big, beautiful world to see with young eyes. But deep down in my heart I knew that he wasn't the guy I was meant to see that world with.
One year later, plain old everyday life led me to a man who proved I'd been right. I learned pretty quickly that one conversation can change the way you see yourself, love, and the world around you. He didn't have much money and wouldn't inherit a fortune. We didn't eat fancy dinners or shop on Park Avenue. But as I'd sit on his futon late at night watching him dissect academic theories, I'd see the world through the eyes I always wanted to see with. We had some differences that proved insurmountable, but I had finally known real love. And I'd never forget that view.
Over the next decade, there would be dates of all kinds. There would be dancing on a Harlem rooftop with a musician who could sing Sinatra almost as good as the legend himself. There would be dinner across the bar from a charming bartender who fancied himself a philosopher...and had a smile to die for. There would be an afternoon picnic with an artist who sketched my face while talking Monet and Degas. There would be midnight salsa, late-afternoon French cafes, sunrises, sunsets, and walks through New York City in the rain.
And through it all, I'd learn who I was, what I loved, and what I wanted out of life.
So yes, dating can be maddening. But it can also be the reason you experience things you'd never imagined. Some men may resemble storybook princes; Some will make you laugh; others will make you cry. Some will bring out the best you that you can be. Others will make you question the choices you've made and the reasons you've made them.
In the process you'll discover what you value. You'll learn what you can't live without. You'll find out what you can and can't handle. And you'll make memories to hold on to for the rest of your life.
If you were to ask me today if it had all been worth it—the good, the bad, and the crazy of dating—I'd say absolutely. I wouldn't trade the lessons for anything in the world. I certainly wouldn't trade the laughter. And those tears—well, they make for some thick skin and a strong soul.
So take that leap. Who cares if he ends up not being the one. You'll learn more than you bargained for. And when you least expect it, plain old everyday life may hand you love.
(Photo by Gabriela Hansen)