Monday, August 19, 2013

C'est La Vie de la Nouvelle Orleans

I'm home.

For a bit.

As always, coming home makes me instantly want to pack my bags and put down roots somewhere near Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue (and actually... that just might happen next summer).

My heart is always torn in two between the city I adopted as home, and the city I truly call home. Over the last seven years or so, my love affair with all things New Orleans has intensified to unprecedented levels (this from the kid who wanted to write a Louisiana History book for my fifth grade writer's project). But then, I've got that big town up North, where the speed of my brain is finally matched by the speed of activity around me.

It's tough.

As I sit here writing in a Community Coffee House on Magazine street, sniffing the fresh brews of coffee and chicory, having watched a sweet afternoon South Louisiana rainstorm out the window, I'm reminded that no matter how long I live in New York, I'll always crave these afternoons. The problem is, no matter how long I live here, I'll always miss the people that make my big city such a fantastic home-away-from home.

In my perfect world, I'd pop back and forth between the two seamlessly. If ever I had one of those financial situations in which I could spend money without thinking of it, that's exactly what I'd do.

Unfortunately I only get to call one home at a time, and that's tough.

So a few things I'll be praying about over the nine months:

1. preparing myself for huge life changes - no matter what finishing grad school and starting a more permanent career is a big deal, but it's likely going to involve a move. That's something my heart aches just to think about - even if it does mean moving where my heart truly lies.

2. decision making - I'm going to have LOTS of decisions to make over the next several months, from choosing which  job is best fit and when to turn down something even if there's nothing else on the horizon (or if that's even somethign to do!), to picking a city to plant my roots.

3. housing - there's great potential that my dream apartment could be opening next door to a friend around the exact same time I'd need to be moving back - but with enough of a time delay that I could find a job to solidify my application. If that were to work out, my geographic decision would be basically made.

4. senioritis - so since my program is only two years, it's hard to really call it "senioritis," but I've found graduate school to be ESPECIALLY easy, and so staying focused in a second year might be tough. Thankfully, despite the ease, I do LOVE my program. I'm just worried about getting to lax and not getting enough out of it even if my grades are good.

5. internship - my new internship is in a TOTALLY different branch of social work than I've ever worked with. I'm rather excited about it, but rather nervous at the same time.

ANYWAY. Throughout the year I'll be updating on my journey, but in the meantime, just keep praying that God opens doors and closes necessary ones.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mug Swap and Other Fun Stuff

I always like meeting new people, so I signed up for a couple of exchanges that mean getting actual physical mail.

Mug Swap!

That one ^^^^^^^ means picking out a super awesome mug and getting a super awesome mug in return. Excitement.

I also signed up for a snail  mail collective, which sounds pretty amazing. You can sign up here. 

Tales from the inside: What outsiders should consider when relating to us single people

I really don't know how I'm going to fit this all into a decently-concise blog post. It actually may take a few tries and edits before I publish, because frankly, it's a topic about which I have many feelings. So while I sit at home alone on a Friday eating Ben and Jerry's from the pint and debating whether or not to order Dominos, I'm going to use this time to voice some things that have been on my mind.

First of all, I'm not writing 100% original material here. I've noticed a lot of great articles and blogs out there on this topic in recent months, but I've decided to present my own perspective on it because, if I'm being honest, I really like having an opinion. And I like reading my own opinion. And I like hearing your thoughts on my opinion. So indulge me.

I've been single for a LONG time. Not just "not married" single, but like, straight-up no-boyfriend, I-don't-even-need-a-whole-hand-to-count-the-dates-I've-been-on single. When it comes to writing about what it feels like to be an "insider" on the single-people demographic, I'm one of the world's leading experts.

So here are a few of my thoughts on things that you not-so-single folks should consider when relating to us. (DISCLAIMER: I also recognize that this blog-post will most likely be seen by more single people who are looking for a reason to say "Amen" than by people who need to are reading it to know what not to say, but whatever, I'm always looking for "amen" articles myself).

Don't say "You just have to put yourself out there more"

What does that even mean? What exactly is "putting yourself out there?"  I honestly don't know. If one of you could ever ACTUALLY explain what this meant, maybe I'd be willing to scratch this off my list, but when I press for a "how" I'm usually met with a lot of "uhhh.... hmmm....ummm..." reactions. As a Christian woman looking for a man who is going to pursue me in a Godly fashion, I'm not exactly into the whole "Let's go out to the bar on a Thursday night and get some phone numbers" technique (is this still even a thing? I'm not sure). I mean, I love a good happy hour as much as anyone else, but I'm not about to just go out, let someone judge me based solely on the most shallow of qualities and then decide if they'd like to get to know me more, PLUS how do I know they're Christians? So what exactly is this "putting yourself out there"?

My only guess is that perhaps you mean we could go to some of those Christian singles events, but, sadly, in my experience, most of those things are full of people much older than I am. I don't know why that is.... I also think my own insecurities about being skeptical of just about any guy I meet who seems interested in me despite the fact that we don't have a ton of mutual friends who've already talked me up or we haven't just had the world's most meaningful conversation probably play into this pretty heavily. Plus, there's something inherently uncomfortable to me about going to an event that is designed solely for the purpose of people meeting people to date (even if they frame it as an event just the hang out - we all know why we go to these things).  It's like going to an audition, and awkwardly knowing that every person of the opposite sex you meet there is judging your datability.

All that to say, if you can define "putting yourself out there," maybe I'll take your suggestion, but since none of you seem to be able to do so, keep it to yourself. You're only making me more frustrated.

On that note:

I'm tired of explaining to you why I haven't tried online dating

Exception: if you found someone this way, you are allowed to bring up this one. Obviously.  But MOST of the people who bring this up are people who didn't find their boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife this way. They didn't even have to give it a shot.

I have my own personal reasons for not going the online-dating route at this point in life, but that's another blog post for another day, but I'm tired of having to explain this to people who probably wouldn't have tried it had they been in my position themselves. There are plenty of single people who have tried online dating, and so maybe this one doesn't apply to them. Maybe they don't mind talking about it, but then again, if they're single, and they've tried it, it may be a sore subject, because maybe it didn't work... I don't know. This one's messy. But you get the point.

I'm probably not looking for your advice, I'm looking for someone to hear me out

Sometimes, we just need to vent.

Sometimes, I just need to rant and rave and cry for hours about, oh I don't know, the guy who is just perfect for me in every single way and everyone seems to know it but him (this is a real person btw, but I'm not even gonna go there right now). Sometimes I just need to go off about how absolutely absurd it is that I only ever get asked out by people I'd never go out with, and even then it's like, once every two years. Sometimes, I'm just tired of being ALONE when this is on my mind, and I just need someone other than the teddy bear I've had since third grade to hear me cry about it. We all have things in life that frustrate us, and we all need to just get it all out there sometimes.

The number one thing I've learned in social work school is that social workers are never supposed to give advice. Our main goal is to normalize feelings, and to be a sympathetic ear (seriously, easiest job ever). This same thing really should apply to our friendships. Unless being specifically asked for advice, don't offer it. I just need you to say "You know what, you're right, it's tough." I have a friend who's gotten really good at this. She and I are in very different places in our lives, but I know that at any time I can text her and just say "I'm really frustrated today over this situation" and go off on a rant about it, and her response is usually something along the lines of "I can see how that could be very frustrating. I will pray for you to feel better." Sometimes, that's all we want to hear. In return, I'll gladly listen to you on a day when you need to vent over how frustrating apartment hunting is, or infertility, or whatever your current situation might be.

While we're on the "don't give me advice" subject:

If you got married before you were 25, stop trying to relate to the waiting period

I mean that. I know it feels like an eternity. I remember being that young and still feeling like it was an eternity. But it's not. So don't try to offer me tips on how you got through it.

I recognize that there are women who are older than I am now who are saying the same thing about me, so if I get married any time soon, I vow to stop trying to relate to peole in their thirties who are still waiting it out. Because I won't get it... thought it this rate, I'm likely goign to be one of them so...

We still want to be your friends too

At this point in life, the majority of my friends are coupled up. I've been a third, or fifth, or seventh, or ninth wheel pretty much since I was twelve. I'm pretty used to it at this point.  I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is when you find out your friends have all gone out as couples and you were not invited. If you're going out on a date, that's one thing, but the second you start inviting other couples along, you're making it a friend thing, a gathering, and we want to be a part of it. I promise, you're not making me feel awkward. I get that sometimes there are appropriate reasons to have couples events, just like there are appropriate reasons to have singles events, but please don't leave us out just because you're going out as a couple and invite another couple. I'm perfectly fine with being the cumin if it means I get to hang out with awesome people (though I prefer to think of myself more as a can of Tony's).

Think about it, unlike you, I don't have a built in partner with whom to do things. Couples tend to be people who at least enjoy the same activities for the most part. This way, when you're like "Omg, my favorite band is coming to town," there's a good chance you've got someone to go to the show with. Or when you're like "I've always wanted to go for a picnic in Flushing Meadows," you can turn to the person next to you and ask them to tag along. For us, it tends to be more of a stretch to find people, especially us big city people. The more opportunities you give me to spend with other people, the better, so I don't mind if that means being the only single person there. Is that ideal? no, but I'll take it. As the adventurer I am, I've gotten really good at going out my own to do things I've always wanted to do and not worrying about doing it alone, but unless I'm in one of my moods where the purpose of my outing is to reflect and pray and enjoy just being me and God, I'd 99.9% of the time rather have someone to go on that adventure with me. (on a side note, I'm working hard to overcome some of my own social awkwardness in the area of inviting people to do things so I don't have to do them alone, and I think I'm making ground... but again, another post for another day).

Please don't tell us "It'll come when you stop looking for it/least expect it"

Please reflect upon your own life and find a time in which you "stopped looking" completely. Did that ever happen?

Didn't think so.

I hear it all the time. "Oh, I had stopped looking and then there he was." What because you were like, a junior in college and decided it was too early to settle down anyway so you decided to focus on school? Right. that's the same.

We're always looking. We can't help it. I had a time in my life where I went on a "romance fast" and made a conscious effort to not look, to not surround myself with any sort of romantic movies or books, and to catch myself every time I started thinking of a guy as a potential mate and pray that I wouldn't instead - and yes, it taught me a LOT, and was one of the most valuable experiences in my spiritual life to date, but it still didn't change the fact that deep down I kept thinking "Well, maybe right now while I'm 'not looking' he'll come along."So really, was I not looking?

We're never not looking. We're never going to be not looking.

Sometimes, we just need a hug

Very often, we may go days or weeks in which the only physical contact we have with another human being is on a crowded subway. I never could quite put my finger on why this was weird until I read someone recently who said that it can make you feel like you aren't human. Best explanation of that feeling ever. Sometimes, you just need a hug, or someone's arm around your shoulder to feel like a physical being.

Personally, I'm convinced physical touch is one of my love languages, so this is a huge one for me. It also, on the flip side, is the reason I can be very particular about how I give and receive hugs. That said, sometimes I just need a hug, even if I'm in the best of moods, just to be reminded that I exist.

"Freedom" is scary

I wrote a whole post about this over a year ago. You can refer to it if you really want details on what this means.

Often, people who are married and have kids are all "You're so lucky, you can just move wherever and do whatever you want whenever you want." Okay, that's a legitimate point, but I promise you, I'd trade in that freedom any day to know that I'm needed in someone else's life on a day-to-day basis. Again, refer to previous post.

We want to be included in your conversations. 

I was once at a weekend long wedding celebration for the wedding of one of my closest friends from college. She had a small wedding, and I was a bridesmaid. Over the course of the weekend I realized that I WAS THE ONLY PERSON THERE WHO WAS  NOT MARRIED OR ENGAGED. What this meant was that every conversation we had while arranging flowers, getting pedicures, whatever, was about wedding-planning and men. I had absolutely zero to contribute to the conversation. I was supposed to stay in town the night of the wedding and continue to hang out with everyone one more night, but instead, as soon as the wedding was over I hopped in my car and drove to my cousin's house a couple of hours away - crying like a madwoman because I could not stand one more conversation about something I had no knowledge of.

That's an extreme example, but it is not far-off from the types of things that often happen when you're the only person around who isn't at a particular life-phase. Sometimes, it's conversations about babies - and if I try to bring up stories from babysitting, or cousins, or whatever, just let me do it - it's all I've got. And when you're talking about male-female relationships and I bring up a guy friend of mine who acts a certain way, indulge me despite the fact that I'm not talking about a significant other- because it's really all I've got. I've talked to a lot of my single friends who've dealt with these same issues of feeling like an outsider in conversations about kids and spouses. So indulge us, or change the topic.

Why do we treat the pain that comes with childlessness as legitimate concerns, but we treat the pain that comes with singleness as a lack of faith?

Seriously. When someone is crying to you because she's been trying to conceive and has been unable to for whatever reason, or she's suffered a miscarriage or two, we mourn with these women. Legitimately so. It's tough.

But whenever someone is crying because she so desires to be someone's wife, it's like "Oh, God has you waiting for a reason," "Be content in just Jesus right now," etc. C'mon, seriously? So instead of validating our feelings you're going to also make us feel like we're lacking in our faith? Great. I appreciate that. I'd like to remind you that most of us who are single are also childless, and we're not having any babies anytime soon either, out of circumstances totally beyond our control, so it's like, double whammy. I'm 27, which apparently (or so I hear from some legitimate scientific source somewhere that I'm not going to bother citing right now because it's 12:13 am and I'm tired), is the peak year of fertility in a woman. Scientific source or not, I know what's going on in my body. My hormones very much know I'm supposed to be making babies right now. I can smell out small children like The Witches.  I see babies on the train, at work, wherever... and I have to consciously remind myself that it is not okay to ask a stranger to hold their baby. Seriously. There are a bazillion crazy things going on with my hormones right now - suffice it to say, I understand the pain of the infertile woman. I am one. Just for different reasons, and at the end of the day, I don't even have a husband to cry to about it.

Stop demeaning your spouses

Pop culture already does a good job of making marriage seem like a burden. I don't need you to buy into that and try to sell it to me - like the guy trying to sell me his home-produced rap CD on 14th street - you're wasting your time, I know better.

I read a great blog post by an acquaintance of mine about how men are portrayed to be idiots by so much of our culture. It's kindof what inspired me to go off on this little rant tonight, because I was thinking of how frustrating it is every single time someone tells me "men are a pain, you don't want one," and then I started thinking about all of the other things people say that make me crazy.

Seriously though, every time a married woman complains publicly about her husband, my heart breaks a little. No, I do not expect to marry someone who is perfect and who fulfills my every longing - because that's way too much to expect of any human being and we weren't created for that, BUT, how disrespectful is it to say something negative about your spouse to other people? I have a friend who makes sure everyone on facebook/instagram knows every time her husband pisses her off. I can't even wrap my mind around that. Even if 90% of the time you're posting praise about your spouse, if that other 10% of the time you're complaining about them, then you need to re-evaluate what you're posting publicly.

Certainly, my friends need to vent their frustrations now and then too, and I get that. I had a friend just the other day asking me to pray for her as she's going through some physical issues that are, in turn, causing her to take out her frustrations by being incredibly annoyed with every thing her husband does. This is life. We are people. These things are to be expected, but my friend didn't text me and say "Oh, be glad you aren't married, my husband is driving me crazy. You don't want one of these." There's  a BIG difference between those attitudes. NOTHING BOTHERS ME MORE THAN FOR ONE OF MY MARRIED FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS TO TELL ME HOW MUCH I SHOULD ENJOY BEING SINGLE BECAUSE HUSBANDS CAN BE A PAIN. Every time I want to say "So you're telling me that in all seriousness you'd trade your husband right here and now given the chance to be single again and make your own decisions about life and not have anyone 'annoying' you?" If the answer to that question is "yes," then these friends have deeper issues and should be in couples counseling - and I don't mean that as an exaggeration, that's a legitimate concern. Thankfully, most of my friends do not ACTUALLY feel that way, but I wish they'd stop telling me that. It's not comforting. It doesn't make me more grateful for my current experience. It makes me frustrated and annoyed that you don't appreciate this gift you've been given.

AND, Speaking of gifts.

We know singleness is a gift. You don't have to remind us all the time. 

Every sermon on singleness, so many articles about it, and many conversations you have with coupled up friends all love to point to the fact that Jesus was single, and Paul was single, and what do you know, Paul even wrote about how being single is gift n stuff. Yup. We know. And we embrace it, seriously. Speaking for myself, I've definitely come to terms with the fact that I'm in a very unique period of my life and I should embrace it. If you know me, and you don't think I'm embracing it, I implore you to browse my instagram (@danielleinthecity) - I document everything. THAT SAID, having THIS gift doesn't mean I don't long for a different one.

When I was in fourth grade I asked for a Starter jacket for Christmas. It was a cool jacket at the time - and apparently I was a Hornets fan way before they came to New Orleans and subsequently became the Pelicans (which is an awesome mascot, btw). I got the gift I'd asked for. I loved it. I wore it as often as humanly possible in South Louisiana where it's only cold like, five days out of the year. Eventually though, that gift ended up in a Goodwill pile because I'd grown up and moved on.

I am embracing this singleness gift while I have it, but I hope to one day move on to a new gift, one that moves and changes with me. One with whom I can grow. I am no less thankful for this one even though I desire a new one at some point down the road. But seriously, you don't need to keep reminding us of how blessed we are WE KNOW.

We love you anyway, despite the fact that sometimes you make us feel like aliens :) 

For real tho. I am SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL for the amazing people God has placed in my life, particularly for the couples he's brought around me who've shown me the prime examples of what a wonderful Godly marriage looks like. You all may be in a season we wish to be in, but that doesn't mean we are not happy for you. I may want kids, and get really weepy every time I hear yet another pregnancy announcement, but seriously, my best friend just had her fourth kid and the first thing I'm doing when I arrive in New Orleans next week is rushing to her house to meet this baby.  We are still your friends, we still love you, and we recognize that sometimes, we're the ones alienating OURSELVES (I mean, seriously, I just wrote this entire blog post on why we're different... but the same... but different and requiring instructions... I know, it's confusing). All that to say, we wouldn't trade you for the world, and we'd appreciate any advice on things to consider when relating to you too.

********** BONUS MATERIAL************

I realized after I published this and some people already read it that I left off two very important yet related points.

Don't tell me about being picky....

Stop it, just stop there. I will actually go off on you if you say this, so if you don't want to see me turn into a 1970s Lou Ferigno impersonator, jus stop. seriously.  I have standards,  I have preferences, and I have things are are absolute "no"s.  I do, in fact, recognize that some of them might be a little petty, but some are pretty stinking important. I'd like you to know that in my life, of all the times I've been asked out, twice has it been by a Christian. Twice. Count that 1, 2.... that is all. So I'm not exactly given a humongous pool to choose from.  I had legitimate personal reasons for saying no to both of them. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in dating like, 8 out of 10 eligible men that I come into contact with. Most of my single women friends can say the same.

If you can show me this large room full of men I'm being picky toward, I might oblige you, but since you don't seem to know where it is, keep you mouth shut. (That said, if you do find a room full of single men, would you kindly direct me there, please???)

Don't remind  me that "attraction grows on you."

I am aware of this. The first time I met the most recent guy who I've pined over, I wasn't attracted to him. Nor the next time I saw him. It took my friend talking him up and me praying about it a lot before I was legitimately like "Please, put me in a room with this person." THAT SAID, I'd rather not, out of my own social awkwardness, go out with someone under the pretenses that we might like each other if I'm not already in at least some way attracted to him. Seriously. That's just awkward, y'all.

I'm a big proponent of "guy friends." Trust me. I at some points have had more guy friends than girl friends. The vast majority of my guy friends I had no initial attraction to (Because if I did, I can assure you I'd have had a bit of a crush on them from the start). So many of them, though, as I've gotten to know them, I've realized "hey, you know, if given the opportunity, I wouldn't turn this down..." (disclaimer - this does not apply to all of them, simply because some of them seriously make amazing friends and I just would rather keep them that way, it's muddy water....).

Maybe I'm just being foolish on this one, and maybe it's why I've been single for so long, but I seriously would just rather be attracted to a guy in at least some form BEFORE we start trying to get to know each other on a non-friendship level. This might be wrong, and if it is, you're only frustrating me by reminding me that my inability to try it any other way is keeping me lonely. But I can't change that, I've tried praying over it at changing the way I view things, and it's likely, not going to change. Sorry. So don't remind me.