The following essay is a guest post written by my friend, Emily Morris.
When I was 21, I moved to Berkeley, CA to be a nanny. I didn’t know anyone there except my friend and her husband, who were both in their early forties at the time. I had a car to use and weekends off, and I spent most of my time going to movies alone or driving around the city. I went on one date with a guy who worked at the bagel shop. He kind of looked like Dave Grohl. When he came to pick me up for our second date, I hid in my bathroom and didn’t go to the door. Looking back, I think I was having an anxiety attack. At the time, I just felt like I was very, very shy.
After I moved back from California to Boston (where I grew up), the next few years were not very eventful, relationship-wise. I spent a year and a half with a crush on a guy who barely knew I existed, following him and his band (of course he was in a band) around like a puppy dog. I moved and changed jobs and had my first apartment alone, and I never really made any terrible mistakes. I had a brief relationship that ended as fast as it started, and then I tried online dating.
I met three or four guys but always felt like the chemistry was too forced, and I didn’t pursue anything. And, of course, online dating can just be bizarre. Like the guy who told me he’d be the one “in the white jeans” and then, when we met, he said, “You ask me a question and then I’ll ask you one!” When it was his turn, he brilliantly asked: “What’s your favorite color?” The fuck? I couldn’t help but wonder if that was all that was out there. But I didn’t really give myself the chance to find out.
I’ve never been especially bold or outgoing. In high school, I was happy to stay home most nights and weekends, obsessively journaling (!!), watching “Party of Five,” and listening to loud music. I’m a classic introvert — I get exhausted by long conversations with strangers, cannot stand small talk, and need to regularly recharge my “batteries” in my own home. But I’ve also always loved going out, and I did it a lot in my twenties. I just never felt like I wanted to “put myself out there” and I don’t know exactly why. When I went out to bars, I hung out with my friends and chatted, drank, laughed and HAD FUN, but I never hooked up with a stranger, or had a one night stand or a walk of shame the next morning, and, looking back, I regret that.
When friends tell me stories of their twenties — about random silly hookups and making out with people they never talked to again, I feel a weird twinge of envy. I have some fun and crazy stories, but I wonder about all the other stories I don’t have. Of course, they could involve STDs and broken hearts and hurt feelings, but they also could have been awesome. Now I think back about times in crowded bars when guys would talk to me and I would feel overwhelmed or awkward (or I simply just wasn’t interested) and I wonder why I didn’t talk to more people I liked or found attractive. Maybe it was a fear of rejection, which can be a powerful thing, but now, on the eve of turning 38 (tomorrow!), I think, if someone rejects you, then they didn’t really deserve you in the first place. I also, annoyingly, see pictures of myself from this time and think I look pretty damn cute. I wish I had known that — or had more confidence in myself.
(Me at 23, sitting at the bar, being cute and having no idea!)
I spent my late twenties crushing on a friend, making out with him, feeling weird about a fall-out we had because we were making out as friends, and then, by the time I turned 29, we were in a relationship. (And, btw, he was the drummer from the aforementioned band. Life is cyclical). Now, nine years later, we live together with our two dogs and one cat; I am fully happy and content with the way my life has rolled out so far. But I wish I could go back and tell myself to take more risks, be bold(!) and put myself out there. I can’t tell my younger self that, so I’ll tell you: if you’re afraid of risks, don’t be! Be afraid of missing out on the rewards you get when you take them. Tell that person you like that you have a crush on him or her! Ask that dude on a date! Maybe he’s just as nervous and scared as you. Maybe he’ll say no. But the world won’t end, I guarantee it. Risks are for taking, life is for living. Don’t sit still at the bar waiting for people to come to you. Get up and grab a cute stranger and go for it. If nothing else, you’ll have more stories to tell when you’re old.
Emily Morris is a lifelong New Englander who eats too much cheese and drinks too much coffee but regrets neither. She loves Mark Ruffalo, Scottish accents, and the beach. She hates turtlenecks, the Kardashians, and her neighbor with the leaf blower. She is a currently a nanny, but her 2014 resolution is to do more writing. She lives with her drummer boyfriend, two dogs, and one cat in Boston. You can find her wasting time live-tweeting award shows on Twitter.