I have never had a problem putting myself first.
For as long as I can remember, my priority has always been my future. Whether that meant focusing on my schoolwork or getting a job, I have always known that my professional success came first. In high school, I ignored boys and dating with reasons like, “I don’t have time for that” or “I have more important things to worry about.” It made me feel strong and independent. I was content. I knew that I was young and I had plenty of time to date. This idea continued into college where I became even more weighed down with responsibilities and obligations.
It wasn’t until I was entering 2018 – and my last calendar year of college – that I realized I was getting close to graduating having never had a real romantic relationship. I had this idea of college as being the place where I would date a lot and probably meet my future spouse.
How untrue that has been for me.
I have always put too much faith in fate; I’ve always thought that if it was meant to happen, it would just happen. I didn’t like the idea of having to put actual effort and time and energy into finding a boyfriend. The thought made me feel… stupid? Shallow? Weak? It goes against my strong, independent, feminist self. I have always told myself firmly that, as a woman, love and romantic relationships don’t have to be the goal.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said, “Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important… A woman at a certain age that isn’t married, our society teaches us to see it as a deep, personal failure.”
Photo courtesy of The New York Times
I have see this in my own life at every family holiday, from the moment I turned 16, where I am usually asked at least once, “Do you have a boyfriend?” And when I say no, I am “reassured” with, “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” As if, I should be worried? As if nothing else in my life is worth discussing or praising if that part of my life does not exist? As if the someone I should be finding is not myself?
If I am being honest, romance and love is something I want. I find myself feeling disappointed or insecure about the vacancy in that part of my life. So I grudgingly decided to download Tinder at my friends’ requests. I know, I know. Tinder is not exactly the place to go to find love, but what else am I going to do? Meeting someone organically (as I always hoped to meet someone) hasn’t seemed to work out well so far. It also seemed like a good way to ease myself into dating.
I didn’t think I’d get much out of it. But I’ve actually talked to some really nice guys and have felt hopeful and giddy. It has been fun, but I’m finding myself spending too much energy on it. I’m checking my phone every five minutes to see if he messaged back. I’m thinking about how to cleverly ask to meet when I should be writing a paper. I’m bringing it up in all of my conversations with friends. It is dominating my time and I don’t like it. But connecting with someone also gives me a different kind of happiness that I haven’t felt in a long time.
It can be satisfying and confidence-boosting to feel pursued and desired. It can be addicting. But it can also be consuming. I am terrified at how easy it was for me to lose myself in this game. To hand my self-worth and self-esteem over to a stranger. I have contradicting emotions constantly when it comes to romance. I haven’t found a good way to reckon with it. But of this I’m sure: I know who I am and I know what I want. That will never lead me astray.