"I learned a lot about falling in love when I fell out of love. I learned a lot about being a friend when I was alone." Unknown 

Forging connections with new people is a challenge the older I get. Maybe it's because I'm stuck in my ways or I'm just cynical and closed off. Whatever it is, it makes my efforts to connect with others few and far between. When I do connect with people, I struggle to overcome my default behavior of comparing them to all the others who have come before them. I think I want familiarity but in reality, it just shows up as trying to replace one past or far away friend with someone who just isn't them. Whether it be in like, love, or friendship it's been a challenge to unlearn that woefully limiting behavior of comparing the new people in my life to those my people of the past. What I miss out on is the opportunity to get to know someone who they actually are, not who I imagine or want them to be. I want so badly for someone to be my person that I don't let them be a person instead of a fictional character I've scripted for them to be. Finding people who make me feel comfortable, safe, and at peace is so fleeting that when it does happen I mistake it for the passion that I yearn for. There's comfort but there's no spark. It's a mismatch. 

What I'm learning through all my "bad" dates, fizzled attempts at converting acquaintances to friends, and the awkward missed connections in between is that there is true merit in connecting for the sake of connecting. What I mean to say is while I might feel like I have a limited capacity to maintain relationships in my life, it's not true. I have the choice to include as many people as I want or exclude them just the same. Holding out for those rare lifelong friendships, whirlwind romances, or slow burn courting processes is not only limiting for the potential people I might get to know but also just plain unrealistic. That's saying that I am only willing to accept the companionship of an elite few - but how do I know who those people are unless I give them a chance to be part of my life? It never hurts to connect with new people. I have no clue where a conversation will take me and in that ambiguity there's not only fear but more importantly hope. Things could turn out for the better. I could find I have a lot in common with someone, or better yet find that I have a quite different lived experience but that we vibe nonetheless. I'm always looking to add new people to my world but I have to be prepared, willing, and able to do so. What's the worst that can happen - I don't click with someone, and we're a mismatch. Nothing lost or nothing gained, just is what it is. 

I think I have learned exorbitantly more from the seemingly endless stream of one-off dates than I have from the once in a blue moon instances where I did fully feel in sync with someone else. It's through all the comical, awkward, and downright awful dates that I figured out what qualities matter most to me in others, the things about me that irk other people, and what kind of mutualism is needed to make things work. It's everything from my knit-picky quirks to the bigger ideological viewpoints. I'm finding my deal-breakers or things that make me lose interest in a person are different than I expected. I'm getting to reflect on why certain things bother me like this seemingly Midwestern thing where people swallow the "to be" in a phrase like "that doesn't need changed" or "that needs cleaned." Why does that  bother me so much when I clearly understand what is being said regardless of its delivery? When people point at what they would like at Chipotle at or above the glas, don't look at waitstaff, or don't push their chair in when we get up to leave. It points to how much manners, grammar - respectability politics - still matter to me even after trying to shake my elitist socialization. I love when people talk about children, express a passion for people, and care about education or helping others. The list of itty-bitty things I've picked up on through these failed connections goes on and on. Nonetheless I can probably paint a picture of who or what I don't want even more clearly that what my ideal person looks like (hint it's me *shocker).

Having unrealistic expectations of others is unfair to all involved. I know it doesn't make sense and yet still here I am wanting others to be able to read my mind, to do the small things I hope they will, and to be the person I have constructed them to be. It's a defense mechanism that lets me say that no one is worthy of me, or no one can meet my expectations - maybe my expectations are not meant to be met and are just unattainable. Maybe I don't want anyone to be able to earn me because I'm not really afraid of being alone but rather what scares me is that someone could be good enough for me.  Instead of being there where I am and engaging with the person next to me I'm instead off waiting for them to "fail" and by fail I mean fall short, do or say something I don't like, give me a reason to quit, let me them go, and move on. I'm setting them up for failure instead of hoping they succeed. I've created this dichotomy that made to never be bridged. It's a distancing. It's making myself inaccessible. It's feeding into a self-perpetuating cycle of deep-seated fear. I'm not of being alone, I'm full of trepidation for being with someone else.

Mismatches matter, maybe even more for that unending quest for the perfect match. I am trying to say yes more and to give people a chance to surprise me for the better instead of falling short before they can ever try. It's negotiating my deal-breakers instead of treating them as immovable barriers. It's being less critical and more pragmatic (not even optimistic). It's getting real. It's letting people be real with me. It's me being real instead of always on guard, ready to evacuate, or end the game. It's going on dates even if I know we might not be a good fit, I can still have fun, enjoy myself, and be grateful for the conversation with another person. It's a commitment to getting to know someone before writing them off. It's being there and nowhere else so I can listen instead of planning an escape. It's holding myself accountable to give people the benefit of the doubt. It's letting people be who they are instead of writing their story for them. It's accepting that story for what it is and validating it as true. It's being honest, kind, and compassionate in letting people know how I'm feeling, and if I'm not feeling it. It's striving for someone someone who works instead of the ever-elusive one, without compromising but not being so out of reach that no can ever try. It's making the most of mismatches as much as it is searching for someone. X


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