Every year I have a Valentine tradition, I have a t-shirt that I wear that says “Love Stinks” in little pink rhinestones. It doesn’t necessarily reflect my feeling about Valentine’s day (yet the cynical side of me thinks that Hallmark is truly evil), instead I find the shirt humorous. I love to see people’s reactions to it, especially within the confines of Corporate America! Since most of the corporate world has gone to casual dress, I’ve been able to wear it to work the last 5 years or so. Last year I happened to have my CIO’s staff meeting that I had to attend on Valentine’s Day – I was a bit self-conscience about the shirt – but everyone just went about their business. One person did mouth to me across the table – “nice shirt”. Since my Love Stinks shirt is in storage somewhere in the Bronx this year, I decided that at least I would honor it by writing a post using it as a title! I don’t know that this title actually goes well with this post…but what the heck…it makes me feel good to use the term. This is actually from my journal a few weeks ago when I was in Thailand. Just some random thoughts that that I started jotting down as I lay on the beach surrounded by honeymooners. I actually enjoy these moments – the ones that really make you think, the ones where you take stock in where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going.
Ao Nang, Thailand, January 27th
I’m having one of those great days. I’m on my own now, no travel companions…just me, the beach, my ipod, intense sun, and my thoughts. I’m baking in the sun, thinking about how absolutely fortunate and happy I am. My thoughts wander to that of my friends, I think about the last time I saw them – so far, they are the only thing that I am really homesick for. I wondered if they were experiencing similar feelings of happiness, of satisfaction, or accomplishment in their everyday lives…I hope they are. I look around at my surroundings, I’m encircled by glistening couples – I wonder if they are as happy and satisfied as I am. Since I seldom seem to have any serious boyfriends, I wonder if this feeling of complete satisfaction and happiness that I have now is what couples feel when they’ve found the right person. Do they look happy? Do they look so happy they could burst, so satisfied with their decisions, excited about what new adventure is around the corner – similar to how I feel this year? Do they get a rush of adrenaline when they are together similar to the adrenaline rush I get every time I land in a new country? I can’t help but wonder. I feel like I’ve been conditioned to think that finding that ‘special someone’ is the climax of life, the eternal happiness, yet I’m not ready to drink that kool-aide just yet. In Southern Thailand I have been surrounded by couples honeymooning, it’s strange to be a solo traveler in this situation. Yet, most of the time I feel like I’m much happier than the people that surround me.
Valentine’s day and my birthday are quickly approaching (not in that order), and I guess it always makes me stop and wonder what my path may have been like if I had worked harder at that ‘dating thing’. I haven’t seriously dated anyone for close to 5 years now and bumping up into the upper 30’s has made me wonder what my future holds and how I ended up in this position. Granted – it may have been 5 years of nothing serious, but I’ve had my share of fun and that’s generally what I prefer – no strings, no commitments. No one ever seems to be ‘right’. I’ve always felt that I’d rather be single than miserable in a relationship that wasn’t right. Yet I do wonder, how happy are those couples on the beach – is it really that great? Or is it just the most acceptable path? Or does it just look good on the outside – while they are dying on the inside? Sure – it would be nice to have a significant other here with me to help shoulder the burden, carry my bags, share the rough travel times with, to kill bugs and put sunscreen on my back – but would I be as happy as I am right now? Would I feel that intoxicating sense of accomplishment that I feel now – the feeling that I’ve made this happen on my own? Probably not.
I had a very good friend once ask me if I was afraid of being alone (I was 27 and considering leaving my boyfriend of 6 1/2 years – an appropriate question to ask!). I was startled by her question and deep down I knew the answer was yes – and that scared the shit out of me. I didn’t want to be handcuffed by loneliness – I left him and never looked back – not once. I think I’ve been on a quest now for the last 10 years to prove that I wasn’t afraid to being alone. Without a doubt, it is one of the main reasons why I’m on this around the world journey now – I don’t want to ever be afraid of something…especially doing something on my own. I know that this overwhelming feeling of happiness I feel is because I’m doing this – chasing my dream, doing what makes me happy on my own. This certainly doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t welcome meeting the ‘right’ person…or even Mr. Right Now (now that would be a birthday present!). But even if I met someone and they wanted to come with me on my journey, I would have to stop and really think if I wanted that.
As I continue to scan the beach dotted with couples, I don’t know if they are necessarily happier than me…or more satisfied than me. But I do know that if you do what you love and follow your dreams – good things will come. This is probably one of my happiest birthdays and valentine’s days I’ve had – I can’t remember the last time I felt so strong and well-adjusted. My present to myself is the adventure, the rush of adrenaline coursing through my body as the wheels touch down in Borneo and my mind thinks – I can’t believe I’m in f’ing Borneo – what a great life!