I started taking this philosophy course at the start of the year. It was something that I was a little embarrassed to admit because it’s not the type of thing “us New Yorkers” do. Or at least, the response I’ve received so many times when I admit my class enrollment is “OMG, that sign on the subway! You actually did it!” (It looks like this, if you’re curious.)
Based on the advertisement alone, you would think it’s some hoax but the actual lessons I’ve learned through my 10-week schooling have been so influential on my life that I signed up for philosophy 2.
Each class, we discuss topics that relate to life as a group, and then we’re given homework to practice throughout the week. They range from “What would the wise woman do?” (your smarter, less crazy inner self) to “In every situation, find the beauty. If you don’t see it, look again. And if you still don’t see it, look again. And again.” (much easier said than done!).
All of these lessons about patience and listening, kindness and relaxing, selflessness and seeking the wisdom you can gain from every situation have benefited me immensely. When I’m stressed or anxious, upset or unsure, I find myself repeating the smart mantras to get me through the moment or the day or the incident. I’ve become more balanced at work, I spend more time really listening to what my friends have to say and giving more thoughtful, understanding advice. When I feel like the world is crashing down, I can usually apply something from the class and build back up the pieces that started to crumble.
In all areas of my life, I’ve become a better version of myself… except for the one pain point that philosophy class hasn’t been able to soothe:
My dating life.
Now – all of the principles I’ve been taught and repeated in my head for the past 10 weeks definitely make sense in terms of finding love:
Expand your circle of kindness. (Don’t just say no to some dude because he doesn’t fit perfectly into what you want)
Consider every person and every situation as a teacher. What can you learn? (When a date goes terribly and you are eying for the closest exit to get the f*** out of there, breathe, and see what you can gain from this experience.)
What you give your attention to grows. (If you keep focusing on the bad and the disheartening parts of being single or seeking love, you’re going to be continuously slapped in your pretty little face.)
Logically, I see the direct correlation but when I attempt to put it into practice, all of my zen attitudes and my self-encouraging thoughts quickly turn into the catastrophic rolling tide of negativity.
Like on Tuesday.
I met someone in a rather interesting way recently and I was excited about going out with him for the first time on Tuesday. There was some brief texting and some minor flirtation, and though I knew better than to get my hopes up about a date with a stranger, I was actually excited to see how it (and he) turned out. Maybe because the majority of first dates either go very well or very bad, or that I’m just so programmed to expect the worst out of men in New York, but as I was walking to the subway station to meet him, I felt the fear start creeping it’s way into my mind:
What if it’s really awkward? What if I don’t like him? What if how I remember him isn’t quite how he is? What if I’m really, really early? Or late? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I want to leave and I won’t know how to get away from him? What if he doesn’t think I’m pretty?
I felt my anxiety continue to build as I turned the corner and out of nowhere, something inside of me said: “Look up. Look around you. Get out of your head and in the moment.”
And so I did.
I saw the toddlers racing out of their doorman building and the golden retriever happily following behind them. I saw young women around my age coming out of the local market with bags of food, talking to someone on the phone in hushed tones. I saw the street car vendor call out to passerbys and I saw little old men shuffling their way to the apartments they’ve probably had for decades.
And then I looked up…
… just as someone accidentally let go of a heart-shaped red balloon and it floated quickly up to the sky from the uptown streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Just as I was walking by. And just as Maroon 5’s “Love Somebody” came on my Pandora app.
First, I though, wow, my friends are right. My life IS a romantic comedy, and then I gave myself a break for being so negative about relationships.
The truth is – dating is hard. It is frustrating. It in oftentimes, infuriating. And after going on date after date and meeting guy after guy for two and a half years, it’s natural to be a little burnt out. It’s normal to feel nervous before a date and frankly, nervous for how you’ll feel afterwards: more disappointed or hopeful (and honestly, the latter is a little scarier than the first).
And while it’s okay to worry, my energy and my time (and my heart) are better spent living in the now. Enjoying every single second of every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year is the single most important thing I’ve gained from my philosophy training. Time spent analyzing the past and holding onto it keeps you from the joy and the splendor of the now. And wondering what tomorrow will bring or who you will meet or how it will go or how it won’t go or what will happen are all questions that you’ll never have the answers to until… well, they happen. The truth of everything is found while you’re experiencing, not afterwards and not in anticipation of the moment.
So I got on the train. I took the local and I read a book the whole way. I took my time getting to the bar. I casually sat down, arriving before he did. I drank some water and I scanned a menu I already basically had memorized. I saw him arrive and I watched him walk in.
He smiled a genuine, kind grin at me and sat down.
And we talked philosophy – something that both of us had studied and both had our lives and our mindsets changed because of the work. A few drinks, a few kisses and a few days later, I’m excited about our second date this Friday.
But I’m not stressed about it. I’m just letting it happen. Why?
Because that’s exactly what the wise woman would do.