Undoing the Undo

Sometimes I wish I could take a week off from my computer. If I estimated how many hours I spend looking at a screen, from my job that’s primarily at a desk to this blog, which takes up some time to write, publish, and promote – I’d be embarrassed of the total.

But the truth is – a computer helped raise me. I can’t remember a time without one.

I come from a generation that’s always known what it was like to be connected to this digital creation and the World Wide Web. In elementary school, we took turns buying a bag of cotton balls so we could clean off our headphones for computer class, where we learned about home row keys and data entry. By the time I was in middle school, I had my own email account (latigar@aol.com, of course) and my parents let me chat in chat rooms before chat rooms needed a warrior like Chris Hansen to get the predators out.

In high school, I started really becoming a journalist with internships and mastering the Office Suite and how to effectively search on AskJeeves.com. I started to become interested in design and because I knew I wanted to work at a magazine, I started figuring out ways to contact editors – I even found interns in groups on MySpace. Time couldn’t change as quickly as the technology and college was full of Adobe and Facebook, Flash, and Google Analytics.

I’m well versed in the language of the web and when a computer challenges me, I fight back until I find an answer. Maybe because I’m so comfortable dancing across the keys or trying something new, but I’m brave to push my limits and explore the tech world, both socially and systematically. I’m not afraid of making mistakes because I know that there is always a saving grace, should I do something to throw the entire program or network off balance.

Undo.

It was a joke at the college newspaper I rose in the ranks of, that when in doubt, just hit undo. This miracle button could correct anything and it gave us the courage to test the waters of new, exciting pages, and scarily complicated CMS features. I felt a sense of freedom knowing I could do basically whatever I wanted to attempt and I’d be okay if something went awry. I wouldn’t be held responsible because I could just delete the action.

Ever since I discovered this free pass, I’ve found myself thinking “Edit, Undo” in my day-to-day when something goes wrong. Like when I’m walking the two blocks from my favorite coffee shop to my job and I spill a nice trail of Splenda-and-skim-infused Java down my blue blouse, five minutes into my work day. Or out of complete frustration and the onset of my monthly visitor, I snap at a friend who is only trying to make me feel better. Or when I say words I can’t take back, do things I can’t change, or leave people who will never return.

But the thing is – there isn’t an undo in life.

We make choices and we’re forced to stand by them. We make our bed and we lay in it. We meet people and we have the ability to decide (Heavens willing) how long they’re with us and how close they grow. We try things and they often don’t work out in the way we want. We take risks and we have trials, and there is no way to step back on that ledge once we’ve left it.

Though the backend of a computer and the Internet is vastly complicated – making those who understand it highly competitive and disgustingly wealthy – there is nothing more complex than the webs we weave. Life is a funny and beautiful thing, yes – but it is also better spent trusting in the decisions you make instead of wondering if there is a way to get out of them.

I haven’t decided if I enjoy black-and-white or shades of gray better, but I will say that it’s time to stop thinking by the ways of the technological world. Sure, it is the way marketing is going. It’s changing my industry daily. It’s going to continue to expand and there will be a boom that wakes us all up, I’m sure. But if we spent as much time in front of this computer, reading and writing these blogs, Tweeting to the world, and posting on Facebook – actually just living our lives – maybe we’d undo the undo.

We’d stop to think in terms of escape or safe merit. We’d understand that the decisions we claim are ours, even if they take us far from where we started with a hell of a long way to go. We’d click with other people and be more synced to ourselves instead of connecting our social media channels and tapping our mice. We’d see that while an easy-out is beneficial for our Apple or our Windows, it’d be better if we didn’t want to undo the life we lead.

Because while coffee stains are nearly impossible to remove, friends may hold grudges, and love may be lost – without those moments, without those incidents that can be significant or small– we wouldn’t learn. We wouldn’t come into our own. We wouldn’t learn to think before leaping, pause before speaking, or consider before leaving. We’d rely on an undo button to make our lives perfect instead of relishing in the imperfections that make life so worthwhile to begin with. Someone would make more money than Zuckerberg if they created something to give us the option to go back and correct the bad that didn’t seem to lead to good.

Maybe so – but as much as a computer-lover as I am, I’d never buy such a thing. I’d rather click publish in my own life than undo. Because, why would I want to undo…me?

Seven Minutes of Play & Plato

Everything I do is marked by momentum. Not always with precision – but most definitely with speed. I walk fast, I eat quickly, I write this blog in a half hour, I live by snap decisions, I make up my mind instantly, I change it just as easily, I fall in love without holding back, and I almost always kiss on the first date.

So when I was offered a chance to try speed dating, it seemed like a natural progression for a gal who’s always been on the go. With strict instructions from my single female co-workers to take detailed notes in case they wanted to take this type of dating for a spin – I headed to a little pub in midtown east right after work.

Truth be told – while this was my first experience going on seven severely short dates in one evening, the name of this game wasn’t just about going quickly, but having fun. After all, it was professionally titled ImprovDating – which really, if you ask me, is what it is all about anyways. Isn’t dating one large improvisation we happen to act out for years until we find someone who lets us play the most difficult character of all…ourselves?

The evening began with pretzels and brainteasers, followed by warm up exercises to get us all a little more comfortable with the strangers we would soon be chatting with. As the three wildly energetic organizers prepared us for the rotating dates, one of them, who I’ll call Mr. Plato, quoted the philosopher from which he received his name:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Before I started playing ring-around-the-singles with the rest of the fourteen 20 and 30-somethings in the group, I scribbled down those wise words for safe keeping. The rest of the evening, I charged myself with the mission of listening, being open and non-judgmental, and most of all – just enjoying the experience.

For far too long, with far too many men, I’ve been far too concerned with perfection. With finding a man who not only has his ducks-in-a-row and isn’t a quack, but also crosses off all of those things on my not-so-imaginary checklist. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to approach dates with the same preparation and strategic planning as I would an interview. I came with the goal of determining if I was a match with the man in question and I left with a definitive answer of interest or disinterest. I didn’t look back, I didn’t doubt my decision to let a dude go, and I most certainly never gave him the opportunity, if I found him not fitting my fancy, to even have a minute of fun instead of an hour of interrogation.

Now, however, because of this journey – I’ve learned to just let it go. Of course, I’m not settling for less than what I want or compromising my non-negotiables for the sake of not being part of the singles crowd, but I’ve stopped looking at dating as end-all-be-all and more like the-here-and-the-now. Mr. Plato also advised not to look for your future husband or wife in the faces we all carefully searched before the games began, but just consider if you’d like to chat with them for longer than seven minutes.

That under ten-minute span may not seem very long, but you’d be surprised how little you learn about a person and yet, how many laughs you can share when limited by time. Though I can’t remember all of their names, their professions, where they’re from, or any specifics – I do recall enjoying the improv challenges we were faced with. Though one guy had the unfortunate task of having to mirror my movements and another had to witness my poor artistic abilities, and another was asked to describe, in detail, what he would do with himself if he was a woman for a day – the whole two hours the group spent together, we spent it in high spirits. At the end of my rotating dates, I can’t say I was too interested in going out with anyone (my heart and hope is currently with Mr. Possibility, to be frank), I did find myself embracing the opposite of what had attracted me to the event in the first place.

Instead of speeding through a date to figure out the verdict to text your friends or call your mom with details, why not slow down, and discover the art of playing? Of looking at a person as a person, as someone to share an incredible moment with, even if it doesn’t mount into a lifetime of those moments.

There really is no need to determine a mate’s potential in the very first date, and perhaps that’s why speed dating is speeding up in cities around the world. Sometimes, all it takes to trigger a little play and a little healthy laughter is giving yourself the permission to play, as Plato suggested. To let go of what you think you want or even wanting anything at all. To look into the eyes of someone else for the sake of making eye contact, not for deciding if you see your future staring back at you. To not worry about what someone does because that’s not who they are; to not get too intense too soon because that’ll kill any sort of passion; and to not ask someone to put all their cards on the table right away because you most likely won’t do the same (and neither of you should).

While I’m not going to condone playing with the hearts of others for satisfaction, I will encourage a little more play and little less conversation. And if you haven’t already – check out a speed dating event in a place near you, it’s worth the time, the experience, and the seven minutes of play. And maybe, of Plato.

The Things I Don’t Know

The months before I graduated from college, however long ago, I couldn’t wait to get out. I had reached a point where anything and everything I was involved with or did was incredibly old. My classes stopped challenging me and I knew New York was in such a short reach, but it felt like I couldn’t extend to grasp it. I was in a relationship I knew was dead-end but my insecurities kept me from cutting the chord.

And yet, as I approached my graduation day (a semester earlier than anticipated, mind you) – I can’t count how many people warned, “Linds, college is the best time of your life. You’re going to miss it once you’re in the real world.”

I disagreed then, and I still beg to differ now.

Going away to school – even if it it’s just two hours away, like it was for me – teaches a kid a lot about growing up. You learn how to make Easy-Mac, how to avoid (or lose eventually) the freshmen 15, and how to force yourself to do things you do not want to do (biology at 8 a.m.). If you’re lucky, you also learn how to share a twin bed with someone, how to get over a college guy (or guys) with unfavorable intentions, and figure out not only your place on campus, but where you’ll be placed after you’re deemed certified by an accredited institution. When I was in college, I remember this feeling of not knowing where my life would go or if I’d ever get to the destination and the job I heavily preached and promised I’d arrive at. Because I never quite felt like I belonged on top of a mountain (imagine that) – I’m not sure I fully embraced being a college girl to the degree that I could have.

However, though I worried more than I partied, I also felt a sense of security by being in school.

When you’re a sophomore you know in a year, if all goes accordingly, you’ll be a junior. You have an idea of the track your courses will take or where you’ll rise in leadership at whatever organization you’re passionate about. You know when you’ll start applying for internships and you know when you’ll move out of the dorms and into an apartment. While there may be uncertainties about what happens after college, when you’re wrapped up in the books and the looks from upperclassmen you pass in the commons – you don’t have to wonder too much about what’s ahead of you. You basically know where you’ll be 12 months from that moment, no matter what. Perhaps it’s that feeling of not having to grow up too much, not having to plan everything out, or not having to stress over bills or if your career is heading down the right track or if you should be engaged or not, is what makes higher learning appear to be the best time of our lives.

Because once you’re out and you take on a city hundreds of miles away, all of the things you knew in college become all of the things you don’t know. If you ask me where I’ll be a year from now, I’d never be able to answer you. And for a while after I graduated, I hated all of the things I didn’t know.

There were no longer guarantees for my immediate future. There were no promises of housing and the comfort of the classroom never translated into an office. There wasn’t a sea of like-minded and similar-in-age people constantly surrounding me and the pool of dating options took a dive into deep diversity. There was no telling if the job I accepted would be the best move for me or if packing up all that I could into a few suitcases and taking a bite out of the Big Apple (or having it bite me) would be the start or the end of me. And while the majority of my classmates were heading (or planning to) down the aisle, I was ending a relationship and standing alone, without a friend, without a clue of where my life would go.

But, the older I get and the more comfortable I find myself in my own skin – I realize it’s the things I don’t know, the plans I can’t make, the questions I can’t answer – that ironically, make me the happiest. Dwelling in possibility opens up far more windows of opportunity than remaining in comfort. College may start the process of becoming an adult, but until you leave campus – you haven’t a clue about what living is actually about. More importantly, you don’t know who you really are yet or had the chance to define who you want to be – today or tomorrow.

And for now, the things I don’t know outweigh the things I do. One phone call, one offer from an unnamed source, one chance encounter in the middle of a city street or one email, one impossibility that evolves into a possibility, one opening in an international office, one impossible to pass up apartment, or one view on one page from one influential person – could change everything I know.

And it is the realization that everything, love and whatnot, is completely transitional, utterly temporary, and constantly in progression from one thing to another, that I realize the best days of my life were not years ago in college or even today – but rather, they on their way. They are in places, in people, in articles, in books, in magazines, in cities, in travels, in experiences, in trains, planes, and automobiles, in runs, in coffees, in embraces, in romantic escapes, in the laughter of children, in the growth of gray hairs, in all of the things – I’ve yet to experience.

When will I know I’ve reached the pivotal period where everything is just so, feels just right, and goes just as I hoped it would?  I don’t know. And really, I doubt I ever will.