Category Archives: On My Mind

A Valentine for Online Dating

Dear Online Dating,

Roses are red and violets are blue,
and today’s the day I break up with you.
That’s it, we’re done, we’re through.
But don’t worry – it’s me, not you.
You have millions of users, I know,
so it’s not a problem for this one to go.
Violets are blue and roses are red,
and there are other things I’d like to do instead.

Our time together began when I was newly single in New York and it’s going to end here in Singapore where I’ve come to define myself in myriad other ways. Single, I’ve learned, is an adjective. It’s not a punishment or a judgement and it’s not written across my forehead in sparkly red glitter. In many ways, it’s as much a choice as anything else. So sure, I’m single, but I’m many other things, too.

Was our time together all bad? No, certainly not. I must acknowledge that you gave me some laughs and some good stories. You taught me that I need to stand up for what matters to me because if I don’t, no one will.

Perhaps I know myself a little better now.

I don’t regret our relationship and I am grateful for the good friend (singular) that I made through you. I don’t regret the outings I went on and the places I explored. I’d don’t regret the people that I met, and oh there are all kinds of people out there! I don’t regret stepping outside of my comfort zone because this, after all, is how we grow.

I admit, there was a time when you made me feel admired, a time when your notifications would fill me with excitement (read: when the instant gratification meant a hit of dopamine) and I’d eagerly open you up to see what there was to see. I used to swipe on your apps and flip through your profiles and imagine conversations with your users.

But all you care about is a pretty face and there’s a lot more to me than that.

There were times when you were, dare I say it, entertaining. You were a good way to spend 10 minutes after a run when I was flooded with endorphins. You were a way to pass a few minutes in line at the grocery store. There was a time when I’d excitedly share our experiences with real friends, the in-person kind, and thought maybe, just maybe, something good would come of you.

Something did, but it wasn’t your promise of everlasting love and eternal happiness. You’ve turned loving and living into something that can be bought and sold with ads and algorithms. I don’t know where that world is but it isn’t the world I live in.

I’ve loved and been loved and I live in a world that’s hard but filled with so much beauty. You’re trying to create a different world but I’m not finished with this one yet.

With the help of your technological guidance and curated profiles, I’ve grown up and moved on and I don’t need you anymore. You’re all about the next thing and the best thing and the new thing and for me, well, today is enough. It’s been nice knowing you. Thanks for the ride.

Love,

Rebecca Michelle

A Tale of Two Friendships

The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend. – Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been thinking recently about the nature of friendship. What does it mean to be a friend? What does it mean to have friends? When do the people in our lives go from being acquaintances to much more? How is it that sometimes our friendships are no longer? Who would we be without them?

These questions have been playing in the back of my mind because of two particular friendships that have affected me in very different ways. Through one, I learned to let go; through the other, I learned to open up.

Letting Go

It wasn’t until we’d known each other for a few months that we tried to figure out how we became friends. She claimed it was a discussion we had about our childhoods but I really can’t pin it down. I remember that conversation and I remember a warm glow, a sense of excitement wrapped in a feeling that yes, this was right and good.

We remained close even when I moved away. We’d Skype every so often and remained aware of what was going on in each other’s lives. We shared secrets, as friends do, and that made it easy to continue on like nothing had ever happened once we were back in the same city.

The change was gradual. Looking back, I can see the writing on the wall. I can see the distance and the vagaries, the inconsistencies and the preference for other people and other activities. Our interests diverged, which happens, and our friendship faded into memories or got caught up in other pursuits. There are only so many times I can reach out before I’m spent and need to let go to stay afloat.

As Nel Noddings has so eloquently written, there’s a difference between caring for and caring about. Caring is relational and caring for requires two parties; caring about, on the other hand, does not require the knowledge of the second party. I have learned to let go of caring for but refuse to give up on caring about.

Like caring, friendship is relational. Sometimes those relationships end and we don’t always know why. But caring doesn’t have to end. Caring about others on the basis of their human-ness, when that’s all that’s left, is simply the right thing to do.

Opening Up

Two people have told me I’m guarded. They’ve both been right, though only one took the time to find out why. To take down walls, he said, because he wanted to understand what they were and why they were there.

This friendship blossomed over time and then suddenly washed over me, immersed me in something so natural I don’t know how I ever failed to see it. There was a shift one day and we’ve both looked back to recognize it.

There developed a mutual wish to spend time together, a wish first uttered tentatively and then with growing confidence. I found myself laughing a lot, remembering a lot, sharing stories of who I was and what had shaped me. I shared my hopes and dreams, curiosities and fears. I found myself wide open, vulnerable, and free.

And I listened, too, which is probably the thing I do best. I asked questions and I learned. Life through the eyes of another has always been compelling to me.

Responsiveness made all the difference. Even with disagreement, there was a shared attempt to understand the other’s perspective. The idea was not to be right or prove a point but to look at the world with more nuance and complexity. Discussion came from a foundation of unconditional love and trust.

And I found myself wide open.

It takes time to rewire the brain to behave differently. We were patient with each other because openness was simply the only answer, the only way to be. I watched myself become a better person because a friend had taken the time to show me that I could be.

On Friendship

Our relationships take many forms because we are complex and have many needs. Friends are part of our journey, part of who we are.

Like many people, I have friends I’ve known for most of my life and friends I’ve just met. I have friends who I can call crying and friends who reappear when I least expect them. I am very lucky to have friends who are there for me without question, who know me well enough to slap me around when I’ve done something irresponsible, and who wait with open arms once I’ve figured myself out.

Once upon a time, three friends saved me. I will be forever grateful for that.

Nothing lasts forever and friendship is the same. Friendships wax and wane, draw closer and yet seem so far away. Like seasons, their tastes, textures, and scents can change, sometimes very quickly. Sometimes we gradually slide in and out of our friendships, holding hands or drifting away, not knowing where we begin or end. And sometimes we crash, sometimes into each other and sometimes into a door that has closed. Sometimes our knocking goes unnoticed.

And yet I wouldn’t choose any other way. As much as anything else, my friendships have made me who I am and taught me about the type of friend, the type of person, I want to be. We do not walk this life alone.

I am better for having called you a friend and for being a friend of yours in return.

29 at Twenty-Nine

Happy birthday to me, a blog post for you!

Since this is the last year of my 20s, I thought I’d begin with a list of 29 things that comprise my current self and world understanding, things I’ve learned along the journey so far. These 29 things might not be objectively true (my evidence leans anecdotal) but they’re my present subjective reality. I’d love to hear your thoughts on areas of commonality and disagreement. What have you learned about the world?

Here’s what I know:

  1. The world is a beautiful place. It might not always seem so, but look around and you’ll find it.
  2. Despite being a beautiful place, the world is full of suffering. Look around and you’ll find it. Look inside and you’ll find it.
  3. People are imperfect. They make mistakes. They’ll hurt you, they’ll hurt themselves, and then they’ll do it all over again. And again. And again.
  4. People are afraid. They’re afraid of their own minds, of rejection, of failure, of pain. And then they act in ways that cause rejection, failure, and pain.
  5. As individuals, we have very little autonomy. We have very little choice. We are constrained in almost everything we do unless we purposely set ourselves up to do otherwise.
  6. People want to be recognized. They want to be heard, seen, and listened to.
  7. Young people, students, want to be recognized. They want to be heard, seen, and listened to. They want to be treated like people.
  8. Compassion is a continuous practice towards others and towards ourselves. Practicing compassion helps us to care for individuals as well as for our planet.
  9. We often talk about love as a feeling, but love is also an action. Act in ways that show love.
  10. Dropping expectations expands the possible. Experience what is rather than what you were hoping for.
  11. Inefficiency wastes much of our time. Ask for help so that you can spend that time on things more important to you.
  12. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to give in or give up.
  13. There are many occasions when done is better than perfect.
  14. Being honest is painful; getting caught in a lie is more painful.
  15. It is possible to learn to control your mind.
  16. Be kind to everyone because who you know matters a lot more than what you know.
  17. Humans are social animals who evolved to connect with others. Technology both facilitates and distracts; use it wisely.
  18. Be aware of what you do versus what you say. If they don’t match and you want them to, look deeply and be better.
  19. Helping others sounds a lot better than it is. Monetary donations need to be carefully considered and calculated to have the greatest possible impact.
  20. Fresh food and clean water are luxuries that should not be taken for granted.
  21. Giving ought not require, anticipate, or expect a response. Giving is one action and receiving is another.
  22. A willingness to experience discomfort or stress provides great opportunities to learn from a wide range of new experiences.
  23. Much that is considered “wrong” should be questioned and examined. People will get upset when you start to do that. Let them.
  24. Don’t ask unless you’re willing to hear the answer.
  25. It’s okay not to know, but it’s not okay to plead ignorance as an excuse.
  26. Moving to a new place is an opportunity to be the most current version of you.
  27. Beauty can be found in people, in places, and in actions. It cannot be taken for granted and must be protected.
  28. Peace cannot just be a dream; it must be lived every single day.
  29. Changing your mind in the face of new evidence and understanding shows wisdom and strength of character.

I’ve considered making similar lists in the past, lists of what I know to be true, but I’ve never felt like I know very much at all. That’s not inaccurate here, except that I’ve learned to articulate what makes sense to me in the present moment and I’m comfortable knowing it will change. I’ve become willing to say it out loud and let others guide me to deepen and sharpen what I think I know. There’s so much freedom to learn once you can set aside being wrong, or making mistakes, or digging in your heels. That’s what I’m looking forward to this year, and what I wish for all of you: Take the opportunity to learn.

Learn and do something good with what you know.