How my dating agency fiasco allowed me to ditch conventionality
Hello, happy Tuesday,
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about finding good things in bad things. I have always absolutely loathed the idea that you should turn lemons into lemonade. Because sometimes the lemons are bitter and rotten and there’s no sugar in the cupboard, and any attempt to make lemonade will just result in some sour, gooey pulp. And also because sometimes you could make lemonade but it would take so much time and effort that it’d be easier to just eat the lemons and move on. Cut your citrus losses, as it were. But, despite it all, I find myself making lemonade. This is, I cannot stress enough, unusual behaviour. And yet here I am.
Thursday marks exactly a year since a dating agency rejected me for being too disabled - a date that sticks in my mind not so much for what happened but because of what happened next. I sit here now and think back to how devastating that email was, and I look at where I am today, and I am almost - almost - grateful. Not for the horribleness but for the lesson: no one is going to give you what you want. Go out and get it.
Which is not to say that I don’t feel my stomach drop every single time I tell the story; I definitely do. It’s not to say that I think what happened was fine or great actually or all worth it in the end. It’s not even to say that it doesn’t still make me sad. It is simply to say that I needed a metaphorical bucket of cold water over my head, and I got one, and while it may have been more icy than strictly necessary, I am sure as hell awake now.
A year down the line, what I find most incredible is this: a terrible thing happened and then, rather than waiting for time to heal the wounds, I made lots of good things happen instead. I haven’t fixed it, I haven’t found an answer, I have simply decided to stop giving a damn about this thing I can’t change and instead put all my energy into what I can. I didn’t entirely realise before that you could do that. And do you know what? I feel like I’ve discovered a flipping superpower.
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Mostly, I feel freed from the tyranny of conventionality. I know I’ve written about this here before but I’m saying it again because I can’t get over how liberated I feel. And I’m also saying it again because it’s worth repeating that conventionality turns out to be a bit crap if you happen to not fit an exceedingly specific mould. Realising that I was not made conventionality allowed me to ask what I actually wanted instead. And from there lots of hard things became very easy.
Most obviously, I quit my conventional day job to write things on the internet - and I’m almost sickeningly happy that I did. But there’s been less visible but equally transformational changes: saying no to things I don’t want to do and yes to things I do, even when I am expected to do the former and not the latter. I’ve learned, finally, to rest, and to ask my friends for help not only when I physically can’t do something but also when I could do with some emotional support. I’ve stopped going to things where there’s no disabled loo and have absolutely no intention of ever doing so again. I give up on books I’m not enjoying. When friends talk about their weddings I talk about my book launch party and it doesn’t feel like a paltry consolation prize. It feels really bloody exciting. When I watch romcoms I don’t get sad, I wonder why the women are continually effacing themselves, and then I turn the channel to watch a history documentary. I say what I think and I write what I know and I don’t care if it’s not what people want to hear. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve stopped trying to be a version of myself that I thought I ought to be, and now I can see how miserable I’d been making myself in the trying. Put it another way: I am a disabled, anxious bookworm who likes to speak her mind; I cannot fathom how I ever thought conventionality was for me.
Of course, not all of this is solely because of the dating agency fiasco. But that event a year ago sparked something, and I’m still seeing its effects in the everyday decisions I make now. Especially when it comes to dating, which I have gloriously renounced with the vigour of those people who give up sugar. I am having too much fun to be remotely interested in having what is guaranteed to be a lot less fun. I haven't opened a dating app for an entire year and my quality of life has improved dramatically (honestly, why do we do it to ourselves?). I haven't walked into a pub and wondered if any of the men are suitable (they literally never are). I’m not waiting for Cupid to strike, not putting myself in uncomfortable situations just for scraps of attention. All that crap you read about being your own partner is true, and I'm finally treating myself with the kindness I had reserved for other people for way too long.
Which brings us to the week ahead. It will not have escaped your notice that next Monday is Valentine’s Day. Last year, I spent the day watching TV, eating chocolate and feeling a bit broken, wondering where on earth to go from where I found myself. This Valentine’s Day, to celebrate a) surviving last year’s, and b) everything that’s happened since, I am taking myself on a date. I am being the person I thought I needed. On a day where single women are expected to be sad and hide from heart-shaped chocolate, I am doing exactly what I want to do, out in the open: spending the day at the British Museum and then eating a ridiculous amount of sushi. And if that’s not a victory, I don’t know what is. I may even have a celebratory lemonade.
I’ll let you know how brilliant it all is next week.
See you then,
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