The Right Man Won’t Ruin Your Career

I am in my late twenties.  I’ve never had a boyfriend before now.  Not in high school, not even studying abroad in Italy.  Yes I’ve gone on plenty of dates.  Yes I spent much of my early twenties “seeing” people.  But I’ve never had mutual commitment until I turned 27.  I was convinced that my Facebook feed would be forever filled with weddings, babies and even divorces and I would not even have had someone to be “in a relationship” with.  Sometimes it bugged me, but mostly it didn’t because I wasn’t about wasting my time.  Most of my “seeing people” stages lasted 1-3 months, on average I’d say 6 weeks.  But boy could I kill it at work.

I was always very career focused.  My dad worked 12 hour shifts in a factory that made pistons for cars.  He was a maintenance man who fixed the machines – something he was very good at.  If he couldn’t find a tool or part, he made it.  Meanwhile my mom stayed at home running the household while also caring for my older sister who is special needs.  My mom had worked in a hospital in her early years so she was good at reading charts, properly managing medications and handling my sister’s dialysis for nearly a decade while she waited for a kidney transplant.  While different, both of my parents’ roles were very consuming and so the notion of work and family first was ingrained into my blood.

My parents had an interesting relationship.  They were married 30 years, my mom being my dad’s second wife, at 17 years his junior. My dad’s kids with his first wife were closer to her age than she was to his age.  He was very old school in the roles of a man and wife:  the wife stays at home and keeps the house, husband goes out and makes the money.  Oh making money.  It was definitely an area of strong contention for them.  Growing up I would often say “My parents are married, but it’s like they’re divorced.”  My mom didn’t wear her wedding ring for the last 15 years of their marriage, yet last April when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer, she stayed by his side, heartily dedicated to feeding him, washing him up and caring for him through every moment until his very last day, barely a month later.

We don’t talk about how she feels about being a widow but I’ve no doubt there are mixed feelings that roam between sadness, frustration and relief.  But throughout their time together, she always impressed upon me the necessity of financial freedom while my dad emphasized the demi-god status that was a well-paying job.  Companionship and romantic love were never the priorities.  It was always family and duty – a duty to provide and to support those who depended on you.  So my parents, with the help of my aunt, sent me to a private university in Chicago where I became the only member of my family with a college degree.  I stayed in Chicago where I still work and live downtown.   I am employed by the exciting world of event planning, having done events for everything from top corporations to celebrities, politicians and athletes,  right down to the rich kid’s birthday party.  By the time I was 27 I had been all throughout Europe, to Africa, had met countless influential members of society and established myself as a serious contender in my field, having become an all-around go-getter.  But I’d never had a boyfriend.

My impression from movies, media and lots of people I knew was that not only are relationships hard, but it’s not likely they’ll last.  I’d dealt with some real douche bags in my day and had literally given up on the idea that there was anything better.  One day I was meditating and I thought “There are so many kinds of love in the world and I should not allow my own value to be reduced simply because I do not have romantic love. I have so much – a home, a job and great friends.  Isn’t it sort of insulting to myself as an individual not to be satisfied with that?”  So I relinquished my life to the universe and recognized that I was not alone by not having a significant other – something I believe can be true for anyone.  As someone who has spent much of her life being single, I am still very attuned to the unfairness placed upon single people in our society – especially at weddings.  My decision felt like a strong movement but one I could happily accept.  I was good at things – I was a good employee, a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter and a good kitty mama.  I had career goals and I was looking forward to meeting them.  I wasn’t going to categorize myself into the appropriate social box, I was going to sit comfortably above all the boxes, doing whatever the fuck I wanted.  And so it was.  Until a few days later, walking down the street, a woman with giant shopping bags approached me.

For some reason or another, I attract lost tourists.  It’s like I have Google Maps tattooed to my forehead.  So when this lady b-lined towards me, I immediately prepared to explain to her where she was in conjunction to where she needed to go.   But that was not why she stopped me. Let me paraphrase our conversation:

“Hey,” she said.

“Hi.” I responded. She seemed friendly in a mildly abrasive way.

“I know that you think you have to be alone, but I just wanted to tell you that you don’t have to be.”

My best friend tells me I have a horrible poker face, so I’m pretty sure my thoughts were plastered on my face.  “Oh…okay.”

“I do psychic readings.  I normally don’t just talk to people randomly on the street, but you had such a strong aura that I had to talk to you and I wanted to tell you not to worry.  You will not be alone.”

Ok thanks.  Yada yada, that was weird.  All I wanted was a Chick Fil A sandwich, only to forget they’re closed on Sundays. (Why do I ALWAYS want Chick Fil A on Sundays??)

I thought it was odd, and I appreciated her, whatever her intentions, but I was at peace with my decision of never dating anyone ever again.  Living to make a positive difference in the world was all I really wanted.  So thanks for not thinking I’m hopeless, but I’m good lady.

But damn those psychics.  I wish I could say that was the first time, but I seem to draw psychics and extreme religious group members from basic eye contact off the street.  Don’t ask me why, but I could probably write a pamphlet about managing conversations with very intense strangers.  I have found that the psychics who diverted their path to share a message with me were always freakishly right.  Less than 2 weeks later I met my boyfriend who I’ve now been dating a year and a half.  I love him more than anything and even after 18 months I still get jump-up-and-down excited to see him, after like only one lame day.

I was convinced that love and relationships would hold you back.  But now I don’t feel that way at all.  Not when you meet the right guy.  Trust me, I’ve gone out with guys who were shitty to me because of my career, because they could tell I was focused and likely to be more successful than them in the long run.  I dated guys who put me down to make themselves feel better.  I’d dated guys who weren’t in the right place, weren’t invested in me or simply weren’t a good fit.  It was disappointing at times but no sweat.  They were just a distraction to my plans to be a bad ass bitch anyway and ain’t nobody got time for that.

But now I feel differently.  I don’t have someone who belittles me, I have someone who supports me.  I know that I can be better at my job because now I have a support system at home – I don’t have to be the support system all the time to everyone else.  My boyfriend is such a natural part of my life that it’s not a struggle.  He’s so incredibly encouraging of everything that I want to do and I am supportive of him.  It’s super freakin awesome and 180 degrees different than everything I had ever thought a relationship was – inevitable drudgery.  I didn’t know it was possible to have so much fun with someone.  I didn’t know what it felt like to have work-life balance.  It’s amazing and freeing and it makes me a better person all around.  Granted we don’t have kids (just cats).  We don’t even live together yet.  There are plenty of responsibilities that we don’t have, that people who’ve been together longer do have and I know would make life more challenging.  But I can say with confidence that if you feel that your relationship is ruining your career, you’re either not with the right person or not in the right career.

I think what we have is rare.  But I also think that’s because we both refused to settle.  He’s in his thirties, I’m in my late twenties.  One of his friends told me he’d had plenty of girls want to go out with him, that they’d even tried to set him up, creating an online dating profile for him.  But he’d refused those girls and never even signed into the website.   When we met, he’d been working nearly a twenty hour shift at an event where the company I worked for had a booth.  It was well after midnight and he offered to drive me home.  Usually at that hour I happily would have told him to fuck off, but instead I waited over an hour for him to finish his shift – I had no reservations about him whatsoever from the second I saw him.  When we arrived near my place, I had him park off to the side and he wrote down his name, number and email on a piece of paper. I texted him the next day to thank him for the ride.  He asked me to a movie in that same conversation and barely 3 days later we had our first date.   We’ve been unstoppable ever since.

I remember emailing my best friend, describing him by saying “He just does everything right.”  He kept me together when I lost my dad and my grandma within 6 months.  During that time, he helped me with chores, fed my cats when I was traveling back and forth for 3 day weekends to see my Dad.  He let me just cry in his arms when my world fell apart.  He let me be every good and bad part of me and came to me with gentle strength.  He’s taught me to take a day off, to turn off my phone.  To this day, I still remember the first moment I was able to let everything go.  It was a cold winter Friday and I had dragged my heavy boots through snow in the early evening darkness to get to his place in Hyde Park after work.  I’d had an exhausting week and I was cold and tired.  I made it through the door and he smiled as I walked in. I was overwhelmed with the incredibly delicious and fragrant smell of beef stew.  He offered me a warm drink as I hung up my coat and I just sat on the couch with a blanket and let everything go.  I realized that no one, not even my parents had ever made me feel quite so at ease.  I always had a sense of duty and protection and responsibility when it came to them, but never this kind of comfort.  So I shut off my phone, enjoyed some of the best food I’d ever had (cuz he’s a totally amazing cook which is why none of my clothes fit anymore).  For the first time in any time I could remember, including my childhood,  I relaxed to the point where I could forget everything.  No list making in my head, no planning out what I’d do as soon as I woke up tomorrow.  I just laughed and laughed and became a human again.

* * *

Now as I embark upon further developing my blog and starting a business, I feel confident in doing so.  I feel capable because I know that I don’t have to do everything and be everything on my own.  Just tonight I came home to find trash taken out and dishes done.  He wasn’t there, yet it felt like he was all around me because the list of things continuing to stress me out after a full day’s work immediately diminished as I saw I could scratch a few items off the list as soon as I walked in the door.

I am encouraged to be the best version of myself and because I waited to meet the right person, I know I have the capacity do everything I’ve ever dreamed and I do NOT feel like it’s going to ruin my career, as I had previously been convinced in my younger years.  In fact now my convictions could not be more the opposite. Just like Jay-Z and Beyonce, I’m heartily convinced that the two of us may just take over the world one day.  TC mark

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