Just before Christmas, I was swiping through Tinder and matched with a guy from my hometown. He was in town for a while visiting family, but I happened to be heading to San Fransisco where he currently lives. Weird right? It was also perfect conversation fodder. We kept the dialogue going and over the span of my visit he became my long distance tour guide while my family and I explored his city.
When I got home we spent a few precious days together before he headed back to SF and seemingly out of my life.
Then I made a decision very much out of my comfort zone. I decided to fly back to SF a few months later to see him.
Friends and family asked me repeatedly to justify why I would fly across the country for a Tinder date. My pat answer was that the trip was for me, not for a guy.
I didn’t even tell everyone that there was a guy involved. In some ways I was terrified that I was yet again defining my choices based on a relationship. So when most people asked why I was heading out to SF, I told them that it was an adventure to follow up on my terrible breakup, that it was a means to find myself again after not having lived in a big city for years, that it was a way to escape, a chance to see if this city was somewhere I would want to live.
Those were the lies that became truths, but there was more to it than that.
I found the weekend intoxicating. It was romantic and adventurous. His excitement at my being there was an amazing feeling. Taking selfies of us looking at beautiful views, playing old school arcade games in a bar, and experiencing new restaurants that I’d never have found on my own made everything seem so easy.
Then it got hard.
I had planned a day of my own exploring while he worked and I thought that it would be exactly what I needed.
But I quickly found myself missing him and was immediately angry with myself over my own weakness.
I wasn’t supposed to be there to just see a guy. I was supposed to be finding myself, too.
As a relatively self-aware and intuitive person, it’s odd that I didn’t realize sooner that that was exactly what I was doing.
As I wandered the city sort of aimlessly, I relaxed and began to enjoy the freedom of having no plans. It was sunny out and I found a spot to sit and write. Something I would rarely do at home.
I took time to formulate my thoughts and come to terms with my feelings. I laughed at a little boy running from his mother, and let myself feel happiness. Then I finally realized a truth that I’d been embarrassed to admit.
I love the solitude and the adventure of traveling by myself. I love knowing that I can do it. I was terrified to explore on my own and to stay in a new city with no friends. But after years of trips with family and boyfriends, all the lies I told had become truths. I did need this. I did need to find my strength again.
In that moment I also accepted a bigger lesson.
I will forever want to be independent and free, but caring about someone shouldn’t have to feel like wearing chains and I’d forgotten that.
I’d become so scared of being controlled, or disappointing the people around me that I almost missed something pretty significant.
My “Tinder date” treated me with a level of kindness that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. His pride when telling a friend about my design work and his genuine sorrow over me leaving is sadly a new experience for me even in past long-term relationships.
It was more than a fairy tale weekend with flowers and nice dinners. It was hard. It left us both with a lot of uncertainty and more questions than I had expected.
But the one answer I do have is that regardless of what happens next, I know I don’t want to travel alone. I needed to know that I could, but I’m looking for a partner in crime and I realize now that I’m okay with that.