I’ve always been a bit of a “late bloomer.” These days, I’m owning that, or at least, I’m owning who I am. After all, who said anything about “late?” I am rocking the land of “on time.” My story is very seldom parallel to the great majority (as in: it never has been).
In light of this, it should come as no surprise that as my contemporaries rock second and third children to sleep in houses that they own, I am preparing to move out of my parents house (into a rental with “character”) and starting to think that dating can’t be all that bad. It might even be fun.
It can take me years to make a decision (as anyone who has ever tried to get me to pick a restaurant can attest) but once I make one, I make it fast. It’s as if something clicks into place in my brain, and I know I need to move (in this case, literally). Living with my parents has been unironically great. If it hadn’t been, I’m sure I would have moved out years ago (or never come back after college). I have been here in this house, the first home my family has ever owned (after 20-plus years of renting), for years as an adult. It has been a haven, a respite from the world of money-making, a place to invite friends. It has been home.
I’ve spent a huge portion of my life afraid. I haven’t talked about it because it makes me sound like an alarmist.
One of my deepest and most abiding fears is that I will be killed in a drive-by shooting.
I live in a city with virtually no drive-bys. We have crime, though not so much that it’s all we talk about, or so much that we don’t mention it at all. Still, whenever I’m walking and a car slows down near me, I squint my eyes and wait for the bullet to enter my heart.
I am uniquely suited to come up with the worst case scenario at any time. When I started at a former job, my boss took me through a safety training. In characteristic fashion, I asked what we would do if a cobra came in. My boss looked right at me and said: “First, I would determine whether or not it was a service animal.”
It wasn’t a conscious decision: continuing to live at home instead of moving out. I didn’t think: I’m afraid to move out, so I won’t.
But I was.
So, I invented all kinds of airtight excuses for why I wouldn’t move out. I couldn’t afford it, I’d just gotten my bedroom the way I wanted it, I didn’t know anyone I’d want to live with, I didn’t want to live alone. Everybody bought this, even me.
What I didn’t bargain for, this late summer and fall, was the way Jesus came into my life and drove fear out of it with a whip and a few well-chosen words. The consequence of this is simple, but I’m still shocked by it several times a day (at least): I am not afraid.
This from the girl who panicked at the idea of making a business call, asking for a fitting room at a retail store, ordering a pizza, holding a baby, driving a car.
The thing that I’m learning about my own anxiety is that I had no idea how strong it was, until it was gone.
I went on a date this last spring. I don’t talk about these things on the blog, usually, but it’s been a while now. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I met this guy organically, we talked, we hit it off, he asked me out, I said yes.
I remember clearly sitting in my car before going into the restaurant at which we were meeting, wanting to be anywhere but where I was. I wanted to start the car, turn around and leave and get rid of the sinking feeling in my stomach. I pulled down the mirror on the drivers’ side, took a look at myself and said: “If you ever want to get married, you have to do this.” So, I walked into that restaurant, smiled as if I was thrilled to be there and never quite unclenched my stomach. We went out several more times, I tried, I think we both did, but that knot never left.
I’ve been on a lot of dates like that one. They go fine on the outside, and I’m sure I’m charming and polite and inquisitive. I’m just also scared to death. Sometimes, I catch myself shaking like a leaf in the wind and I’m even more scared because it seems so visible that I’m sure he’ll see it and presume that I’m having a seizure.
With fear removed, I sent out feelers looking for a place, looking for a housemate or two, eager to use the stemless wine glasses and lemon zester I had the forethought to acquire. It is possible that whole chapters of my life could be summed up with: “she had a lemon zester, but no sharp knives.”
Within days, I found a stranger to live with, a friend of a friend, (he reminded me a little of my brother, which was a good sign) and within a few more days, we were driving around the city, looking at apartments and houses together.
The whole situation would have once been fraught with anxiety. In fact, I expected it, as I set out that morning, waiting for the wave of dread to hit. It did not.
I looked around the neighborhoods we were exploring and didn’t think: “this is it: this is where I’ll be killed in a drive-by,” instead, I found myself thinking: “I could put pumpkins on this porch, I could put flowers on this mantle, I could slide across these wood floors in socks.”
Nothing is for sure yet, in our housing search, but we have time. We have discovered that all of the good places are not taken, and while I still describe our price range as somewhere between “oh that’s a cute area” and sleeping with a gun, I do so with a smile.
The connection to my dating life is not lost on me. It’s easy to think that I missed the bus, that because I didn’t follow the same path as many of the people I know, I’m going to be stuck in a studio between an “artist” who has crazy parties and a drug dealer. It’s easy to think that maybe I’ll have to cave in and rent that “steal” from the 1970s, still as it was when it was built, more or less, except for that funny smell.
But then, I find myself walking through a little yellow house, full of light, original wood floors, and that adorable little built in china cabinet in the dining room. I walk up the narrow stairs and out onto the balcony which someone has fitted a window into, blocking out the weather. I can see my desk and a space heater and a cup of tea as I write that book boiling in the back of my mind and I realize that I am not too late, I am right on time.