I have been single for the past three years not out of bad luck, but out of choice.

After having a string of three unsuccessful, and ultimately unhealthy relationships from 2008-2015, I decided it was to time to take a break from dating.

My self-esteem/confidence/well-being had hit an all time low, and I knew that if I didn’t change things fast, they would continue to plummet.

So, instead of finding a boyfriend, I found a therapist. And instead of trying endlessly to prove my love to others, I chose to learn how to love myself.

This was the beginning of a three year healing process – one of the hardest, but most necessary things I have ever done. One of the most important lessons I learned during this time was the simple fact that my self-worth was not defined by others, but rather, by myself. And it was that shift in perspective that changed the way I see the world.

Looking back, it is clear to me now that sometimes the darkest of times are simply there to reveal the light we could not see. And that, in itself, is the greatest gift.

Certainty in the dating world feels a bit antiquated in the digital age. In an online dating world of endless choices and high standards that seem to be just a few swipes away, it’s no surprise that more relationships collapse than survive these days.

Marriage – that age old institution that I grew up thinking I couldn’t live without – has now become more of a luxury than a necessity. In today’s current dating culture, getting someone to commit to living with you long term, pay their share of rent, and stay loyal the entire time is hard enough to find. So,in light of this, I recently decided to upgrade my life goals. Instead of looking for a husband/partner, I’m looking for a life I love, that I can build on my own.

Because in an age of increasing uncertainty, the only real thing you can count on at the end of the day is yourself.

There is no beginning or end when it comes to matters of the heart. Everything ties together, as the roots are just as much a part of a tree as its branches.

I lost myself for awhile in love. It’s easy to forget who you are when you’re constantly trying to mold yourself into a different shape.

But healing is never easy. You can’t break off a branch and expect it to be the same when it grows back.

Some days I feel more whole than broken, while other days I feel more broken than whole. Life is never predictable, even when I try to control it – no one can walk forward with their feet tied to a chain.

The wind has a way of creating ripples in my life – patterns of waves that either tether or teach me how to ride out the storm. Sometimes I swim, and sometimes I drown, but I always survive.

Tinder Tips for Guys

  1. Post pictures that resemble what you look like in real life. We’re going to find out eventually, so what’s the point of faking it?
  2. Leave the dead animal hunting prize pictures for your friends – they’re not attractive.
  3. If someone asks you a question, ask a question about them, too – this is a conversation, not an interview.
  4. Don’t call us “baby, “honey,” or any other pet name until we’ve made it clear we’re ok with it.
  5. I don’t want to see pictures of your private areas or your chest unless we’re in the bedroom, ok?
  6. If you’re just looking for someone to talk to online, either tell us first or go on Facebook messenger, please.
  7. Don’t lie about where you live because Tinder will always tell us how many miles away you are.
  8. Don’t be secretly married.
  9. Don’t expect us to cross state or country borders for a first date.
  10. Show your face in at least one of the pictures – it looks like you’re hiding something when you don’t.
  11. And please don’t just post pictures of your dog or give us your dog’s name in place of your own – they’re cute but we’re not going on a date with them.
  12. Don’t answer “lol” to every question.
  13. Don’t talk about your ex. If I have to explain why, you shouldn’t be on Tinder.
  14. Be real. Don’t ask me where I’d travel to if I could go anywhere in the world unless you’re really dying to know.
  15. Have a conversation with us and get to know us a little bit before you ask us out on a date.
  16. Don’t tell me about your sexual fantasies – they’re creepy, not cute.
  17. Download a photo app so your pictures look decent. If they’re too blurry or abstract, I’m swiping left.
  18. Don’t friend me on Facebook before or after a first date. That’s a big turn-off, and besides, we’re not even friends yet.
  19. Be polite – that should be a no-brainer.
  20. Don’t always take us out to dinner on the first date – get creative.
  21. Don’t post pictures of you with your ex-girlfriend or current girlfriend unless you know we’re looking for a threesome.
  22. Offer to pay on the first date. Bring cash, please. Or take us somewhere like a park.
  23. Don’t pick us up on the first date – we don’t know you yet. Go public before you get private.
  24. Use your real first name.
  25. Don’t look at your phone constantly during the date – put it away and pay attention. Common sense, folks.

I walk in and out of the shadows. There one minute, and gone the next. Flitting backwards and forwards in endless loops of flashbacks. All the while, trying to find a way back home.

There are some memories I’ve buried so deep, I don’t even know where to find them. But when you’re with someone for three years, everything inevitably melts together. Days become months. Months become years. And before you know it, a whole lifetime has passed.

I never really knew where he ended and I began. I lived with his melancholy for so long, I mistook it for my own. The word “choice” wasn’t a part of our relationship. For two years, I listened to him berate me every week, and said nothing.

So, I built a wall with his words – steeped in a denial so thick, I couldn’t even see past it. But how else can you live with a lover who threatens to kill you? I couldn’t find a way out, so I found a way to survive.

Some people long to remember, but I long to forget. All I do is remember. I keep tracing the lines on this map over and over and over again, looking for answers.

Finding peace in the midst of chaos is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s there, you just have to dig to find it.

I remember love the way some people remember storms. Darkness followed by light. Flashes of intuition that come and go like the wind, almost impossible to grasp. Always a low thunder simmering through the clouds – and then, nothing.

My romantic relationships seem to be as fickle as nature – hot and heavy one day, cold and distant the next. The men usually float in and out of my life like ghosts, so even after they leave, I go looking for closure by trying to untangle the roots that got me here in the first place.

These things weigh on me when I take a gamble and swipe through random pictures of strangers on the internet. I usually feel more frustrated than invigorated when I go on sites like Tinder and OkCupid – more hopeless, than hopeful.

You see, every man I’ve met online has never been entirely what they say they are. But, then again, I guess you could say the same thing for every man I’ve dated that I’ve met in person. It’s strange how the patterns of everyday human life get calculated into the algorithms on the web, acting as if they’ve been there all along. And at the end of each day, whether we realize it or not, we always have a choice. We either lose ourselves, or find a way to navigate the tides.