I don’t often talk about exes on this blog … mainly because I’ve been single for over a year and a half, so unlike some of the Experimental Daters, my exes are more deeply buried in the past.
Though that didn’t stop my most recent ex contacting me this evening to let me know he’d been catching up on my blog!
Eighteen months on, and genuinely eclipsed by several different men during that time, his name no longer sends chills down my spine, the way it did for months after he dumped me. But hearing from him did get me thinking about who I was when we were going out. And made me realise, I barely recognise the girl I was when we were together.
Everyone changes. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
And as I sat and looked back over my various relationships, I realised just how different I was in every single one.
I’ve often thought back across my boyfriends through the years, and wondered what I ever saw in them. Not in a spiteful manner – simply in shocked recognition that if I were to meet them today for the first time, I know I would fancy very few of them!
However I’ve never thought too hard about the girl who dated those boys.
Because that girl has changed, time after time.
A common question I’m asked when people find out about the 30 Dates Challenge is whether I met my ‘Ideal Man’. It’s a question which has frustrated me at times. Early on during 30 Dates by 30 a local newspaper printed an article entitled ‘In search for the One’ – a clear sign they hadn’t even read the blog before writing about it!
30 Dates was never about finding my ‘Ideal Guy’.
To some degree, I’d found him in Henley Boy, and look how well that had turned out! 30 Dates was about remembering the fun of Dating, and getting my personal Dating Mojo back. Something I managed to do in spades! 🙂
And yes, as I extend this Challenge on past the original three months, and begin dating in my thirties, of course I’m open to meeting someone I could see myself settling down with, but that’s never been the point of the blog.
The interesting thing about the blog though, is whilst I haven’t found my ‘Ideal Guy’ … I have found something else – ‘My Ideal Me’. And as a single, independent woman, I know that’s a really valuable skill.
I know who I want to be.
I’m 30 years old. And I’m happy in my own skin. More than happy!
For my ‘big birthday’, my little sister gave me possibly the best present anyone has ever given me. A specially-commissioned painting. My last thirty years committed to canvas. A map of the world, decorated with the faces of the people I love, and have loved. Aspects of my personality, crammed in beside my hobbies and vices.
The ‘Me’ my sister sees. And the ‘Me’ I know well.
Looking back over my previous relationships, I don’t always see that girl. Sometimes I changed myself almost unrecognisably, adapting to fit the man I was with at the time. Or adapting to my surroundings.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still parts of me that I like when I look back at those different relationships.
Take the guy who contacted me today for example. I know what a good girlfriend I was to him. Dating him showed me just how much I have to offer a future partner. (And when he broke my heart out of nowhere, he helped me drop a dress size I’d been trying to lose for years! 😉 )
But as I stare back at my dating history, the happiest I’ve ever been was when I was 24.
I was doing my Masters, and dating a guy I had known (and fancied!) since I was 17. He was one of the men I referred to in my post about being on ‘The Other Side of the Rebound’. A guy who fell straight out of a relationship and into dating me. We enjoyed six intense months of dating, skipping all the normal formalities, and then breaking up almost as instantly.
And yet, with the exception of this year’s antics, it was my best ever summer.
Every date was an adventure. Our first date was at Alton Towers, ten minutes after meeting for the first time in seven years. We went surfing and canyoning, spent a weekend camping in Newquay, another camping in Bournemouth, and did the Three Peaks Challenge together. We ran around London in gorilla costumes, raising money for charity, and stayed up all night talking nonsense more times than I care to remember.
In that summer we squeezed in more than most people do in a few years (ring any bells?!)
I loved every minute of it. But the reason I enjoyed it so much wasn’t just because of the guy. Because when I look back at that summer, I was the most ‘Me’ I’ve ever been. I was mid-way through ‘Challenge Charly’ – a Masters project which saw me travelling the globe with a video camera in hand, and doing everything from climbing to Everest Base Camp, to running a marathon whilst filming. A ‘Me’, which this crazy dating Challenge has rekindled.
I like being this person. This person is my ‘Ideal Me’, and my memories of being her before are all fond ones.
No, the relationship never worked out. And looking back, I understand the reasons why it didn’t. But I loved the girl I was that summer, and the guy who fell for that girl.
And so, I guess, knowing how happy I was then, and how happy I still am with that version of me, I’m confident that I’ve found the ‘Ideal Me’. I know what the best version of me looks and acts like. Or rather the me I’m happiest with. Interestingly, it’s taken me five years to get back to being that girl. I’ve touched in on her over the years, but I know in all three of the relationships I’ve had since that summer, I’ve been a very different girl. But sometimes you need to know what doesn’t work for you, in order to appreciate what actually does.
I’ve said it before, but when you’re happy and content in yourself, you attract other people. Because happiness and confidence are attractive qualities. Which is why the starting point in finding someone always has to be knowing, and loving, yourself.
Yes, I know I’m single and thirty. But I’m genuinely not panicking! Why? Because it’s taken me thirty years to understand who I want to be, and what works best for me.
And now that I understand this ‘Ideal Me’, I know it will be way easier to find my ‘Ideal Guy’, because I have a far better understanding of who he is.
And when he finds me, if he’s attracted to the person I am today, then I can rest assured, he’s attracted to the real me, and not some version of myself I’ve created just to attract him. Because I’m way too old to be playing games anymore … 😉
Miss Twenty-Nine (and fourteen months!) xxx