At least I will be a good tipper.

Sitting here tonight I realized today was my last full day off before Christmas. It’s not a huge deal, all my holiday shopping is completed, everything is in the mail, the laundry is folded all the major priorities are taken care of… But I’m sitting here, feeling a little restless, so rather than getting sucked into Mad Men on Netflix, I’m here, blogging.  I can’t help the cliché, but this time of year I always start to reflect. What did I do this year? What did I learn? How did I grow? How am I different?

So there is this woman who comes into work all the time who drives me absolutely insane. I have a little bit of guilt about this actually for multiple reasons, and every time I contemplate how irritated she makes me, I feel like the biggest bitch in the universe… because really, she is lonely. I know this, I know this is why she comes in every day, why she talks everyone’s ear off about her work projects, how the lasagna in our deli case is just too rich for her, how she has tried to make replicate our quinoa salad a million times, how she used to sleep with her bike next to her bed so she could sleep with her hand clutched around it, about how impressive the symposium she just hosted was. Once she asked me what shade of lipstick I was wearing, and then literally came in a few hours later wearing the exact same shade and then started to refer to is as “our lipstick” And it shouldn’t bother me. I should be a bigger person. I should just embrace the fact that it makes her day when she comes in, when one of us asks about her day. And most of the time I do, but there are some moments when I see her walk through the door, and the other employees and I glance at each other, and we silently and quickly figure out who has has the most coffee, who is the least irritable, and who will be the one to interact with her that that particular moment. But really, the icing on the cake is in the ten months I’ve been working there and in her almost daily visits she has never tipped once. Not once. Ok, its bitchy of me… but you go to a place, every day, sometimes multiple times a day, you get all the free refills, you make sure you include us personally in your life, that we know every detail, that you share every story, and we smile and we listen (ok, some of us go home and write about it on our blogs) but for the love… throw in your change every now and then.

I get the being lonely part… mostly.  I’m a total introvert, so I don’t always understand the whole forcing of small talk thing… I love interacting with people, but only to a certain point. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you, I’m quiet, guarded even, and sure, I’ve got a blog, and I’m rambling on about my personal life, but that is not something that I tend to do face to face. I would never stroll into my neighborhood coffee shop and unload on the barista about how rough of a day I was having. I might think it, I might sit quietly in the corner sipping my Americano, and would probably divulge a little information, a brief insight to a passerby who might ask how I was doing… but I would never come in with a sense of entitlement and just completely unload… but give me twenty years and we’ll see where I am… I know one of the reasons why I’m so annoyed with her is because deep down, I have this fear that someday that is going to be me.

About six months ago,  I jokingly told my brother that his first born was going to end up taking care of me. Naturally in my mind, its more like the situation from Little Women… without me being old and kinda crazy. I will be the fun aunt, and we will run off to Europe, and we will read, and eat and drink and live, and I will not be the annoying woman with the tendency to undert-tip and over-share. I will be the mysterious American woman who keeps to her self, I will have a certain je nais se quoi about me. Done and done. Contingency plan, check.  But one thing I’ve realized is that over this past year, my fear of being alone has started to dwindle…

Looking back on this year, its been a little rough in patches. I lost one job, I lost someone close to me, I’ve struggled trying to find what I’m passionate about, I’ve lost motivation, but one insight that I’ve gained is that heart gripping fear of spending my life alone is not quite as scary as it used to be.

In 2013 I went on approximately 1 date. It was actually a pretty decent date, as far as first dates go, but it was with a person who was just so incredibly wrong for me. He was 24, and here is the thing about 24 year old men… rather, 24 year old boys. The age difference is too much. I say this to my friends in relationships, and they all vehemently insist that I’m full of it (its because they aren’t out there dating 24 year olds, so they will never really understand.)  I just finished reading Wild a few days ago, and I felt so vindicated, because there is a part of the book where Cheryl Strayed is talking about being a 27 year old women and how at that age , age really does matter. “It was an absurd crush, I knew. He was four years younger than me, and we were at an age when those nearly four years mattered, the gap between what he had done and what I had done was large enough that I was more like a big sister than I was someone who should be thinking about being alone with him in his tent—so I didn’t think about it” Yes, vindication. Thank you Cheryl for getting it, and for writing about it in your best selling book.

Sure, I feel a little hypocritical talking about age being an issue, since I am in fact 15 years younger than my ex boyfriend. Here I am saying that 4 years younger than me is too young, and yet sitting there at the table across from the one date of 2013, I was looking at where I had been, and not where I was heading… I suppose then I have to let go of all resentment being told on one occasion or another that I was too young for someone  (though I still maintain that I am an old soul, and will probably end up with a man who is older than me…  its just a gut feeling… if you have been on a date, or even in the same room with a 24 year old man/boy lately you will understand where I’m coming from.) The guy really was very sweet, and he actually came into work the other day with a very young looking hipster girl on his arm… because at the end of the day if it isn’t right it isn’t right. Which is the main thing I’m taking about of 2013. Though I certainly don’t have a full repertoire of dating experience from this year, I have gained a lot of insight from watching other people in relationships. And I won’t pretend to be an expert, and I certainly won’t be the one to judge, because I know that all relationships are hard at times, and require a lot of work , commitment and compromise. But this year as I have embraced my choice of not settling, of not choosing to be with the wrong person, I’ve become acutely aware of all the people around me who have settled in relationships, who have jumped in an compromised maybe too much, and my heart goes out to those people. I’m not sure I’m able to convey this properly, because again, I’m not coming from a place of judgment, and really as an outsider I know I don’t always see the whole picture, or know the full context of situations. Love is a complex thing, and I admire the people who are stumbling through it on a daily basis.  For me being single isn’t necessarily a choice, but I do feel empowered knowing that by being alone I am choosing to not be with a person who isn’t right for me. (is that a double negative? It doesn’t sound quite right, but its late…)

But going back to my reflection, I’m still figuring out how this year has shaped me, and what sort of path that will lead me on in 2014. But mostly I have realized that I’m no longer afraid of being lonely. I still have a lot of fears (hello I practically have a nervous breakdown every time I get a paycheck, and then look at my credit card bill) I still have a lot of uncertainty… and there are nights when the loneliness still haunts me. When it’s actually a physical ache in my person… but it is also somehow remarkably ok. Over the past year I have been able to branch out and cultivate some new friendships that I’m forever grateful for.  Hello, I actually sent out all of the holiday cards that I ordered, a first for me.  And it might not be much, but its nice to know that even if I spend the rest of my life deciding not to settle, I’m still going to have some of these amazing people to go through life with. These amazing people who embrace my neurosis (or at least tolerate them quite well) call my bulldog nephew. And at the end of the day, at the end of this year, I can at least take a little comfort knowing that if I do end up becoming an entitled single women who comes into coffee shops and lipstick stalks the employees, at least I will be a really good tipper.

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