As some of you know, I went home to Cleveland for the weekend for my nephew’s 1st birthday party. It is always a treat to spend time at home with my family, especially since I don’t see them often.
I always tend to use an escape to Cleveland as an opportunity to assess my current life situation. I know I’ve said this before, but I feel as though trips back home “reset” me in many ways. I get back to my roots; I have a place to sit in solitude and reflect in silence.
At my nephew’s birthday party, I was surrounded by people (who really aren’t that much older than me) with their spouses and children. I felt severely out of place, even though there was no need. Perhaps this is due to what I call the New York City Bubble.
The Bubble (being the Greater NYC area) is a place where people discover their greatest strengths and allow their dreams to prosper. It is a Mecca for the creative minds, the hardest of workers, and the forward thinkers.
The Bubble also consists of men (and women) who maintain a healthy (or unhealthy) fear of commitment, are only focused on themselves, and live by the “grass-is-always-greener” mentality.
In the real world, (although New York often feels like the “realist” of the real worlds that exist), people are generally not like this. In general, both men and women at some point or another, would like to be with someone of the opposite (or same) sex and make a significant commitment.
Once I realized this, (in tandem with finishing Aziz Ansari’s new book, Modern Romance, which was read cover to cover in one sitting while on set, and was a DELIGHTFUL read), I decided it was time to put my romantic life into my own hands.
So when I finally decided that I was going to be the captain of my own ship (or whatever dumb analogy you will have here), I formulated a plan.
And that plan became known as “The Challenge.”
(I know, I know, “The Challenge” sounds extraordinarily similar to the horrible MTV show, The Challenge, where former members of the Real World/Road Rules compete in various challenges in order to win a cash prize.)
Alas, this is not That Challenge. No cash prize. No screaming, pull-out-each-others’ hair cat fights.
So until I can think of another title, The Challenge is as follows:
For the foreseeable future, each week, I, Shannon Rose Allen must complete at least one of the following challenges:
1. Try something new.
This could be something simple as testing out a new restaurant. It could be taking a class at Barry’s Bootcamp. It could even be as bold as signing up for a half marathon, or taking a trapeze class. The spectrum is broad.
2. Go somewhere in New York City that I haven’t been before.
I’ve lived here for three years and I’ve never been to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, either of the zoos, The Cloisters, The Whitney, or the famed Astoria beer gardens. As creatures of habit, we love what we know. As much as I love The Strand bookstore, Sheeps Meadow in Central Park, and my local sushi jam, I simply must explore everything this city has to offer.
3. Do something alone that I would normally do with others.
I’m no stranger to taking myself on a date. I frequently see theater shows and movies solo. However, I think there is a certain magical quality, that is being able to take oneself out of his/her comfort zone and do something alone. Being alone is not easy, but if Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, taught me anything, it’s that being alone can be the best teacher. When we are in solitude, we really begin to understand ourselves better.
4. Say “yes” to something to which I would typically say “no.”
Some of my best experiences in life have been when I decided to dive into something I normally would have brushed aside. Take, American Idol, for instance. When I was first approached with auditioning, I was hesitant to say the least. Hell, the day of my first audition, I almost didn’t show. And I can proudly say that not only did I make it to the top 200-ish contestants of season 14, but I also had a wonderful experience and met some awesome individuals.
5. Do something that scares me.
A lot of these “challenges” may overlap one another, but doing something that scares me is important. And I’m not talking necessarily about jumping-out-of-an-airplane scared; I’m talking about joining an intramural league, completing a Tough Mudder, or even approaching a guy at a bar to give him my number. I can’t begin to think about living a fulfilled life, without doing the things that scare me the most, even if they are on the smallest of scales.
6. Make a new friend.
This has never been a tough one for me, but I simply must keep expanding my network of friends and acquaintences. The more people I meet, the more I appreciate and revere the spectrum of people in this beautiful, beautiful earth.
7. Go on an actual date with someone. (Drinks do not count)
Obviously this one is contingent on someone wanting to go on a date with me as well…
I no longer consider a “date” an invitation to go for drinks at some crappy bar. No, a “date” consists of dinner, a movie, a museum, a comedy club, live music, an art show. Hell, he could even take me to some obscure coffee shop! But drinks at a generic “I-have-inherent-commitment-issues” bar is no longer cutting it.
8. Purge the unnecessary.
This one can include physical things (clothing, clutter, etc) or the abstract (negative feelings, stress, anxiety, etc). It can even include trimming the fat of friends who are merely in my life to act like barnacles. (For those of you who do not know what a barnacle is, it is a “marine crustacean with an external shell which attaches itself permanently to a variety of surfaces.”)
Barnacles are ugly. Barnacles attach themselves to things (or people) and serve no further purposes. Barnacles do nothing more than sit on the surface of people and give nothing to them in return.
DOWN WITH THE BARNACLES OF THE WORLD!
9. Do something that makes me feel beautiful.
Obviously we all struggle with self-worth, self-image, and self-esteem. Making myself feel beautiful could be as simple as telling myself, “You’re beautiful!” in the mirror. It could also be getting a mani/pedi. Making myself feel beautiful could be taking a fitness class, or feeding my body with a colorful spectrum of whole foods. I want to make myself feel beautiful every single day if I can. I want to tell my body, my mind, and my soul that I accept it for exactly what it is, at that exact moment of existence.
10. Surround myself with nature.
Nature is not exactly easy to come by in New York City. Unless of course we are referencing the subway rats, who function more as dwarfed cats as we enter and exit the platforms of the MTA. Typically on days off, you can find me in Sheeps Meadow in Central Park; a large lawn where friends and families go to mingle, lay out, socialize, (and drink) with one another.
This is my oasis.
However, being in Ohio this past weekend makes me realize how out of touch with nature I am. I took a five-mile bike ride with a good friend on Friday and was surrounded by trees, and water, and wildlife. It felt good to be next to something that was not man-made. I would love to go on more hikes. I would love to see more beaches. I would love to sit under a tree and get lost in the sounds of the birds with a good book and a bottle of water.
I want to be more grounded.
So there we have it.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Shan, didn’t you say this was about your romantic life?? How do all these general statements have to do with you ‘taking control’ of your romantic future?”
Well reader, let me answer this for you: I’m simply becoming a better version of myself. And when we become the best version of ourselves, we are open to meeting others who complement that version of ourselves.
Instead of going out and searching for someone to love me, I’ve decided to love every bit of myself, so that I don’t have to worry myself with who does (or does not) love me.
I implore you, my dear readers, to take my Challenge (or whatever it is until I can find a better name) and do this yourself. I will be blogging each week and letting you know which categories I fulfilled. I think this may be a positive step toward the happiest life I can lead.
I love you.
Shannon Rose Allen