I’ve never really been one to settle. That is, unless I’m standing in front of the ice cream section at Hy-Vee, and I can’t pick one… in which case, I usually get both. I call this “compromise.”
Early on, I learned (through Dad’s advice and watching others) that settling is a short-term burst of satisfaction almost always resulting in long-term misery – the kind waiting at the end of a long road, walking you straight into a lion’s belly. (That sucks as a metaphor because it’s unlikely, but fitting for my life.) If weird, fucked up and unexpected can happen, it usually does. See also: a disproportionately large part of my dating debacles. Clearly, I suck at picking men. I should stick to ice cream.
Settling means selling yourself wildly short early on, only to be pissed off that you didn’t get your money’s worth later. Similar to the way The Worst People order food at a restaurant, consume its entirety, and then dispute the bill because “it wasn’t good/I didn’t like it/some other displeasing reason.” Yes, that happens, which is why they’re The Worst People. To hopeful Future Tiny Human Incubators: please, shape your little pudgeballs into non-crap people. The world’s shitter is full.
Settling is choosing low-fat ice cream, eating the entire pint (or tub), and then wondering how you wound up X pounds heavier, wishing you bought the good freakin’ ice cream the first time, because then you would have felt satisfied the first go round, and you wouldn’t have tried to eat some low-fat, high-sugar replacement to the bottom of the carton in hopes of replacing the sweetness and delicious delight you really wanted in the first place.
Because I’ve eaten enough disappointing ice cream, I refuse to settle. I’ve learned how to weed out what I want from what I desperately, white-knuckled, purse-clenchingly do not. But clarity invites criticism, so… let me elaborate the difference between white-knuckle no and cheerleader-leap yes.
I’m annoyingly self-aware. A close friend mentioned this early in our relationship. That we became friends after the unsolicited over sharing of my personal life in its (then) shambles is a testament to making yourself vulnerable to find your tribe. The first time we met, somewhere between froyo and Dance Marathon talk, I word-vomited my Hurricane Katrina emotional state of disaster all over the table. In spite of the fact that she had to be thinking, “I have to be this girl’s Morale Captain Assistant??” she didn’t quit, AND we became good friends.
During one of our many conversations about life, giving less fucks, and interpersonal ‘ships/feels, she proclaimed me Most Self-Aware. “You articulate what you’re feeling so well, and you always know why. It’s impressive, really. I tend to suppress and muddle.”
Predictably, being excessively self-aware has drawbacks, but it also has perks. Two sides to every coin… unless you’re that cheating bastard Harvey Dent.
Problem is… knowing what I want from my relationships means receiving a lot of well-meaning, entirely crappy advice. It comes from a good place – total thumbs up for that. But I’m incredibly worn out from explaining over and over that:
“Yes, I’ve thought about/tried/failed at that thing you’re telling me to do.”
“Yes, I’ve considered the XYZ and the LMNOPs.”
“Yes, I realize the caveat here, and there, and way over there.”
“And yes, I thought about the red fish blue fish, one fish two fish.”
Helping me is an exasperating task. One of my best friends nailed it when I was slogging through the Gauntlet of Grief.
“I love you, but you’ve gotta let me help you. I’ve tried doing the opposite, and you still nip at my responses. I’m here for you, and that’ll never change, but no matter what angle I go at, it’s wrong. I just get disheartened because all I want to do is help you. I feel like I’m failing you as a best friend. This situation sucks; I won’t tell you it doesn’t because I went through it. But what I can do to help? Just tell me, and you got it.”
Only the Highest Caliber Best Friend can call you out while being gentle, loving, and supportive to get you where you want to go, even if you don’t know where that is yet. Grief has a way of getting you lost.
I’m difficult to “help.” I ruminate on the multitudinous outcomes because self-awareness runs my show. Blame my dad for teaching me to examine every conceivable possibility before deciding. Useful skill. Great skill. But also! Super annoying when you can’t figure it out, and no one offers applicable resolutions.
Point is: Close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes. (LOL, this expression.)
I know what I want to feel about:
- how I look
- the things I’m doing
- the person I am
- the person I’d like to become
I know how I want to feel about the people in my tribe and about someone who will be on my Two Man Team.
I’m young, and while I’ve had shit luck, I’ve experienced that big love feeling – the kind that blooms novels, the kind movies prey on, the kind that teaches you more about life, your assumptions, redemption and heartbreak, and the cruelties that come at cost with letting people so close to the weakest parts of your humanity. The kind that reaches in without request, grabs your heart with a clenched fist, stretching and squeezing its way into every fiber of your being, rushing through your blood, scorching every organ, fiber, and nerve.
I’ve experienced the beauty and the mindfuck of being awash in love, how easily clarity is distorted, how delusionally superhuman things feel. There are many kinds of love; I’ve only just grazed the tip of that iceberg, but hopefully, I won’t go down like the Titanic. I do not lack awareness for how marvelous and wonderful and awful that is. There’s room for uncertainty, just as in choosing ice cream, but mostly, I know the feeling I seek, so I refuse to settle: on a man, on a job, on a friend, on a life that doesn’t feel like mine.
With this refusal comes the awful, painful, heartbreaking experience that is falling short of others’ expectations – ones that silently scream between conversations that “This path, this choice is wrong! You’re failing. You’re not living up to potential!”
Truthfully, it doesn’t always feel clear, not in the way that screams, “THIS IS THE WRONG THING OH GOD,” but in the way that makes you wonder if you’re the only one not getting the joke. In those moments, I remind myself that I know what it’s like when something is gut-wrenchingly, soul-crushingly wrong.
No one else’s “good enough” is good enough for me. As I said to a friend, “‘Eh, close enough,’ will never be good enough for me.” All, or nothing. Halfway is disaster. Halfway is a foundation lacking solidity. Halfway never has a chance because it never gets the full effort. Halfway is the fast way to losing. Halfway is settling. And I don’t settle.