California

2015: Happy Alone

by Jackie D on January 1, 2016

IMG_80382015 was a big relationship year for a lot of my friends. One of my best friends from childhood got engaged in February (and I’m going to her wedding in a week), another celebrated her 1st wedding anniversary in May. One of my New York bffs and one of my LA bffs have been going through some of the milestones you pass when you’re in your first serious “grown-up” relationship. Another of my New York friends just got married in December.

And they are all so happy, and I am genuinely so happy for them. We’re at that age where things either become really serious or they don’t; friendships begin to change because people begin to separate into “coupled people” and “single people.”

For that reason, 2015 was the year where I was more aware of being single than I have ever been before. At times it was slightly frustrating and a bit scary — I’ve been watching so many of my friends go off into relationships while I am, in a way, left behind. Instead of planning a romantic weekend away with someone, or booking a “couples trip” with other couple friends, I’ve been planning a few trips to take by myself, or making myself dinner alone at home, or falling asleep at night with a book on my face rather than an arm wrapped around me.

2015 was a big year for me in terms of my job, which is going really well, and I think it would be easy to look at that and say, “Oh, well you’ve been spending so much time focusing on your job that you haven’t had time to focus on a relationship.” But I hate that argument and I don’t think it’s fair that so many people still believe that a person can only have one or the other: a successful job year, or a successful relationship year. I also think it’s unfair to my friends who have had great relationship success this year — it doesn’t mean that they haven’t spent time focusing on their jobs, or that they are doing poorly career-wise.

Of course, there is a little part of me that thinks: if you really, really wanted to be in a relationship right now, wouldn’t you have tried harder to make it happen? I definitely could have put myself out there more this past year, although 1. that takes a lot of energy and I blew off a few dates because I realized I’d rather focus that energy on something else, even if it was just reading or cleaning my room or going to see a movie; and 2. I’m not exactly sure where the “there” in “putting myself out there” is — bars? Dating apps? Pizza? Definitely pizza.

I don’t even know exactly how to classify how it has felt this year, to just be really, really aware that I am single. I got a sweatshirt that says “Happy Alone” from one of my favorite companies because when I first saw it, it made me laugh. When I wear it in public people have one of two reactions: either they laugh like I did (kindred spirits!), or they look at me like they don’t know whether they should feel sorry for me or not.

I saw a girl post an Instagram photo of herself wearing the sweatshirt and she noted in the caption that she bought it not because she was happy being single (she wasn’t single, she was in a relationship) but just because she was happy spending time by herself, reading, drawing, watching TV, just enjoying those quiet moments alone where she didn’t have to talk to anyone or share her personal space.

Events or circumstances of this past year have forced me to be alone several times — I was the only single person at a bachelorette party, I was date-less at the wedding I attended, I showed up alone to a volunteer meeting to start working at that bookstore I’ve mentioned dozens of times, I’ve gone to bars by myself on the occasions when the only 3-4 friends I have in New York were busy, I’ve gone to movies alone, restaurants alone, museums alone — alone, alone, alone.

I’ve also never craved alone-time as much as I have this past year, living in this crowded city. There were times on the subway when I’d have to shut my eyes and turn up my music and tell myself, just three more stops, three more stops and a few blocks and you’ll be home, alone, away from all of these loud people, just alone in a room where it only smells like you and the walls are clean and nothing has spilled on the floor and no one can ask you for money. Alone, alone, alone.

It helps that I know that I have friends I can text whenever I want, books that will keep me company when I’m alone in a restaurant, Twitter feeds & articles that will remind me that the world is bigger than my relationship status, and a job that challenges me and offers me the opportunities that I dreamed about when I was a kid.

Most importantly, I know that being alone in 2015 doesn’t mean that I’m going to be alone forever. I mean, I guess that’s a possibility, but let’s cross that bridge when it’s been 50 years. For now I’m fairly certain that it’s just an alone-phase of my life, and so I am trying to enjoy it, to relish in the quiet, the lack of drama, the ability to focus on my own needs/wants/interests without having to take anyone else’s into consideration. I don’t want to look back on this time and regret not getting the most out of it while I could.

As this post goes live, I’ll be headed up the California coast to start off 2016 in one of my favorite ways: taking a solo trip to a colorful place I found when I was browsing the Internet at home one night before I went to sleep — alone.

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Snapshots of Catalina Island

by Jackie D on November 4, 2015

catalina island boatsThese photos are overdue — they’re from a day trip to Catalina Island that my family and I took over Labor Day weekend back in early September. You can blame my back problems (I now have the back of a 90 year old and am functioning mostly on muscle relaxers and heating pads while forcing my friends to carry around all of my belongings for me — I’m really a delight to be around right now.)

Catalina is an hour boat ride from a couple of different ports in the LA area, so it’s a really easy trip from Los Angeles, but for some reason my sister and I had never been before. We blame our parents. We had a really great childhood and so we never really get the chance to blame our parents for anything, so we were glad to finally have this opportunity to visit a new place and stick it to our parents all in one go.

catalina islandcatalina4Catalina is a very cute little island with quaint summer houses and little shops that sell the typical touristy souvenirs (lots of things covered in shells). There were a few corner grocery shops, restaurants with a surprising variety of cuisines (obviously I forced everyone to get Mexican food with me because I am still going through Mexican food withdrawal on a daily basis in New York), and of course many stores selling bathing suits, towels, and other beach necessities.

We got massive ice cream cones and wandered along the shore where all of the boats were parked. I love looking at boats docked along a pier. Boats have always kind of scared me but at the same time I really want one — they appeal to me for the same reason cars do: freedom and solitude. Plus, it seems like a boat would be really fun to decorate.

catalina islandcatalina6catalina2catalina7catalina islandcatalina islandWe went zip lining, as I mentioned in a previous post, and which I now in retrospect think might have something to do with my back issues. My mom was saying she’s not sure how much time she could spend on Catalina Island — there isn’t really very much to do — but I could picture myself holing up for a week with some friends in one of the quaint summer houses we passed by, with wet bathing suits hanging from clothing lines in the backyards and soft music playing out of the open windows. Throw in more of that ice cream, Mexican food, maybe an outing or two on one of those boats — I think I could find more than enough to keep myself occupied for a week or longer.

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zip lining catalina 6You know you’re about to have either a really fantastic time or a really terrifying time when the guide for the activity you’re about to attempt says to you: “So, what you’re going to do is: just step out aggressively into nothing.”

Apparently if you step too “delicately” or hesitantly off the zip lining platform, you run the risk of giving yourself whiplash or falling back a little and hitting the platform. So really, you do literally have to just step out aggressively and confidently into thin air in order to get yourself going.

You’re harnessed in, obviously. And we weren’t up that high on the course in Catalina. And the zip lining itself only lasts for a matter of seconds before you’re on safe ground again. And I figured if I had survived volcano boarding in Nicaragua then zip lining probably didn’t pose much of a threat to my health. But still. The thought of just jumping out into thin air, harness or not, has never really brought me much comfort.zip lining catalina 3My mom suggested that our whole family (me, my sister, my dad, and her) try zip lining during the one-day excursion to Catalina that we’d had planned. I was the person most likely to disagree with this suggestion because, as a rule, I am generally terrified of everything, but zip lining actually seemed like fun to me because like I said, you aren’t that high off the ground and you’re completely strapped into a harness. So we went for it. (And as you can see in the above photo I wore a dress for the occasion, because, well, because.)

My mom went first (in contrast to me, she is generally afraid of nothing), and then my sister went, and then my dad, leaving me on the platform with the rest of our small group (thanks guys!). As our guide was harnessing me in, I told him I was really nervous.

“Oh, are you scared of heights?” he asked.

“No, I’m scared of dying,” I told him, and the two young kids who were in line behind me suddenly looked really afraid, as though they’d never really considered dying until right then. I am a very comforting presence to children, clearly.zip lining catalina 2But guys: it was so much fun! When you step off the platform, you don’t feel a drop in your stomach or whiplash in your neck (unless you choose to step off un-aggressively). It was a beautiful day and we had views over the water as we were in the air, and our two guides — two young guys in their early 20s — kept us entertained with jokes and stories about living on the island.

Apparently Catalina Island is one of the only zip lining courses in the world (if not THE only one) where the brake system is automatic. Apparently on other zip lines in Costa Rica and elsewhere, you have to actually put the brakes on yourself, to make yourself stop. Scary? I appreciate that California doesn’t trust people enough to accomplish this on their own and therefore put laws in place to make these brakes mandatory. You know us well, California.

I got to practice my photography a little and managed to get several good shots of the family. It was so nice to be outside and exercising some muscles that I don’t get to use sitting at a desk or on the train all day (although I might have actually given myself slight whiplash), and it was great to finally explore a part of Southern California that I’d never seen before (more photos of Catalina Island to come!)zip lining catalina 4zip lining catalina 112026688_10103905653016873_1893361810_nzip lining catalina 5Thanks Mom for the great idea! And sorry to those kids for mentioning death.

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