I’ve always had an interesting relationship with the concept of regret. A part of me had convinced myself that I had no regrets because every mistake I made, helped mold me into the woman I am today. Or at least that’s what I’d tell myself. But then I’d have my moments when I would regret the time I’ve wasted on certain, not-very-deserving men. Sure, they taught me some great lessons. But I can’t help but think about all the other things I could have allowed to occupy my head space. Better, much more productive things, I thought.
I recently found myself reading an article in The Cut called “25 Famous Women on Regrets.” Before even reading the piece, I had anticipated finding at least one quote by one woman regarding love life regrets and low and behold, I did. The quote was actually by one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert.
“If I were to have listened … I would have said, ‘Avoid romantic entanglements in your youth and focus on yourself. My God… the amount of hours of time I spent with boys and men… I could speak fluent Mandarin now, in the amount of hours that I spent in my adolescence with boyfriends!”Gilbert had said. “I would say that’s the biggest regret of my life. I’m not going to beat myself up over it because it is what it is, and I’m here and it’s great; it made me who I am. But I wish that I had spent those youthful years just feeding this mind.”
Gilbert revealed this relationship regret during a previous interview for Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” and it was later included in this recent quote listicle for The Cut. If there’s one thing I never forget, it’s reading and these happened to be the exact words I needed to read.
A month before stumbling upon the article I had decided I would go on another dating break/detox/cleanse – whatever it is we call it these days. I was burnt out, tired, and frankly quite unsatisfied with my current dating life. Call me old school, but today’s text-crazed, dating apps-obsessed, insanely casual love landscape, was really starting to frustrate the hell out of me. I was exhausted by 2017’s spontaneous, commitment-free, hookup culture, and I needed to recharge my romantic batteries before I gave up once and for all.
Gilbert’s quote really resonated with me for a number of reasons. As women, especially women over 30 – I’m 31 by the way – there’s this fear – whether consciously or subconsciously – of missing out, or of running out of time. I blame that dreaded biological clock and social conditioning. Sure, dating sucks and a lot of us would rather get together with our girlfriends or curl up on our couch reading a good book then go on yet another Tinder or Bumble date – and yet we can’t stop. We still force ourselves to swipe right, jump in an Uber and get to that damn date. But why?
Because like everything else in life, if we give up and stop putting ourselves out there – then there’s this fear we’ll never get a chance at meeting our one true love, right? Wrong.
I for one, believe in breaks and I believe that sometimes breaks are a lot more necessary than we think. And after reading Gilbert’s quote, something really stuck with me. Was I dating and reactivating my dating apps because I genuinely wanted to date? Or was I doing it because it was something I felt I needed to do in order to eventually meet my “person?”
In the past three years alone, I have gone on dates with at least 15 guys. I’ve casually dated three and I was in an official and somewhat serious relationship with one most of this year. This has been just in the past three years. In other words, this is not counting the eight year relationship I was in before my casual dating life kicked off. There had been breaks I had taken in between, but I found myself once again, desperately craving another dating sabbatical.
At this point, I was starting to really resent the time I was squeezing in during the week, for dates that I could have spent, reading, writing, creating, or just with close friends and family. This is not to say, I wasn’t already dedicating time to those things, but if you’re resenting a dude for taking up your Friday night because you rather be with friends or watching Lady Gaga’s new documentary on Netflix – which was awesome by the way – then chances are you probably shouldn’t be dating. At least not right now.
A week after reading Gilbert’s quote,I found myself at the Girls Lounger Dinner event during Advertising Week. Journalist, political commentator, and former corporate defense attorney, Megyn Kelly was one of the speakers that night. Talk show host and producer, Andy Cohen was the moderator and asked Kelly a series of questions, including if she had any life regrets. Kelly replied yes and went on to explain how she regrets all the time she wasted throughout her 20s and even her 30s on men. She claimed that she had spent so much time and energy trying to get men she liked to like her, instead of really liking herself and that’s time she can’t take back.
Two powerful and highly successful women had both expressed regrets in dedicating too much of their time to men and this was confirmation to me that another dating break was exactly what I needed. I started to fantasize about all the extra time I’d have to read, write, listen to podcasts, watch great shows, watch documentaries, and get together with other like-minded creative women. Heck – maybe I’d finally teach myself Portuguese! The more I thought about it, the more excited I got.
I’m not saying I’ve given up on dating or even on meeting a potential partner. I’m just saying that right now, I don’t want a man to occupy anymore space in my head. Instead of spending 15 minutes trying to analyze what his texts meant, rolling my eyes at the collection of idiotic GIFs he sent, or venting in a text thread with my girlfriends about another guy I wanted to drop – I now want to save that time for me. I want to use the time I’d otherwise use stressing over boys towards fueling my mind and nourishing my heart. Instead of looking for love, I want to fall back in love with myself. God that feels good just typing out. Now that’s something I’m guaranteed not to regret.