Back in 2019, in those halcyon pre-pandemic days, I set myself a list of dares instead of New Year’s resolutions. Those dares varied from the small – go get my nails done in a salon – to the big – perform a poem at an event in public. The idea behind The Dare List was simple, why set big targets such as ‘Try to be braver!’ that felt so nebulous and unachievable. Using a bit of school vernacular, these SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals would be baby steps to building up that bravery. These goals were personal and related to my direct personal experience – after all, who else would have ‘Go to Madame Tussauds’ on their dare list because they are incredibly frightened by wax mannequins after an incident with a Roman Centurion model at Canterbury Roman Museum aged 7? The list ended up being a working document, with some edits here and there and some additions along the way. It was incredible experience that I’d fully recommend, and would happily write about in way more detail for any publishers out there..!
It was such an impactful process that I endeavoured to repeat it in 2020, with dares building upon those earlier ones and the successes I found along the way. Then March 2020 hit and – you can guess the rest. Hitting Lockdown 3.0 at the start of January 2021 reduced any want or real possibility of cracking on with a Dare List, so that got quickly abandoned. We’re now 3 days into 2022 and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking whether I’d want to do another list. It was working through and evaluating the benefits of undertaking the list that lead me to this solution.
This year I won’t have a dare list because the theme of my year will be to dare. Every single day, in some way or another, I will dare myself to be braver in whatever way fate provides. No approaching this task with to-do-list in hand, instead I want to reshape my overall mindset. That’s not to say I’ve totally ruled out coming up with a list of activities I’d like to try and dare myself to accomplish – I turn 30 in 234 days, and I can see a 30-before-30 list on the horizon. But, for 2022, I’m going to dare to be me. Dare to finally and fully live within my skin, my brain and my personality.
During the tail end of 2021 I found myself sometimes casually, sometimes cruelly, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously thinking – you have wasted your entire 20s waiting for your life to begin. Stripping that back, I can see the bullshit. When nice brain mode is activated, I can see so many of the things I have achieved and that I am proud of, the adventures I’ve had and the wonderful people who have been along for the ride. But I think I’ve spent far too much time thinking of what comes next that I often don’t feel these joys at the time and am often unable to live & relish within the moment.
I’m definitely way happier in my skin at this end of my twenties, I feel braver and more certain of who I am. There’s definitely less self-flagellation and more self-acceptance of what makes who I am. And yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Quite often I live my days at a slight distance or remove from what is actually happening, assessing possible outcomes and probabilities, emotionally preparing for the arrival of what could occur. Not to mention the overthinking that happens after, of how things could, would or should have gone. Which leads me on nicely to how I’m going to dare to change that up a bit:
- Dare to be nicer to yourself.
- Dare to say more of what you’re thinking, rather than what you think people want you to say.
- Dare to be less rigid and regimented.
- Dare to appreciate what you have got, rather than lamenting what you haven’t.
- Dare to let the universe take the wheel sometimes.
That last one is the one that most relates to my love life, such as it is in it’s continued dormant state. Being perfectly honest with myself – and daring to do so! – that’s the think I feel like I’ve wasted the most time over, lamenting over surely being broken to be so unwanted. Not being enough to be wanted, not being enough to get them to stay or to pick me. I’ve simultaneously let my love life happen to me yet also define my sense of self-perception. No-one wants me so I must be unwantable. Not good enough. Not attractive enough. Not palatable enough. It feels like I’ve spent my twenties on a reserve bench waiting to be picked, whilst all around me are others getting picked.
What I’m currently trying desperately hard to do is reframe it all and reset the mould on how I view both myself and the chaotic situationships that littered my twenties. There’s societal expectation, articulated both aloud and sublimely, that makes me feel like I’ve failed. That, no matter what I achieve in life, it’s a failure if I don’t leave behind a family and romantic partner. I can’t tell you how excused I am by beating myself over this very fact, of draining so much joy from personal achievements and appreciating the now when that relationships section of a future biography or Wikipedia page (what, I’m *daring* to dream!) remains decidedly sparse.
In a move that may seem initially counter-intuitive, I’ve deleted my dating apps. Again. In theory, for a month, but I’m aiming for longer. I’ve been intermittently using them for 7-odd years and, during my most recent spell of usage, I think I finally admit quasi-defeat as I fundamentally don’t believe they work for me. Aside from minute boosts to self-esteem, they genuinely make me bitterly unhappy. Whether it’s me and how I’m wired, we are just not compatible. During my last stint, I just could not find the capacity to maintain messaging. I just don’t want to do it anymore. I’m not designed to chat to 6 different people, develop a measured emotional investment in them, then possibly date 3 of them whilst they date 3 others. And that’s the toll matches took on me, let alone how personally I’d take people not matching or unmatching or not replying (yep, even when I was doing the same. I didn’t say I wasn’t being a hypocrite..) In all honesty, by the end, it just felt like I was wasting time and energy – which is something I try to reassure myself with as a face another tidal wave at rising panic over if I’m doing the right thing. Then I start to do the calculations of how much time I’ve spent on dating apps over a near-decade vs what little benefit I’ve ever had from partaking, and things start to plateau a little…
Which, all in all, is me starting to be a little braver really. I’ve been using the apps as a crutch, a pinky toe in the dating pool – snatched minutes here and there to make me feel like ‘at least I’m trying’. Maybe I need to actually dive in, daring to be more present within moments and take more chances. Daring to admit that I’d actually like a love life this year, instead of playing a bit part in others people, means daring to accept myself a bit more and appreciate who I am a bit more. It’s easy, far far too easy, to berate myself for not having met the supposed love of my life because I’m not good enough. But maybe I’ve not met a right person yet, maybe because they’ve also got a bit lost on the way. But maybe I’ve not put myself out there nearly enough, global pandemic aside. Obviously.
It’s surely about time I dared to let myself accept that maybe I’ve been good enough for myself all along, and it’s about time I listened.