A manual on life

When the idea of The Love Project occurred to me four years ago, I envisaged it as a manual on how go about finding love the right way. I was – mistakenly – convinced that there must be a ‘right way’ to achieving anything. I was – mistakenly – under the impression that some people had their shit together and that I was of the category of those who didn’t. I was obsessed with the the mistakes I’d made and regretted, without fail, every single one of them. I aspired to become a perfect woman. Assured, competent, knowledgeable, inspiring, desired, respected, perhaps even envied. I aspired to have my shit together at all times.

Even during The Love Project that proved a mighty task. I occasionally succeeded in behaving admirably in dating situations and gave myself a gold star and a pat on the shoulder. But, to be completely honest, I behaved wrongly most of the times. For instance, weeks, days almost before meeting my husband, nine months into The Love Project (nine months of hard work on myself!), I entertained a useless text conversation with a sexual deviant who wanted me to get off with other men for his viewing pleasure. WHY have I done that? Why, after so many months of knowing better, I succumbed once again to the despotic urges of being polite to someone who probably preferred it if I was rude. Why, after months (not counting the six years before The Love Project) of regretting (almost) every single romantic/sexual encounter, I continued to relapse into not-having-my-shit-together? Why, if I was convinced admirable living could be learned, I was still such an incredibly poor student at life?

And the answer is because we never have all our shit together at the same time and that’s okay. Sometimes we excel at work and fail in our relationships. Sometimes we are excellent partners but terrible parents. Sometimes we are reliable friends, but unreliable spouses. Sometimes we are able to cut a bad date short, but afraid to cut a toxic friend out of our life.

And it’s not always down to us. Sometimes we get a little help. Sometimes we meet the guy just when we thought we never will. Sometimes we get good advice. Sometimes we are mentored and we thrive because we have the right people around us at the right time. Sometimes we are so battered by all the hardships life’s thrown at us, that we continue to make all the wrong choices.

I used to feel a lot like a failure before The Love Project. I used to feel like a failure because I was not ambitious. I didn’t have a high-flying career and I didn’t want one. I used to feel like a failure because I didn’t have a partner. I used to feel like a failure because I didn’t have a house and a mortgage. Everything I had expected of myself by the time I was 33, I had not achieved. Had I made it happen to myself? Or had the world failed me? I didn’t know. I just knew I desperately wanted to conform. I desperately wanted to belong to the group of people who had their shit together.

When I eventually met my husband nine months into The Love Project, I could have written a manual about how to find love (in fact I did write The Love Project, but what the book ended up being is certainly not a manual), but nobody had taught me how to be in a relationship and I certainly didn’t want to emulate my parents. I began the cycle of trial and error all over again, feeling more or a failure than ever. Because at least being rejected by men was familiar. Having arguments with my boyfriend, then fiancee, then husband, didn’t. By the time I realised what was happening, my poorly held together shit had come undone and I had to start all over again.

The first thing I wrote in The Love Project four years ago was that I wished I had been given an instructions manual when I first came into the world. A manual that would teach me how not to fuck up. Or at least how to fuck up less. But we are not born into this world knowing how to live the ‘right’ way. We try our instincts at life and we are told (by others) that what we’re doing is either wrong or right. We learn. Sometimes we have teachers, sometimes we do it by ourselves. And we do so by falling over and over again until we figure out how not to fall anymore. And sometimes we never learn and that ok. As long as we don’t stop living.

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