By: Claire Cook, Regular Contributor
This is a love story, but it’s not a traditional one. It’s about the time I followed a feeling and booked a trip to London—only four days before leaving-- with a guy I hardly knew because I believed deep in my heart that the trip would change my life. I had no idea what would happen, but I had the vacation days and I had the money - or the good credit, at least - and took a chance.
Taking chances on life and on oneself out of love--that’s what this story is about.
I am a 27 year-old female strategic marketer and planner - a “type A” personality with a lot to prove. This works extremely well at work but does not make for a happy personal life. Rather than be happy, I’ve planned ways to be happy: “If I make this much money, then I can do this...” or “If I look or act this way, he will like me” or “If I work this hard for this long, then I will get the job and promotion I want.”
If one plan didn’t work out, I’d write a new marketing plan for my life. I’d preach “being present” but until recently, I was always anxiously thinking about and planning for the future. It never occurred to me to think: “How does this moment make me feel?”
Then I let go a little.
Right before the last weekend in July, I decided not to make any social plans and see what happened. A new friend met up with me and surprised me with a book, Fear of Flying, which is famously controversial for its presentation of female sexuality. Neither one of us knew how much this gift would change my life.
We shared a bottle of rose and met up again the next day to drink more wine on the beach in Malibu. On the drive back, he mentioned he was going to London the following weekend. I alluded to the fact that London is my muse. He suggested I join him. I bought a plane ticket.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a crush on this guy. No man in my life had ever been this thoughtful, buying me a book that he somehow knew I’d love. Did he somehow intuit that the most romantic thing you can do for me is to nurture my soul?
Let me be clear: I do believe in love. I want a family. I am searching for a soul mate. But I didn’t go to London for him or to fall in love with him. That would be too easy.
Something else had to happen first—I had to love myself. So I went to London, fueled by a feeling of openness. I had no plans. No expectations.
Our time there was filled with meeting new friends, seeing old friends and wandering around the city. We stopped by to check on Cy Twombly and Rothko—my other muses-- at The Tate Modern, and ate and drank to our heart’s content. I even got my face painted one afternoon because…you only live once. I felt completely and utterly like myself--the Claire without the expectations Claire puts on herself.
I really love this Claire.
After traveling all over the world to “find” myself and to find love, my search ended with my nose in a book while sitting in a park in Central London. As I finished Fear of Flying, I realized my own fear of being alone and not knowing the plot to my own life had dissipated. I started crying out of relief.
Love is not about finding someone to “complete” you. Love is about embracing people and moments that allow you to feel complete just as you are, flaws and all. My experience on a London park bench was not as poetic as “finding yourself” while climbing the Great Wall of China or admiring Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower-- two things I’ve already tried-- but I found myself in a place and time that was perfectly suited for me.
Since coming back from this trip, my friends, family and co-workers have all noticed - and commented - on how much more “myself” I seem. I know who I am and - finally - love who I am and this love is reflected back at me.
I’ve also learned not to focus on how a relationship is labeled. I used to try to fit everything into my perfectly mapped out marketing plan of a happy life but if I’m happy, why should the label matter? However, even as I’m getting over not having a marketing plan for myself, I’m still encountering everyone needing to have one for me. Do I love the man from my trip to London? Yes. Will I wait for him to love me the way I want to be loved? No. Does everyone understand our relationship? No. Do I care what they think? A little bit, yes, because I wish people would understand where I’m at.
Am I happy? Yes.
What happens when you stop putting so many rules and expectations on yourself and open your heart up to life as it unfolds?
- You don't have to get on a plane to be or feel impulsive, to boot yourself out of your comfort zone and take a chance on YOU. Start where you are: sign up for a class, go for a drive to a place you've never been, or dig into a new hobby that you've always wanted to try.
Claire “Bear” Cook is a regular contributor to I AM THAT GIRL who spends her days working in marketing at a multimedia company in Los Angeles. Having lived in New York City for 3 years and grown up on the East Coast, she moved to LA in 2013 on a leap of faith to build her career and broaden her perspective. Claire is passionate about travel, running, music, karaoke, walruses & wine and enjoys spending her free time with free-thinking, creative & positive people.
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