I’m recently engaged. Yes, yes, thank you! It’s been a whirlwind of hugging and hand wagging and saying things like, “We’re so happy!” and “Lots of details to figure out!”
And so, quite naturally, I am dating again.
I know. You’re confused. That’s ok. We’ll get there. It’s been a confusing time for me too. You think you’re done doing this thing, that you’ve found the one, that your swipes to the right and boxes to the left are finally reaching the closing credits of a very, very long and sad yet surprisingly upbeat Lifetime original movie.
And so, why you may ask am I on LinkedIn at midnight on a Tuesday reading the description of a brand manager at an anonymous tech company that has an app that uses widgets and algorithms to help businesses perfect their consumer logistics? Omg you guys, I’m not gagging, you’re gagging!
I’m recently career-related single. I’m back in the saddle! I’m on the market! I’m in the game! Things have been very exciting. I’ve been working on a lot of to-do list items I’ve been meaning to complete for quite some time. Like organizing my entire kitchen by color. And ordering the wrong light bulbs from the UK. And trying to turn my bar cart into a side table with a lamp (THINK ABOUT HOW EASY IT WILL BE TO HAVE A WELL-LIT DRINK NOW!)
Let me back this thing up.
I’d been with my previous company for a little over two years. It started off really well, as most relationships do. I grew as a person, I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I was happy.
But lately, there’d been something missing. Something had changed. Somewhere between burnout and major cultural and career-related differences, my previous employment and I have called it quits.
And so, after a quick soul-search a la Notebook Noah, I’m back to the job-dating app, otherwise known as LinkedIn.
Having met my now fiancé on the wonderful finger-happy world of Tinder, I’m all too familiar with the instant gratification and similarly disparaging experience of putting myself out there through phone applications. The swipes, the scrolls, the deleting, the re-downloading, the world is in your hands my friends, all you have to do is open the app.
It’s like this…
There’s that initial connection. THE MATCH! The excitement of a new opportunity and what it could mean for your future. You look over your credentials showcasing why you’re like, such a great candidate. You showcase your ability to multi-task with a positive attitude (a photo of you drinking a marg on the beach while also smiling), highlight your network skills (a group shot of your #squad out on a Friday night), demonstrate your dedication to hard work and flexibility (a yoga pose in an outdoor setting) and so on and so forth. You are a catch. Come and get it.
Despite how nervous you are, the first phone interview goes really well! There’s enthusiasm on the line and you are here for it. You can tell they like you. Or at least you think they do. They ask you to meet in person. Ok, they do! You proceed to do a happy dance in your living room.
And you stalk them. Because… the internet. Are THEY a good candidate? What do they value? Do they have life outside of work? Are they going to micromanage you? What are their previous relationships telling you? The internet is a glorious place if one just knows where to look.
You do your research, you prepare for the first encounter. You put on your best first impression lewk, flash a smile in your front-facing phone camera and begin your power walk to whatever fate has waiting for you.
…And it goes SO WELL. Which feels bad. Because you feel your insecurities creeping up inside and if there’s anything a millennial hates, it’s being vulnerable with our hearts! Do they like you? Was that a natural laugh or a forced smile? Did their eyes glaze over or is that just their face? Why did you word vomit about your cat? You send a casual (non-desperate and personalized!) thank you and they ask you out again.
Maybe… maybe, they feel the same.
The second meeting is longer. It’s more intimate. Is the lighting lower or is it just you? Reminder to self: It’s important to be THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF. Which is, of course, someone who is exactly what this other person is looking for. You’re as cool as an overpriced and freshly frozen rose quartz face roller but also desirable like a slightly sheer nude dress on a yacht in the south of France. You’re easy to talk to (like an Obama at a happy hour) but still a little mysterious (Angelina Jolie not Helena Bonham Carter). You have the posture of a professional ballet dancer, the poise of Gwyneth Paltrow drinking green juice on a Vanity Fair cover and you’ve flossed eight times… today. Your gums are pink, your head is high and you have never been more ready to show. The hell. UP.
…You arrive home, remove your pants, melt into the couch and commence staring at your phone and refreshing your screen with the manic commitment of a hummingbird trying to feed from a plastic flower from IKEA. Being yourself is so exhausting.
And you wait.
And you wait.
And a terrible thought occurs. Are you… being ghosted? ARE YOU BEING GHOSTED?? You did not get a manicure you can’t afford for this Casper the friendly imposter nonsense!
You are incensed. You are enraged! You have one new message.
And there it is. The clarity you’ve been waiting for but the answer you desperately hoped you wouldn’t find.
“Thank you for interviewing with (insert rejecter here). At this time, we’ll be moving forward with another candidate.”
You stare at your phone screen. Tears well in your disbelieving eyes. But… but… I thought they liked me? WE WERE GETTING ALONG SO WELL! We had a great conversation! What happened? Where did things go wrong?
You read the message 18 more times before you weepingly type out a limp, pathetic return response of gratitude and understanding and simultaneously try to retain some shred of dignity in which you fail.
And as the twelve steps of grief goes, disbelief soon turns into anger. Wait. This is YOUR loss! You think you can you treat ME like that? You resolve on making yourself better than ever. You dive into your own personal development. You scour every inch of your potential weakness and squash it with a new filter, a new lens. I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be! Insert girl power pop song! Don the power headband! Buy important heels! Anyway.
And alongside this journey into self-betterment and internal discovery, you find yourself scrolling through your feed and seeing them again. Happily living their best life with photos of their new match and you have a brief moment of ‘what might have been‘. But NOPE, not today Satan, there’s a reason that song was a one hit wonder and you tell yourself “I’m fine, ok?” And bury the hurt deep inside of you for an overpriced therapy session when you finally have some quality insurance.
After some time, you get back on that app horse with a new vigor. A new sense of self. You’ve been hurt. But you’re better for it. You have arrived reemerging like a Beyoncé lion standing on Pride Rock knowing that everything the light touches is your kingdom.
You scroll. You tap. You swipe.
You meet a new match.
…And this time, maybe it will work out.
Much like being single, being unemployed is about perspective. It’s about embracing the vulnerability of potential rejection and choosing resilience over cynicism. It can feel like a game of smoke and mirrors, of portraying your best self, which is really just an exhausting parade of what you think someone else wants to hear.
And it’s learning through multiple failures, what your ‘best self’ really means. What you really need and want out of a relationship in order to continually work on finding that person. Notice, I didn’t say happily ever after. Learning to leave that Quixotic fantastical notion of finding the best and signing off is really the first step into leaning into that person.
So my friends, during this very single yet very engaged time, I stay focused on waiting on what I deserve, on what I know I am capable of even when others can’t see the same. I find joy in the free time I may never have again and I’m rediscovering what it means to be my best self.
And to my fellow app swipers, newsfeed scrollers, screen refreshers, I wish you the very same.