I did a crazy thing last Saturday night. After working on my new apartment most of the evening, I got all dressed up at 11:00 p.m. and went out to a Latin dance club -- alone.
Truth is, I do a lot of things alone right now. I just moved to Austin, TX from New York City and have about five friends here. Most of whom are married with kids, which leaves very little options on a Saturday night. But I'm not married with kids, and would love to be -- and I have become WAY too comfortable on my couch binge watching Law & Order reruns (what IS it about that show that is so comforting?). There are times when it feels great, but more often than not, I worry: Is this it?
"I feel so stuck," my single friend Leigh said New Year's Eve, echoing my concerns.
"I never meet anyone new, and most of my friends are in relationships. Plus, I had no real plans tonight so I'm going to some party with a friend, and I won't know ANYONE!" she lamented.
I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.
"That's so great, Leigh! Think of all the new people you'll meet," I encouraged her to think differently about the opportunity.
How can you expect to ever meet anyone new if you always go to the same places, with the same people?
Temporary discomfort -- it's a necessary evil in the quest for new opportunities and relationships. There's so much I want to see in this great new city, and like Karyn Polewaczyk writes in XO Jane, "rather than revel in paranoia about what people might think about me rolling solo into a party, I've realized that life doesn't always require a flock of females by my side."
It's easy to get and want to stay comfortable in patterns that no longer serve us, but it's also up to us to make change happen. If you want different you have to DO different (thank you, Dr. Phil). We have to push ourselves.
I know I need to go out and create a life for myself -- which is hard enough to do working 60 hours a week. I'm exhausted and usually recovering on the weekends. So pushing myself to get all dolled up to stand, drink in my hand, alone all in the hopes that I'll find some nice guys to dance with seemed -- well, daunting to say the least.
But Saturday night I had no excuse -- I'd been off all week and could sleep in the next day. Plus, I desperately need more balance in my life and have committed to more dancing and writing in 2016: the two things that bring me joy and help me feel connected to others.
I had no one to go with me, even just for one drink. Still, something told me to go.
So at 11:15 p.m. I got in my car and went, by myself.
I'm not gonna lie, for the first half hour or so I stood at the bar, vodka soda in hand, watching what looked like nothing but couples dance and grind on the dance floor. The "demon" voice in my head started to slither its way into my brain:
"Don't you think you're a little too old for this? How pathetic are you, standing here, alone -- waiting, hoping for someone to ask you to dance? Go home."
I almost did. I felt so stupid, and yes -- old. I got all dressed up, full makeup and hair, to stand here -- music blaring among a bunch of 20-somethings.
But as a dancer, I know that all it takes is one good dance to get the other dancers to notice and POW -- I'm being asked to dance the rest of the night.
"Shut up," I told the voice instead. "I'll stay, drink my one drink, and if nothing happens then I'll go. No loss."
And like magic, the room opened up to me. First, the girl next to me asked nicely in Spanish if I was here "solo" -- and we started talking. Boom -- I didn't feel so alone. Then I saw that the guy on the other side of me, dressed head to toe in red, was moving -- just dying to dance. I told his girlfriend she should dance with him. She told me to instead, and when he asked I happily said yes.
It wasn't the best dance of my life, but it might have been the smartest. Because it introduced me to Mark: an amazing salsa and bachata dancer who later hooked me up on Facebook with all the best dance events in Austin.
The next 90 minutes were a fun blur of all kinds of Latin dancing -- and so very worth those first 20 awkward ones. I left the club at 1:30 a.m., exhausted and exhilarated, reminded of three important things:
You have to take chances to get anything in life. The man or woman (or dance partner) of your dreams isn't going to show up at your door -- unless he works for Domino's. And he won't approach you when you're surrounded by five girlfriends or hiding behind your phone.
Attitude is everything. I was grinning ear to ear watching all the happy people dancing, which I'm sure made me much more approachable. If you're gonna go out alone, go someplace that makes you genuinely happy. That kind of energy is very attractive, and infectious.
Dancing makes me feel ageless, strong, sexy, and free. I feel no pain, no fatigue -- nothing but pure, unadulterated, JOY when I dance. I imagine it's the same for runners when they run, cyclists when they ride -- whatever brings you joy, do it often and never stop.
One P. Terry's veggie burger and fries, and 8 hours of sleep later, I woke up feeling happier than I have in weeks, and so incredibly grateful. To Mark for the dances, but mostly to my brave self for trying something out of my comfort zone. And I felt rewarded for the effort.
Law & Order (or Real Housewives of Wherever) is always home waiting for you. If you want to see positive change in your life this year, put down the remote, take a chance, and go somewhere new -- alone.
Watch what happens.