Ewww. Validation, bunnies, from a hot dude! Sweet, sweet validation! She is NOT insane and childish! She is mature and steady! Her new boyfriend, who’s known her less than three months, knows THE REAL JULIA ALLISON!
And so we’ve come to the season finale. As I wrote in my final ELLE column this week:
“For me, this moment is a long time coming, a process that started when I was twenty-one years old, a junior at Georgetown, and I made the choice that would change the rest of my life: to write a column about dating.
They say you teach what you yourself need to learn. Perhaps I knew then (subconsciously) that I didn’t have the tools for a healthy relationship, and my subsequent decade of dating — and writing about dating — grew out of that.”
Watching myself on this show was a certainly wakeup call, but the real growth came DURING the show from the experiences I had battling with my own demons, from asking for help from people whom most of us would label “unconventional” if not full blown “woo-woo.” Whatever you call them, they worked.
The episode begins with me sitting on the couch with Peter Crone, the “mind architect.” I was devastated because I had both gotten dumped by Andrew and just learned my grandmother was in the hospital, dying. (The latter was the primary reason for my anguish.)
The end with Andrew was painful mostly because of what he represented — all of the rejections, all of the failures, all of the endings I had ever experienced in my life. So I was grieving the imminent loss of my beautiful grandmother and the lack of anyone in my life who loved me as much as she did.
And yet, from our greatest pain comes our freedom. When we hit rock bottom is when we begin to change the patterns that most hurt us. As I said to Peter Crone, “I don’t know what I want to do with my life. When everything you thought would make you happy doesn’t make you happy… what the hell do you do?”
His answer was brilliant; he told me to stop trying to CONTROL everything. Because ultimately life cannot — will not — be controlled. You cannot say when your loved ones come into and leave your life, whether that be through rejection or death. And if you think you know better than the universe, than God, you will be proven wrong, again and again and again.
“It’s really lonely,” I told Peter that day. God, I was lonely.
Let me give you a little glimpse into who I was before this show. I was asked to answer this question, back in September of 2011: Are you happy? What does happiness look like to you? What makes you happy?
Such a fraught question! Am I happy? Yes and no. Depends on the moment. I have almost complete physical freedom — to travel when I want, to work when I want — which I think is incredibly necessary to my happiness. I’m not as financially stable as I would like, I’m not making quite as much money as I would care to make, but I am working on it.
But I also think I’m lonely, despite having incredible friends. And it’s not because they aren’t GOOD friends — they are. It’s just that I’ve set up a life in which I hesitate to settle down for whatever reason (I have theories), and that leads me to feel disconnected from a community, which is something I crave more than I would like to admit. I love being part of a loving community, a loving group of friends, a loving family, a loving relationship. I have many loving communities in my life in New York, in San Francisco, in LA, and in Chicago, but what I really wish is that everyone I loved were in one place.
I also don’t feel that my career is necessarily where I want it to be. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I also want to make an impact — specifically upon young women, girls who struggle with the same issues I did when I was a teen and in my twenties (and even now). Issues like a severe lack of self-confidence, never feeling attractive, putting too much stock in what others think, in what boys think, not trusting their intuition, not taking enough risks, not being entrepreneurial enough. When I talk to friends or to young people about their lives and making meaningful career and romantic decisions, THAT is when I’m happy.
I’m happiest having deep, fascinating conversations with people I care about, people I can learn from, people who I can teach and people in whose lives I can make a difference. I’m happiest when I’m engaging fully with another human being.
And yes, my life does feel incomplete without a life partner, without a teammate. I love being in love. Doesn’t everyone?
Jump cut to the credits for this finale, about ten months later, as I read the additions to my now infamous 73-point checklist. Have you read my checklist yet? If not, it’s here.
And here is Part II:
1) Be open and creative and encourage me to be the same
2) “Say YES” should be his mentality
3) Protect my individuality, freedom, and autonomy
4) Encourage personal growth and the full development of my authentic self
5) Create a satisfying, experimental, open sex life (!)
6) Dedicate our relationship to learning, growing, evolving, and contributing
7) Be excited to work on creative projects together with me
8) Create an unconventional life with me
9) Experiments with everything
10) Deeply intuitive
11) Is a MAN
12) Sexually delicious
13) Loves fully
14) Sees my mess and loves me for it
Did you expect me to throw it away? Hahaha, no way! You don’t know me very well then. Any good scientist experiments with her hypothesis, but that doesn’t mean she tosses it if it isn’t proven immediately.
If anything, I needed to expand my theory on love and partnerships. And here it is — I can’t think of a way to say it better than quoting from my final ELLE Guinea Pig of Love column:
“Here it is, my new theory on love and relationships:
I believe that you receive the partner best suited to whoever you are, whatever lessons you need to learn, whatever stage of development you’re at, and however you see yourself. If you don’t believe you’re deserving of love on a deeper level (I’m not talking about what you SAY — I’m talking about how you FEEL inside), you will be met with unavailable, disinterested or non-committal partners — or you’ll find men who love you, but whom you don’t find to be a good match, for whom you feel those little doubts — like, “Is this it?” You will feel frustrated, like you’re banging your head against a wall. That’s because you (metaphorically) ARE.
The real issue always lies in you. Always. Every time. It lies in you to make the changes that you need in order to have the relationship you want.
If I sound like I’m espousing some sort of self-help doctrine, well, perhaps I am. All I know is that when I look back at my relationships over the years, I’ve gotten exactly — EXACTLY — what I deep-down, in that secret place in my heart thought I deserved. And sometimes I didn’t feel I deserved very much at all.
So earlier this year, the question shifted from “How can I find a man who embodies the 73 points on my checklist?” to “How can I become the woman my Checklist Man would want to marry?”
Would my Checklist Man want to marry a woman with low self-esteem? Of course not. Would he want to marry a woman who didn’t love her body? No. Would he want to marry a woman who is frantic or stressed all the time? No. A woman who is desperate? A woman who is frequently defensive? An uptight perfectionist? Absolutely not.
So I evolved myself, and in the process, a miraculous thing happened: I stopped caring about the end goal, this future husband, this future marriage. It isn’t that I stopped desiring a life partner. It’s that I started loving myself, and I felt… enough. I felt whole. Prince Charming wasn’t coming, and that was actually OK. Instead I choose to focus on creating a life so full of adventure and love and growth that I was fulfilled without such a man. I stopped looking outside myself for validation and started knowing (not thinking, knowing, on a deeper level) that although I am not perfect, never will be, I am lovable and I am enough.
And of course, of course, the minute I gave up — truly gave up — and started loving myself, guess what happened?”
Well, readers: I found him. And he is EVERYTHING on my checklist — both of them! Our first date happened (I don’t believe in coincidences) to be on the very day my Grandmother died. And that, I think, sums up life. Love and pain co-existing, inexorably linked. Because of course you cannot love without risking pain. In fact, pain isn’t just a risk — it’s an inevitability. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love, with your whole being, with your body, with your soul.
So I’ve embarked upon a relationship that feels fundamentally different than every other I have had before it. It feels…healthy. It feels good. He watched the entire series with me, next to me, supporting me.
What does HE have to say about it?
“On the show, you say you’re looking for your husband, but in real life I never saw that side of you. You have a more balanced head about it. You’re positioning yourself with knowledge and experiences that you understand will lead you closer in that direction, but you’re not grasping for it. You’re positioning yourself to be receptive when the right person arrives.
You’re so much stronger and mature in real life. That just seems like a less experienced, less mature version of you. You seem all over the map on the show and in real life you’re marching in a straight line. You seem a little Miss… Advised on the show.”
Who knew that being on a reality TV show about being misguided in love would teach me how NOT to be?!
P.S. He kissed me first. No begging whatsoever.