I remember walking out of my last final in college in mid-December. I was still clutching onto my study guides and my notes. Mostly for warmth though. It’s always freezing in New York. That I do not miss.
The feeling was liberating but at the same time, absolutely terrifying. No more structure, no more planned-out semesters. I was flying back to Los Angeles with a completely clean slate. In all aspects of life — career and relationship-wise (ugh). And that meant if I didn’t make a daily conscious effort to meet people and learn new material, I would never move forward.
It’s easy getting comfortable in suburban Los Angeles. For the last four years, every time I flew back, I had the same routine, met up with the same people and did the exact same activities. Over and over again. It was an endless loop of comfort but I was fine with it because I was living under the timeline of college and under the wings of a very comfortable relationship.
But the reality is that life doesn’t operate on a college break schedule. And, as I had to learn the very hard way, things don’t always work out according to plan.
So ever since I’ve moved back, I’ve made it a personal goal to get out, meet as many people as I can and take up as many opportunities as possible to learn. As someone who was in a “couple” for three, going on four years, independence was initially a tricky thing to embrace. I dreaded not having a go-to person for places I wanted to check out, a default to call up when I was going through rough patches. Who could I turn to when something horrible happened? Or something great that I wanted to share? And if I got sick of my own house, where could I hang out? What was I supposed to do during weekends in Los Angeles now?
But when viewed in the right perspective, this independence turned out to be an amazing gift.
So in the spirit of my new life philosophy, I started planning dates with myself. Things I always wanted to do but never had a chance to, or was too lazy to, or just didn’t do because no one else wanted to do it with me.
Even if it meant doing it alone…because the truth is, you’re never really alone.
Hear me out on this.
Whether it was random dinners from meetup.com (oh my god, I know it sounds weird, but pick the right group), cooking classes or even just networking with mutual friends online — I always ended up meeting new people.
Alright, I know there’s a stigma to online groups. But for reals, pick your groups wisely and start off with an event with a fairly large number of people. My first one was a dinner at Feng Mao 2, a great Korean/Chinese skewer joint in Koreatown. There were about 30 people in attendance and mostly everyone was in the same situation: “All my friends are not in Los Angeles anymore.” “I just moved here.” “I just moved back.” “I finally have time to meet people now.”
And hey, two pitchers of beer later and we all liked each other enough to be down for dessert next door. (+ Our particular table just clicked.)
Restaurant: Feng Mao 2
Address: 414 Suite E S Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone Number: (213) 388-9299
Restaurant: Haus Dessert Boutique
Address: 3826 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone Number: (213) 388-5311
1) Foodstory Japan: Takoyaki Cooking Class
I heard about Yoko’s classes via Twitter (oh social media). But I was drawn to it not only because of the food, but because of her approach towards food: “She is a Japanese Food Storyteller and producer of a variety of Japanese cooking classes and workshops. She focuses on cultural aspects of Japan’s rich food history and etiquettes.”
Though takoyaki-making was the highlight of the course, we also learned other traditional dishes (akashiyaki, daikon salad and pork miso soup) that can’t typically be found at your local Japanese restaurant. The three hour class was great and extremely informative in terms of ingredients and culture. Even though I was the youngest (as I usually am these days) of the group, all eight of us shared amazing conversation over hot takoyaki balls.
Plus, it’s easy for people passionate about food to bond over food.
In LA, you gotta fill up that car with gas and move. To experience it, you have to make the effort. Sometimes that means going completely out of your comfort zone.
I have to admit, sometimes I’m tempted to cancel last minute. It’s so much easier staying at home, curled up in bed with a good movie. Plus, it’s not like I don’t have any friends and I honestly do enjoy the company of my great family. But every time, I muster enough will to force myself to get out of the door and into my car.
Trust me. Once you put yourself as a priority, an amazing thing happens. You end up with so much more because you enter these situations with an unbelievably open mind.
Because you’re not doing it for anyone else but yourself. You have nothing to lose and no one to disappoint but yourself. And because you made such a large effort to do something 100% for yourself, you put 100% in getting the most out of the experience.
Now dating yourself can be daunting.
Driving alone in Koreatown and walking into a restaurant with absolutely no expectations of who will be there can be a nerve-wrecking experience. Parking in a sketchy downtown LA lot for an evening cooking class hopefully somewhere down the block is potentially frightening. Especially when there are very few people walking around.
But I assure you the fear is temporary because at the end of the each evening, there were always people there to walk me back to my car.
What about you guys? Any other self-dating tips? Things to do, groups to join?