Jin’s Iceland Travelogue Part 1: Landmannalaugar Day Hike

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I feel like all the hikes I’ve taken this year have been in preparation for this hike – Landmannalaugar in Iceland.

With frenzied New Year’s resolve, I had bought my ticket to Iceland on January 1st, 2015. Two main factors came into play:

  1. I was mad that I wasn’t able to make my planned Taiwan/Hong Kong trip with Jen because of the darned dog bite incident. I had to forfeit my plane and lodging expenses and missed out on my big trip of the year. I needed another one to look forward to – stat.
  2. I’ve always been charmed by Iceland’s black sand beaches. That led me into a Wikipedia rabbit hole of geological wonders: Geysirs! Hot springs! Volcanoes! Shifting tectonic plates! I wanted to journey to the center of the earth too!

I was based out of Reykjavik, but this hike was the best part of my trip so far and I am enthusiastic to share it with all of you. After this post, I will review Reykjavik and Vik, which I have a day trip booked for on Sunday (which will be today, when this post is scheduled to go live!)

Landmannalaugar is in the interior of Iceland, where nobody lives. The terrain is too mountainous, and the biting, windy weather too unpleasant. However, the lack of inhabitants makes for a stark view of nature in all its grandeur, and makes it a popular hiking spot.

I chose the Landmannalaugar tour with Trek Iceland because a) it was a manageable day hike; b) it culminated in a geothermal hot spring and c) Trek Iceland had a modern website in English. You’d be surprised at how unnavigable some of these websites are.

The 4WD bus that drove us to the trailhead; everyone else on the tour was pretty much middle-aged

It took about four hours to get from Reykjavik to the trailhead. We had to traverse through lava fields and vast moss plains, most of which I was asleep for. Jet lag, yo.

Tents at base camp, occupied by multi-day hikers much more hardcore than I

When we arrived at the base camp, our guide, Henry, put out a bunch of food and instructed us to eat.

Three loaves of bread, cold cuts, veggie spreads, Nutella, orange juice Tetra paks

I really like the simplicity of what we were given. I personally don’t really eat pre-sliced bread these days, eschewing it for more healthful carbs.

With unwashed hands, I made myself a sandwich of ham, salami, sliced cucumber and a mushroom spread. I forgot how delicious pre-sliced bread is. I sneakily made myself another slice with Nutella, hoping that I’ll work it off. Thus began our hike!

After half an hour of walking through a lava field, we see a postcard-perfect valley with grazing sheep. The hike thus far wasn’t bad yet. It was raining, but not prohibitively so. The temperature was about 11 degrees Celsius, or 52 degrees Farenheit.

This is Henry. The main peak in the distance is Brenninsteinsalda, an active volcano

Our ginger-bearded hiking guide, Henry, is German. I thought he’d be Icelandic because of how strongly he felt about preserving Iceland’s nature (and because he had a red beard!), but he’s just a passionate guy who loves getting paid to hike. He was very knowledgeable about the area. For instance, the moss you see takes hundreds of years to grow, and he told us that some vandal in the ’60s carved his name in the moss and you can still see it till today.

En route to the peak of the active volcano Brenninsteinsalda, we saw some sulphur steam vents. Apparently, we were sitting atop a magma chamber below us, i.e. we were hiking on an active volcano. The air around us smelled like farts. Henry said a foolish American in one of his groups had put his hand right over the steam vent and got scalded – of course he had to highlight that he was American.

From here on out, the rain started falling harder, and as we gained in altitude, the wind whipped around us. The weather was honestly kind of shitty and I felt like I was gonna be blown off my feet, but I got a picture of the view.

Henry told us of an Icelandic saying: What do you do if you get lost in the forest? You stand up! Trees do not grow in these parts, as the temperature is too cold and the wind too strong for any tall structure to remain standing.

I also took a selfie. You can see that I am soaked through. After this, I stopped taking photos because my fingers were freezing from not having gloves. I thought specifically to bring gloves, and I ended up forgetting. Bah.

At this point, my sole objective was to get through the damn bloody hike and end up in the hot spring. I was cold and miserable, and my hands were dirty from trying to stabilize myself on the slippery rock.

I’m going to skip past the part where we hiked through obsidian fields and through the Grænagil canyon and instead focus on my growing misery. With the hot spring to look forward to, I tailed right behind our guide Henry, at points even surpassing him entirely while he waits for the group.

“Somebody really wants to get to the hot spring, huh?”

Damn straight. Cold fingers and wearing a wet parka sucks. Why is everyone else so slow? Where is that elusive hot spring when you need it?

When we finally reached the end, Henry informed us that while the hot spring awaits us, it’s about 200m away from the changing area, and while no one would stop us from stripping right by the hot spring and jumping into it, it would be a bit of a challenge to get from the changing area to the hot spring.

Changing area at huts on the top part of the photo, hot spring 200m below, click for source

I ran to the changing area to get into my bathing suit as fast as possible. However, yet another thing stood between me and the hot spring: my cold-immobilized fingers. Seriously, they did not work. I was standing half naked in a dingy stall, trying to hook on my bikini strap but to no avail. My fingers failed to bend at the very tips, and were stiff pieces of useless shite. I abandoned Mission: Change in The Changing Area, and switched to Mission: Enter The Hot Spring Naked. Fortunately, I did manage to put my bikini bottom on; that required much less finesse.

Click to source

But this is Europe, right? Nobody cares about women’s nipples. Clutching my parka closed over my shirtless body and bare legs, I sprinted the 200m of boggy boardwalk from the changing hut to the hot spring area. Once by the hot spring platform, I dropped my hiking paraphernalia, and grabbed my bikini top with me into the pool.

Never did tepid river water feel so refreshing. I felt a twinge of squeamishness at the algae floating around me, but what the hell, right? Brain-eating bacteria doesn’t enter through my genitals, I don’t think. The pool was shallow enough to reach my shoulders as I waddled on the pebbly river bed, in an attempt to camouflage my nudity. When my fingers warmed up enough, I put on my bikini while submerged in water.

The hot spring was amazing. It’s fed by a lava-heated water source and a glacial river source. How magical is that? Nature’s hot tub! All my squeamishness about slimey algae and “dirt” melted away as I luxuriated in the enveloping warmth that melted away the chill from the hike.

I was amongst Americans, the French, Poles, Germans… all of us were enjoying this beautiful pool. There was certainly variability in how hot certain areas of the pool was, depending on the strength of the flow from the hot and the cold source. People would migrate closer and farther away from the mouth of the stream in observable patterns.

After soaking for about an hour, I left warm and satisfied.

Parked right next to our 4WD bus was a “Mountain Mall” truck, selling hot soup and snacks and stuff. I just think naming a bus a “mall” is amusing.

Overall, this hike was the best part of my trip (provided Vik doesn’t blow my mind tomorrow). There’s nothing like going through adversity to make you grateful for the simple things in life. I could have very well succumbed to a misplaced step and ended up broken in a pit, or Brenninsteinsalda could erupted and I could have turned into coal and left my trove of secrets unbeknownst to everyone forever. I find the idea of imminent death slightly romantic – I suppose I am somewhat of a thrill-seeker.

Next up: blog posts on my experiences in Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon, and Vik!


My Take on New York City vs. San Francisco

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Now that I’ve started my new job as a UX researcher whose headquarters is based in San Francisco, I expect to be here quite a bit – at least four times a year for the quarterly meeting, and presently for my first week of orientation. While I feel like a fish out of water in this town, I can’t help but continually compare New York and San Francisco – here are my two cents.

Starry Night in MoMA, NYC, and graffiti in the Mission, SF

Let me just caveat that everyone values different things in their place of residence and of course I’ve only spent a week prior in October in SF and this is my third day this trip, but after perusing multiple Quora threads (NYC vs. SF), I can confirm my first impressions of the city with user-generated opinion.

First things first: the cities compete on two entirely different scales. Taking an international perspective, New York City simply features a lot more highly on the global map than San Francisco. New York City has a greater international presence, counting itself among the ranks of Paris, London, and Tokyo, while San Francisco is a more reasonable candidate if you were comparing cities from a domestic perspective. And that level of cosmopolitan, international brand cachet is something I value highly. Times have changed quite a bit since I left Singapore nearly six years ago, but as an adolescent, I didn’t know SF existed and neither probably did my peers. As a foreign-born immigrant, I want my friends and family back in my, y’know, little village hometown to know that I’ve made it in the big city!

Now that we’ve gotten the most glaring difference out of the way, let’s move on to the next major differentiator: culture vs. nature. SF wins over NYC any day for its proximity to beautiful national parks, wine country, and abundance of outdoor and water activities available. While SF is surrounded by the gift of nature’s bounty, NYC is much more vibrant with cultural activities formed by human ideas: museums, theater, fashion, media, and so on. SF isn’t bereft of culture, but it is not nearly of the same caliber as NYC. If I were an alien anthropologist looking for markers of civilization as demarcated by cultural institutions, NYC would take the cake. This culture vs. nature divide also plays out into food – SF, being close to the sources of produce, has unbeatable freshness. I would even venture to say that the median SF eatery has better food than the median NYC eatery. I do love the food in SF.

Some people say that NYC’s cultural centers make it a rich man’s playground. Only the wealthy can truly enjoy hundred dollar Broadway tickets; only the well-connected get to meet media personalities – while technically, parks are free (although what did you just say about parks being white?). Just in the brief conversations I’ve had with people in and from SF, there’s definitely a vastly different attitude towards money and status. For instance, my co-workers tend to express an unabashed striving for being rich and powerful. The nods to wealth are subtle but present. A boss would casually mention owning a condo (on multiple occasions), and on one of our birthdays, a boss mentioned making more money as the top-of-mind benefit conferred with age. For the rest of us underlings without six figure salaries and property, bring on the masstige Tory Burch flats and Longchamp bags!

A combo I would never be caught dead in (but I also have weird style, so, to each their own)

As a foreign-born immigrant who has chosen to live in New York, I am swept up in and a perpetrator of this rat race of status symbols. Gimme the Ivy League dates, gimme the hot doctor boyfriends! Let me into Yelp Elite events, give me private viewings of MoMA – I want it all! In SF, however, there’s an air of humility around your status. Just speaking in broad strokes, the tech industry, which is omnipresent in SF, tends to have flatter company structures and more casual dress. Your boss wears flip flops and hoodies and so do you.

I only have scant information on attitudes so far, but this is my main assessment of the two cities. I’m not saying one is better than the other. Perhaps you prefer the less anonymizing SF where you can really get involved in grassroots culture, perhaps ostentatious status symbols spur you on instead of turn you off. Perhaps you’re a single man bedazzled by the bevy of women in fashion and media, or you’re a single woman who is tired of carrying two pairs of shoes on you at all times. To each their own!

Four Ways to Say “I Love You” Without Actually Saying It

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There is a certain accountability to being a relationship and dating blogger who’s currently in a relationship. How can I retain any credibility if my own relationship isn’t owning it? Unfortunately, the deeper into a relationship you are, the further apart the milestones are, like a geometric progression.

Nerd alert

Between this post and the last, the one bridge we had yet to cross was saying those three words – I love you.

To all that I have bemoaned, “Why won’t he love me?!?!” – please know that we have indeed exchanged I love yous. We love each other. We’re officially in love. Our feelings have been validated by our words. Yay!

Some of you may be wondering, why did it have to be such a big deal? Why couldn’t I just enjoy his company? Why couldn’t I just say it first if I felt it? Well, words of affirmation as a love language is important to me – it just is.

There were certain measures I took to alleviate the feelings of urgency, not all of which I recommend. Note that I do not sanction Googling “how long until he says he loves you”. I don’t recommend having ten open tabs containing plebeian chatter on forums about how soon their SOs said they love each other, nor do I recommend feeling helplessly indignant that your boyfriend contradicts the findings in a study where men tend to say I love you first in heterosexual relationships.

Here’s what I found actually productive.

1. Talk around it

Prior to being entrenched in love with my boyfriend, I tried to feel out what his approach around saying I love you was. I asked how soon he had said it before and how he knows he loves someone, which gave me an understanding that he was a tough nut to crack. My expectations were then level-set (or really, lowered) accordingly, which prevented any unexpected outbursts of “WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME?!” directed towards him. (All of such outbursts should be deflected to your friends.)

I recommend talking about saying “I love you” before you actually are in love. It’s easier to have an intellectual hypothetical discussion when your feelings aren’t at stake just yet.

2. Qualify it

This can be a little torturous to a recipient eager for more, but if you want to convey validation but you’re not yet ready to say those three words, you can qualify it with the things you love about that person. “I love… the way your hair smells” or “I love… spending time with you” are examples of this. I like to imagine this as building a slow but sure case for why you may eventually love that person. It also throws a bone to your hankering SO who will then bury it in his or her scant collection of affirmative gestures.

3. Parody it

Internetspeak has made parodying your feelings so easy. You can say, “udabes” or “best gf eva” or “you give me feelz” or even the classic “<3”. Simply by only saying these things via text and ditching the correct grammar of what you say takes the edge off what you actually mean, and also highlights how corny you think your feelings about that person are. You can always hide under a layer of self-deprecation and mockery if your feelings are too real for you.

4. Look it

A look can paint a thousand words. Sometimes, you can’t help but just look like you’re in love because you can’t control how you feel. But what if you’re an emoting robot and you often are misunderstood because how you act doesn’t reflect how you come across?

Why, I have just the tips for you. First, identify the feeling you feel. Next, try to break it down into its observable facial components. After all, if someone can tell that you’re in love, they can tell because they can observe it via sensory input and some contextual knowledge, yes? For instance, what would a yearning look look like? Perhaps a slight raised furrow of the brow, so your brows slope sadly downwards? Perhaps a loving gaze would entail slightly upturned corners of your lips, eyelids closed a quarter of the way, hand rustling the back of his or her head?

And if you can’t hold it in any longer…

5. Say it.

Just fucking say it. Sometimes the words are just gurgling in your throat and you can’t suppress it any longer – don’t do either of you a disservice by holding it in. For someone who wishes to get dating down to a predictable science, the wait was agonizing. Yes, it is the most anticipated “I love you” I’ve ever experienced, but the anticipation does make it sweeter than some cavalier “omg udabes I love you.”

It’s True, The Way To A Man’s Heart *Is* Through His Stomach

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Sorry for the dearth of posts lately, my readers. Spring is here, and I’ve been focusing my energies on other things – exercising my butt off trying to get in shape, figuring out travel plans for the year, getting back into baking, and also just enjoying the glory that is spring. The boyfriend and I went hiking a couple of weekends ago, and had a pretty good workout.

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puddingNew relationships are typically adventure-filled, with most dates organized around an activity or an event. Going to restaurants and bars all the time gets old, and I like to cook, so last weekend we had a homemade dinner. The entree was a spring-themed lemon rosemary roasted chicken (recipe here) with black rice and roasted broccoli. Dessert was a trifle comprised of a crumbled chocolate whiskey cake bites, chocolate pudding, caramel sauce, and layered with whipped cream.

All of the trifle ingredients are made from scratch, by the way – I have linked the recipe to each component of the trifle. Whipped cream is literally just heavy cream whipped to stiff peaks – you can find some more literature on the technique by Googling.

After the meal, the look on his face has never been closer to this emoji:

Which was great to see, because when I think of his heart I think of this scene from The Simpsons:

“That woman, she’s so captivating. Smithers, my heart’s pounding like a jackhammer!”

(Just kidding.) That’s when my mother’s wise words came rushing back to me: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” She would tell me how it’s important to keep your partner full and happy, because nothing beats a simple, homemade meal prepared with love. That disagreements can occur and temptations may entice, but the reassuring knowledge of a spouse who has lovingly prepared a homemade meal wards off all of that and renders the man’s heart a squishy, gooey puddle.

Maybe some of you would decry this as anti-feminist, that the role of women as homemakers is dated and chauvinistic. Something about cooking appeals to many things I value – being a creator as opposed to simply a consumer (I am the Internet’s 1%), being frugal (eating out is one of the biggest money sucks), maximizing the utility of leftover ingredients (which is the premise of how my dessert blog is organized), the textural delight of food in my hands… Ultimately, cooking creates a positive feedback loop, and I derive the most satisfaction when people get value out of what I create, whether it’s from the blog posts I write or the food I make.

For further reading, see what Reddit has to say about the adage in question. The reasons most commonly made in support of it are:

  • An act of service: cooking for your partner is a gesture of caring and concern that requires effort
  • Admiration of expertise: Cooking is a skill that few have these days, so ceteris paribus, being able to cook > not being able to cook
  • Shared activity: Cooking together is a fun, low-cost activity to do together
  • Food is the lowest common denominator: Everybody eats, so knowing how to cook will please anyone

Also, who doesn’t want to be this couple, happily cooking in matching monogrammed aprons and tenderly wiping off flour smudges on each other’s cheeks and shit.

“Help, My Relationship is Perfect And I’m Freaking Out”

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I was at a party recently, when a girl beseeched for my help: “My relationship is so perfect that I’m freaking out about it. I’m pushing him away even though he’s so sweet to me. I’m sabotaging what I have and I don’t know how to stop.”

Pretty heavy for a first encounter, but no problem, I can handle it. I implored, “What’s going on, how are you freaking out?”

She said, “He’s just too perfect. He’s sweet and funny and intelligent and sees the beauty inside of me. But it seems too good to be true. You seem really close to your boyfriend. Can you just tell me some stories about your experience?” She looked at me like I bore some secret recipe to relationship nirvana because I am generous with physical affection. Or maybe after I told her I was interested in psychology, that it meant I could impart wisdom borne from months of dating data collection and the designer relationship I have now fabricated after multiple failed trials.

No, I don’t have the answer to a perfect relationship, and all that data I’ve collected hasn’t helped.

People have suggested that I continue the practice of keeping a data set by documenting the interactions between my boyfriend and myself. Why not keep track of the frequency and duration of our meetups? Analyze the text within our emails and texts to see what we *really* feel? Keep a log of who texts who first? If I can optimize dating, why shouldn’t I be optimizing my relationship too?

There was an author in The Atlantic that shared the very same sentiment. While Emma Pierson did a textual analysis of 5,500 emails that were exchanged between her and her boyfriend, I never got around to keeping track of anything. And despite what you’d suspect me of me, I don’t think I ever will.

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Likewise – if data isn’t mined and put on a blog, is it really insightful? I am dating just one person now, and the poor guy doesn’t have the cover of 52 other guys to be made anonymous with. Obtaining consent may very likely affect the results of the experiment.

But more seriously, I’ve learned that keeping score never bodes well in a relationship. It’s not in the spirit of giving and taking, and appreciating our differences in communicating care and affection. Emma found that she missed her boyfriend more than he missed her based on textual analysis of their emails. But the truth was, he simply preferred talking on the phone more often and that’s where he claimed his mushiness came through.

The girl I spoke to at the party was worried about coming off as too giving, and also worried about how sincere he could really be. Perhaps I should have told the helpless girl to compare her boyfriend’s current behavior to her in relation to his historical patterns. What I mean is this: if he has historically only called his ex-girlfriends 3x a week, and he calls her 4x a week, she should actually be pleased and not be perturbed that she calls him 5x a week (when she has historically called her ex-boyfriends 5x a week too). Everything is relative, right?

But then you get into this vortex of quantifying the emotional, and making petty comparisons between the past and the present (and totally neglecting that person’s ability for evolution). Even though I’m all about amassing information, doing so in a relationship can be like scratching an itch. Like Emma says, “relationships are weird: endearing moments seem bizarre when coldly quantified; it’s full of truths that might be softer if only dimly perceived.”

Here’s what I wished I could have told that poor girl:

“I’m in a new relationship too. The fuck do I know what I’m doing? I may have read a ton of scientific literature on relationships, but I’m still as clueless as anyone else. And get this: I freak out too. When you freak out you lose sight of the issues that are imaginary and those that are real, and you start overcompensating in ways that only exacerbate the delusion. Just enjoy your feelings of infatuation – reality will set in when it needs to set in.”

But as always, it’s easier to give advice than to live it. *breathes deeply*

Avoiding Common Pitfalls Of Casual Dating

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There are rules that exist when you’re dating multiple people. Few are oblivious enough to believe that you’re only seeing each other, if it hasn’t been mentioned and you’re still at that past-three-dates-but-haven’t-had-the-talk stage. When you’re kind of sure you really like this one person but you are still shopping around to make sure your feelings and his feelings are aligned.

Unless you want to have the “what are we” talk, do the following things to maximize putting it off for as long as possible. The secret? Discretion is key. However, if you DO want to have the “what are we” talk, I do have some great pointers coming up that can help you make the person you’re dating feel real special. (Although after reading this, you’d probably raise an eyebrow and be real skeptical about any future nice gestures.)

All of the below examples have been inspired by real-life events, shared among friends.

“Agh I don’t want to discuss what we are”

1. Disable dating app notifications on your phone

People, this is a no-brainer. Nobody wants to be reminded that they’re only a Tinder swipe away from being nexted. Just keep those pings on the DL. You’re showing your hand if you reveal what competition (or lack thereof) your date is facing. Besides, your phone’s screen will likely be seen by your date at some point – don’t let a moment bonding over a funny photo be ruined by a Coffee Meets Bagel notification.

2. Put away jewelry girls “forget” to take with them

This is for the fellas. Ladies are like magpies for anything that glints in a dude’s pad. We know that single earring does not belong to you. (Who leaves behind just one earring? That’s absolutely a thinly-veiled ploy to see you again.)

3. Cover your used condoms in the trash with other trash

No, it’s not that your date is going to root around your trash, but in general, you don’t really want to remind your date that he or she is coming into a lair of seduction with a revolving door.

4. Guys, change your pillowcase if there are mascara/eyeliner smudges on it

I don’t understand how this is tolerable. Nobody wants to lie in a freshly vacated bed where someone slept face down, makeup left overnight, probably drooling into the pillow. That’s just nasty.

5. Do a quick scan for hairs

Women with long hair shed like a Persian cat. You want to keep those pesky long hairs out of sight, especially if they’re of a different color from the next person you’re bringing home AND do not match the color and length of your own hair. Nobody wants to roll around in somebody else’s organic material. Pro tip: wool coats latch on to long hairs unstoppably. Lint roll that coat. There are head hairs, and then there are body hairs. Be cautious.

“Please, let me welcome you into my home”

Then there are some things you can do to not only be discreet, but also engender a feeling of specialness. A lot of the following things overlap with being a good host/hostess.

1. Keep a spare toothbrush

Just let your overnight guest have the dignity of brushing his/her teeth and not going to bed risking a mouthful of cavities. Toothbrushes, bought in a value pack, are pretty cheap anyway. You can always store your collection of gently-used toothbrushes under the sink, in the faint hope they’ll be used a second time.

2. Offer pajamas for sleeping

Who wants to sleep in leather leggings and/or a bandage dress? Or maybe he’s not comfortable with his hairy back being on show just yet. Offer your overnight guest some comfortable clothes to sleep in, whether it’s a soft, worn-in camp tee shirt from when you were 16, or a pair of shorts. Also, slender lady in oversized t-shirt; hairy calves in shorts? Looking attractive even in sloppy clothes should be a requirement if you want to take things further.

3. Ask them if they’re hungry when they wake up

Assuming you want to keep your date around, absolutely inquire about the state of their hunger, and ask them if they’d like to eat. I can’t conduct weekend morning pillow talk if my stomach is grumbling. Even better than asking if they’re hungry? Offer to make them breakfast with the grocery shopping you did yesterday. Boom.

How I Took A Chance On Love

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Every year, Match Day determines the fates of thousands of medical students across the country for where they’ll end up doing their residency for the next three years to seven years. Match Day is now behind us, and it’s a huge relief that my boyfriend has ended up at his first choice – in New York City.

It was uneasy having that cloud looming over the excitement of a new relationship. Imagining a future of fun, warm-weather activities (as a coping mechanism in the face of this never-ending winter) had to be bridled, knowing that the tables may turn when match arrives. Realistically, it’s not like our connection would dissipate the instant he matched in a different city. But it would have marked the demise of our oxytocin-induced excitement and hope, bringing a graver reality to our honeymoon state. Having to address deeper commitment issues such as a long distance relationship is weighty enough for established couples, not to mention a fledgling one.

Entering the relationship, I knew that my boyfriend may have to leave the city, but yet I took a chance. Although whether I truly took a chance or not is debatable – being with him almost felt like something that had to be done.

There’s a promotion guideline that has really stuck with me: in order to get promoted at your job, you have to prove that you can perform at the next level for six months before you actually get promoted to the next level. This may mean doing work above your pay grade before you get the recognition you deserve. How I read this guideline is as such: the only way to progress is to exceed expectations. How can one expect to get promoted to the next level if they’re only meeting expectations for their current level? Doing a good job at a lower level gives no indication to doing a good job at the next level. Overextending yourself is necessary for growth.

Similarly, the person you’re dating should not earn the title of boyfriend unless they behave like one prior to exclusivity. He shouldn’t be given something he hasn’t earned. While my boyfriend continued to overdeliver on the boyfriend experience prior to exclusivity, I remained cautious. I kept my options open. I was seeing someone who may very well not be in the city after six months – why should I overextend myself for a company that may file for bankruptcy, so to speak?*

But it got to a point where I simply didn’t even enjoy dating other people (and we’re talking about me here, the dating sociologist, the person who finds first dates inherently interesting.) I was driven to exclusivity not so much by feelings of jealousy and possessiveness, but my own distractedness when I went on dates with other people. I strive for being focused on my dates, but all I could mostly think about was how I didn’t want to be there and how I’d rather be spending time with him. Casually dating felt like an obligation to rationality and it wasn’t fun anymore. You could say that I endured a rigorous process of elimination that made me feel certain that I wanted to be with him. The choices in front of me were clear. Either I had to see him only, or not see him anymore. Anything in between would be half-assing it to all parties involved and that’s not my style.

How did I reconcile the divide between how my heart felt and what my rational mind thought? I didn’t try to emotionally invest commensurate to the odds that he’ll be in NYC vs. not being in NYC. Neither did I try to coerce an action plan that made him promise our relationship will become X, or Y, or Z, if his path was A, B, or C.

How I did it was by trying to be mindful and present. By acknowledging that things are going great now and that is I what I want to savor. That my time would not have been for nought even if it had to end because I made the most of it. That worrying about the future especially when it is beyond my control would not improve my quality of life, so why worry? All these things come naturally to some people, going with the flow and living in the moment, but it isn’t for me, and jumping into a relationship when there’s a clear date when our paths may diverge, i.e. match day, was a blessing because it was a hardcoded date, but a curse because it was like knowing when we were going to die.

I’m glad that the horizon is a little less murky. I don’t have any delusions that him being in the city for the next few years means there will no longer be bends in the road. We’re only a handful of months in – our relationship isn’t immune to the ravages of probability. Intern year isn’t a cakewalk either. Every budding relationship has an uncertain future, but we have one obstacle down, among the many challenges I am eager to accept.

*I sound like such an ass but no, it was never a one-sided contest to win my affections and we were always on the same page about our status. I don’t think I was half-bad at proving my girlfriend-worth prior to exclusivity either.

(Credits to Zach for the idea for this post.)