Day 62: Sadness in Anchorage

I checked into my Airbnb around 10:00 pm and followed the directions to get inside. I climbed the stairs outside and took my shoes off at the landing. The house had three stories: the top floor where the owners live, the lower level with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom, and the basement level floor with two more rented rooms and a shared bathroom.

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I got settled into my room and went to sleep feeling happy and content. The few days prior to arriving in Anchorage were wonderful, fun, encouraging, and beautiful. They were also tiring. I didn’t get much sleep and I was starting to get a cold. I took some cold medicine and tried to let myself sleep in the next day, but I still woke up after about seven hours. I laid around and got some things done like writing reviews of my recent Airbnb stays.

After a few hours, I headed to Target to do some shopping. I talked with my sister while sipping on my Starbucks latte. For the first time in a long time, it felt like a regular day that I would have experienced before I started traveling.

After Target, I headed to Subway to grab a sandwich. The music playing was a country song I had heard many times on the radio station in Fairbanks. It goes “sunrise, sunburn, sunset, repeat.” It was so noticeable to me because you never hear country music playing in Los Angeles. But I had heard this song so much in the last week, I actually recognized it.

I got back to my room at the Airbnb, ate, and watched Like Father on my iPad mini. A guy I had matched with on Tinder messaged me and asked if I like to watch volleyball because there was a game that night and the following night at the University (my profile mentions volleyball). I asked what time the games were and he said 7:30 pm. I thought about it for awhile because I needed to pay bills and catch up on some work, like writing. I finally showered and messaged him around 6:30 pm asking if he still wanted to go to the game that night. He wrote back around 7:15 pm saying “Oh, I’m sorry Christy! I was just telling you about the game. I came over to my buddies to help him move.” He continued to message, trying to get to know me.

What the heck?! Who does that? I felt like an idiot for thinking he was asking me out. My face literally got flush with embarrassment. But then I got irritated wondering why he would ask me if I liked watching volleyball and then give me the details as far as days and times, but not actually ask me out. That’s pretty crappy. I didn’t respond to his other messages.

My parents called and I talked with them for awhile about their current trip in Colorado. I briefly mentioned that I was on a dating site. My dad started into a rant about what I need to look for in men worth marrying. This really frustrated me. I told my dad I do not plan on getting married again. It cost me significantly, both emotionally and financially, to get out of my marriage. Nobody can ensure their partner will actually be a decent person for decades. My dad was not happy about this and the whole conversation left me feeling incredibly judged and alone.

I want a life partner. I want someone who loves me for me. Not for the person they think I am or for the person they wish I was. I want someone who sees me. My ex-husband never saw me. He didn’t notice anything about me. He didn’t love me. I want someone who actually remembers things about me, asks about my day, asks about things that make me who I am.

I was feeling incredibly lonely. Not just lonely, but completely alone. It’s the feeling that I am not “number one” to anybody. Not a single person in this world puts me first. I am nobody’s “person.” Friends, family – they all have a number one. I am not it. I am somewhere on the list, but will never be number one. There was a pain in my heart knowing I was down on every single list.

I felt sad. And then I felt frustrated. I don’t want to get married again and people can’t seem to understand that, especially my parents. I do want a partner. But there are no guarantees in life. If that person is not who they led me to believe or they change drastically into a terrible person, I want the freedom to get out easily without losing all of my money.

Marriage is one thing in life you cannot control. You can work so hard, do all the right things, and it can still fail. You cannot force your partner to invest in the relationship, and if they don’t, you have two choices. Your first choice is to stay in the marriage, unhappily and hope it gets better. A lot of people do this. I see people all the time who are unhappily married. Your second option is to get a divorce. That’s it. There is not a third option.

This is a bad deal in my eyes. I feel that when people are married, they know they can slack off and their spouse will not divorce them for little things like forgetting a birthday or not helping out around the house. The thing is, all those little things add up. That’s what makes or breaks a relationship. If you’re just dating, people know it’s easier for their partner to end it so they’re more likely to keep investing and be a good partner. Because if not, your partner could easily end it. But with marriage, there’s no such thing as an easy ending.

I was frustrated with the fact that I could have a few amazing days and suddenly feel so sad and lonely. My Myers Briggs personality says my personality type is the type most at home in a relationship and always looking for that life-long partner. It feels like a curse. I am independent and I would rather be alone than be with the wrong person. But yet, I still want that partnership. I want the love, the intimacy, and the adventure. And I don’t have it.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment below or message me with any questions!

 

Day 35 – History of Seattle and Getting a Kiss

It was my last day in Seattle and I wanted to learn a little more about the city so I signed up for an underground tour. Meeting in downtown Seattle, the tour began in a basement of a skyrise. It was dark and had a setup like what you’d see during Halloween.

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The tour had about 15 people and as we sat in dark pews, the tour guide started by giving us the rundown of what the next 90 minutes would look like. We began by going around the corner and seeing the old store fronts.

Seattle was originally a logging town and port city, but really started to boom when they realized they could take advantage of people flocking to Canada and Alaska in search of gold. Seattle became a place where people (mostly men) could rest, buy supplies, and eat.

Being mostly men coming through the city, Seattle developed a seedy underground full of booze and prostitutes. The police and government officials overlooked all of this as long as these establishments paid their “tax” – which was basically a bribe. This went on for about 100 years until the 1970s when the FBI did an investigation and put a stop to all of it.

The shoreline of Seattle used to be giant cliffs overlooking the ocean, so people couldn’t build many houses there. The city center was near the port on soft ground and the tide changed dramatically at the end of the day. The tide would literally come into the little town, wash things away, and flood it.

The roads were made of a mixture of sawdust and dirt (remember, it was a logging town) and when the horse and carriages would come through the city, they’d poop on the street. The tide water became a combination of many things, including horse poop. There were some sections that had a consistency of oatmeal, and were like quick-sand causing people would drown. People literally risked their life to walk down the street.

In 1889, the city had a massive fire (miraculously, nobody died) and it cleared out thousands of rodents that carried diseases. It gave the city the chance to rebuild in brick and stone, and fix the tide issue. They decided all new streets would be graded one to two stories higher than the original streets. During this construction, the streets were built first and the sidewalks later. Merchants stayed open during construction and used ladders for people to climb down to their store until the sidewalks were complete. Lots of people actually died falling off of these ladders.

Once the sidewalks were complete, the storefronts were moved to the 2nd story, and the first story now became the basement, and the underground was born. Buildings were not connected to each other underground, but it gave way to the seedy happenings in the city. They installed makeshift “skylights” using little glass tiles so light came through. You can still see the mosaic titles on the sidewalks in Pioneer Square.

In 1907, the city condemned the underground because of bubonic plague carried by rats. After years of most of the underground being abandoned, they restored a few sections and started giving tours. In 1965, Bill Speidel starting giving tours and still operates today (which is the tour I took).

The city also spent time regrading the other parts of Seattle and demolishing the cliffs so houses and roads could be built. They used high-pressure water hoses to make the cliffs more like steep hills.

The tour was fascinating and I was able to see a few underground sections, including the Comedy Underground club, where comedians perform. Learning the history helped me to understand why the streets were so crappy and full of potholes – they sink 1/8th of an inch every year because underneath them it’s still sawdust and dirt.

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After the tour, I walked around downtown a bit and messaged a guy I had been talking to on Tinder, Jerry. I told him that it was my last night in Seattle (wanted to be clear I don’t live there as to not repeat the previous date I had when I first arrived to Seattle) and I was told I need to try the oysters. I asked if he wanted to go and he said he did and would pick me up.

I took an Uber back to my Airbnb to change into pants and freshen up. I thought it was nice he offered to pick me up. Most guys say they’ll meet you somewhere so this felt promising. Jerry arrived and I got into his car. He was about 5’11” – 6’ tall, with blonde/reddish hair, and was on the thinner side but fit. The wrinkles on his face made him look older than 32.

We decided on a place in downtown and Jerry had to parallel park. Backing into the space up a steep hill, he was nervous he’d mess up since I was watching. It actually felt nice for someone else to be nervous.

Jerry hadn’t eaten oysters in about 10 years so we didn’t know which ones to order. I said, “I’ll ask the waiter for help.” Jerry responded, “I’m usually embarrassed to ask and show I don’t know.” I explained, “Yeah, but my take on it is this. You ask and are embarrassed once. Then you know how to do it going forward and don’t have to worry about it again.” He smiled and said, “That’s true.”

We ate the oysters but agreed we don’t care for them very much. While eating, I learned a little more about Jerry. He has his master’s degree, was in the peace corps for two years, and is a project engineer for a nonprofit in Sierra Leone. He spent two years in Sierra Leone but told his company he can’t keep living there. They compromised and said he can do three months there and then three months in Seattle, as a rotation.

After oysters, Jerry asked if I wanted to walk around so we did. Lots of people were walking the streets as a parade had just finished. We walked for close to an hour and I noticed my hand kept hitting his. I thought my purse that was crossed over my shoulder must be bumping my hand into his hand. At one point, I quietly said, “Sorry”. But then I noticed Jerry kept looking at my hand. I thought, “Wait, is he trying to hold my hand. Crap. What do I do now??”

My problem is that I get very nervous at the anticipation of meeting someone, or holding hands, or kissing. It had been 2-1/2 years since I separated from my ex-husband after being married for 9 years. I hadn’t held hands or kissed anyone since my ex. Part of me just wanted to get it out of the way because otherwise, the more time that passed, the more anxious I became about it. It felt like a “build-up” and I would start to feel sick to my stomach.

Jerry and I arrived at a bar and he bought me a beer. Sitting close to me at the bar, Jerry became more flirtatious. Right after we finished our beers, the bartender asked if we wanted another one. As I was about to say yes, Jerry said no. Then he turned towards me and said, “If we’re going to have another beer, I shouldn’t drive so we should go to a bar close to my house. I can park in between my place and your place and walk you home after the bar and then I can walk home.” He lived about half a mile from where I was staying so it made sense.

As we left the bar and walked to Jerry’s car, he held my hand. It felt really nice to hold someone’s hand – it was sweet and genuine. Once Jerry parked near his house, we walked towards the bar and he continued to hold my hand.

We arrived at the bar, but it was closed. Jerry said he knew of another one nearby, but it was a dive bar. I was fine with that so we headed there. He bought us some beer and we sat across from each other at a small table near the pool table. I was holding my glass with my left hand and I noticed he kept looking down at my hand. So I grabbed my glass with my right hand and let go of the glass with my left hand. Jerry grabbed my left hand and held it. Then held it with both of his hands. I’ve never had a guy hold my hand across the table before and it was sweet.

We had a good conversation and it felt like Jerry was a good guy. When I felt he was going to kiss me, I got nervous and continued talking like a crazy person. Finally, we kissed! It was sweet and instantly I didn’t feel so nervous. It’s the lead-up that makes me feel sick. I hadn’t held hands or kissed someone in so long, I forgot how nice it was to have human touch. We are designed to have human touch – it’s one of the five love languages. I never realized how much I missed it until I didn’t have it for so long.

Jerry thanked me for asking him to get oysters and I thanked him for going with me. I knew I’d likely never see him again, but I was ok with that. He had spent a lot of time in Sierra Leone and I think he was in the same boat – we needed to connect with someone, even if it was just temporary.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

Day 34 – Hiking and Discovering Tinder

The fan attempted to cool me off as I relaxed in my Airbnb, and I researched places to stay in Vancouver, British Columbia – my next destination. Sadly, I was finding some bad places online. For example, I found two listings by the same guy for $27 a night. In one listing, you could stay in the old, crappy motorhome sitting in his driveway. You are allowed to use the indoor bathroom and kitchen, however. The other listing was a couch in his living room. It was looking like Vancouver was going to be an expensive city to stay in.

To pass the time that evening, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for Tinder. I had heard that Tinder has changed and now people find actual relationships on there, not just hook-ups. Very quickly, I started to get matches and messages, which felt a little overwhelming. It was also addicting. I had a hard time stopping myself from swiping – the guys on there didn’t end. I wanted to see who else was out there.

The next day, I went for a hike in the mountains about 45 minutes east of Seattle, called Granite Lakes Trail. I found the trail on an app I use frequently called, All Trails. It was about eight miles long, and involved just under 2,400 ft elevation gain. I enjoy a hard hike because it feels like a successful workout.

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I didn’t start the hike until around 3:00pm (I was up too late diving into the world of Tinder). The stifling heat made sweat start to pour right away. The trail winded through the trees, had some amazing views, and at times had a river nearby.

 

About a mile into the trail, I passed three older women, each about 50 feet away from each other. Shortly after that, I passed a man and his mother. After that, I didn’t see another person the entire hike. This can be a little scary at times but I’m pretty used to it.

After 3.5 miles, I had to stop and put on bug spray as bugs were eating me alive. There was no breeze and the spray sat on top of my sweat. Shortly after I stopped to put on bug spray, I heard something in the bushes that lined the narrow trail. I stopped, turned off my headphones, and looked around.

Researching trails in the area, I saw reviews that said people had seen a mountain lion. People gave advice about never turning your back on a mountain lion, always look them in the eye, and back up slowly.

This terrified me because I was used to preparing for black bears. With black bears, you should make yourself look large, talk, make noise, and scare them off. Reading those reviews about mountain lions, and how they can easily tear you apart, made me paranoid.

Hearing something in the bushes made my heart race. I was certain it was a mountain lion and he would kill me. I slowly pulled out a small pocket knife from my side pouch on the waist belt of my backpack. I opened it and held it on top of my trekking pole. I slowly walked in silence with my heart racing, looking in all directions. I know that knife likely wouldn’t save me, but it made me feel like it was better than nothing. These are the times it’s scary hiking alone.

Terrified, I ventured on and made it to the top, which had a beautiful lake. There were some giant rocks just off the lake to the side so I hopped over smaller rocks to a large one that I could sit on and eat a snack. The mosquitos were insane at the lake so I put more bug spray on and watched them coast on the water.

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After eating my power bar, I headed back down the trail. The sun was behind the mountain as dusk set in. By the time I got to my car, I was starving. It took about 15 minutes to get to the highway and I searched for somewhere to eat.

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I spotted a Costco off the highway, and a slice of cheap pizza sounded delicious. As I walked towards the window, the employee announced, “Last call for food”. I picked up my pace since I was in the parking lot and he said “Ok, just for you, I’ll stay open.” I ordered a slice of pizza and a frozen yogurt. Sitting outside to eat, the sun had now set and it was dark outside.

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By the time I got back to the Airbnb, it was around 9:30 pm, and I was exhausted. A match from Tinder asked if I wanted to go over to his house but I declined. I showered and went to bed. As I laid in bed, I was “super-liked” by a guy who was 36 years old.

His first message to me was, “You know those word association tests? The first thought that came to my mind when I saw your photo yesterday was that you were my kindred spirit.”

I asked him what made those words to mind. He responded, “You look REALLY familiar. When I look inward to understand where this feeling comes from, I stumble across a divergence between who I am, and who I imagine I am. Your image represents who I think I am, so it makes me really happy. It’s like you are a ‘warm and fuzzy’ machine on full blast! But that is just physicality; important, yet ultimately fixed. What about the things that we can change?”

“Whoa,” I thought. “Maybe I got myself into more than I expected”.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek

 

Day 32 – Review of Modern Romance

On the train ride back to Seattle, I finished reading a book that I borrowed from my friend Tim, called Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari. I’m a fan of Aziz and shortly before I left Los Angeles, I had a lengthy discussion with Tim about dating in 2018 and how different it is living in the digital age. He let me borrow the book and I had been reading it the last couple of weeks.

Aziz partnered with psychologists, researchers, and conducted many group interviews with people in their 20s and people in their 80s. I laughed out loud on many occasions reading the book and there are several things I found interesting. I highly recommend you read it, but in the meantime, here are some excerpts that I thought I’d share:

  • Throughout time, people got married out of necessity; for example, having children available to help on the farm. When Aziz talked with women in their 80s, they said they got married because it was the only way to get out of their parent’s house. It wasn’t acceptable for women to live on their own so at age 18-19 years old, they got married – only to discover that they were now controlled by their husbands. In today’s culture, women can and do live on our own all time. We have jobs and are successful in our own right. We no longer need to get married to move out of the house. I’m happy to be alive in a time when I can live on my own, that’s for sure.

 

  • The options we now have for partners has expanded from people living on our street or small town, to the entire world. This has really given us decision fatigue and too many options in most cases. We’ve gone from “I need to find a partner for necessity” to “I don’t need anyone, but I’d like someone. They should be my “soulmate””. We now look for partners who complete us in everything – which might not actually exist. I think that’s a pretty tall order to live up to.

 

  • The amount of cheating in marriages is astronomically high. Aziz stated that “According to the national representative survey data, in the United States 20 to 40 percent of heterosexual married men and 25 percent of heterosexual married women will have at least one extramarital affair during their lifetime”. It doesn’t make marriage very appealing.

 

  • We have a fear of settling down. Aziz says “When the opportunity to settle down presents itself, the glamour of the single life and all the potential options loom over our heads. The continuing fear many singles expressed in our interviews was that by getting into a serious relationship, they weren’t settling down but settling. In today’s climate many people are plagued by what we will call “the upgrade problem”. Singles constantly wonder whether there is a better match, an upgrade.” He goes on to say it’s even harder in large cities where you can walk around and see beautiful people all around. Or you can see all the beautiful people on Instagram and wonder if they’re a perfect match. He says, “Yes, you have someone great, but are you sure they’re the greatest?” I definitely saw this phenomenon in Los Angeles – I never felt like I was good enough because men are surrounded by beautiful women and I always got the sense they wanted to see what else is out there.

 

  • When people are falling in love, there is a chemical reaction throughout the body. It increases cortisol and dopamine, and you’re basically not thinking straight because it gives you a high similar to that of drugs. But it can only last up to two years – at which point your brain balances itself out so it can resume normal life. The passionate love then turns into companionate love. This is a love similar to what you feel for family members. It’s a sudden and dramatic drop from passionate love to companionate love and when this happens, many people think they must be with the wrong person because the passion fades. But it’s chemistry and it will happen. You can read more about it here.

 

  • In Japan, they have a crisis in which young people are not getting married or having children, and have no interest in having sex. It’s gotten so bad that the government has intervened and spends money hosting events for young people to meet (and hopefully get married and have kids). That just seems crazy to me. But is the rest of the world soon to follow?

 

  • Over a third of marriages are couples who met online. Where once it was seen as a place for the desperate to meet, it’s now very common. It has surpassed people meeting through school or church.

 

The book was both hilarious and informative. It is hard dating in today’s world. No other time in history have we been afforded so many opportunities and options in life – including in our dating life.

Compared to when I was in my 20s, the dating scene changed dramatically since I re-joined it after my divorce. When I was dating in my early 20s, we didn’t have Facebook, Instagram, or smart phones. In the last year, I’ve discovered the cruelty of online dating. Ghosting (where someone just disappears out of nowhere) is incredibly common. I’ve deactivated accounts I had on OKCupid, and Coffee Meets Bagel a couple of times. But it’s really hard meeting people who are single and interested in dating when you’re in your late 30s. So, I inevitably end up back on the sites.

After reading the book, it helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone. People all over the world are experiencing this shift in dating – the “soulmate search”. It’s not easy but I still have hope that a partner is out there, going through the same headache I’m going through and hoping to meet someone who will get him off of these sites.

Post Edited By: Misty Kosek

Days 28 – 29: A Date in Seattle, WA

I took the ferry from Whidbey Island to Seattle. I love taking ferries. It’s fun to drive your car on, go to the cafe, get a coffee, and wander outside to check out the views. This ferry ride was just about 40 minutes which was long enough to enjoy the sun reflecting off the water and watch the islands in the background.

It was very windy at the front of the ferry where I stood and there were just a couple of us braving it outside. My hair was flying all around so I tied it back with a hair tie. I had a death grip around my phone when I took pictures and two little girls with their dad were laughing as they tried to take a step against the wind.

I arrived to the Airbnb just after 5:00 pm. My room was a converted garage at the back of the house. Following the instructions from Airbnb hosts is always like being a spy who has been given covert instructions to break in to a place.

The street was incredibly steep so when I opened my trunk, my suitcase started to fall out. I opened the gate to the tall wooden fence and there was a small sidewalk leading to the backyard just to the right of the house. Per the instructions, I followed the narrow path to the backyard and opened another small metal gate.

The garage was across the brick patio and I opened the door. The first thing I saw was a washer and dryer on one side of the room. In front of me, I saw that the owner’s had hung a sheet to hide all the items stored in the garage, and on the left side of the room was a step up to another door that led to my  room.

This door had a glass window on the top half with just a sheer cover, which didn’t leave a lot of room for privacy.

I opened the little lock box next to my bedroom door using the code provided. The key was inside and I used that to open the door to my room.

The room had a bed, desk, a coffee maker that sat atop the dresser, a microwave, and some plates and cups. There was also a small refrigerator and a portable AC unit. The bathroom was very small – like European small.

There was a skylight above the bed with a white/sheer covering. It was nice during the day, as it let in the sunlight – the only other windows were two small rectangular ones at the top of the wall. This skylight became annoying in the morning, as the sun shone on my face and I’d find myself turning to avoid it, then within minutes the sun would follow me and I’d have to move again.

I was glad to have my own space. After checking in, I went to a nearby salon and got my nails done in preparation for a date I had the following day. After that, I picked up some groceries (sandwich, salad, crackers) and relaxed.

I wrote the next morning and later went to the Ballard Locks. This was one of the recommendations made by my previous Airbnb host. The lake meets the ocean but they are very different depths. The lake is much higher than the ocean water so there are several locks that boats go inside, the water either drains or raises depending on which direction the boats are going, and then the boats continue on. The locks create the same water level so they can pass through. It was interesting to watch the boats all pile up and wait for the water level to change.

The salmon also use the locks to travel. They are born in the freshwater lake and once they’re mature they swim to the ocean where they live for about five years. At the end of their lives, they find their way back to the lake, where they lay their eggs before they die.

There are windows below the locks where people can watch the salmon coming and going. It was mid-July so there weren’t that many going back to the lake but it was amazing to see. The locks help them so they don’t have to jump so far upstream to get to the lake.

After seeing the locks, I went back to my Airbnb, ate dinner, and got ready for my date. I connected with a guy from Coffee Meets Bagel the week before and he asked if I wanted to go over for a bonfire and yard games. I love both of those so I said yes. Then he mentioned that he was a craft cider connoisseur and “maybe he’d break open a bottle”. I love ciders so this sounded like a nice time.

He was 39 years old, just a year older than me. His name was Aaron. Yes, the same name as my ex-husband. I wondered, If we were to date, how would I refer to them? New Aaron and old Aaron?

Aaron ended up messaging me saying he was running behind and asked if I could come a little later, around 9:20 pm. He said he’d give me a big hug when he saw me if I accommodated his request. It didn’t get dark until around 9:00 pm so I said sure.

He asked where I was coming from and I told him I was by the zoo. He grew up in that neighborhood but now lived about 15 minutes away. He said, “You’re not too far away”. I thought, Not too far away? In LA standards, this would be considered down the street.

I was nervous for several reasons.  1) There’s always the fear that once someone meets me in person they won’t actually be attracted to me. It’s difficult to tell just through pictures. 2) He seemed excited about what neighborhood I was coming from and I was worried he didn’t realize I didn’t actually live there. I thought my profile was clear that I was just traveling but maybe it wasn’t.

I parked on the street but it was hard to find his house in the dark. I messaged him and he said he was in the backyard and had just started the fire. He came around to the side and peaked his head over the tall wooden fence so I could find him.

When he opened the gate, he seemed a little surprised. Not a bad surprised, but a surprised like how people look at me when they see how tall I am – 6’1”. My height is listed on my profile, but people still seem surprised.

He looked like his pictures but a little older. He was about my height, maybe slightly taller, with light brown hair. He had a button up casual shirt on and looked responsible. I wasn’t super attracted, but he was okay.

Aaron did not give me that hug he promised and it felt a little awkward. I’m sure I was giving off a weird vibe because all I could think about was, what if he thinks I live here? It’s going to be very awkward.

As soon as we started walking to the backyard, he said, “So how long have you been in Woodland Park?”

“One day.”

“Wow!! Really?”

“Yeah, I just got to Seattle. I’m traveling…”

“Oh…”

There it was. Awkward. We got to the fire pit in his huge backyard. There were several lawn chairs around it, but only two that were the nice padded ones. I sat in one of them and then he sat in the other padded one. We weren’t seated next to each other, as there was a folding chair between us.

I was very uncomfortable because I felt like he thought I had tricked him into thinking I lived there. Though I thought I had made it clear. We ended up talking for a couple of hours and it was all friendly. But there were no yard games and no cider bottles were broken.

He asked me what my plan was and I said “I’m not sure.” I was pretty vague because I felt awkward being there – like I disappointed him because I didn’t live there.

I think we both realized it wasn’t going to work but there was a fire started so we might as well make the most of it. He kept putting more wood on the fire so I figured he must be ok that I was there. We talked about his job with the city (he’s a software developer) and the housing market in Seattle. The houses in his neighborhood have tripled in value in the last five years. It’s about as bad as LA.

I was a little bummed because his profile said things like:

• He likes to “question the norm as much as possible. Humans were given the ability to think outside the box”.

• He likes to “debate life’s mysteries”.

I was hoping that he’d be open to an unconventional situation – like me traveling. But it turned out that he was pretty conventional after all.

After a couple of hours, he started to let the fire die down. Then we stood up and talked some more. I told him that although I joke that I retired at 38, I actually planned on finishing a book I was writing and make a documentary after that. He seemed more interested in me after I told him this. Then I realized he didn’t know much about me and at the beginning of our conversation that night, I probably looked very flighty saying I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. Lesson learned. I need to remember that people just meeting me don’t know I’m actually very responsible and I do have plans. But I suppose I look pretty flighty to someone just meeting me.

Aaron walked me to the gate and then he kept talking. He gave me tips of things to see in the city and told me (multiple times) to text him if I had any questions or couldn’t remember any of the tips.

We said goodbye and I left. No hug, just a “Goodbye”. I was disappointed because I realized it was going to be very hard trying to date while traveling. I had been hopeful that maybe I’d meet someone on my travels and somehow, we’d make it work. I guess I’m still naive – although I like to call it being a hopeless romantic. But either way, the dating world just a lot harder.

Post edited by: Trisha Harmon

Days 17-18: Discovering Portland, Oregon

I purposely booked nine nights in Portland so that I could take my time exploring the city, get some writing done, and not have to pack/unpack every one-two nights. I needed to get my tire looked at since it kept losing air so I took it to Costco. For $10, they repaired it and removed a hard piece of plastic. While I waited for it to be repaired, I ate at the food court and noticed they had acai berry bowls available and Al Pastor Salads – both items I had not seen at Costco before. You can tell a lot about a city by what the restaurants (including fast food) serve. They cater to their markets.

Around 4:30 pm, my friend Justin met me at the hostel to hang out. I met Justin while hiking the John Muir Trail two years prior; he was the first person I had met on the trail. During the second night of hiking, I was exhausted, and I didn’t know where to set up my tent. He helped me pick out a spot and we chatted the following morning as well. We stayed in touch, messaging every several months or so.

Around 40 years old, thin and fit, with ear-length dark hair (with some grey hair starting to show), Justin is attractive and has a good heart. He works as an engineer and used to be a director at his company until he decided he preferred to have more time outside of work. Years ago, he spent time biking through different countries and camping. He’s a rare mix of business and outdoorsy. Justin has been in Portland for about 13 years and is originally from Pennsylvania. He came to Portland for grad school and stayed. Overall, he enjoys it, but he has to get out of the city every winter for a few weeks and go somewhere that has sun and no rain.

He arrived at the hostel in shorts and a t-shirt, holding a refillable water bottle. He suggested we walk around the city a bit and explore. Justin mentioned there was a rose garden not too far away and we could walk through some trails to get there.

As we walked through the northwest corner of the city towards the park, we caught up on our lives and my recent travels. When we got to the park, the trail was uphill, including many stairs that were covered in trees. It was very hot outside and I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Regretting my decision not to wear shorts, I started sweating right away.

We climbed the stairs and my heart was racing. I have bradycardia, which is a slow heartbeat. I’ve seen a cardiologist a couple of times because it’s usually in the low 40’s (during a 24-hour heart monitor test, it dropped to 38 while I was at work). They determined I have a murmur and it skips, but they can’t do anything to speed up my heart, except put in a pacemaker – and I’m too young for that. For the most part, it’s fine. But when I go up stairs or climb a mountain, my heart starts racing and it gets hard to breathe. It’s like my body doesn’t know what to do with a fast heartbeat. It’s frustrating because I start to breathe heavily, making me look out of shape. I do a lot of cardio to try to help with it but haven’t been able to fix it.

It’s embarrassing and I tried my best to not appear like I was dying. After too many stairs to count, Justin and I arrived at the International Rose Test Garden. It was absolutely worth the climb. Row after row of roses in all colors and sizes were lined up. Justin said we could check out any rose we wanted and we browsed along as we continued to talk – smelling some along the way.

After checking out the rose garden, we headed back towards the downtown area. There is a section of town were food trucks are always ready to serve. We checked out the whole square block and I decided on getting a gyro wrap and Justin got some vegetarian Greek food. We took our food and walked a couple of blocks to a city park. It had a water fountain, tables and chairs, and was pretty much all concrete (except the trees giving some shade).

Justin and I found a table, ate our food, and chatted about the dating scene. Justin and his girlfriend met online three years ago and dated for about six months but then broke up for a while. They started dating again and he recently moved in with her. I told him about my woes of online dating – how guys would match with me and then not message. That in L.A., guys always think they can get someone better because it’s the city of models and actresses. And then there’s the ghosting phenomenon where guys just simply disappear for no reason at all. Justin said when he went on a date with a woman and didn’t feel the chemistry, he’d always tell her instead of ghosting. This confirmed my belief that he’s a good guy. His advice to me for online dating was to be picky and only go on dates with guys who I really liked. The thing is, I think my problem has been that I’m too picky.

We headed back to the hostel around 8:00 pm and continued to have great conversation. Justin had to get home so he headed home after we got back to the hostel. I really enjoyed hanging out with him. It was also nice to have someone show me around the city as a local.

The next day I had an appointment at The National University of Natural Medicine (it is a school of naturopathic medicine) for a nasal balloon clearing. My doctor in L.A. had recommended I go there because my allergies are always so stuffed and I have a deviated septum. My ENT doctor wanted to do surgery to correct the deviated septum but I thought trying this might help clear everything out.

When I arrived at the center, I had to fill out all sorts of paperwork and insurance information. When I left my job, my health insurance ended when I was no longer an employee. With Cobra, you can elect to keep your same insurance plan for up to 18 months, if you pay the premium. I was very lucky to have an employer who paid my premiums 100% so I didn’t even know what the cost was. When I left the company, I found out it would be over $500 a month to keep my plan. I decided to keep it through the end of the year since I had already paid so much into the deductibles. You have 60 days to enroll into the program and I was waiting to receive all the forms in the mail to my parents’ house. During those 60 days, once they receive payment, the insurance plan will continue uninterrupted. However, at that very moment, I was in the beginning of the 60-day window. I knew the insurance would be retroactive and there wouldn’t be a gap in insurance but I was afraid they’d run the card and find out it had technically been cancelled. Thankfully, they accepted my card for the time being.

The naturopathic college has students learning as they practice medicine. A young girl grabbed me from the lobby and did a thorough exam, following everything she was taught. I wasn’t prepared for such thoroughness as I thought this would just be a quick exam. The good news is that I no longer had a job to get back to, so I wasn’t stressed about the time. Normally when I’d go to doctor appointments, the anxiety would set in because I usually needed to get back to work and every minute sitting there waiting on the doctor caused stress. But not working any longer made me much more relaxed.

The student doctor did all her tests and questioned herself when she took my heart rate – 42. When she put it into the computer system, it was flagged with an exclamation mark. This always forces me to explain my slow heart beat and that I’ve seen a cardiologist multiple times and it’s fine.

The doctor came in and went over all the things I could do to improve my allergies to pollen and then said he might not do the procedure because of my deviated septum. What?! I was devastated. I came all that way and was very hopeful for some relief. He was also concerned that my eye doctor had wanted me to follow-up with a neurologist about my blurry vision and fuzzy optical nerves in my eyes, which I had yet to do. I basically pleaded with him to do the procedure and assured him I was fine. He said he’d try to do the side with the deviated septum first because if it was too restricted, he wouldn’t be able to continue.

I laid on the table and he put a device up my nostril and it went through. Then came the part where he shoots a balloon thing up my nose. He described the pressure like going into the deep end of the pool quickly. It lasts about 2 seconds, is painful, and does indeed feel like going into the deep end of the pool. I held my breath and it hurt. It immediately made my eyes water. Now I know why he gave me tissues before we started.

The doctor did the left nostril and it went in perfectly. Then he had to do three different cavities in each nostril. It was a total of four painful shots up the nose on each side. Each time I had to hold my breath, experienced two seconds of pain, and then my eyes watered. On the third one, my ears popped.

Once we were finished, the doctor said, “Good job. You know, doctors are now doing this procedure and putting people under anesthesia.” I can see why. It hurt! But it didn’t last long and my nose was clearer. The doctor said it would be clear that day, but tomorrow would likely get clogged again and then get better a few days later. However, patients need to do this procedure two-three times, spread out over a few weeks. What?! I thought this was a “one and done” type of thing. I told him I would only be in Portland for another week but he was out-of-town the following week. I agreed to come back in two weeks since I’d be in Seattle and it wouldn’t be too far away. As for the third time coming in, that would have to wait until further notice.

I got back to the hostel and watched some episodes of the Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu on my ipad mini. Through the thin wall I could hear a few guys talking in the kitchen. One guy had a southern accent and two guys had Indian accents. Here are parts of the conversation I could hear:

Indian accent: “Do you want a beer?”

Southern accent: “No thanks. 1 beer turns into 15. I can never have just 1.”

Indian accent: “Why are you in Portland?”

Southern accent: “I’m here with my business partner for a seminar.”

Indian accent: “Oh, we’re just here for fun. How old are you?”

Southern accent: “I’m 23. You?”

Indian accent: “Guess”

Southern accent: “24?”

(Laughing)

Indian accent: “No, I’m 32 and have my PHD!”

A little later…

Indian accent: “I also do standup comedy. I’m still trying to find that one perfect white racist joke.”

Shortly after, they all decided to play a card game that was on the bookcase in the kitchen. It made me laugh that I could hear their conversation word for word and they had no idea.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek