You know how certain conversations stick with you? It could be a conversation with a best friend, your favorite grandmother, or in my case, a complete stranger on a flight from Guatemala to Chicago.
I threw my luggage in the overhead compartment and took a seat in the middle of two older men. One didn’t even look in my direction, and the other flashed a huge friendly grin. He had neatly jelled white hair that matched the pinstripes in his suit. He could have been Anderson Cooper’s doppelganger.
It’s an involuntary impulse; every time I see someone with a wedding ring, I ask their love story. Blame it on my profession. He didn’t seem to mind.
He spoke with such enthusiasm, as if not one word was less significant than the next. He owned a financial planning firm, which normally wouldn't perk my interest, but his enthusiasm! He left me hanging on his every word.
He guided families throughout their entire lives, one major financial decision at a time. He planned for their children's future; college tuitions and weddings. He was there every step of the way. These families had become extensions of his own family.
Rather than developing a God complex for possessing control over the future of multiple people, he showed gratitude and humility. His gratitude sprang from the opportunity to come in contact with so many types of individuals, each teaching him something unique, enabling him to have an eclectic world view.
I finally poured into my normal slew of questions; How did he meet his wife? How did he know she was the one? What constitutes a happy and lasting marriage?
He said, “If I were to give you any piece of advice, it would be to surround yourself with people from all walks of life.” He went on, “Spend time with people twice your age, three times your age, from completely different worlds. Volunteer for an orphanage. Go to a chess club. Join a rugby league. Put yourself in places where you are forced to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet."
“Put yourself in places where you are forced to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet.”
He explained, “This will have the highest impact on not only your personal life, but on your dating life. When we create our social circle, rarely do we step outside of our comfort zone. We see the same people, we have the same conversations, and while these relationships are meaningful and enrich our lives in other ways, we will never grow and we will never expand our dating horizons. You may start dating someone from within your social circle, and comparatively speaking, he is great…” He emphasized the word comparatively.
He continued, “Then you meet a new person or a new group of people, and everything changes. You are introduced to a new guy that brings this light into your life you didn’t even know was possible. He will add color to your world, add flavor to everyday situations. This, my dear, is when you will know you have found your person, and it is only possible by expanding your social circle and being introduced to different worldviews. If there is one piece of advice to offer you, it is this, and the one that has brought me to my beloved wife.”
“When we create our social circle, rarely do we step outside of our comfort zone. We see the same people, we have the same conversations, and while these relationships are meaningful and enrich our lives in other ways, we will never grow and we will never expand our dating horizons.”
I thought a lot about his advice. Finding the elusive 'one' doesn't merely rely on the statistical fact that by meeting more people, you're increasing your chances of finding the right person. Yes, this is true, however, it runs deeper than that. It's finding out that your most desired quality in a partner is something that has never previously crossed your mind. It's discovering a need you didn't even know you had. It's realizing a specific characteristic that compliments your personality style in an unimaginable way.
A traveler roams the world to gain a new perspective into his own life. He does this by seeing new things, meeting new people, and being immersed in new cultures. Similarly, being an explorer in your own dating life allows you to gain new insight into your innermost wants and needs. You don't need to plan some big, extravagant worldwide journey. All it takes is the motivation to learn, grow, and discover what it is that makes you tick in a relationship. It takes courage to throw away pre-conceived notions of what constitutes the "perfect guy" and open your mind.
I had a feeling that my flight companion had a collection of advice assembled over the years. I wanted to adopt him as my second father so he could bestow his wisdom on a daily basis. I would be so wise! Knowing that wasn’t possible, I asked for his business card instead. Our 2 hour, 4 minute flight had ended, and we parted ways, but his enthusiasm for life stayed with me. I went home and threw out my list assembled over the years of desired qualities in a man, and hopped online to signup for an event I never thought I would attend. I was going to be a traveler in my own dating world.
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