By Emalee Rodriguez
In the movie Slumdog Millionaire, the main character, after spending most of his life in the slums of India, finds himself able to answer every question correctly on a prestigious game show, leading him to win millions and go from rags to riches overnight. The purpose of his story is to illustrate fate, that his seemingly insignificant handful of life experiences leads him to exactly where he is supposed to be — and gives him the exact answers he needs at the exact moment he needs them. His life is threaded together with even the most harrowing experiences shepherding him to his destiny.
Well, oddly, I was thinking about this movie as I started reading a book I ordered recently on Amazon. See, I was on a first date a few weeks back, and my date suggested I read this book of stories based on his first impression of me. As a 29-year old single heterosexual New Yorker dating online, I’ve had my share of first blind internet dates. And, most of them are not pretty.
But, when I step back and think about all the things I’ve learned from all these men I’ve met, I start to have a different perspective.
Take this book I’m reading, for example. It really rocks. I would have never thought to pick it up had not this blind date suggested it. Even though I will never see that person again (as I did not enjoy spending two hours at a bar with him), he did give me something that impacted my life experience.
As many single people in a digital dating world can attest, dating is hard. Period. It’s also made harder when you’re in your late twenties and it can feel like everyone has been playing a huge game of musical chairs and you’re the one left standing when the music stops. In many ways, dating is rejection, vulnerability, confusion, stress.
But, lately, I’ve been trying to Slumdog my dating life with an “everything happens for a reason” point of view. What if these seemingly painful experiences are actually leading me to exactly where I’m meant to be?
Every interaction, every date with someone new, I learn something new about the world and the people in it. For example, one time I went on a date with someone who ran the Artificial Intelligence department at Google — fascinating and scary stuff! There was also that dude who hiked through Patagonia, giving me a glimpse of what it’s like there. There were many men from other countries (Iran, India, Sweden, etc) who’ve taught me about their culture through food and music. The list goes on and on. Through dating, I’ve also experienced different parts of the City I would have never tried, gone to new restaurants and bars, and done some really fun things.
And, most importantly, I’ve not only learned about the world and the people in it, I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned to have more empathy for others; I’ve become more confident in who I am and how I present myself to the world. I’ve become more open-minded. And I’ve learned that maybe the flip side to vulnerability, rejection, confusion and stress is something more important: hope.
So, whether your journey is online dating or nursing school or moving to a new city or dealing with family issues or your own issues, try to take everything in stride. Every experience does lead to the next, all strung together in some cosmic algorithm that will put us all where we need to be. We’re able to conquer the next thing because of the battles we’ve fought before.
And if you don’t buy it, if you don’t believe in Slumdog’s illustration of destiny, the truth is that pain, discomfort, and vulnerability are still the only pathways to change. So, lean in to this wild ride whole-heartedly with gratitude, curiosity, and an open mind.
Emalee Rodriguez is a guest blogger for JCS
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.