Fear of Flying

PUBLISHED December 3, 2018

I detest LA. The smell when the air hits is so distinct and familiar – similar to something you once ate that made you violently ill. It’s an involuntary reaction on a cellular level that I have to this place. And I say ‘this place’ because I am in LA right now; in a corporate hotel near enough to the airport to enviously hear the planes taking off.

Sure. Maybe I’m scarred. It is, after all, where someone I cared deeply for came and lost himself. At least that’s how I saw things from Pennsylvania. It was also where I spent the brokest summer of my life right after college; where I dinged my rental car and had my heart broken (again); where I’ve always felt lonely.

It’s a tough place to find your niche – your people. Not a place for wanderers. Not a place for ones without an agenda. And even after having spent so much time here, I can never figure out where the fuck I am in relation to any other place I’ve been.

LA is just not my scene. And I’ve tried. I stayed in an Airbnb in Venice for a week that almost made me entertain the idea of a West Coast life. I will admit that I think the ramen is better here than in New York. And being near the ocean is…being near the ocean. Epic and indulgent.

I came out for a work trip in the middle of the week. We had just spent the previous weekend in Philadelphia for the Thanksgiving holiday and to attend the wedding of someone my boyfriend had gone to summer camp with. Two nights in my own bed later and it was off to the LA. I left on a Wednesday and he was to come out that Thursday morning. The annoying thing was… as soon as a I took off in a car to head for the airport I started to miss him. And as I navigated my way from LAX the short distance to the hotel I was burdened with a longing that he were just out here already.

We spend so much time together in a way I feel off balance without him. It’s an odd effect that generally only lasts the first day or so of being apart. But it creeps up in the side of my mind, like I forgot something but I’m not sure what.

My first instinct is to really not like that, to not like that feeling of being a part of a whole. Because I’ve always advocated for completing yourself; of belonging to no one but yourself. And it’s hard for me to understand how you can participate in a partnership without sacrificing some deep and sacred part of yourself. And it’s disorienting to understand how I could be a person who really would prefer to  spend most of her time with one single individual.

For so long I had this fear of the ‘shared identity’ – of being in a relationship where the ‘girlfriend’ version of myself was not exactly aligned with the just-plain-old-me version of myself. I feared there was an expected way to act as a girlfriend and an expected way treat another person as a girlfriend. That all of a sudden because you were in this committed thing you had certain expectations placed on you, and that The Relationship required the fulfillment of some specific curriculum in order to be successful.

I feared having someone out there in the world on whom my behavior reflected, who was associated with me and everything that came with it. And that once the cat-and-mouse chase of early infatuation wore thin, it would be revealed I was just a flesh and blood human being, maybe nothing dramatically special at the end of the day.

I guess in large part this fear boiled down to inexperience. I only knew how to be an individual, of how to blatantly disregard what anyone thought of me. I didn’t want a shared identity where I was viewed as a reflection or extension of anyone.

My tarot card readers really dug into my relationships – past and present – during my last reading. It had been almost three years since I had last seen them, and needless to say a lot was different. I went into the session with the intention to talk about work, and careers, and my future, since that’s what had been on my mind. But the conversation eventually turned towards relationships. I got them up to speed and introduced them to key information regarding my current boyfriend.

They are… unorthodox, to say the least, when it comes to relationships. Although, I find their point of view to be true to the authentic nature of human beings. They believe soul mates are those who come into your life for a certain period of time because on a cosmic level you have been drawn to each other. Sometimes that connection lasts a lifetime, sometimes it doesn’t. They believe ‘marriage’ is an identity that carries with it its own expectations and demands – separate and apart from any of the couples who enter into it – and for that reason to be wary of rushing into one. And they believe that relationships should serve, at the end of the day, the two individuals in them.

That is to say… your relationship should help you develop as an individual, should assist you on your personal aims, should enhance you as a person first and foremost. The primary purpose of a partnership is to further elevate the participants. Period.

Being yourself in a relationship and accepting the other person for who they are are really your only options. I realize this now. There is no changing another person, not even if in your heart you believe it’s for the better. And there’s no changing yourself, there’s no performing a version of yourself you think you should be.

I’ve begun to understand that the thing I’ve feared most – feeding this third and invisible entity called The Relationship – isn’t the gold standard of modern dating. Being in a healthy, committed relationship doesn’t mean sacrificing parts of yourself to satisfy some unnamed whole. It’s about honoring the relationship by being exactly who you are. Of expecting your relationship to be the primary place where you can be yourself. Where who you are is embraced and respected and fulfilled and encouraged.

And, not to gush, but I am in just this type of relationship. Once I calm the jitters it becomes clear that I don’t have anything to worry about. So long as I stay true to myself. And never move to LA.

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