I have happy hour every evening at my house on Balboa Island at five o’clock p.m.
“Every evening?” My neighbor’s boyfriend, who was visiting a while back from Germany, perked up when I announced this his first night in town. He knew no one in Newport Beach and his girlfriend typically doesn’t get home from work until after happy hour (sorry anyone with a job that doesn’t let you out in time for happy hour. Here’s a list of career counselors in case reading this post makes you want to change that.)
“You’re welcome to join, whenever,” I said.
And so, everyday, there he was, at my blue Dutch door. “Hellooooo?” I’d hear him through the open window. “I’m early. Sorry, I’m early!” (NOTE: Never apologize for showing up early to my house for happy hour. Apologize for being late—I hate a late happy hour. But by three o’clock I’m usually sitting at my desk wishing it were five, so I could—without judgment from myself or society—make a cocktail.)
“So, how’s it going, with the guy from the bar?”— His first question on our fourth happy hour. I’d met this great guy at a bar here in Newport. I honestly did not think it was possible to meet a great guy at a bar in Newport. We’d since been on three or four dates.
“The dates have all been amazing,” I said. And they were—each one a reminder of how much fun dating can be. Our chemistry was off the charts. We weren’t going to boring, stuffy dinners in super expensive restaurants where the whole time I was sitting there thinking, why does the cheapest entree have to be thirty-five dollars? What if I order a thirty-five-dollar piece of salmon and then end up not liking him and he pays? Is that stealing? It sort of feels like stealing. And stealing is bad. Am I a bad person? Oh fuck, now I need another drink. Eighteen more dollars…
No, we were playing pool in dimly-lit bars and roller blading (why did we ever stop going roller blading?) and making out at red lights (which was such a nice change from all those times I’d been stuck at a red light thinking, Come on now, light, Goddamnit, turn green!)
“But…?” my neighbor’s boyfriend said. A but was coming. (My body language is terribly telling).
“But,” I went on. “I’m not sure it’s going to lead to anything.” The guy was dealing with a lot. He was majorly stressed. I felt bad about this. I’ve been majorly stressed before and know what it’s like to not feel like yourself because all you can think about is the fact that you’re stressed. And if the sun will come up tomorrow morning. And if you have to control that. Because it suddenly feels like you have to control that, too, in addition to everything else you’re already controlling.
“Well, have you enjoyed your time together?” my neighbor’s boyfriend asked me, taking a sip of his whisky.
“So much,” I said. We’d had so many great moments. There was this one moment, in particular. I was standing in my kitchen. What I was doing in there, I’m not quite sure. Definitely not cooking. I can’t cook anything. The cashiers at Trader Joe’s must think I’m an unhealthy, raging alcoholic who owns a botanical fucking garden. I rarely buy something you can’t put on a cheese plate, drop in a cocktail shaker, or clip and stick in a vase.
But, beside the point.
For some reason I was in my kitchen, with him, and I was wiping a tear from my eye because I was laughing so hard I was crying. I don’t even remember what I was laughing about. I just remember thinking: this person is lovely. And this moment is lovely. And life, right now, is just lovely.
“Then leave it at that,” my neighbor’s boyfriend said. “Why does it have to end in a relationship to mean something?”
Gosh, I’d forgotten I used to think like that. All the time. Almost to a fault. I’ve never been end-goal focused. In college, I dropped out for a year and impulsively bought a ticket to Charleston, South Carolina to live there for a while and try my hand at writing. A few years back, I quit my jobs and went traveling in Europe. Last year, I rented a house I didn’t know if I could actually afford because I got caught up in a moment and really loved it.
But this year I’ve been getting asked a lot by people: “Are you married yet?” Followed by: “Are you a successful writer yet? Successful anything yet?” And it’s hard not to think: Shit, am I behind? Am I maybe living life wrong? I need to set some goals: Find boyfriend! Publish something!
It’s good to have goals, I believe. It’s nice to want things and move in the direction of our desires. Otherwise, we’d be wandering aimlessly through life without purpose or intention and I think having purpose and intention enhances our lives. But I also think it’s important to not let our goals and the desired accomplishment of them interfere with our enjoyment of life. We don’t always have to ask of our experiences: Will this get me closer to…a boyfriend, a husband, having a baby, my dream job, my dream home, my dream life? After all, the acquisition of any one of these things is just another moment itself. And once it’s over, we will want something else, something new, something more.
There really is no end goal. There are only moments. Some painstakingly brutal. And some breathtakingly beautiful. I’d momentarily lost sight of that. And in case you have too, let this be your reminder.