The Summer Of (Not) Dating

I gave up dating for the summer.

This was a self-imposed “No-Dating” rule, and as someone who spent the better part of three years as a serial dater, this decision was more difficult than it sounds.

I never considered my dating life as busy, but I realized that every time I went out with girlfriends they would ask about how the dating life was going, and I’d have a handful of stories to recount—most of them terrible.

Somehow I had developed the idea that dating, and dating often, was just what single people did. Single people that did not go out and have drinks with members of the opposite sex at least once a week just seemed odd to me.

What were they doing with all of their free time?

But after looking back on the past three years of dating, short-relationships, and heartbreak, I felt it important to go back to square one: no dating for the summer.

And when I said no dating, I meant it.

There wasn’t to be any interaction that could be confused for dating. No getting drinks with a kind gentleman from Twitter that I had a crush on. No meeting men at my favorite bar. No getting coffee with the classmate I’d been interested in throughout my whole graduate program. And absolutely no surfing Match.com.

And surprisingly, I only broke the “No-Dating” rule once. And honestly? I didn’t miss it.

By shifting the attention from other people back to myself, the results were tremendous. When I embarked on this dating-free journey my friend Sarah gave me a piece of advice that became the mantra for the summer: If there’s no one there to spoil you, spoil yourself.

…and spoil myself I did.

The summer’s mission was to see how much happiness I could create for myself (and those around me) and I would consider that mission accomplished. Since I spent most of the summer hesitant to write, here are the highlights from the Date-Free summer.

The City: I started this summer realizing that it could very well be the last summer that I ever spent in Chicago. With the completion of school and the desire to relocate, the prospect of never living within walking distance of all of the places and sites I love struck a sense of urgency in me to do and see everything.

  • I went to the remaining museums I had not seen.
  • I spent evenings down at the Harbor with Lola watching the sailboats.
  • I finally went to Kuma’s for one of those obscenely large (and delicious) burgers.
  • I stayed out until 4 am one night, just to go to Carol’s.
  • I walked around my favorite neighborhood and chased tennis balls in Welles Park with my dog.
  • I had cupcakes twice from my favorite cupcake place. And while those calories might be regrettable, there’s something about enjoying every cupcake like it could be your last.

School: I completed the last two classes of my graduate school program. Since I had a bit more free time than usual (see: no dating) I really dove into my final semester and enjoyed it to the fullest. I completed the most in-depth research project of my educational career, something I’d spent three semesters working to complete. Having a beer with my classmates overlooking the Art Institute the night we handed in our final projects is easily the proudest moment of the summer.

Traveling: It’s a bit difficult to travel on a shoestring graduate student budget, so this became the summer of road trips.

  • I saw the Black Keys in Milwaukee.
  • I surprised a friend in Indianapolis by showing up for her birthday party.
  • I visited family in Michigan.
  • I spent one impressive summer evening on a beach in Indiana (I didn’t know they had beaches, either) with a flask of bourbon and one of the best girlfriends.
  • I drove the 12 hours to Washington, DC to see my sister for two weeks.
  • I went to Boston, which was one of my favorite weekends of the summer.

While some of those trips involved other people, some of them did not. There’s something to be said for vacationing alone, and I think embracing being alone is something that most of us are not capable of doing.

But this time, something was different for me.

The countless hours in the car with my own playlists were perfect. No one to tell me to turn it down or stop singing, I put the accelerator to the floor and sang like Mick Jagger for hours on end.  And the prospect of walking the streets of Boston agenda less (and alone) brought a genuine smile to my face, as I ambled along Newbury Street. It was in the moment that I sat on the cobblestone patio of a small coffee shop sipping a café au lait that I realized what it meant to truly embrace happiness in solitude.

Baseball: Easily the best part of the summer free of dating was the baseball. And there was a lot of it.

It’s amazing for someone who writes as much as I do, that I’ve never developed much of a memory for things. I put my journaling skills to good use this summer in an attempt to remember more baseball. Along with the scorebook I use at every game, I kept another notebook in which I logged all of the games I attended. This notebook has a pocket, so I kept all of my ticket stubs and random baseball cards I’d collected along the way in there.

29 games at 11 different ballparks*

And having the opportunity to see so many games this year has really helped evolve my love of the game. Going alone allowed me to focus on keeping score, studying pitchers, and getting back to the fundamentals. Being there gives you the time and the angles to study the shift and the fundamentals of the game that you can’t always see on TV.

When I watch a game at home, my tendency is to focus on things like sabermetrics and the pitch(fx), but at the game, the focus becomes simpler– like did the right fielder remember to back up the throw to first?

While I’m not sure I will ever have the opportunity to see this much baseball again in the future, I will embrace this summer of baseball as one of my greatest memories of this stage of my life.

I’ve been hesitant to do any writing lately, but when I woke up this morning to 61 degrees and the beginnings of that fall smell, I knew it was probably time to reflect on the summer and look forward to all of the changes that come with this fall for me.

In two weeks my time in Chicago will be over. Just in time for fall, I’m relocating to a place where I can appreciate the leaves changing, cider mills, and eat those delicious apple cider donuts.

I am trading the city noises of trains and sirens blaring for a quiet porch that backs up to a completely silent field (I plan to listen to the playoffs on the radio from this spot).

And I’ll spend the fall trying to figure out what changes I need to accomplish by the following summer…because it seems like my life will be dramatically different by then.

*This number does not include spring training games.