When you run into a dating app guy at work

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to run into someone I’ve interacted with on a dating app out and about in society.

And then it happened—at work.

I haven’t had what one would call “success” on the dating apps I’ve used. I’ve tried a few, but I only have an account for the Bumble now. I’m trying to have a positive attitude about it, but I’m still not a fan.

A couple of months ago, I chatted with a guy for quite a bit on the app, but the conversation eventually ended up fizzling out. Fast forward to last week, and I saw an unfamiliar name of an individual who was going to be in our weekly team meeting at work. I looked him up on LinkedIn to see if I’d seen him around the office before, but I instantly recognized him as someone I’d seen somewhere else: Bumble.

Well, this just got interesting.

Hi, I’m Natalie. I often end up in interesting situations.

He walked into the meeting after I did, and I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to say something to him then and create an awkward and embarrassing moment for him in front of everyone. It became quickly apparent that he recognized me, as well, so he didn’t make eye contact with me the entire time. He ducked out of the meeting a few minutes early, and I figured he probably had another meeting to get to right after that one.

Or perhaps he simply didn’t want to interact with me.

I saw him in passing right as I left the meeting, and seeing as how he was now empty-handed, he definitely didn’t look like he was rushing off to another one. It was obvious what I needed to do.

Me (stopping him and forcing him to talk to me): Hey, I know you.
Bumble guy (with a knowing-but-pretending-to-be-confused look on his face): Yeah, you look familiar. What’s your name?
Me: Natalie
BG (awkwardly looking at me and then looking away multiple times)
Me: Dude, we met on Bumble. We talked for a while, but it went nowhere.
BG (awkward laugh and sheepish expression, obviously wanting to turn and run): Yeeeaaaahhhhh.
Me: Don’t worry—I’m leaving soon. Next week is my last week. I’m going back to teaching.
BG (with an audible sigh of relief): Oh, whew. I guess we’re just two passing ships.
Me: Welp, good to see ya.

And then I turned and walked away.

That guy and I obviously weren’t meant to be, and it’s for the best. It reminded me that there are a number of things that haven’t worked out in my life (especially my dating life), and I know that there’s always been purpose behind those closed doors and diverted paths.

Being back in Dallas means getting to make mems with these gems.

Even leaving teaching to realize that it’s where my heart truly belongs was an unexpected turn in my life that has led me back to a place I’m beyond excited to be. Then I unexpectedly moved to California and went through a great deal of difficult emotions while I was out there, but it was one of the most incredible life-changing experiences that I wouldn’t trade, and it led me right back to where I’m supposed to be. And now I’m unexpectedly on dating apps at the age of 34 because all of the relationships that never happened that I wish did left me with an achy-breaky heart.

I’m still not sure how I’ll meet my lobster, but maybe that’s actually a good thing—after all, so many of the unexpected occurrences that have happened in my life have turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined. (However, if you know a single fella between the ages of 34–39 who is funny and kind and loves Jesus and sports and will dance with me and resembles Ryan Reynolds, please give him my number.) So I’m trusting that my future love story will be even better than any romcom I pretend I’m in every now and then.

And it will not involve two passing ships.

Because I’d rather not hesitate

Sports have taught me many important lessons in life, including one I needed to be reminded of recently: Don’t hesitate.

And it came courtesy of a pickle.

I went to the Rangers game on Sunday afternoon, and one of our players (I won’t throw him under the bus completely) frustrated me quite a bit early on in the game. He was on second base, and when his teammate crushed one deep into the outfield, he rounded third and started to head home. But then he changed his mind and decided to go back to third. At that point, though, it was too late, and he was in an actual pickle. (If you don’t know what a pickle is, The Sandlot is here to help. This is a cool one, too.

Thanks to sweet Cristy for the great tickets.

When our guy realized that he might not make it back to third without getting tagged, he went toward home again, then back to third. The third baseman had the ball, and the catcher had run too far when he made the throw, so home plate was wide open. The runner would have made it home if he had simply run full speed at that point, but he made a huge mistake.

He hesitated.

The third baseman was then easily able to catch him and tag him out as I let out a loud “NOOOOOO! Why didn’t you go?!?! You had it!” And then, as you’re supposed to do at ballgames, I turned to my friend Piper to make sure that she had seen what had just happened so that we could both agree that his hesitation ruined everything.

How much are we all like that baseball player? Rather than running as hard and as fast as we can at the things that we truly desire, we hesitate. We start to think and overthink, which can often be to our detriment. I mean, I get that we have brains for a reason, and we need to use them much of the time, but sometimes we just don’t—especially if those brains of ours are going to be crowded with fears and doubts and anxieties and lies and insecurities and assumptions and discouragement and all of the other negative factors that talk us out of doing the things we want and need to do.

Eating froyo and wondering where Starbucks guy is

After all, I hesitated with Starbucks cutie, and look where that got me. I went back one day recently, and he wasn’t there. IF YOU ARE OUT THERE READING THIS, CUTE GUY FROM STARBUCKS, LET’S GO EAT SOME FROYO TOGETHER. I’ve also hesitated way too many other times and am not proud of those moments, either. Michael Scott once quoted the great Wayne Gretzky in saying that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” which is true, but those shots you don’t take could also cost you more than simply missing out. For our Rangers friend, he was tagged out and didn’t get another chance to score a run. (I won’t blame the entire game on him, because we lost 12-4, but still. Come on, bud.)

And, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not hesitate and, instead, run like Phoebe with my whole heart.

You might have heard me mention before that I’m not a huge fan of dating apps, but I am on them because it seems like there aren’t many people meeting each other many other ways these days. And some guys at my pool last weekend were living proof. A few of them were sitting on the layout chairs beside the pool, and I could tell that one of them was swiping left and right, and he wasn’t looking up from his phone at all. Then I looked at the pool full of half-naked girls without guys with them and then back to the fellas. It made no sense. There was an actual pool of girls in real life, and they weren’t even trying to talk to them.

I had overheard enough of their conversations to know that none of them seemed to be in a serious relationship (the term “one and done” was used at one point when one of them mentioned a girl he had gone out with recently), and maybe it was simply that they weren’t attracted to the girls in the pool, but it was a little odd to me that they weren’t talking to any of them. I know that I don’t live in the movies or TV shows, but there would definitely be some guys hitting on these girls in Hollywood productions. I have eyes that work—there were plenty of gorgeous girls there that day.

I never hesitate to get bright pink nail polish.

Although dating apps can be very beneficial and have sparked some lifelong relationships, they can also allow people to get so comfortable meeting people via apps that they hesitate in in-person situations. And I’m sure that many people feel like they’re in quite the pickles: Do they approach people they see and are interested in, or do they solely rely on meeting people online, because that’s where everyone seems to meet these days? To those of you who met in high school or college or through friends or on a plane or at Starbucks or in the produce section or at work or at a park or somewhere else that probably belongs in a romcom, bless you. I don’t mean to be whiny, but it’s rough out there.

I hope that you don’t hesitate and, instead, go full stride toward home plate when you get caught in a pickle of your own. Life shouldn’t always involve time for “logic” and thinking—sometimes we simply need to leave all fears and doubts behind and follow our hearts.

After all, we were always meant to be brave.

When you’re waiting on fireworks

While I’m not a huge fan of waiting until 9:30 p.m. for fireworks shows to begin, I endure it once a year.

Because they’re worth the wait.

The Fourth of July is one of my absolute favorite holidays. For starters, it’s in July, which might be my favorite month. I love summer and the beach, and I feel like July is a month that epitomizes both of those things.

Who doesn’t love an impromptu parade photoshoot?

And I really love fireworks. Maybe it’s the hopeful romantic in me, but there’s something about ready fireworks shooting up into the air and going off at just the right time to light up the sky in uniquely beautiful ways that makes my heart soar. I always picture the scene in The Sandlot when the boys are playing a night pickup game together on the beloved holiday, and they all pause—completely captivated—to look up at the remarkable fireworks show going on in the sky above as Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful” plays in the background.

I also always think back to a night almost 20 years ago (how am I so old already??) when I was on a family vacation in Florida. We had gone on a trip with some of our extended family members in early July. On the night of the 4th, as we were waiting on the beach for the fireworks show to begin, I wandered off from the rest of the group for a little bit and walked along the shore, wrapped in my own thoughts.

I was just a young teenager at the time, but I was already feeling the pains of rejection that I had no idea would stick with me for far too many years. A lot of my friends had boyfriends or a handful of guys who were interested in them, and I could rarely even muster up the courage to speak to the guys I had crushes on back then. Walking on the beach alone that night felt lonely—and not simply because I was literally all by myself.

I hope this precious gem always knows how loved and valued she is.

I came to know Jesus the summer before I went into high school, so I was still learning what it meant to live a life of faith. (Heck, it’s been 21 years, and I think I’m still learning what that means every single day.) That night on the beach, I’ll never forget the prayer I prayed: God, please don’t ever let me give my heart away too soon. I want to wait for the right guy You have for me, wherever he may be. Even if that means my first kiss isn’t until it’s with my future husband—maybe that’d be for the best, anyway—I want to wait. I pray for his heart right now, and I pray that You would keep working in mine. And I pray that one day I’ll be able to watch fireworks with him on the beach. Amen.

Bless my heart. I had no idea what kind of waiting was in store for me.

I remember that prayer so well because I’ve thought back to it so many times since the words left my heart and my mouth. The fireworks started as soon as the “amen” popped out of my lips, and I knew with every ounce of my innocent heart that God had His own fireworks show prepared for my life.

I’d be lying if I said that this whole waiting process has been breezy and enjoyable. In fact, many days, it’s the opposite. But I think back to that moment when I was a teenager on the beach, and I’m confident that I was meant to say that prayer because God knew that there would be a great amount of waiting involved for me. I even get a little sad that my first kiss wasn’t with the last man I’ll ever kiss (well, unless I never kiss anyone again), because that’s what my young heart truly wanted.

I don’t know how much more waiting I’ll have to endure until I fall in love with the man who will love me back forever. If we go solely off of my success on dating apps and in-person interactions lately, it’s an indefinite amount of time. But I know that God often makes things happen in the blink of an eye. I don’t think it necessarily has to be “when you least expect it,” because I think there’s value in having expectations, but I do think it often happens how you least expect it—at least that’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

I’ll forever love California, but this right here is why I moved back to Texas.

This Fourth of July, I ran with my sister, then went to a city parade with my family, then over to my brother’s for some burgers and swimming with the fam, and then to watch fireworks with some dear friends. As I looked up at the beautiful sky that evening, surrounded by two couples, I couldn’t help but have a heart full of gratitude. No, I still didn’t have my man to watch fireworks on the beach with me like I prayed for so many years ago, but I have more love in my life than I ever imagined possible. And I really do have an answered prayer—I prayed that I would wait for the right guy for me, and I have.

I recently finished reading Everybody, Always by Bob Goff and was once again reminded of how big and powerful love is with or without romance ever involved. (If you haven’t read this book, get it ASAP. While you’re at it, get Love Does, as well. They’re both life-changing reads, and I’m not exaggerating.) In this time of waiting, I’ve been given a countless amount of opportunities to love others, and I want to make sure that I’m not passing these up because I’m too busy focusing on what I don’t have. If we constantly focus on what we think we’re missing in life, we’re actually going to miss out on a lot more because we won’t see what’s actually in front of us.

My ride or die—forever and always

I don’t know when I’ll find my lobster, but I’m OK with that. There’s a lot of good that can happen in the waiting and a lot of beautiful heart transformation that can take place during that time. The girl who prayed that trusting prayer years ago on a memorable July night in Florida has gone through quite a bit to get to where she is now and has learned the tremendous value that can come from independence and singleness. I wasn’t meant to walk the same paths as my friends and follow the same timelines of their lives—that’s part of the beauty in the uniqueness of all of our journeys.

If you’re like me and in the waiting zone for something in life, know that you’re right where you need to be. I have to hope and believe that all of the waiting isn’t for naught. I’m trusting that you’ll make it through all of the pain and the tough times to get to that beautiful finish line of endurance to your heart’s desire.

And it will be a freaking fantastic fireworks show that you’ll know forever and always was worth the wait.

Because dating apps have taken over

If you’re not currently in the dating world, I applaud you.

Because it’s a rough place to be.

Honestly, I don’t know if I can even consider where I am as “in the dating world” since I’m not actually going on any dates with anyone. I did, however, decide to try the life of a dating app girl again, and I can tell you that it’s just as unenjoyable as I remember.

This is how dating apps make me feel.

I’m not trying to be a negative Natalie, because there are surely a number of positive reasons to use the apps, and I know many people who have met their husbands and future husbands this way, but the amount of success I have experienced is currently sitting at a number less than zero, and I’m beginning to lose all hope in humanity.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I hate that ghosting is a thing. Like, why is it OK to lead a person on and then disappear? And it’s incredibly easy to do on these apps with people you don’t even know yet. I was talking to one guy in the app who suggested that we should meet. He seemed like a nice guy and messaged me the next day asking me how my day was. I replied and then never heard from him again. Most of the stories I have are pretty similar: We’re having conversations, make unconfirmed plans to get together, and then nothing.

If you’re not interested in someone, that’s perfectly fine—everyone is not for everyone. But I feel like it’s better to be honest than to leave people wondering what in tarnation just happened.

I miss Monique. Cali seems far sometimes.

I was chatting with my sweet friend Monique recently, and we were sharing our frustrations with the current reality we face (and, yes, we are completely aware that it’s a first-world problem and that there are much more pressing concerns that people have on a daily basis). She mentioned that she doesn’t think it’s too much to ask to want a guy who will text her back in a timely manner and then said something that was funny and so true: You don’t even have to give my dad any goats!

Seriously, fellas. You have it a lot easier than some of your bros back in the day.

I think one of the most important things to remember—whether you’re using dating apps or miraculously meeting people the more old-fashioned way—is that your worth is not determined by someone else’s opinion of you. It can be easy to start questioning yourself for multiple little things: Do I not look good in any of the pictures I chose? Did I not say something clever enough on my profile? Was that a stupid response? Why did he match with me and not respond at all? Why did he stop talking to me? Why aren’t any guys interested in me?

And so many more—these are only a handful of the ones I’ve heard more than once. If you met your person online or through an app, I commend you for your perseverance. I’ve all but thrown in the towel and joined a convent, but there are qualifications I don’t meet that prevent me from becoming a nun.

For those of you single gems out there, I don’t have much quality advice to offer you regarding how to meet your lobster. I even messaged a guy I don’t know on Instagram to tell him that he’s cute, and that went nowhere. So I’m clearly no expert.

I’m just happy to be here.

But I would encourage you not to lose hope. Sometimes you have to go through a lot of crud to get to the good stuff. You might get your heart broken. You might get your feelings hurt. You might hear more than one pie-crust promise. You might experience frustration and confusion and discouragement. You might spend more than one Saturday night watching Modern Family reruns while eating Gushers on your couch. You might legitimately research the requirements to become a nun. You might go through a heart-wrenching time and expend more energy than you ever wanted and ask the question “WHY?” more times than you can count.

And you might just discover that you’re a heck of a lot stronger than you ever knew.

It’s great if you want a relationship—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having that desire. I’m right there with you. But know that it won’t ever complete you, no matter what Jerry Maguire says. Your sufficiency and your identity can’t be found in other people. Whether you meet someone on a dating app or in person or not at all doesn’t change who you are and how valued and loved you are.

Because it’s a value and love that can only come from the One who would never swipe left or even think about ghosting you.

When you have great expectations

One thing I’ve always loved about Michael Jordan is that he had complete confidence in all situations he faced.

He expected to win every single time he stepped out on that court—even when homeboy had the flu.

Last week was the NFL Draft, which is a time when a lot of expectations are put on a lot of young men. Myles Garrett, the top pick out of Texas A&M, was taken by the Browns, and that top spot is full of great expectations. When you’re the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, you’re the No. 1 pick for a reason: People expect great things out of you.

But what if you don’t live up to them?

Sure, there have been some No. 1 picks who have been pretty incredible. You might recognize names like Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning—a handful of players who continued to live up to the hype around them. But then there have been some top picks who have been real busts. Does anyone remember Ryan Leaf, who was the No. 2 pick right after Manning in 1998? Not the Chargers’ best decision. Then there’s Alex Smith, who was the top overall pick in 2005 and went to the 49ers, but he did bigger and better things in his college glory days. I could go on, but I’m going to stop here.

The fact of the matter is that draft selections have a lot on their shoulders. I mean, the Cowboys picked a fella named Taco this year with purpose: We expect him to make our defense better.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having great expectations in certain situations. However, you do have to be prepared for the possibility that your expectations don’t pan out—and you have to know that it’s OK if that happens.

When I used to play soccer, I expected to score a goal every game. I know that might sound a little ridiculous, but it was something I believed I could do, and so I expected to score or at least do every possible thing I could to try in every single game. And, for the most part, I did that. Yes, there were games when I didn’t get goals, but I wasn’t super let down by that because I knew I had done what I could and that I would have future opportunities to score other goals.

But not all great expectations are as simple.

I expected to be a great dancer, but I never took any dance classes. Lord only knows where I got that outfit.

When I was a little girl and even a teenager, I fully expected my life as an adult would be like all of the fairy tales and romantic comedies I had seen growing up (darn you, Disney and romcom creators). I guess I never really thought I would find myself in my 30s and still doing the single thing. Yet here I am. And, for some reason, this one is harder to accept than not scoring a goal in every soccer game.

There have been times I’ve had crushes on guys and expected absolutely nothing to happen. Then there have been other times when I’ve actually had some hope and expectations—but zilch happened. In those instances, I felt kind of like Rachel in Friends in the episode when she buys that ridiculously expensive cat that she expects will be just like the one she had when she was a kid, but it turns out to be much more of a painful investment than she thought possible.

And, because of her high expectations, she had a great amount of disappointment when they weren’t met.

I was meeting a friend somewhere recently, and while I was waiting, I started chatting with a woman next to me who was scrolling through a dating app. She told me a funny story about a date she had and then mentioned how it was really difficult to meet the right person. I asked her what type of person she was looking for, and then she asked me the same. After we talked for a little bit, she asked me if maybe I thought my expectations were too high for someone to meet. I told her no—I know nobody is perfect, but I think it’s OK to believe someone out there is perfect for me.

And I do think that. At the same time, though, I have to go back to that young girl on the soccer field who thought that scoring a goal was the determinant of success. But it’s not. You don’t grow as a soccer player by getting a goal every game; you grow by pushing yourself through every moment of every game, regardless of the outcome, and putting forth your best effort for all of the other members of your team. It’s great to expect those goals to happen—but it’s even more wonderful to learn how to respond to the moments when they don’t. So I need to be prepared and alright with the idea that nobody is perfect for me, and this single thing is a forever thing.

We certainly aren’t always going to get what we want in life, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having great expectations, especially when it comes to the desires of our hearts. And maybe doing so can even help us treat others better: If you expect people to love you the way you are, love them for the individuals they are; if you expect people to care about you, care for others; if you expect people to remind you how much they value you, let those around you know just how valuable they are.

I can’t sit here and say everything I hope for will come true, but I can expect that I’ll end up where I’m meant to be, and it will be good.

So maybe we should all “be like Mike” and not be afraid to have great expectations.

That time I had a dating app for about 12 hours

There are many times in life when I should stick with my initial gut instinct.

Like when it comes to avoiding dating apps.

Even though many people have often encouraged me to do so, I’ve never wanted to join online dating sites or apps. I realize it works for some people and has even resulted in long-term relationships and marriages, but I just don’t have a desire to do it.

Which explains zilch about my actions last Wednesday.

I was standing with my friend Amanda, waiting for a work meeting to begin, and for some reason I don’t know, I turned to her and said I was thinking about downloading a dating app. She said I should and then help me set it up and showed me how to use it.

Before the day ended, I deleted it.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not really even seeking anyone. Do I eventually want to find the person I love who loves me back and forgets everyone else when I walk into a room? Sure. But I don’t want to force it. Maybe I was just feeling emotional or frustrated that day—I’m not exactly sure what made me make that temporary rash decision, because I knew as I was downloading it that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.

It could be that I was looking for something to help me get over the heartache I’ve been going through, because absolutely nothing seems to be working. I don’t like this type of pain—it’s so much more difficult to ignore than physical pain is. It hurts a lot when someone plays with your heart and emotions for months and then decides to show you that he doesn’t actually care about you at all and really doesn’t even care about the friendship you had, either. So maybe I downloaded the app to try to forget about that.

Shocker: It didn’t work.

tree
Sometimes sitting in trees makes me feel better.

I’d rather meet someone by getting hit with a frisbee at a park or by making some comment that he finds endearing on a random encounter (yes, I know I watch too many romantic comedies). I usually don’t like surprises, but in this case, I want it to be something that takes me by surprise. And I want it to be something that makes me forget about the past broken hearts—not because I tried but because that’s simply how naturally powerful it is.

When I was a freshman in high school, I went to the local YMCA with my sister, and I told her to lie about her age (she was one year too young) so we could get in and go play basketball without our parents there. She got yelled at by a lady who worked there, and we had to leave. She cried the whole walk home and wouldn’t talk to me. Our mom saw us as she was driving home and picked us up, and then my sister wouldn’t talk to me in the car, either. She went straight into her room, shut the door and continued not to talk to me. I’m well aware that I had been a horrible older sister that day and deserved it. But this was my baby sister, and I needed to make her feel better.

Cue LeAnn Rimes.

I took our family boombox (ah, the glory days) into her bed room and sang “The Light in Your Eyes” to her. I apologized, she forgave me, and that song has held a special place in our hearts ever since.

So I wasn’t surprised when she called me on Sunday morning when I was very upset, and she busted out some of the lyrics. I had been training for months for a half marathon I was supposed to race that day, but recent kidney issues and some new back pain prevented me from being able to run without pain for the past few days. I woke up Sunday in enough pain to know that 13.1 miles would only make things a lot worse. I texted my sister later that morning to see if she was awake, and she immediately called me. I told her that I felt like the rain just wasn’t stopping, and she told me that there was only one thing she needed to remind me of in that moment.

Life can take your dreams and turn them upside down
Friends will talk about you when you’re not around
Reality can really cut you down to size
But don’t ever lose that light in your eyes

Keep on shining
Keep on smiling
Don’t lose faith, and don’t lose heart
When you’re crying
Just keep trying to remind yourself
You’re a shining star
Yes, you are

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I know that broken hearts don’t last forever. They might last longer than we want them to, but the wounds will heal. It’s often difficult to remember that during the tough times, but it’s good to have people like my sister around to sing to you to remind you.

Things won’t always go the way we want them to, but it’s OK to hope that they will. That’s why I’m going to continue to avoid the online stuff and dating apps—because I want to believe that maybe one day I really will be taken by surprise when I least expect it.

But even if I do stay single forever, I’ll still let the song remind me: Don’t ever lose that light in your eyes.