Because sometimes it’s better to launch the shot

There are some things in life with which you might be extremely familiar in some ways but that can still teach you or remind you of truths you need to hear.

For me, two of those things are weddings and basketball.

On Monday night (their first night as a married couple in their home), they had me over for dinner. I love them more than froyo.

When I met Amanda and Phillip back in January, I knew from the second that I saw them that I wanted them to be my people. (I’m pretty sure that they didn’t initially feel the exact same way, but I think I grew on them.) They got married over the weekend, and it was so fun and so special to be a part of their day and to see them start their forever together. I love seeing people take chances on love and chances on each other—it’s beautiful bravery that can change their lives in ways they’ve never imagined.

So as not to stray from the norm, I went solo to the wedding. I sat at Table 5 with a bunch of people I didn’t know (most of whom work with her or are married to people who work with her), and I knew from the second that I sat down that it was going to be a great night. And this is kind of a big deal—I really don’t like numbers in increments of five. But meeting new people brings me tremendous joy, and these people immediately made me feel welcome into their circle (they pretty much all knew each other already). They didn’t judge me in any way and didn’t ridicule me for bringing my own ketchup and Wheat Thins to accompany my tacos.

They simply did what people have the ability to do best—they loved me for who I am.

My Table 5 homegirl Ashleigh is so freaking awesome that it’s ridiculous.

It can be tough to be vulnerable and genuine sometimes, but I really think that there’s no reason to live any other way. Yes, you’re taking a chance by putting your real self out there, but it’s a chance that you need to take if you want people to know the real you.

Whether you’re the person walking down the aisle or the person getting floor burn on the top of her foot from the dance floor (I’m not referring to anyone specific), weddings are good places not only to remember to love people for the individuals they are, but they’re also good places to remember that you have to take chances every once in a while in life if you want your dreams to come true. Take Amanda and Phillip, for instance: They took chances on each other, and now they’re spending the rest of their lives together.

Which leads me to the basketball court.

I joined a men’s basketball league. A couple of my coworkers are on a team, and it sounded like my cup of tea. Our first game of the season was Monday night, and it was a lot of fun (especially because we got the W). There was one point in the game when I got the ball and had an open three, but I didn’t take it. I passed it off, instead. A few of the guys had been yelling “shoot it,” and then my teammate Jeff later said this to me: “Sometimes you just have to go for it and launch it up there. If you miss, meh, you miss. Just shoot it.”

Wise guy, that Jeff.

He’s right. The next open three I had, I took the shot. I missed. It was really ugly, actually. (Behind the arc is not my sweet spot—I’m more of an elbow shot kind of girl.) But I felt better about actually launching it up there, like Jeff had advised me. I really do believe that it’s often better to try something and fail at it than never to try at all. You have to take chances in life if you truly want to live.

You can’t make shots that you don’t take. You can’t achieve dreams that you don’t work toward. You can’t do life with people if you don’t take the time to know them and invest in them.

I’m thankful that I got that second chance at the three-pointer. That’s not always the case, though. You only get one life, and you don’t always get multiple chances at the opportunities that are placed in front of you.

So launch that shot—and, as soon as it leaves your hands, believe with everything in your being that it’s going to be nothing but net.

Whitney Houston wanted to dance with somebody, too

It’s not always easy to reflect upon the journey that’s gotten you to where you are.

Especially when your life is nothing like you thought it would be.

This past weekend marked exactly 10 years since I graduated college, and that made me feel really old. It was one thing when I had my high school reunion four years ago, but this took on an entirely new level of adulthood. I started thinking about the career path my life has taken since I entered the big kid world in 2007—from sports reporter to teacher to senior writer at a financial services firm—and then I couldn’t help but also think about the nonexistent dating path my life has taken.

And, of course, all of these thoughts piled up right as I was about to attend a wedding by myself.

There’s something about a wedding that can be tough on the single folk. Sure, it’s a beautiful day of celebrating the love of two people beginning a lifetime journey together, and you’re absolutely happy for them, but it’s also a reminder that you don’t have that and might never have that one person who picks you out of everybody else in this entire world.

And that can often feel like a dagger to an already hurting heart.

This particular wedding was a little harder than others. The last wedding I went to was my sister’s in the fall, and it truly was such a wonderful day. It made my heart soar to see my sister so in love and so happy to be marrying the man we’d always hoped she’d find. I was surrounded by my family—the people I love most in this world—and my heart felt so full. For the most part, I even managed to brush aside the thoughts that the guy who was supposed to go with me to that wedding had changed his mind and told me (in a text, of course) that he didn’t think it was a good idea.

But I didn’t have my family with me at this one to help remind me of what love really is and what it really does.

Post-wedding fatigue set in.

When the usher took my arm to seat me, he asked me how many people were here with me. I said I was the only one, and he managed to find me a lone seat right on the end of a row. I chatted a bit with the people near me and looked around to discover that I didn’t see many people I know. After the ceremony, I escaped to the restroom before heading to the reception, and I even considered bolting right then so as to avoid being surrounded by so many couples. But then I remembered that this night wasn’t about me, and I needed to be there for my friend and her new husband.

I ran into a family I know, and I asked if I could tag along with them. There actually wasn’t enough room for me at the table where they were sitting, so I went to another to ask if there were any open seats. Big shocker: There weren’t. A sweet new friend sitting at the family’s table called my name and said we could pull up a seat, and she snagged a chair for me.

This is why we need people, people—to help remind us that we’re not alone.

A little bit into the ceremony, I again considered leaving. Then I remembered that I love to dance, and I should never let my solo status keep me from dancing. Ever.

When Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” started playing, it hit me: This is why it’s been so tough lately. I really do want somebody who loves me to dance with me. I want somebody who picks me out of everyone else in the world. I want somebody who cares when I’m hurt and tries to make me laugh when I’m upset. I want somebody who appreciates my quirks. I want somebody to want to love me and want to be loved by me. And, just like my homegirl, I want somebody who’ll take a chance on a love that burns hot enough to last.

I don’t know if that will actually happen, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that it’s something I hope for in my life.

Maybe you’ve already found your person. Maybe you’re still waiting or searching. Maybe you’re not and are content. Regardless, I think it’s important never to miss out on the opportunities you have before you simply because you might have to do them on your own. Life really does go by so quickly, and there are only so many chances to seize moments right in the midst of them and live a life of passion without caring what other people think of you.

So if you want to dance, for the love, get out there and dance.

Because sometimes the plus-one thing doesn’t happen

The saying “This ain’t my first rodeo” annoys me, so I think I’m going to change it up a bit and say something else.

This ain’t my first wedding. (This obviously won’t always be interpreted the right way, so I’ll keep you posted.)

Weddings are not foreign events to me—I’ve been in 19 and attended plenty more as a guest only. I enjoy weddings because they’re fun celebrations of people beginning journeys together that you hope will last for their entire lifetimes.

But weddings can create predicaments for those who—whether by choice or simple reality—are flying solo.

My sister is my go-to plus-one. In fact, the only two guys who were ever supposed to go with me to weddings both bailed on two separate occasions—one lived in a different state and decided a few weeks before the wedding that he was too busy with work to be able to get away for a weekend, and the other merely changed his mind and didn’t want to go. My sister would never do either of those things, and she’s actually endured some pretty awkward and entertaining situations at weddings where she knew pretty much nobody but me. (If you ever meet her, please ask her about the chocolate balls story.)

We have a slight problemo for an upcoming wedding, though: My sister is going to be out of town for another wedding. She has a husband, so she doesn’t need me to be a plus-one. It’s fine.

My sister wasn’t able to be my plus-one at her own wedding, so I went solo. (photo courtesy of the great Kelsey Brown)

Now, I’ve gone to weddings by myself before, which has always been easier when I’ve been in them, but I don’t think I’m going to know that many people other than the bride at this one. Will I survive? Yes, and I’m sure I’ll meet some great people. Even though it’s not always as fun to go stag, it can still be a fun night.

In order to convince others (and myself) of this, I’ve compiled a list of ways to turn a wedding without a plus-one into a great evening.

Dance. I cannot express the importance of this strongly enough. You should always dance, even if you don’t have anyone to dance with you. Plus, you don’t have a date to try to impress with your sweet moves, so you can really let yourself go. And when the slow songs come on, you can twirl around the floor on your own, take a restroom break, catch up on Instagram posts, or make small talk with the people around you who are not swaying with others.

Be more carefree. Even when you’re getting ready for the wedding, you can have less anxiety about how your dress looks on you or whether your hair looks better down or pinned back. You’ll likely also have less stress at the wedding, too. I mean, you don’t even have to keep track of where your date is or worry about if he’s having fun, because you don’t have a date.

Be more daring. A dateless wedding is a great opportunity to meet more people and strike up better conversations than those regarding what the weather’s been doing lately or surface-level information about your career. And if you’re really feeling bold, you can test out a joke or two without worrying about whether or not people laugh. If they don’t, you may never see them again, so who really cares? The only person who can make fun of you to you later is you, and hopefully you won’t do that.

Scout. If you’re flying solo at a wedding, there’s a chance you won’t be the only one doing so. You might meet someone who strikes your fancy whom you never would have met if you’d brought a semi-random plus-one or skipped out on going altogether.

Let’s be honest: The real reason you go to a wedding is to celebrate the union of people you truly care about, and the event isn’t actually about you and your dating status. But it’s definitely an event that can remind you of how single you are and how much you wish you had someone in your life, as well. Someone who knows everything about you and still wants to be with you. Someone who will fight for you. Someone who will endure the bad moments and celebrate the good ones. Someone who will always cheer for you. Someone who will hold your hand and genuinely care when you cry. Someone who would never intentionally hurt you.

Someone who consistently shows you what true love is and what true love does.

Being single isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it can certainly be challenging at times. It shouldn’t be something that sucks out happiness, though. Some people find their people later in life, and some never find them at all. Regardless, it’s important to find the joy even in those moments when you feel the most alone.

After all, if you look around you, you’ll realize you’re never as alone as you might think you are.

“When are you getting married?”

There are certain things in life that involve processes you must go through to get to them–you know, like actually combining two slices of bread with peanut butter on one and jelly on the other before you can eat a quality sandwich.

And, unless you partake in various cultures that do marriage differently than I’ve always known it, you should probably go on a date before thinking about a wedding.

A coworker of mine asked me today when I am going to get married.

He clearly doesn’t know much about my life.

I’ve been to and in quite a few weddings in my day, and thinking about my actual “big day” has never really crossed my mind. I’ve never even gone on a date, so I think that would be stepping ahead a bit too much. It did give me a chuckle, though, and I told him I would prefer to go on a date before I even let the thought of a white dress and a handsome fella in a tux gazing at me how I’ve always wanted enter my heart.

Of course, then he proceeded to ask me why I haven’t ever gone on a date. I’m never really sure how to respond to that question, so I gave him a somewhat, “Oh, I don’t know” answer in hopes that we could change the subject. A lot of people seem to think that there is something strange about a 29-year-old who has never dated, and perhaps there is. But it’s not like every guy I meet strikes my fancy, and I certainly don’t have guys throwing rocks at my window to try to get my attention. And, unlike in so many movies I’ve seen, I didn’t have some romantic love-at-first-sight encounter or a friendship that blossomed into true love.

It’s not always as simple as we’d hoped.