I think I’m a romantic again, or at least getting closer to being one.

I’m not sure how long it’s been since I could truly say that I’m a romantic, both in thought and in action. Maybe close to a half decade. And the weird thing is, I think I have online dating to thank in a very roundabout way. But before I get there…

The very first romantic gesture I can remember doing was making a ‘love mix’ back when mix tapes (or CDs) were all the rage. I’m not sure the intention of these CDs, but I do know that it was really fun to make out while listening to them (and still is!). I also know that when I made them, I truly was making them for the sake of love. I made them to express how deeply I felt for someone. I felt so strongly that I often would forget to listen to the lyrics and accidentally included breakup songs and songs of love lost. Back then, and really still today, I confuse or associate passion of any type with love, and music has a way of wringing every last ounce of passion from my soul. So we made out long into the night as the lyrics of ‘November Rain’ played from my radio.

The second grand romantic gesture of my life involved a pair of glasses and some pretty bad acting. Long story short, I found myself on top of a mountain at night in the middle of nowhere with my soon to be girlfriend and her friends. But I needed to find a way to spend some time alone with her for the first time. So I left behind my glasses on the seat where I played guitar, and we soon found ourselves making the 40 minute trek back to campus. Once in the parking lot at school, the poor acting began and I furiously tossed my coat to the ground and proclaimed that I needed to drive all the way back to the mountain to get my glasses. She either couldn’t tell I was faking or didn’t care, but she hopped in my truck, alone. We watched the sun come up 5 hours later from that mountain top.

The most grand romantic gesture of my life was proposing. Although things didn’t end up how I hoped or planned, it was still a moment I’ll never forget. I’ve never been so nervous in my life. I went fishing for two hours before proposing at the edge of the lake and I don’t think I spent one second actually thinking about fishing. I rehearsed over and over in my mind what I would say and I can remember thinking to myself, “how do you summon the perfect words to encapsulate what one person, the person, means to you?”. Despite the last ditch efforts of a angsty pre-teen taking a stroll to the lake at exactly the wrong time and place, I stalled long enough and eventually managed the right words and was engaged.

But ever since that relationship ended, I lost sight of the romantic in myself. I went through another two year relationship during this time and somehow the old me never surfaced. Sure, I half-heartedly tried at times, but I think I thought passion was enough to carry us through.

Since that relationship, I’ve dated a lot. I joined online daters in search of the one or…something less at times. The problem with online dating is the sheer numbers of people you have or hope to have access to. It really did feel like shopping at times. You get to preview how someone looks, followed up by some cursory information (if you’re lucky), before swiping left and hoping for a mutual left swipe.

After a while, I found myself starting to devalue people because, if it didn’t work out, there was always going to be someone else to swipe on. Because of this devaluation, the romantic well dried up completely. Sure I did the basics like holding doors and paying for meals, but c’mon, that’s hardly romance.

It’s not that I didn’t like these women either. In fact, I liked the vast majority of them. A few of them I even entertained the thought of a future of sorts, but for some reason I wasn’t even thinking romance. And that right there I think is key. It’s not that I was ignoring my romantic voice. Nope, it had stopped talking altogether.

I had this realization just a few weeks ago. I was dumbstruck at the thought. Where have I been? But I could feel the well starting to fill up again. That day I went and bought soup, fresh fruit, and flowers for the woman I was dating to help heal her flu. It wasn’t much, but for me, it was everything again.

The fact that I’m thinking about romantic gestures, both small and grand, let me know I’m finding myself again. I think I’m honestly ready for something real again, whenever she comes my way. I’m ready to make a new mix tape. I’m ready to dust off my old acting chops in search of a sunrise. I’m ready to buy a ring and…just kidding. Not even close to that. I’m perfectly content with a meangiful brunch, night of pinball, or a shared conversation over a tasty libation and see where it goes from there.

Finally, I’ll say this. Music is music again. It’s moving me. It’s starting to squeeze my soul, one cell at a time. And that’s where my dating life began. Back before I thought dating was so complicated and required no more effort than a successful swipe left. I’m back to when I believed finding love was so simple, yet required all of your energy to hold onto.

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