Ahh, Valentine’s Day, the licorice of holidays. Everyone either loves or hates this day. And while I don’t really have an opinion either way, I’m in favor of any holiday that gives me an excuse to eat more candy and give punny cards (seriously: “I choo choo choose you,” what’s not to love about that?) so I guess I fall on the love side. And I’m kind of OK with that.
Anyone who knows me well is rolling their eyes right now for two reasons: 1) It’s easier to like Valentine’s Day when you’re in a happy relationship and somewhat-newly-engaged and 2) I’m possibly the most sarcastic person in the world, so me saying I enjoy a cheesy holiday that involves love and hearts is a bit unexpected. To that, I say: 1) Fair, but I didn’t hate this day when I was single, I swear! and 2) Touche, old friend, touche.
Something nobody tells you about adulthood and one of the reasons people struggle so much in their 20s (oh, not just me? cool) is that in general it’s hard to meet people as an adult. Like, really hard. For the most part, you’ve spent the prior 20-odd years constantly surrounded by your peers. School, activities, sports, camp, all forced socialization that makes it extremely easy to meet people and forge relationships. But post-college, you move to the “real world” (not featured on MTV), hopefully find some sort of job, and suddenly, you go to work, come home, eat, and sleep. Anything outside of that, anything actually fun, requires effort. What a joke! For 22 years, there was no effort. I just showed up, and poof! Friends! And now I have to…work for it?
It was a culture shock. I’m not saying my early 20s were terrible and depressing and empty.They certainly weren’t. But it took me a while to get into the swing of making friends, and meeting guys was no better. I was fortunate enough to work with awesome people, but one cannot survive on co-workers alone. And so in the summer of 2008, with an up-for-anything attitude, a knack for Googling, and four friends, I signed up for kickball.
I realize this is hardly revolutionary. Adult kickball leagues are now all the rage. But in 2008, it was slightly more complicated and took a little longer to find Zog Sports. It was also totally unknown to us, so my friends and I were skeptical. It was nearly $100. For a kickball league? That seemed excessive. But Zog promised to put us on a team of new friends (and hopefully cute boys, we thought), we would play weekly games in Manhattan, there would be happy hours afterwards, and the prize for winning went to charity. So we gave it a shot. And our team was terrible (2-6!), kickball wasn’t as fun as we remembered (sorry, second grade me, but no), the happy hours were fine, but nothing amazing. It was comical, how wrong it was. It was almost enough to have me run screaming from organized sports for the rest of my adult life.
But at one happy hour, I got to talking with one of the girls on my team and we both admitted interest in Zog’s football league. (Sidenote: Zog has leagues in tons of sports around the city, ranging from football and softball to bowling and cornhole. All are formatted the same way, with games and happy hours, and there are varying levels of intensity so everyone from competitive athletes to first-timers are welcome.) One of the guys on our team had played football and said it was fun and that we should definitely play, so we decided to sign up. That fall, we joined a Zog football team of random players, once again hoping for cute boys and fun happy hours. Our team was even worse (1-7!), the boys weren’t memorable (mostly), and we barely went to happy hours. But somehow, on that random team was a girl I worked with but hadn’t spoken to outside of the occasional meeting. And through our terrible team and no happy hours, we became friends and formed another team that spring, with all mutual friends. We were convinced it would be a fun football season if we formed the right team.
Turns out, we were right. That was my second of eight football seasons with Zog including two championships (our team wore tuxedo tshirts, but sadly we are now retired as we were getting too old and injured to play), the year I met one of my best friends, and that spring was when I met the guy I’m going to marry. The guy who reads these columns and gives me honest feedback, the guy who cleans up my puke when I have a terrible stomach virus, the guy who laughs at my every impression of a dinosaur/robot/stuffed owl, even if it’s late at night and he’d rather be sleeping. It took several more months for him to actually ask me out, but that’s another story for another time.
It’s weird what motivates us in life. I tried to climb Mount Rainier and found I love working out. I tried to meet cute boys and met one of my best girls… and then a cute boy somewhat through her. I tried to Zumba and, well, did nothing of the sort. But no matter what motivates you, I think the most important thing is being open to things. Even things that might be scary and uncomfortable, like trying to make new friends and playing football. Because the guy standing next to you could be your husband… or your next Zumba instructor, or something you don’t even know you’re looking for.