I once worked for a C-level executive who liked to establish loyalty by bad-mouthing others. I think the intention was to convey “you and I have a special relationship” when mentioning other employees’ short-coming. But what I heard was, “I’ll throw anyone under the bus. The minute you’re out of favor, I’ll do the same to you.” NO THANKS!

Note:  This is the fourth of a series of posts I am writing about online dating.  If you’ve missed the previous three, be sure to check them out before reading this one:  Your Expectation, Your Profile, Your Opening Email.

So you’ve exchanged a few emails, and you decided to meet face to face.  Now what?  I am a big fan of meeting up at cafes (or tea lounges for those who don’t drink coffee) for the first date.  This is true of people I’ve met online and offline, and it’s a trick I learned from my married friends.

Cafe is a good meeting place for several reasons.  First, it’s public and therefore a safe location for two strangers to meet up.  Second, unlike meeting up for a meal or an activity, there’s no designated length of time for cafe dates.  If the date is going well, you can easily extend the meeting to several hours (either at the cafe or elsewhere).  Conversely, if you find yourself uninterested or otherwise disengaged with the person, you can easily end the date early without causing any awkward moments for either of you.  Third, cafes and tea lounges provide a relaxed setting that is conducive to getting to know each other because it is neither too quiet nor too loud for dialogues.  Fourth, coffee (or tea) is relatively inexpensive and won’t break your bank.  This is especially true if you meet up with many people in a short period of time (as can often be the case for online dating).  Fifth, the way coffee orders are taken at cafes easily allows you to pay for your own cup of joe.  This is important because you never want to feel as if you owe your date any favors or future dates due to his generosity.

I’ll admit I have not always followed my own advice although the most memorable dates I’ve had were cafe meet-ups.  There were two in particular that stood out for me.  The first one took place in a cafe located within a bookstore.  We were both so engrossed in our conversation that we practically closed down the cafe.  The total conversation time?  Almost four hours!  We would be hard pressed to chat for that long at a restaurant or anywhere else.  The second one took place in a small cafe that is extremely popular among the locals.  Again, he and I chatted about many things and covered a vast range of topics from the Olympics to human psychology to our travel experience.  Had it not been for our prior commitments, we probably would have closed down the cafe as well.

I think the key to both great dates being as memorable as they are is the relaxed environment afforded by the cafes.  I honestly do not think we could have been as comfortable with each other as we were if we had to worry about vacating our table after our meal in a restaurant, or deciding who was paying what portion of the tab.  Instead, the cafe setting gave us the freedom to really get to know each other.

If you missed my other posts on online dating, be sure to check them out:

Part I – Online Dating 101: Your Expectation
Part II – Online Dating 101: Your Profile
Part III – Online Dating 101: Your Opening Email

I enjoy meeting new people and forming new friendship.  Most of the time, we meet up in cafes where the casual setting makes it easier to get to know one another.  Recently, I met up with a new friend at a tea lounge.  We ordered some tea and a small fruit platter to share.

While chatting and enjoying our conversation, I picked up a piece of cantaloupe.  Unfortunately, the cantaloupe escaped my grasp and landed on the table.  Without as much as a second thought, I picked it up and ate it (5 seconds rule, anybody?)  Boy, was that a mistake!  Not only was it not the most sanitary thing to do, my behavior probably thoroughly disgusted my friend.

The problem is, I developed the bad habit of eating off the table from the time I dine at home, alone, on my clean dining table!  While the behavior is relatively harmless in private (other than perhaps eating germier food than if they hadn’t fallen on the table), the repeated behavior conditioned my brain into an automatic response when I am out in the public with friends.  The result?  A poor impression is permanently burned into the minds of those I meet.  This can be especially bad when it takes place during the first meet-up!  Talk about a down-right terrible first impression!

What is the lesson here?  Private behavior can rear its ugly head in public, and if one is not careful, it can ruin a good thing!  It’s always best to behave well when nobody is looking as it is when everybody is looking!

I was chatting with my sister this morning about a pesky relative of ours.  This relative is a control freak and likes to involve herself in other people’s business.  Most of the time, her effort is futile because they are not only not welcomed, they are an impediment to other’s lives.

As some of you know, I decided to switch career after I realized my originally chosen path was not the right one for me.  I was not happy; in fact, I was downright miserable a lot of times.  However, the path I originally chose is quite glamorous from the outside.  As such, this relative of ours likes to talk up the career as one of the best around!  Not only that, in her mind, getting out of the career must mean only one thing — that one just couldn’t “hack” it!  Nothing could be further from the truth!

For most of my childhood, teenage, and young adult life, I was on cruise control.  Many things came easy for me, and as such, I never gave much thought to how exactly I wanted to live my life or found out what was the purpose of my life.  That is, until I ran into some not-so-pleasant experience and was forced to evaluate what it is that I really want!

For a period of time, dark cloud loomed over me as I dug deep into my soul to find myself and my voice.  When I finally emerged from those dark days, I realized I was in the wrong field (among other things).  The revelation itself was one thing; the decision to do something about it was quite a different beast.  It took me quite a bit more time to build up the courage to stop what I was doing and start pursuing what I really wanted to do.

Why was it so hard?  It was hard because I had to start from scratch, and starting from scratch meant I was behind the career “schedule”.  I also faced ridicules from people such as my pesky relative who implied that I left my field because I could not “hack” it.  Ultimately, none of that mattered or should even compute into the equation of my life, but they bothered me nonetheless — I am human, after all!  Luckily, I had strong enough of a conviction in my decision (and lots of supportive friends and family) to persist and eventually triumph over the obstacles and the naysayers.

I think in life, all worthwhile endeavors take courage and persistance to win.  They say nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and it’s very true.  Easy may be the preference for the short term, but it’s definitely not the long term solution.  If you want to do something you love, find the courage in you to do it!  And when the going gets tough, surround yourself with supportive friends and/or family! Having gone through the experience myself, I assure you the rewards is worth a million times the work it takes to get there!

I believe I am one of the luckiest souls in this world because I have so much going for me.  In remembrance of all the good fortune in my life (and in celebration of this Thanksgiving season), I came up with my top five most grateful aspects and people in my life.  I am most thankful for:

5.  A challenging and fulfilling career. Some people work to live, and although I don’t necessarily live to work or work to live, I do look forward to going to work most mornings!  I am definitely very grateful that I have that luxury!

4.  My health. I was fortunate to be born a healthy baby, and I was fortunate to have grown up in a health-oriented family.  I am thankful that no major illnesses run in my family, and I am thankful that I am healthy enough to take on the many physical and mental challenges this world has to offer.

3.  My introspective nature. I am lucky I met a handful of key people during various phases of my life who taught me that being self-aware is perhaps the greatest gift I can give myself.  While it may not seem that way at the time, I am thankful for all the trials and tribulation I went through so far in life — they have definitely made me stronger!  I am most appreciate of finally learning that this world is much bigger than my own little world.

2.  My awesome friends. I am eternally grateful to have friends who keep me honest while helping me grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.  I am grateful that I have friends who would move mountains for me or wake up at 3am in the morning to field my distress calls.  No words can describe what they mean to me!

1.  My family. Growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with my family.  But as I got older, I learned to appreciate everything they have ever done for me and to me.  They have always been there for me, through thick and thin.  It’s as they say, blood is thicker than water.  I love you mom, dad, sis, and bro!

And Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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