The dating world can be a harsh, exhausting, and intimidating place, but it can also be the doorway to a bright and beautiful future with someone you connect with. The only problem is, in our modern, fast-paced society, you never know which side of that coin you’re going to get.
The following are highlights from a conversation with Anahata Meta about her book, 52 Weeks, 52 Dates. To hear the full conversation, click the audio link above or subscribe to our podcast.
Sarah Aronson: What does your idea of happily-ever-after look like?
Anahata Meta: What a great question. I think “happy” is a relative term. I think happy means something different to everyone. To me, based on my experience, I think happy and fulfillment are similar. So it might not feel good, but being fulfilled is part of the ever-after goal, and every little thing that I do compiles up to the ever-after moving toward fulfillment, right? Being in alignment with my values, having integrity, things like that. I think if you live that way, pretty consistently, then that’s my definition of happily-ever-after.
This book feels like part social experiment, and part chronicle of the chaos of finding love. What was the intention behind it when you began?
I always say I never intended to write a book — it happened by accident. It was kind of divinely inspired, I thought it’d be funny if I started dating and then wrote about it; and I wasn’t entirely sure. Then I went on the first date and wrote about it and just thought it was so hysterical that I had to keep going. So I think originally, the idea was, 'I want to try and manifest this idea. . . I want to see what would happen if I follow through with it.' At the time I had never really done that before; I had never really taken an idea and made it happen. I wasn’t familiar or comfortable with risk-taking in that way. The cool thing about 'the project' — I sometimes refer to it as 'the project' — is that it involved my favorite subject material which is people and relationships and it became an interactive process. Telling the story, writing the story, not really knowing where the story would go, and hoping that through that process I would learn something, through the spontaneity of that process.
[In the book] you’re speaking about a relationship meditation and you write, “The lesson is in the mess.” Can you define that?
Yeah. Many of the listeners have probably heard of another social scientist named Brené Brown. She’d had this explosive Ted Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability.” I actually watched it before I started the project and I think it really informed some of that process. We like to control and predict. That’s what humans do, and we don’t always do it consciously, but we do it in such a way where we can try and understand what’s going on around us. The problem is the only thing we can control is ourselves. No matter how hard we try and no matter how much we want to control other people, other people are going to do stuff we don’t understand. There are two ways of looking at that: you can either take it as “I’m going to try and manipulate the situation and get what I want,” or you can just take it for what it is. The path of that is largely individual. Being able to understand yourself and understand how you relate to other people in this mess I think is where the lesson is.
At one point in the book, you describe: “This book was originally intended to navigate the crazy world of dating, which turned into the crazy world of me, which turned into the crazy world of us.” Can you just paint the picture of how the book shifted?
By the time I got to that line, I was feeling like, “What am I doing?!” It had become so deep in terms of what I was learning that I kind of got into a fog. It was a challenge to do it every single week with no break—to write that much, to meet that many new people. And like I said, I didn’t have a plan, in terms of what the outcome was going to be. There was a part of me that wanted it to be fiction. I wanted to write the story of how this way of living, being vulnerable, being authentic, telling the truth, exploring my own sense of self—that it had some type of happy ending. The process of coming into those questions and understanding myself was largely unpredictable.
At that point when I wrote that line I was like, “Well gosh, that sucks! That’s not what I wanted. I wanted a clean wrapped up: TA-DA! I know something!” And I did not know anything . . . but, I will say this: one of the reasons that it’s so meaningful to me is that I sat on this material for a really long time before I published it. I finished writing it five years ago. Part of the reason I didn’t publish it, was because it was scary, but I also wanted to make sure that the mess I was about to put out there was going to be able to convey the message—even when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, there’s value in that—substantial, hard-core value around doing the next right thing, being spontaneous, being honest. I can really holistically say that has happened to me over and over and over again.
Coming from a very research-oriented, academic background, I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just an emotional fly-by-night advice book. I wanted to see, “Can this formula of living this way actually produce a better quality of life, a more fulfilling life?” I can honestly say, yes.
About the Book:
With great courage and a side of refreshing humor, Anahata Meta takes you through her personal experiences as she attempts to go on one date a week for a whole year. Anahata explores the raw truths of the modern-day dating world and unexpectedly uncovers boundless opportunities for self-exploration and realization as she pushes through the challenge of seeking romance in today’s society. She opens your eyes to the effects that dating can have on understanding yourself and how you affect others and tackles a wide variety of topics and inner struggles that tend to pop up whenever two people are trying to connect.
In a world with billions of inhabitants, this guide initially offers a snapshot of what it’s like for one person seeking true love but offers much more than the author originally bargained for in the end.
After four years of staying away from the dating scene, Anahata Meta finally decides to take it on—and to jot down her dating experiences for the benefit of others. From awkward moments to humorous anecdotes, this story charmingly explores and sheds light on a world that no other guidebook can help you navigate in such an honest, vulnerable way.
Through the process of going on fifty-two dates in fifty-two weeks, Anahata begins to uncover fascinating things about herself, delving deeper into her own thoughts and emotions than she initially intended. She shares these experiences with you, hoping to open your mind to this same self-reflection as you follow along with her journey. Her story begins to write itself as she is faced with her own inner struggles—struggles that may not have come to light had she not sat down in front of a stranger, attempting a connection.
About the Author:
Do you long to love and be loved? Anahata Meta has dedicated her academic and creative works to revealing the benefits of intimacy in close relationships. Meta writes about the art of being authentic and vulnerable when the stakes are high. She hopes to prove that modern romance is not dead for true love lies in the capacity of a person to surrender and be curious.
Anahata Meta holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a master's degree in clinical psychology from the University of Montana. She uses the psychological lens of her academic and clinical training to explore relational phenomena.
She welcomes your thoughts and feelings about intimacy, authenticity, and vulnerability. She would love to hear from you via her Facebook page.