An Upper West Side Love Affair

I’ve almost lived in New York City for four years now. The time has gone both indefinitely slow and intolerably fast, and while I knew this place would always be one big adventure for me, I never knew just what a wild ride it would turn out to be.

And maybe, since it felt like such a vivid, unattainable dream, I didn’t fully expect it to feel quite so much… like home. But it does. I’ve called the Upper West Side (or Morningside Heights, if we want to get super technical) my neighborhood for my entire time in this city.

But as I type this sentence, I’m laying on my bed from Ikea, waiting on my friend J to meet me for dinner, looking at all of my things packed in 8 (very heavy) boxes, my bookshelves and dresser empty, the room that I had decorated with frames and sentiments bare – all of it, ready to move downtown on Saturday. I always hoped the day would come when I made enough money to have an uptown commute to work instead of a downtown one – and it has.

Saturday, I’ll trade my Central Park and my Riverside Park and my 45 minute commute (the WORST) for an East Village address. While I really couldn’t be more excited to walk or bike to work every day, live in an updated, clean and beautiful building, run by the East River and enjoy being closer to all of my friends – part of me feels very bittersweet about leaving my side of town for a new one.

I’ve grown so attached to my routine and the places, the people, the locals that I’ve adopted over the past four years. I have my grocery store, my dog park, my pet food store, my running loops, my dry cleaners, my laundry mat, my bakery, my coffee shop, my local writing joints that let me take my time to meet deadline. I have those old men in my building who always remember Lucy’s name, and the lady on the 8th floor who has a dog that loves to give kisses to women wearing lipstick (go figure). There’s that sidewalk where I kissed many men for the first time and that place where Lucy discovered snow for the first time. There’s the long walk by the water that leads to a boat basin where I’ve danced with strangers, drank a bucket of beer and written many blogs. There’s the places that M and I frequented when we were funemployed, new to the city and new to being adults. There’s those memories inside this room, with Mr. Possibility and Mr. Unexpected. There are those parties that I threw with J, and the birthday party I hosted for Lucy (because I’m crazy). There’s sunset concerts a block away and that guy on the first floor who plays the piano so beautifully that sometimes I stop, just to hear him play.

There’s everything I’ve loved about my home.

I realize that I’m not moving away – really – I’m just going to be a handful of avenues and almost 100 streets away, and of course, I can always come back, but this part of town will always hold a special place in my heart. The kindness of the Upper West Side – with its dogs, its greenery,  its strollers and its wide-eyed college kids – have given me a little peace of serenity in a very hectic town. I know that this move will only be the first of many, many moves (I did already leave that starter apartment three years ago, after all) and it’s a testament to where my career is heading (and this little blog that could) – but as I trade my cheap rent for a bigger premium, here’s a look at my very first neighborhood in New York.

I’ll miss you Upper West Side – maybe I’ll be back in five years or so…

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What About Me?

A month ago, I was sitting at a place I didn’t want to be at in Murray hill, drinking wine I didn’t want to drink, waiting on a man I didn’t know if I wanted to date.

I was passing time and nursing my one glass because I didn’t want to leave the place and be forced to sit outside his building where Lucy would die of thirst. Mr. Unexpected had some sort of test that night and Lucy had a grooming appointment the next morning a few blocks from his apartment, so it made sense that I would sleep over… but as I tried my best not to obsess over when he would text that he was out, I wondered what the hell I was doing.

On paper and mostly in person, Mr. Unexpected and I really connected. The sex was great. He made me laugh. He was honest. The chemistry was there but there was also a big ole’ thing missing that I knew, he knew and probably even Lucy knew if we had a way of asking her. I couldn’t put it into words then, but a month later after a weekend of silence to “clear our heads” and “decide what we both wanted,” I found myself sitting across from yet another man who couldn’t give me what I wanted.

But there was one big difference in this mini relationship – and that was me.

In the past, I was willing to put what I wanted so far on the back burner that I started to forget what I needed, and thus, my needs were never met. In the past, I was willing to wait around for a man to get his act together enough to let go of his own self-imposed boundaries and mental blocks to fall in love with me. I was willing to be that rockstar in bed, but also that patient, kind, comforting lady in waiting – never applying too much pressure, and yet keeping the intensity there to keep his interest – and his hunger – lingering.

As I saw myself start to do that with Mr Unexpected while he figured out his job, his apartment, his past and our future, I said literally out loud in the middle of the lake this weekend on a jet ski where no one but the water bugs could hear me:

What about me?

What about the stress that I’ve had this year? Both for great and frustrating reasons – if that wasn’t keeping me from being able to let go in love, why would I be with someone who couldn’t manage it? If I didn’t want to take it so incredibly slow that we didn’t meet one another’s friends, that we didn’t even become Facebook friends, much less Facebook official – why was I drumming my fingers and holding onto a prayer that he would come around? If I was ready to move forward and ready for some romance, ready for some verbal something that would take us past drinks and dinner – why did I find myself walking on eggshells, wondering if asking about spending a Saturday together was too much?

Or maybe the biggest question that rang loud and clear as my phone remained silent the entire four days I was gone… Why was I investing so much in someone I had known a mere two months and he wasn’t willing to really, truly invest in me?

What about me?

The truth was there: I had partly fallen for Mr Unexpected based on my own expectations for what I thought he would become. Once the job thing worked out. Once he was more comfortable. Once he started to open up to me. Once he was settled. Once…it wasn’t all about him anymore.

So when it all came to an end with Mr Unexpected over red wine at a bar in midtown, us both putting off the inevitable conversation we didn’t want to have, things took an unexpected turn. I listened as he explained everything he had concluded this weekend, that he was in a bad place, that he needed to focus at work, that he had so much going on and couldn’t be the man I wanted and needed. That I was great (absolutely) and that he respected me (he should) and that he hoped I wouldn’t hate him (I don’t). The funny thing is that I had came to the same resolution too, having decided that anyone who needs space right after we met and made things official is not someone that I want to be with. I had also came to the conclusion that while someone might be willing to be exclusive with you, those words only give you a sense of commitment – they don’t promise that they will actually do what they need to make a relationship work.

And it was then that I knew I had two choices: I could ask him to work on it, to give it a chance, to not walk away. I could promise him I’d be more patient and I’d be understanding. I could tell him that we had something worth fighting for.

But then I’d be sacrificing myself. I’d be setting my expectations way too low. And I wouldn’t be listening to my heart. Because while I was disappointed that the guy I really liked – and really saw a future with – wasn’t up for the challenge of a new relationship (and obviously wasn’t falling in love with me), all I wanted to do was to run out of that bar and back into my single life. 

Back to where the opportunity to meet someone who could give me what I wanted was somewhere out there, waiting for me to go on a date with him. Back to when I was asking myself what I wanted, instead of focusing on what would make someone else happy.

As we walked out, I remembered the conversation we had on our first date and I asked him, “Do you think my expectations are too high? Do you think that I want too much?” He smiled at me, grabbed my hand and said, “No, not at all. You just want love, Lindsay. That’s what everyone wants.”

He’s right. I do want love. And frankly, that’s not too much to ask for. And it’s definitely something not to settle for.

 

 

Don’t Let Her Down

That 5-year-old girl who didn’t know better than to believe in imaginary friends and far away places, where being anything at all was not questionable, but expected. That girl with that braided hair and those wide, eager eyes who saw beauty in old, ragged dress-up clothes and in the mud of the front yard that could be turned into cakes and pies, doughnuts and cookies for a tea party with a very wise queen. That girl who wanted to be everything she could think of: a trapeze artist, a sculptor, the President of the United States, a teacher, a preacher, a princess, Lois Lane, a warrior jet fighter, a this and a that. That girl who never told herself she wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough, that wishing and hoping could make things come true, that by simply being herself, she would grow up to be not just something, but a someone. A big, big someone.

Don’t let that girl down. Chase your dreams, no matter how far-fetched they might seem or how much you’ve forgotten how to run.

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That 10-year-old girl who insisted on getting certified as a babysitter so she could have her very own babysitters club (with all of her best friends). That girl who didn’t think twice before jumping from patio furniture to table, from one side of the kitchen counter to the other, performing an elaborate dance routine to the Spice Girls for her parents, the cat and the dog. That girl who wore the same bracelet she made for weeks beyond end, not caring if it was in style or matched her clothes or was part of the popular kid’s approval list. That girl who stood up to the mean guy on the bus who commented – inappropriately – on the body she hadn’t grown into mentally, who wouldn’t stand for someone talking down to her, especially for something her mother called “breasts.” That girl who was awkward and probably obnoxious, sporting crooked teeth and the first signs of acne – but more than anything, she was herself.

Don’t let that girl down. Be brave enough to be who you are, wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you’re around or puts you down.

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That 15-year-old girl who fell so hard, so fast for that skinny kid in the hallways who played football and brought her flowers on the weekends. That girl who expected – and ahem, demanded – to be treated with respect, with patience and with sweetness because she knew she was worth it (and wasn’t willing to give up that V card for just anyone). That girl who expressed her high expectations for romance and wouldn’t back down if they weren’t met, that girl who wrote love notes in class and found replies in her locker from her very first boyfriend, her love. That girl who scribbled hundreds of pages detailing every kiss, every first, every word, every everything because it was all so fresh, so exciting, so precious. That girl who never worried about saying the right things or being too much or asking for the moon when the stars would simply do. That girl who believed in love with so much conviction, who wrote about it before she was published anywhere, that girl who didn’t accept the ordinary in anything, and especially not in love.

Don’t let that girl down. There are many things that you’ll settle for in life, but the person you choose to spend your life (or um, high school) shouldn’t be one of them.

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That 21-year-old girl who bought a one-way ticket to write her way to the top. That girl who thought New York would be something so much different than what it was, that girl who refused to agree that dating in the city was hard, until it was, that girl who had to lose all that she had to figure out who she was. That girl who failed so many times over so many years in Manhattan, only to find that every stumble, every setback brought her one tired, cramped, exhausted step closer to where she needed to be. That girl who could survive off of blind ambition and red wine, who gets frustrated and sometimes disappointed that the glittering streets don’t always have their luster. That girl who falls in and out of love with the life she’s built, day after day, but always find something to be thankful for, and something to look forward to. That girl who could have packed up her bags at any point, thrown in the towel and tucked her tail and headed back to where everything is seemingly easier. But… didn’t. Hasn’t. Won’t ever.

Don’t let that girl down. You never know what you’re capable of until you refuse to give up until you get where you’re going.

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Because really, you’ve always been that girl – even as you’ve grown and changed – she’s always been there. And if you want to let yourself down, go ahead.

But don’t let her down. She’s been waiting too long for those silly wishes, working too hard to reach those lofty goals, hoping too much for that great love... to turn around now.

 

 

Ya Gotta Do You

When you write a weekly column about relationships in your college paper – that no one takes seriously – but gets great traffic, you suck up the snide remarks from other staffers. When friends and people remind you time-and-time again that when you move to New York, you might not work for a magazine. You might not get a job in editing at all. You might end up being an intern forevermore and never make any money and eat Ramen until you can’t possibly stomach another noodle – you smile and take it all with a grain of salt (or put it on said Ramen).  When you receive hate mail on the very last day of your very last class of your college career, where someone says they hope you fall on your “pretty little face” in New York because “being pretty” doesn’t mean you can be an editor – you vow to frame that letter when get that corner office. When the chancellor of your university says that you just don’t really have what it takes to lead a staff and that you would fit in better at a glossy than writing about “serious topics,” you congratulate the new editor-in-chief, graduate early, move to New York, and land a job… writing about “serious topics.”

Because even if people find you ridiculous or don’t believe you can’t do what you keep sayin’ you’re going to do — ya gotta do you.

When you start a blog way back in 2010 because your day job –  an editorial assistant at a business magazine – just wasn’t quite what you wanted, you spend hours (and hours) after work building your social presence, writing content and scheduling posts. When you meet someone two weeks into designing a blog about being single, about learning to love yourself first before loving a man, you put off the relationship talk for as long as you possibly can and stick to your rules, no matter how self-imposed they are. When your blog generates traffic from all around the world and you’re basking in the afterglow of being featured on the homepage of WordPress, you remind yourself that fans are fickle and the Internet, like some men, loses interest quickly, so be thankful. When your boss at that business magazine isn’t a fan of you posting the blog on LinkedIn and pulls you aside about it, you kindly decline the request to remove it because it’s part of who you are.

Because even when you’re the only person making yourself write about something you believe in – without getting paid anything at all – ya gotta do you.

When you’re in a relationship but something just isn’t right, something doesn’t feel like it’s progressing or it’s satisfying or it’s what you really want, you have to think about what you need instead of fearing what you might not find. When someone says the right things but doesn’t follow-through with actions, when someone gives you just enough to hold on but not enough to move forward, you have to make the decision to not give up on love, but to believe that yes, of course, definitely, the best is still yet to come. When a possibility becomes entirely impossible, when what you thought could be something powerful is really just disappointing and disenchanting, you have to let go to let love in – no matter how long it takes for it to come around again.

Because even if you think you’re too picky or you expect too much out of someone, you know you’d rather be single than to settle and at the end of the day – or the end of a relationship - ya gotta do you.

When the opportunity arrives to turn something you’ve fostered and you’ve nurtured and you’ve shared for nearly four years into a physical, actual book that people can buy in real bookstores (or on real Kindles and Nooks), you might have to catch your breath before you respond to the email. When you spend time carefully reading over your own writing, weeding through chapter outlines and sample pitches, trying to figure out the best way to market yourself as a brand – when all you ever were before was a 20-something single girl writing about her life – you figure out just how much determination you have and how badly you long to see that byline at Barnes & Noble. When you really get along with a book agent that believes in your work and in your message almost as much as you do, when his ideas and his presentation are exactly what you envisioned for yourself, you might get butterflies just thinking about what this little blog could turn into one day. When you sign with your very first agent for your very first book and he sends it to a publishing house and you anxiously await the outcome, you might need more than just a cocktail to settle your nerves.

Because even though people told you writing about love was silly, that a blog about your personal life may be a little too much, that waiting for the right guy might take a little time and a lot faith, that dreams of becoming an author are far-fetched and unrealistic in the digital age… ya just gotta forget what everyone says. You have to trust in that love you found for yourself, that you built, that you believed in has gotten you exactly where you are today.

And that you did all of it – slowly, but surely – by listening to your gut. By following your heart. By remembering that no matter what, ya gotta do you.

 

How to Breathe

During the summer in New York, right around 8 p.m., as we’re heading off to indulge in sangria and sunsets, there is an orange shadow that cascades across the streets, beaming off the buildings, and leaving everything it touches with a crisp, bronzed haze. It is one of my favorite moments in the city all-year-round, and regardless of where I am or who I’m with, just seeing the amber reflection is enough to distract my attention and make me take a big breath.

I was thankful for a moment of clarity before meeting Mr. Unexpected for a celebratory sushi and sake date on Friday night, after a very long, very exasperating week. I had a hard time sleeping every night last week, my nerves never calming down from the many changes of the past few months circling in my head and enticing my heart to race. And though I always get a little anticipant to see Mr. Unexpected, once we start talking, he has a certain way of calming me down, too. Sitting across from him, with the citrus sun still radiating above us, I took another big breath of pure stress release.

In fact, I’ve been reminding myself to breathe a lot lately.

To say this year has been ripe with change, expenses and new experiences would be a vast understatement. If anyone would have told me all of the things that would happen in 2014, I would have never believed them.

Just to recap:

  • My dad had unexpected heart surgery at the start of the year.
  • I had my last day at iVillage – after three years – on a Thursday in April.
  • The next day, I left for a 10-day trip to Paris and Rome with my mom.
  • Two days after I got back, I started my exciting, challenging and entertaining job at WEtv.com.
  • Then I got in – via raffle – to the NYC marathon.
  • Two weeks later I met who I thought would be my roommate for an October 1 move date.
  • Then I realized my lease ended on September 1. (You know, when I’ll be in London visiting J for a week.)
  • Which means I would have to move by August 15.
  • Two weeks later, I met Mr. Unexpected.
  • 20+ dates later, we are an actual thing.
  • The roommate, who I thought would be moving with me, couldn’t anymore.
  • I decided that I couldn’t possibly train for the marathon, go on a big trip, do well in my new job and find an apartment and train for the marathon. So I backed out.
  • So with a month to go to find an apartment, I somehow found two roommates.
  • And a subletter for my current apartment – for just a month.
  • I signed a lease yesterday. To move to the East Village!

Whew.

The funny thing is that I have wanted so many of these things for such a long time: a new job with more responsibility, management and strategy, a man that surprises me with how easy it is to date him, a lease that keeps me downtown and more in the city, and the financial ability to travel more than I have before. I have been ready for these transformations and these interruptions into my daily routine and life – I suppose I just never thought that it would all happen at one time.

Or within the first six months of 2014.

I wasn’t ready for all of this last year and I guess I didn’t consider if I was ready now, but it’s all happening, so I might as well enjoy it, right? I asked Mr. Unexpected that night.

Are we ever ready for these things? He responded, smiling at me from across the rickety table, drinking his sake much faster than me.

And while I agree – most of the best things and hardest things and most influential things that occur in our lives, we rarely see coming – I also think you have to go through a lot of hardship and endure a lot of complacency before you’re brave enough to make a move. (Literally!)

I might have thought I could go from one side of the city to another (and up my rent quite a bit) last year, but I would have buckled under the stress (and the weight of those security deposit and broker’s fee checks). I might have thought that I would be able to savor and enjoy international travel, but that excursion couldn’t have come at a better time: in between two jobs, without having to think about checking email or wondering what was going on in the office. I might have thought that I had patched up my relationship with my father after his cancer scare last year, but there’s something about the possibility of your dad’s heart almost actually breaking to snap you into gratitude mode. And of course, I might have thought I was ready to invest in a something with a someone, but it takes more than a few failed dates to realize your worth – and what you want in a partner.

So am I ready for these things? A new job, a new apartment, a new man, my third new country to visit in about a month? I considered, falling asleep next to him, staring out my Upper West Side window, the one I’ve looked out of countless times, wishing my life would just change already. I felt Lucy by my feet, curling herself into a ball – and like I always do, I placed my hand on my heart to settle it, but it was calm already. For the first time in weeks. I took in that big breath again and I settled my mind, concluding that I don’t know if I’m ready for anything.

But what I do know that the only thing I have to know is how to breathe. And to trust. I have to remember that if struggles have taught me anything, it’s that I always have myself to depend on in the end, no matter what. And that fact is enough to make me – with all of the stress and the anxiety and the uncertainness of everything roaming my thoughts – relaxed enough to let go.

And with the biggest breath of all, let it happen.