New York, How Do I Love Thee?

As I sit in the Charlotte airport, waiting for my flight back to my city-sweet-city, I find myself recalling the year that’s passed. Of every year I’ve had, 2010 was my very best one.

When years come to a close, the natural thing for anyone to do is to think about what happened, what they can learn from it, and determine what they should work towards in the months to come. I could go through a long list of all of the amazing dreams of mine that came true this year, how I survived a very difficult breakup with Mr. Idea, or how I got myself in shape and started a blog that somehow has made it across the web. Even more easily, I could share the insight I’ve gained from the several ups and downs, the men of Manhattan I’ve started to date, and the growing pains that come with finally being 110 percent on your own.

But if I really think about what 2010 has meant to me, why this year is so paramount in comparsion to any year previous, it is because I finally settled in, drew up roots, signed papers, and secured a zip code in the place that I know was meant for me. This year was everything grand and difficult because it was the year of New York.

Now, being the best year yet doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing, easy riding, and without frustration or worry (for it was far from any of those things) – but rather, it was the first year that instead of letting something or someone decide or steer my life – I defined myself. I stopped waiting for fate to take its course, for the stars to align in perfect order, for a man to come and rescue me from the “Curse of Singleness”, for everything to be symmetrical and ideal…and I just started living.

And without any doubts of being left (or being forced to leave), without worrying about being vulnerable or destroyed, without feeling the need to protect my heart – I fell in love with this city. With this place, that is now my home.

Being away from New York for a week longer than I anticipated made me realize, more than ever, how much it means to me and how when I’m gone, a piece of me feels like it is missing as well. Today and in times of war in our history, those in love were separated by oceans, worrying about their partner’s safety, and praying to just lay eyes on them again. The men fought in battles that risked their lives, the women held onto prayers and hopes while keeping the home (and workforce)  in tact, and to keep their flame alive, they wrote letters ensuring their love and declaring their longing.

So New York, while I was in North Carolina, waiting for the storm to pass, and there you were fighting the blizzard that sneaked up on you, please know that my unyielding love for you was still strong, and sincerely, I counted the minutes until we would meet again. In thanksgiving for 2010 and all of the city-inspired blessings it gave me, let me write a letter to you, Mr. Big Apple, the first real love of my life.

Dearest New York City,

Our love story, like many, began many years ago. When I first saw your gleaming lights, heard your boisterous sounds in my pink jacket and awful haircut, I felt like I had found someone I would love. While it was the time of Disney Princesses, tennis and piano lessons, and I still wasn’t convinced boys didn’t have cooties – something about you, in all of your congestion and creativity, made me believe that maybe there was something more out there for me.

We were not serious when I left at first, but when I showed up on your doorstep the second time, for the interviews at magazines I had always dreamed of working for – I think we both knew there was something magical developing. You welcomed me back into your life, showed me just a few of the perks that would be at my disposal if I decided to stick by your side, and then with graciousness and kindness from the Publishing Gods, I was able to spend a glorious three months falling in love with you. Guarded by the security of my university’s loft, I sorted through beauty products at Cosmopolitan, pitched ideas to the many editors I admire, and felt my drive for writing grow. But through it all, the single thing that made even the worse days bearable, where I missed the simplicity of my Southern upbringing, was the look of you. I could grab my subway card, go through the front doors, and there you were, waiting to greet me with wide eyes and you renewed my spirits – no matter how low they were.

And then, with studies left to study, I had to leave you again. You were understanding and forgiving, and ensured me that before long I would be back. I promised you I would return to your glittering pavements and endless opportunities, no matter what it took, what bridge I had to cross, who I had to leave, or what price I had to pay. We both knew that destiny brought us together and that nothing could stand in our way. As I flew home that faithful August day, I let the tears stream down the cheek and said a little prayer that nothing would change in my heart or in your willingness to take me back between then and when I would return.

Sometimes, my dear, when the gods of time decide to be in your favor, prayers are answered as easily as they are pleaded. At college graduation, I wrote on my cap “New York, Here I Come”, and three months later – I did.

With three suitcases, savings I had resting in my bank account since I was 15, and all of the ambition in the world, I touched down on your streets and took off. You encouraged me to keep going when I thought I would never get off my friend’s couch and you led me around your beauty with hidden pennies of fortune and chances of success that I never imagined. You showed me new parts of yourself that I wasn’t aware of, and as I always seem to do, I fell in love with you even more.

Out of nowhere, the cards gave me a great hand and I moved into your place, well our place, on the Upper West Side. It is a starter apartment and maybe old and miniature - but I have no doubt you will do your best to give me everything I ever wanted. And my job, while not perfect and ideal, is extremely good to me and a wonderful place to begin my career. You believe in me, New York, and because of that faith, I believe in me, too. It is only up on the ladder from here, and I know you’ll be there with me through it all.

Thank you for forgiving me when I cursed your name and doubted your brilliance. Thank you for reminding me of how beautiful I am and how lucky I’ve been my entire life, just to know you. Thank you for warming me with incomparable inspiration – just by being you. Just by being the shimmering, unpredictable, faithful, and dependable city I’ve grown quite accustomed to. Thank you for taking me back when I left you and for knowing I’d always return, even when I was scared I never would. Thank you for allowing me to shine and stepping out of my way, even giving me the freedom to stomp all over you in the process. Thank you for an endless amount of dinners, shows, walks in the park, and peaceful evenings. Thank you for making me want to be a better person, a better writer, a better woman, and a better almost-New Yorker. Thank you for becoming as much a part of me as my high heel shoes, my skinny jeans, this blog, and my signature Mac lipstick.

There may be many things I’m unsure of, but one thing I know will never change, no matter what crazy journey this life takes me on, is that I love you, New York City. And I always, always will.

Can’t wait to see what’s ahead for us in 2011.

With love,

Linds


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The Guy We Pity: Mr. Temporary

Upon returning from my summer internship in New York after my sophomore year in college, I found myself incredibly bored.

Though I had a fantastic group of friends, a demanding associate editor position at the school newspaper, and a college town that welcomed me back with gold-and-black open arms – I  missed my city, and nothing seemed to measure up to it. It took me a while to adjust and return back to a comfortable state so I could settle in for another one-and-a-half years of college. And to help me pass the time was Mr. Temporary.

That year for my sorority’s (yes, I’m Greek, no judging) semi-formal not only was I dress-less, but also date-less. Though I tried to project the impression that it didn’t bother me, I did hope that suddenly, out of the framework, someone would appear for me to dance the night away with. To my surprise, my sister, B, hooked me up with a friend of a friend whom she thought I would at least enjoy the company of for an evening.

She was right.

At first glance, Mr. Temporary had the stats of a promising boyfriend: tall, olive skin, green eyes, killer smile, and well-dressed. If you like the cowboy-type-of-thing (I’m not a huge fan), he had that special little twang that’s only derived South of the Mason-Dixon. He was also talented, had goals for himself, and he told me I looked beautiful when he first laid eyes on me. That’s a brownie point in my book.

However, as we continued to see each other after the semi-formal and I learned more about him – I realized how far from my type he actually was. Though he was very intelligent, he was closed-minded about the issues that mattered the most to me. He did want a career with children, which is admirable, but just the thought of New York made him want to gag. He had a very attractive physique, but his kissing skills were way below par for his age. Or really, for any age.

So why, sitting across him over Spicy Tuna and Shrimp Tempura rolls, I agreed to turn my Claddagh ring around, is beyond me.

Maybe it was being lonely and enjoying just having the company of someone, or the way he seemed to be smitten with me, or the safety net of not having to be labeled as single – but something, against my better judgement decided to be an item with a man who I knew would never be the one for the long run. While I really don’t feel like I have any regrets thus far in my life, I will say I made a very poor decision by being “exclusive” with Mr. Temporary.

In the two or three months we dated -I lost interest day-by-day. When we introduced sex into the relationship, I was horrified at how awful it was and how much it lacked passion. When I met his mother, who didn’t know how to stop talking for the entire time we were at dinner, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could stand to be her daughter-in-law. When I met his roommate for the first time, it took every ounce of restraint in me to not flirt with him – for he was miles more attractive than Mr. Temporary. And when it was time to celebrate Valentine’s Day and I knew the girlfriend-thing to do was to buy him something, I couldn’t find any card (even in the “I like you” section) that was appropriate for what I felt.

Mainly because I didn’t really feel anything. That is, anything but fear of being alone.

Sadly, the thing to release me from clinging onto something because I was so terrified of having seemingly-nothing, was the death of my best friend L’s mother. On Friday the 13th, the day before St. Valentine’s infamous day, she lost her 10-year battle with breast cancer, and after I received the bad-news phone call, I rushed out of class and back to embrace L. I sent a quick text message to Mr. Temporary letting him know I would be missing Valentine’s Day and the entire weekend - and then ceased talking to him for four days.

I didn’t even respond to worried texts or calls or Facebook posts because not only was I mourning the loss of a beautiful, wise, and strong woman, consoling L to the best of my ability (there really aren’t words you can say, even as a writer) – I was also using this time to liberate myself from Mr. Temporary. And perhaps, I took that liberation a tad bit far.

I happened to run into Mr. Fling right after the funeral, tears still slightly plummenting down my cheeks, and needing to get back to school for a newspaper meeting that I sincerely didn’t want to attend. He comforted me, held me close, and kissed my eyelids so very tenderly. And in that moment of weakness, in that second of sincerity and care that he offered me, I allowed myself to fall into him. A kiss led to snuggling, which led to a black dress on the floor, which brought us to…

Needless to say, with a million different feelings running haywire in my heart and soul, I knew when I returned back to school – the very last thing I needed was one more headache, especially when I knew I would be causing a heartache. And so, with integrity and honesty, I confessed what I had done and things ended with Mr. Temporary as easily as they began. I made no excuses for cheating and don’t accept them if it’s the other way around, but I was truthful by telling him the reason I strayed wasn’t due to him, but was completely me. I didn’t cry, I didn’t get upset, and I didn’t really mind him being gone. Because that weekend, I learned a very important lesson about life and about love.

It is true that life is short and if you ever enter a relationship with the mindset that it will only be an in-between type of love or someone to fill the cold spot in your bed – you are wasting your time (and their time). Even if you are not seeking a forever partner, marriage, or happily ever after – if you’re allowing the romantic part of your soul to be captivated by someone who doesn’t satisfy, excite, or really match you, the ending will only be hurtful the longer it continues. While some relationships are not meant to last, our hearts are built to endure pain, and the intensity felt at midnight isn’t always as strong when the sun peeks above the skyline – in terms of love, if you know before you even get started that it is fleeting feeling, save yourself the trouble.

Break free of the bounds of fear, of those nagging voices in our heads that tell us that Mr. Right Now is acceptable if we aren’t having any luck meeting Mr. Right, and of our bodies who lust for attention and petting, even if it isn’t the most enjoyable of experiences.  Allow the love you have for yourself to gain momentum, take pride in the ability you have to depend on your own person, and for his sake, don’t lead Mr. Temporary on. Especially if there is a Mr. Fling readily available.

A Love of My Own

As he has since the moment I met him, Mr. Possibility never fails to make me think.

He’s the type of guy who knows what he knows, but still seeks advice and listens to other’s opinions. Anything that’s said or shared, while not always carefully thought out, has meaning to him. He is the first in my long list of Mr’s who has fully supported and embraced my writing – something that I always hoped I would find in a mate. He even edits these blogs from time-to-time and emails me with suggestions, to “help me improve.” God bless him, but sometimes I just want to smack him.

Nevertheless, he’s been gone for the last three weeks overseas for business and for me, it has really tested our connection. We stay in touch thanks to the many technological wonders of the world and the lovely perk that his company pays for international text messaging (God bless them too). But of course, apart from the random coincidences where we both have enough time to Skype, I don’t get to see his face or spend time in his presence. And for us, that’s been a huge part of what’s brought us together, and personally, being face-to-face helps me trust in the early stages of a courtship.

While he’s been gone, I’ve had this blessed opportunity to take a step back from the butterflies in my tummy, the lingering smell of him on my clothes, and the anticipation for a night out for dumplings, and really figure out what I want. Because, really, a possibility is just that – not out of the question, not set-in-stone, but yet a chance for something more. And though my love addiction qualities will plead that the decision to become less possible and more definite is completely up to him, my heart knows it is as much my decision as it is his.

In the past, I’ve rushed into a relationship for fear that if I didn’t hurry and nail in the man I was eying, he’d lose interest and be gone before I had a moment to think. But now, for the first time, it feels like I’m going about things maturely and with a realistic attitude, as opposed to an emotional one. I’m not only taking into account what it is that I feel, how passionate and incredible the under-the-sheets action is, what I could see down the road, but also listening to what he says (and believing him), paying attention to his actions and choices, and getting to know him for who he is…not for the idea of him. And by balancing a level-mind with the bravery to let myself start to fall for him, I’ve been able to keep my head above the romantic tidal waves, and most importantly – not lose myself in the ga-ganess that dating can bring. My eyes aren’t closed, nor are they wide open – but they are looking inward as much as they are looking forward.

As I sent him a good-night email from the States, knowing I’d wake up to a good morning one from his newfound temporary oasis, it occurred to me that for once, I felt like I was doing the right thing. And not in a relationship or with a man or with a love that could be – but by my own standards. I’m being who I am (freak outs and beauty and all), I’m standing up for what I believe in, saying what I think, and not changing myself to be what I think Mr. Possibility wants me to be.

I may be my hardest critic and the one person in my life that is the most difficult to impress and appease- but when it comes down to it, I count on me for happiness and for contentment. Others will contribute to different parts of my satisifcation, and some may come and they may leave, be a possibility and then impossible, but at the end of the day and the end of my life, I know I have two feet that have served me quite well. And the person I’ve become, the woman I’m still growing into, is a beautiful thing – and not necessary for transformation for the mere purpose of pleasing someone else. It is the one relationship that I know regardless of the troubles or the ups and the downs, is worth any struggle. To create a love of my own, that belongs to me, derives from me, and is between me, will help me be ready for the love of tomorrow and the love of forever.

But no matter what, no one will ever love me, like I love me. And that’s how it should be.

The Single Girl’s Holiday Calendar

In New York, I decided to not get a television in an effort to use my money wisely. Somehow, to me, mini-trips, shopping, and trying out new restaurants around the town is a much better use of my hard-earned cash than sitting at home flipping channels. For those shows that I’m admittedly addicted to (Desperate Housewives, Glee, etc.) – there is always my very reliable and free friend, Hulu.

However, when you’re stuck inside an Igloo and the only way out is in - keeping your eyes glued to the tube seems to be the way to pass time. So, in between gazing outside, running on my family’s 15-year-old treadmill (very scary, by the way), cleaning, and cursing the clouds for their snow invasion - I’ve been hanging out on the couch, remote in one hand, puppy on the knee.

As I’ve watched reruns of Full House and spent hours salivating at the Food Network, and crying over the fancy trips on the Travel channel that I can’t afford to take – I’ve noticed a very strange theme in commercials. Before Christmas, regardless if they were advertising home appliances, jewelry, or electronics – almost every 30-second clip featured a happy, smiling couple. All the taglines promised to “bring a smile to her face” or “to give him the gift that keeps giving” or “be the envied couple of the year.

Ironically enough though, most commercials now are geared to the single crowd with the focus on New Year’s Eve. Beauty companies, fitness centers, major retailers, and all that’s in between – are now promoting themselves as the must-have for independence, for a “brand new beautiful you” or “the back-end that’ll make them take a second look” or “bring in the New Year with new gifts just for you.”

So, apparently flying solo while Santa’s in town is not recommended, but ringing in the next January 1 is? Does that much change in just a week?

I know about targeted marketing efforts and audience sampling to help determine what registers with viewers and maximizes a company’s return-on-investment for their clip during prime time. I know the process to create a commercial that the majority of people mute is a strenuous and standardized process – but maybe playing into our emotions and directing us to the special-times-of-the-year where being single is acceptable, isn’t the best route to take.

Holidays have always been, until late, a very difficult time to be sans-boyfriend for me. There is something about celebratory dinners with families, seeing long-lost friends, or anticipated dates that make me wish I had a physical, in-flesh date by my side. However – I will say that amidst the pressure from grandma and the Green Monster of Envy of your friend’s engagement ring, there is something to be said about the hype surrounding holidays that could make a minus-one lady lonesome. I won’t blame Hallmark or the Saints, but I may shy away from kneeling and purchasing for a bit.

And while most of it may very well be in our minds, watching couples frolicking in between Man vs. Food isn’t exactly appetizing for those of us who would like to take a bite out of a man ourselves. So instead of signing up for OkCupid or hitting the bar hard between now and the-holiday-that-shouldn’t-be-mentioned in February (deep breaths) – why don’t we create our own Single Girl Holiday Calendar?

I propose the following:

January 6- National No Regret Spending Day

While everyone else’s credit card bills will be coming back maxed-out to the limit due to purchasing expensive watches for their boyfriends and fancy chocolates for the boyfriend’s mother – ours will be happily balanced and in tact. And if not, at least we can glance down at our feet and see those Louboutins smiling back at us.

February 15- “I’m Prettier Than Your Box of Chocolates” Day

Those attached may be recovering from a romantic evening of imported wine and smelling the roses, but all the single ladies who spent the last week pampering ourselves with facials, manicures, blow-outs, and treatments, will be the ones who turn heads for days to come. Love does look good on people, but so does radiating skin courtesy of a fancy salon in midtown.

March 17- Kiss Many Irish Men (or Those Who Claim It) Day

Instead of having to wonder if our men will be getting a little too drunk to handle himself maturely at the bar, you’re free to indulge in green specialities, and if the Irish happen to get lucky by your standards, you may even steal a kiss. Or two.

April 24- Born-Again Single Woman Day

If instead of celebrating your singleness on New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patty’s, you decided to eat a full half-gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and drink yourself into a hot-mess oblivion, today is the day to rise up and rejoice! If you accept yourself as single, flaws and all, your power and strength will be returned to you. This also pertains to those who have newly been forced into or chosen the single status.

May 6- Single Ladies Get Out of Work (with Pay) Day

Due to an excessive obsession with guacamole and margaritas, any woman who is not attached to a man by formal titles bestowed by the state, church, or Facebook, is permitted to not go into work to recover from her hangover. She will get paid as she usual does and her attached friends are required to send her orange juice, diet coke, and appropriate feel-better food.

June 24 – National One Night Stand Day

Since this is a time where single ladies should be gallivanting to exotic places by themselves or with other free ladies, this is the day to celebrate being non-committed by enjoying a one night stand of your choice. By having the out-of-this-world sexy seduction during this 24-hour period (every minute, if you’d like) – your overall “number” does not go up, your emotions do not go haywire, and you are free to enjoy with no-strings-attached. Protection a must. Foreigners encouraged.

July 4- National Independence Day (USA)

Enough said.

September 5- Anti-Labor Day

In celebration of the fact that we’ve never had to go through labor pains and we don’t have to labor over pleasing a man, let us all raise a glass and a diamond-less hand to our slender bodies and well-rested heads. (Single mothers are the exception because we can’t even imagine how they can do it all on their own, even if they have actually been in labor)

October 29- Free to Be Scary Looking Day

With masks and costumes preparing to roam the streets, single women of the world honor the fact that they can just be themselves, in the privacy of their own apartments, without having to worry about their looks for a man. No makeup with a green cleansing facial masques, no clothes or pushup bras, no shaving in any area if we don’t fancy, and no zit-left-unpopped for this day. Be free, be a tad-bit scary looking…and still feel beautiful.

November 30- Thank Goodness I’m Single Day

While attached ladies are busy worrying about how their in-laws will get along, who will bring what dish to dinner, and if they’re boyfriend/husband will say they are thankful for “them”  when the crowd counts their blessings around the table – we’re encouraged to do whatever we like. Don’t want to go anywhere but our friend’s place and drink wine while “cooking” a turkey? Go for it. Try and make a list of reasons why you’re thankful to be single, too.

December 10- National Sparkle’ for Singles Day

Put down the third gift for mom, and the rice maker for Aunt Jo. Tis time to buy yourself something…just for you. There is no better way to say “I love me” than to feel like a star at the end of the year, throughout the year…and always.

Stuck in a Love Snowglobe

The day after Christmas, in a land far, far away from the majesty that defines New York City, I found myself stuck in my childhood home, surrounded by almost a foot of snow. And worse than being annoyed, was the realization that I wasn’t getting anywhere until Tuesday.

If you can feel my deep, intense, loud, and heaving sigh from wherever you are – I wouldn’t be surprised.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I really did enjoy being home for ten days. It was nice to see familiar faces and do virtually nothing but eat, sleep, and be very merry. I had a very wonderful Christmas and was actually able to consume some solid food by the time we opened presents. And of course, receiving 30 beautiful Christmas tulips (my favorite) from Mr. Possibility was a very nice gesture. (And hey, they weren’t second-hand, but intended for me). But after so much downtime, relaxing, not working, having no obligations or responsibilities – not to mention not really spending any money at all – this woman is going quite stir-crazy. I’ve found many ways to pass my time indoors, from giving myself a pedicure and attempting to teach my six-year-old dog tricks to eating lots and lots of snow creme and cleaning out all sorts of things that I’ve had for way too long.

Nevertheless, there has been something about having absolutely nothing to do and no way to get out – that’s made me a little melancholy.

I’ve found myself lost in my own thoughts, dreaming up notions of tomorrow in my mind, feeling that all-too-familiar twang of sadness and desire for a love to call my own, and even despite my recovery efforts, something has made me revert back to some of my love addiction fantasies.

You know – the fairytale land we’ve all created: those images of how we believe our future hubby will look like (tall, charming, handsome, with blue eyes), what his future career will be (something he loves and makes a ton of money), what our house will be like (old with a history and made of brick), and how he will propose (in a symbolic way that will mean something to us). All of these visions, these beliefs, these hopes for how our future, our lives, and our loves will play out.

And man, oh man, do I have a ton. I even have a journal I refer to as my “Dream Book” and it has documented everything from my first dollar made, my date to prom, my college acceptance letter, my first pay stub from my first real job, and it also holds my aspirations, my bucket list, and keepsakes. Bridal magazine clippings, snapshots of couples in love – from the super young to the very old, catalogs from Bergdorf Goodman with items tagged I’d die to own, pictures of places all over the world that I hope to travel to, scraps of fabric, adorable babies in cute little outfits, and apartments that are so very, very lovely. And it also holds my life’s checklist: I’ve checked off graduating from high school, going to college on scholarship, graduating from college, moving to NYC, working for a magazine, and now, there are still several remaining items to “accomplish.”

However, those left, minus being a New York Times best-selling author, aren’t exactly attainable by merit or ambition – but rather, what I believe, are only possible with patience and well…time. But these must-haves for my future, these figments of my imagination that somehow have never left me – are sometimes, so painful to think about. And yet, so precious to me.

I keep them in a part of my heart that I don’t even go near most of the time, a section of my soul that is still vulnerable, still open and full of faith, and a part of my mind that even against its best judgement is a hopeless romantic to the core. They are under strict protection, hidden away in a box beneath my dresser, underneath piles of sheets and pillowcases, completely out of sight for any visitor, friend or Mr. Possibility who may enter my apartment.

And yet, even though they are stuck under glass, in a love snowglobe of sorts, I almost always allow myself to input the man of the hour, of the week, of the month - into these fantasies. I gaze up at this man, interjecting him into these ideas, and hoping, wondering, praying - that he’ll live up to these notions I’ve sketched. That he’ll help me check off a box, be seated next to me at our wedding in a photo I’ll stick on a page in the Dream Book I’ve had since I was 13, and be the answer to these late-night, pleas for love. But then, when it doesn’t work out, when he was never really meant to play the part of my Mr. Forever – there those romantic angles go, right back in the book, out of sight, out of mind, out of heart. Protected again, under the same imagination they were created by…until the next endearing candidate comes along.

Maybe it is being captured by the snow with way too much time on my hands or just the growth of this journey, but instead of dwelling in these blueprints I’ve outlined for tomorrow – I’ve decided it is time to shake up the love snowglobe.

To twist the dial and let the music play for however it’d like. To watch the snow and the glitter, the specs, and the debris fly all sorts of ways, and allow those plans and checklists to be a little less structured. To give not only myself, but my sacred Dream Book, some room to change and some room for new opportunities to come my way. To give my heart some lee-way and to let go of the rigid expectations I’ve made for my Prince Charming, so maybe when a possibility comes along, my imaginary projections don’t drown out the brilliance of who he really is.

Because being trapped in any way – where it be in snow or in visions of white wedding dresses and homes with finger-painting messes – isn’t a pleasure for anyone. Stuck in the same rut with the same idea and the same hopes….will never liberate the Dream Book from its title or allow the most wonderful dream of all, reality, to play its course.