Believing in the Unknown

I traveled to North Carolina last weekend for some much needed time with my family. The three days and some loose change of hours were blessed and bittersweet — we all knew the time was too short, as it always is, and the circumstances, not ideal. My father– the brawly fireman that fights as fiercely as he loves — has had three surgeries in the past six weeks. My mom has taken on the role of sole caregiver, bandage changer, and keeper of the finances, the household and the sanity, leaving her, unsurprisingly, a little insane.

With the kindness of my great job, I took off a day to help out and give as much support as I could offer. The trip was full of some tears and laughs, red wine and margaritas, shopping trips and steaks shaped like hearts, all underneath the transcending beauty of the bright blue Carolina sky. I always forget just how vast and endless it feels in the south — uninterrupted by the skyscrapers and smog, quiet and subtly enticing. I spent my mornings waking up early and retreating to our back porch, drinking coffee and just staring at the horizon, gulping in the fresh air and the crispness of the day. I walked barefoot with my family pup, Suzie, feeling the dew on the grass and the gushy, gooeyness of the mud in between my toes. I tiptoed from stepping stone to stepping stone to retrieve the mail and take out the trash; all the while my dad, sore from surgery, hollered out for me to come back inside. Then at nighttime in layers of jackets — my mom’s and then my dad’s because I forgot to bring one of my own — I looked up at the same familiar stars that I used to dream under, thinking about those same shining lights in Manhattan that I’d one day be part of.

It reminded me of being a kid. And I liked it.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the truly hard parts of being an adult– leaving the home you knew and the parents who raised you on hearty meals, boat rides and unconditional, encouraging love. Or learning how to save money for a future you’re not sure you’ll actually see, while spending enough to create memories today that you’ll tell your grandchildren about 40 years from now. Or how your 20s feel so incredibly long and intolerably fast all at the same time, making you squirm somewhere in between thinking you’re getting old and that you’re too young enough to care.

It’s confusing and maddening, and yes, beautifully educational.

At the ripe ‘ole age of 24, I’m proud of the decisions I made and of the zip code I selected — but as wonderful as my little apartment and job is, I still miss my mom and dad. I still long to be taken care of like and to be void of any responsibilities, cares or concerns. When my greatest achievement was catching those fireflies and sneaking a flash light under the covers so I could write in my diary. When boys only mattered enough to hold hands in the hallway and call you for half a minute at night. When your parents seemed ageless and young, incapable of being human, but rather all-powerful superheroes who rescued you from all of the bad guys – the boogeyman, the bullies and the insecurities that wrestled your mind and mirror. When time seemed like something obsolete and fascinating, when adulthood meant turning 22 and having all of your dreams already perfect.

Once you’re actually a 20-something, you realize that nothing is perfect and that maybe, nothing will ever be exactly how you planned.

But that’s why childhood needs to be sweet. So that when you’re sitting on a bus back from JFK on a Sunday night, longing for the comfort of your dad’s arms and your mom’s laughter, you savor the life you’ve already had. You can close your eyes, even if they’re filled with tears and your heart full of prayers. You can think about those memories to keep your warm and keep your hopes high. They remind you of where you came from and how you were able to be the lady you are, living this life you worked hard to create.

So that even when times are unsure or uncertain, for when you realize how little control you honestly have over everything, for when things change and so do you, you think about those possibilities you always knew were possible. You remember those people who told you that you could if you set your mind to it.

You open your eyes to look outside to that skyline, its dazzling puzzle luring you in, once again, to take another step. To give something another try. To keep believing in the unknown, in the things that have yet to come, the people you’ve yet to meet, the experiences you haven’t felt yet.

If you believed in them when you didn’t know any better than to believe in extraordinary, imaginary things, you can believe even harder when you do know better. Because that’s when believing gets tough, that’s when it becomes worth it.

That’s how dreams become more than stars glittering above your 7-year-old head on a chilly North Carolina night. That’s how you go from being a wanderlust kid to an adult that knows the unknown isn’t as scary as it feels, it’s where all the magic actually happens.

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Chasing the Chrysler

The November air crashed against my cheekbones, turning them a daring pink and making my lungs burn like fire. I damned myself for forgetting ear muffs and for wearing socks that slip with every pace. But M was smiling at my side, as we both chased after the Chrysler building, just a few bridges and a river away from our Queens running track last night.

It had been the best kind of New York weekends — full of late morning sleeps and late night last calls, single friends who encourage me to be ballsy and a pup who makes me love unconditionally. The city is slipping into its holiday splendor– red and green shops sprouting in every park, ice skating rinks becoming full of tourists and teenagers, and the snowflakes on Fifth Avenue lighting on Friday. It’s my favorite time of year, and as the snow arrives, so do icy memories I’ve tried to melt away.

They’re not sharp around the edges anymore and they’re really not even bittersweet, instead they’re pesky little feelings that have lingered significantly past their welcome. It’s not Mr. Possibility, the man that I miss and it’s certainty not out tumultuous relationship– it’s rather, possibility itself that makes me ache.

And it’s what consumes my thoughts as I run along with my equally single best friend, trying to ignore the cold as much as I attempt to forget my desires. These intense notions I have that something or someone is on their way, coming from some place I can’t define. And obviously can’t find. Not matter how much I try or how much I dream.

It’s been so long since I’ve felt that thing, I thought. That intriguing, gut wrenching and gut deep feeling that tells me this could be the next big thing. It’s not for lack of trying, I said to myself, thinking of the night before with M, hopping from jazz clubs and nighttime establishments to boroughs we don’t live in — catching the eyes of the many men who caught our attention. It’s not an easy city, even if it’s complexity is what I love the most about it. Rather, it’s the fact that the men mimic it’s complications that makes me stir relentlessly.

As we approached the two mile mark, my wary thoughts made my music inaudible: am I going to meet someone? Have I met him already? Will I find that same chemistry again? Are my standards too tall, my confidence too low? Am I going to the right places? Is it the right time? Will it ever be the right f***ing time? Am I  losing my mind because the winter makes me cuddle crazy? Why am I worrying about something  can’t control? Didn’t I start the blog so I wouldn’t think like this? Ugh. 

Stop.

I heard the voice so clearly, I swore it came from me. Knowing it didn’t (and I hoping I didn’t imagine it) I looked cautiously ahead of me, searching in unrecognizable faces, wondering why they would call me to a halt. When no one’s expression expressed anything at all, I turned back to M, who was just a few steps behind, to see her standing, pulling out her earphones and saying:

Stop– we met our goal. We did it! Time to walk.

I smiled at her rosy running cheeks and caught my breath… and my grip. She’s right– we did meet our goal. We did do it– we left home, moved a thousand miles away to build new homes, friendships and careers. Build entirely new lives. And made ourselves into new women that we’ll eventually grow into. We had made it in the place we wanted doing exactly what we wanted and living a life that most will never get the chance to experience. That many would never even consider to attempt to achieve.

And so now, we stop.

We take a walk around this little life, this single-girl-in-NYC stigma that’s every bit false as it is true. We walk to bars where we will meet men who may last an hour, an evening or… a lifetime. We make choices based on what’s best for us, without having to factor in anyone else. We can come and go as it feels right, skip the gym or stay for one more drink. Or two more hours. We can spend this month’s saving on a purse because it was a rough couple of weeks, or just because we want to. There are no right answers to anything that plagues my mind in terms of love.

But there is a time to make it all stop. To let it go, and let it be. To kiss someone because it feels semi-magical or to leave when it doesn’t. To be proud of being alone, and especially for choosing it because you just haven’t met someone great, or you were brave enough to leave someone you loved to find the one you’d always love. To chase after dreams even when they’re too big, and to chase after yourself — and the city that’ll never be completely attainable, just like the men who live here. Because one day, these days of being with just the girls, trying to decode the dating rhythms will be those memories you reminisce about around the dinner table, instead of ones you create right now. They’ll be the days you miss.

Yay, we did it! Whew my back hurts, I agreed.

Mine too, are we getting old? M asked.

Nah, I replied. We just need to walk for a while. That’s all. 

You Learn To Say Yes

When there’s a moment at some bar in some part of town on some night when you’re feeling highly unlike yourself, yet more liberated than you’ve ever felt at any time or place — maybe ever — and you feel like the decision you always thought was wrong, somehow, in some way, feels more than just somewhat right… don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Don’t let those nagging voices, those lingering interpretations of what’s good and what’s bad, what’s moral and what’s immoral hang over your head or damper your bed. When you’ve spent your entire life avoiding doing what you’ve really wanted, what you’ve really craved for fear of what it says about you or what it would mean or not mean — there sometimes comes a moment when instead of denying yourself…

You learn to say yes.

When you play by the rules and you get up with the clock without delaying your rise-and-shine time, and you leave the bar at the strike of midnight so dark circles don’t weigh your eyes. When you’re the first to arrive and the first to leave, when you’re the girl who skips the extra drink as your high-heeled friends tiptoe away in yellow cabs with open minds into the night, into the evening that could bring up more questions than answers. When you’d rather know the plan before agreeing to the route, or when you’d prefer to be the leader of the shenanigans instead of the one who lets the Autumn wind blow her whichever way it might. When you’re so used to being so in control of everything and everyone and every situation, without a surprise, without anything or anyone having the chance to stir up the path you’ve laid so carefully. So meticulously. So rationally. When you’ve been that woman and it’s taken you far, there comes a point when the bartender asks if you’ll have another round and instead of listening to the clock tick…

You learn to say yes.

When the love you thought you found has been gone for so long that smells aren’t familiar and places don’t ring the bells you’ve forgotten how to hear. When your heart can’t remember the last time it desired to leave the comfort of your chest or when your head fit like a missing puzzle piece on the chest of some man that you felt could be more than a stranger. When your mind rolls around in reckless matter, trying to detect the signs between the sentences, the maybes among the definitelys and the definitely not’s. When you feel like there’s nothing you have to give and there’s no one worth trying to find or any love worth the risk. When another date feels like another date on another day that will end in a cold, empty bed on a cold, bitter night. When you know that most likely, he won’t — whoever he is — be different than the rest, but you’d be better off to at least meet his eyes and share a glass of wine…

You learn to say yes.

When every last bone in your body aches to stop and your lungs fill up with such rage that you’re sure they will burst before you reach the lightpost a few paces ahead. When you know that pleasure is still two miles away and in that time you’ll have to suffer through the freeze and battle through the careless pedistrans, not watching you come, not caring to move out of your way, not interested in the runner who decides to break a sweat instead of sweating over a date you won’t like anyway. When you can see your goals and you can feel your body adapt to meet them, but the warmest place to land is your bed — not this unforgiving pavement that you pretend doesn’t make your ankles sore. When you really, really want to give up. When your limbs want you to stop. When you come to the conclusion that you simply can’t go any harder or faster, you decide to disagree and fight back.

You learn to say yes.

When you’ve always known what’s next or at least where you hoped you’d be. When you’ve felt certainly certain and positively positive about everything that mattered and all that you dreamed of. When you’ve spent endless hours obsessing about the tiniest of details and the smallest of cracks, the could-be’s and the would-be’s, the opposite ends of the spectrum and all that’s in between. When you’ve mapped it out and factored in a few curve balls that no one said you could prepare for, but you — you figured out a way to do just that. When you’ve crossed your t’s and lined your eyes, slimmed your thighs and been brought to your knees. When you’ve met all of your promises and held up all of those pretty little standards that you’ve straightened up in perfect little rows around the magical city you call home.

When there’s a moment where all you want to do is plunge into something or someone or some place, just to see what happens. Instead of telling yourself how badly it could turn out and how you might feel or how you might regret….

You learn to say yes. You just say yes.

You Can Say It

Maybe it’s being in your mid-twenties or just the thought process of those in the not-so-deep South, but inevitably, the question I’m always asked when I retreat back to the state I came from is: Are you seeing anyone special? 

It used to really bother me and make me feel like I was perceived as less complete or less successful or less satisfied because I was flying solo instead of heading toward happily-ever-after with a great guy. Sure, in New York, everyone delays marriage and it’s totally normal (if not encouraged) to say “I do” in your 30s. But when you leave the mecca of independence, the nation’s average bride is 25 years old. So, you know, right around my age.

To combat my insecurities about getting to the marrying age, I used to put up a bold, shining smile and ward off that pesky inquiry by saying things like, “I’m married to my job!” or “No, I’m single and loving it!” or “I’m totally in no rush, everything is amazing in New York!” I thought that if I appeared unscathed by my single stature or my lack of a loving, intimate relationship, then relatives and friends would stop asking when I was going to walk down the aisle and believe that I actually am happy without a man.

Because really, I am. I am very committed to my job (even aching to get back since I’m stuck inside my Upper West Side apartment thanks to Hurricane Sandy), I do enjoy being able to do as I please without checking in with someone, and I’d rather postpone matrimony until I know that I’m totally ready — and my guy is, too. All of those things are factual and suitable answers to queries about my relationship status — but they’re not the whole truth.

There’s a difference between being fine single and still wanting to find someone. Some girls, I’m sure, may be satisfied without dating or really looking for a guy who could be a great match — but if I’m honest with myself, I just don’t fall into that category. While I’ve been single for a year and it doesn’t cause me much stress or sadness, my eyes are also wide open. And though it’s a little hesitant and scared of what it may find, my heart is too.

But somehow, replying with, “I’m happily single and ready for the next big thing!” makes me feel…well, less of a sassy, savvy professional and more like a lady in waiting. Like I’m just twiddling my thumbs and pacing my apartment, anticipating the knock on my door from some midtown, Wall Street or Brooklyn gent to come to my rescue and sweep me away. Like my life isn’t rich and full, bold and beautiful without a guy to share it with. Like I’m not sturdy enough to stand on my own two feet without someone to lift me off of them. Like I’m not a real woman until a real man shows me what it means to have a real, everlasting, forever-and-ever kinda love.

It’s my own double standard and something I’ve had to work out time-and-time again in my head to be able to speak it out loud. It’s something I’ve had to accept and know that it’s okay for others to accept about me. It’s something I’ve had to overcome and realize over the course of writing this blog, but it’s something I’m now proud to declare.

It just means that I can say it. I do want a relationship. I do want a boyfriend. And you, you can say it, too.

You can be strong, and still long for someone who lets you depend on him. You can be fulfilled with what you have, where you are and in the company you share, but still want to fulfilled by a man who absolutely adores you. You can have so much love that comes from every face of your life, and still want more — there can never be too big of an abundance of love for anyone. You can be perfectly happy, perfectly fine, perfectly you, perfectly alone, and still find yourself looking forward to the day when you’re not. You can be self-sufficient and stunning, marching along without missing a step, and still want someone to walk hand-in-hand with.

You can say it. You can own it. You can wish for and hope for and work for it. Because, it really does take work. It doesn’t make you dependent, it doesn’t make you less of the fierce , unstoppable woman you are. It doesn’t mean anything at all except that you’re human. That you want to mate. That you want to love. That you want a partner. You can admit it: you’re happy, but yes, you want to find an incredible, loving, funny, intelligent, handsome man — and that’s okay.

Really, it’s okay. You can say it. You can say that you’re single, but…you’re looking. 

I Want To Meet Someone

I want to meet someone.

Those five words lingered in my head, even as I tried to ignore that they were there. I distracted myself with thoughts of other things and by making to-do lists in my head. I pretended this desire wasn’t bubbling beneath me — but as I sat, overlooking the Hudson with Lucy fast-asleep in puppy dreamland in Riverside Park on Sunday — I couldn’t stop the message my heart sent to my mind.

I want to meet someone.

Though powerful and constant — it’s not a helpless feeling or a dissatisfied longing. It’s different than it was years ago. I don’t feel like something is missing or part of me is still void — I’m not lusting after every man I see or pulling strings and squinting my eyes to make it work with every dude who buys me dinner. I feel no rush and no pressure, no need to speed along a road that I’m not sure how to navigate yet. I don’t believe it’s impossible to find happiness and I do believe I’m meant for a long-term love– and still. Still – after (many) failed relationships, hundreds of blogs debating where I stand on love and loveless and loving, endless conversations with my ever-so patient friends– I still want it.

I still want to fall in love.

But the craving has changed. It’s not wistful and romantic (well, only a little). I’m not looking to be completed or rescued. I’m not hoping to make a married man out of a guy who doesn’t even like to date or is totally emotionally unavailable. I’m not making myself something I’m not so I can be granted the so-called coveted title of girlfriend.

Instead– I want to meet someone… like me?

Someone with a heart that often feels too big for his chest. Someone who can see the good – the possible — in every part of his life, and especially with me. With us. Someone who captivates me, pulls me close and lets me fly. I want to meet someone who accepts himself and does what he can to understand the world. Someone who likes to read and run, travel and learn — explore and make mistakes, dream and slow down. Someone who makes me want to be a better me and be part of a better we than he has before. I want to meet someone who knows how to love– who wants love– who may be afraid of it, but tries it anyway. Who knows how important it is. Someone who has goals for himself and plans he will break for the right thing, the right person, the right place – the right time. Someone who is happy with the someone and the something and the somewhere he is.

I want to meet someone who likes the way the city rests on Sundays and how it’s the perfect day to wake up late, make love and eat pancakes. Someone who wants a family just as much as they want an amazing, fulfilling career, and knows you’ll never be able to be perfect at either. I want to meet who thinks about his future further than Saturday night and deeper than one night stands and tequila shots in Murray Hill. Someone who wants to try new things but also likes to be a regular at places he can’t and won’t stop going to. Someone who knows how to kiss without being rough and knows that love isn’t always enough– but it’s always worth whatever it brings or makes you learn.

I want to meet someone who challenges me and yet, makes me feel comfortable in my running clothes, without any makeup, without any hesitations. Someone who wants to know what I know, who wants to see the town I grew up in. Who can’t wait to share a beer with my dad or go on a walk with my mom. Someone who comes from a place I admire and has a laugh I long to hear. Touch I want to feel. I want to meet someone who is strong enough to stand next to me and sweet enough to let me fall into him when I need it. Or even when I don’t, but want it. Someone who remembers the things I say and can hear the things I don’t, someone who will be there today, tomorrow – always. I want to meet someone who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here, with me. (And Lucy.)

I want to meet someone.

Someone out there in this big city, living on some street I’ve crossed a million times, taking some train at the same time, thinking about when he would meet… someone like me.