There’s My City

Driving back to Brooklyn with Mr. Possibility today, we crossed the expressway at sunset, the skyline illuminating its everlasting shine. As he always does, he said “There’s your city.” I turned to him and grinned and then placed my attention back to the place I sometimes feel is mine and at other times feel like it’s not even within my grasp.

Like I did when my father would zip down old curvy country roads in his black Toyota, I rolled my hand in the wind, feeling the pressure and pretending I could touch the building tops. I always find myself reaching and extending when I see New York in the distance – perhaps the view from afar is even more enchanting than the view from the Top of the Rock or looking down from the Empire State.

Stuck in traffic though, I felt a pain that hurts me to admit, but lately, the city has lost its luster. Or maybe, it’s just me.

Yes, Mr. Possibility is accurate by giving the city to me – part of it does belong to me. It gave itself to me many, many years ago when I was a snaggle-toothed seven-year-old, grinning in a pink jacket as I saluted Lady Liberty and giggled at my daddy buying five pieces of New York Style pizza in a single day. I loved it then and I love it now, but like a guy can make you feel when a second date doesn’t result in a third, I’ve felt like New York has rejected me.

With some recent changes and a disappointment I can only credit to myself, I’ve wondered about my footing. I haven’t felt sturdy and stable, but rather wobbly and uncertain, trying to squint into the future, or at the skyline, to try and see  a glimpse of what’s next. I’ve been pulling at anything I have in me to gain some hope, to see the silver lining on top of smog and heat, and the offices of opportunity that have turned me away. And in Mr. Possibility’s car, watching the sun fall along with my spirits, I remembered I was returning to a borough and not my actual Upper West Side pad, which made the city seem even further away than it already did.

I watched my hand flutter in the wind in the passenger’s side rear-view window and I realized I was pointing toward Brooklyn, not toward Manhattan. I was going with traffic instead of fighting against it. I was not claiming or revealing myself to my city, instead I was going with a flow I didn’t want to ride. And so, with Selena Gomez’s “Who Says” blaring in the background, I turned my hand over. I placed my palm toward Manhattan and I whispered a silent prayer to let opportunity and faith find me. To let me rename myself and reroute my path so I can find that joy again, that peace, that confidence I’ve always had in New York. And in myself.

Because if it’s my city, I can’t be turning my back to it or to the wind. I have to take it as it is, even when it’s tough and rough-around-the-edges. Even when it doesn’t give me what I want and when it takes me far from where I expected. If it’s my city, I have to always remember to make it mine…and give it (and me), a little time.

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Can’t Put Your Life on Hold

Today, in the company of those I love the most, my friend J and I are hosting a Bubble Q on my rooftop.

A Bubble Q, for those of you who are not Southern bred, is a get-together of sorts, where the hosts provide champagne and a few dishes and their guests bring a Southern dish (i.e. fried and bad for you) or alcohol of their choosing. Then of course, all are encouraged to dress in their best Lacoste polos, dresses cinched at the waist, pearls, and boat shoes, as well as clap and dance to the best of today and of country music at its finest. If such a genre could be fine, that is.

J and I have been planning this for months -ever since a drunken bar hope in West Village where we happened to run into SJP and nearly lost our breath – and I couldn’t be more excited. Although J is British, he loves all things the South produces (me included) and he has a certain affinity for baked Mac N’ Cheese and the drawl only possible  past the Mason-Dixon line. We’ve been friends for over a year now and though we bicker like a married couple, he’s become one of my closest confidants and someone who no matter what, always seems to come up with the right thing to say. He also keeps my best interest at heart, so much that last week when I received some bad news affecting my bank account, he sweetly offered to cancel the Bubble Q.

I considered it. I’m now managing my money closer than before, watching what I spend and recreating new concoctions based on Ramen and cheese. If we’re being honest, it probably makes a lot of sense to postpone an event that while it doesn’t cost that much between two hosts, it’s still unnecessary expenses when expenses are already plentiful. I could save the funds and then put on a better Bubble Q in a few months when things settle down, when I’m more stable, when I feel more confident financially.

But then my mom in her endless wisdom and Mr. Possibility in his kindness,  gave me the same simple advice: “You can’t put your life on hold.”

Even in times when nothing seems certain, where you face more challenges than opportunities, where you can literally feel yourself approaching an end, and you’re faced to prepare yourself for a beginning you can’t predict – you can’t just stop moving. You can’t pull away from all who love you, away from the things that make you happy. You don’t run because running is easy, you walk instead. You don’t leave all you had when you lose a part of it – you just keep moving, keep going, keeping living.

So, I’m not putting my life on hold. Instead, I’m raising a glass of bubbly, sportin’ my pearls, and bakin’ up a baked Mac N’ Cheese, y’all.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for the sweet friends I have who are always, always there for me. Even when someone gets pushed down the stairs, a lamp breaks, and all hell breaks loose. You are wonderful – each and every single one of you.

Things Like This Happen

When you lose a piece of yourself because you gave it away too easily. When you lose a job your heart wasn’t in and then maybe one you put your heart into too much. When you lose that loving feeling with someone you really loved. When you spend more money than you have, place more faith in something that’s not worth your trust. When you get what’s coming to you, but it’s not what you hoped it would be. When you waited too long for a transformation that was never in the cards to begin with.

When something doesn’t go according to a plan you made, even though you know better than to make plans when plans always, always change.  When there are no words to say to someone to comfort them when all of these things happen, the easiest phrase to pull out of your bag of cliches is: “Things like this happen.”

This saying isn’t inaccurate. It’s completely true – things like this do happen. People do fall in and out of love. People fight. People breakdown. People breakup and makeup. People lose their jobs. People have their spirits crushed. People make new friends and forget old ones. People get caught up in today and don’t think ahead. People are people, and things like this happen, but hearing that never makes anyone feel better.

Because everyone wants to be the exception.

We want to be the lucky one who gets away without a scrape, a scar, or a tear. We don’t just want the piece of cake that we can eat, we want the whole bakery and maybe the rest of the block too. We want to be the one who enjoys all the finer things in life without paying for the finer price tag. We want to test our limits but never push them too far and we want to love without boundaries, without reservations, no matter how much relationship residue we build up. We want to find a job that’s perfect with a paycheck that’s too high for it, work a few days a week, and vacation for months in Europe, just because we can. We want everyone we love to love us back, and those we aren’t that into to quietly go about their business without being taxed with the task of breaking someone’s heart needlessly. We want the silver lining – but not the rain.

But things happen. And if they didn’t, we would wish they did. Because perfection seems nice when it’s unreachable, but if we really could have everything we ever wanted, we would still always wonder when the bottom would fall from beneath us. We would still always wish for something more, even if we had the world. We would still see our life as we see it now, even if it looks a little brighter than what it feels like now.

Because the best of us, the ones who are damned-and-determined to reach those dreams, to find that love, to pave that path, to see that big, beautiful, attainable world out there – we’ll never be satisfied. We’ll keep pushing ourselves and those closest to us to demand more, to push for better, and to believe in tomorrow.

And as long as we’re living, things like this happen, so do things like that. Things happen, people change, relationships ends, jobs come to a close, chapters start over, apartments get messy along with hearts – but I’d rather see it all fall apart than to stay put or to settle for even one day of my life.

Let things happen so I can happen, too.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful to see the beauty in change and to embrace it with all that I have. Oh and for two very wonderful friends who talk me down from a ledge for an hour or so on Gchat and right next to me.

Miles Behind Me

Both transitioning between one part of our life into another, my good friend M and I spent a recent afternoon going to the gym for several hours (no exaggeration, actually), sunning ourselves slightly (we’re embarrassingly pale for July), and talking about our futures. What’s coming seems to be a popular topic of interest among the majority of my 20-something friends, as we’re all continuously waiting for a grand gesture from the universe that somehow never seems like it’s coming.

(Until it does, that is. And it always does, eventually…probably, maybe, hopefully…right???)

As we’re walking back to my apartment in desperate need for a shower, we are faced with toddler traffic. Three strollers with happy, bouncy, adorable babies are coming toward us, their nannies leading the way. Reminded I live on the Upper West Kiddie Side, we moved aside to let them pass before crossing Amsterdam. Getting closer to my place, I casually say to M, still thinking of the cute blue-eyed, dimpled two year old, I say, “Isn’t it strange to think that we’ll probably have a baby of our own in ten years?” Not one who is keen on commitment and breaks out in hives at the thought of trying on a wedding gown, M said: “Yeah, it’s odd but think of all that’s happened in the last ten years!”

Hmm, let’s think about it.

In the past ten years, I’ve graduated from high school, started, and finished college. I’ve moved from my first home to a second home, from that second home to a lakehouse, from that lakehouse to a third home. I’ve packed up my all of my things to move to college, then a year later, packed up more things to move into an apartment, put those things in a storage unit, only to take them out a week later to move into another apartment. And then again to move to New York, my family mailing a box a week for six weeks. I’ve had several New York addresses. I’ve interned and transplanted myself in the city. I’ve bought furniture twice, paid utility and credit card bills, taken out students loans and started to pay them back, with a lovely thing called interest. I’ve saved up my money, only to spend it, and then save it up again, and again…and again.

I lost my virginity and then proceeded to sleep with x-number of people I’ll never reveal to this blog. I’ve fallen in love three times, learned how to orgasm, how to break up with someone, and how to nurse a heartbreak with puppies, alcohol, and cupcakes. I’ve shattered spirits and hearts, made friends and lost them. Joined groups and made them better, left them and started new ones on my own. I’ve experienced the annoying curse of Mother Nature for being female 120 times. I started getting acne and never stopped. I learned the difference between a push-up and a regular bra, miraculously in front of the mirror at Victoria’s Secret with the saleslady encouraging me to purchase a dozen outside the door: “Don’t they look great, pretty thing?”

I’ve gained ten pounds, only to lose 15. I’ve gone through clothes and through men, trying different ones on for size, only to find they just didn’t fit quite right. I learned how wear makeup, how to straighten my hair, and how to just accept my natural little, uncontrollable waves as they are. I passed the driver’s test in North Carolina, only to crash my car a month later, and have my parents say a prayer of thanksgiving when I moved to New York and was off the road, off their insurance. I became a runner and slacked on my schedule when things heated up with Mr. Idea and again, when things became official and steady with Mr. Possibility. I learned to play tennis and then took almost every guy I could to play a match with me as a great second date (and to see them run a bit).  I’ve traveled across the states, but not abroad, though my piggy bank will soon allow me to go overseas. I’ve seen my first byline appear in a tiny publication in a tiny town in North Carolina, and then on Cosmo’s website in bold, beautiful pink letters I’ll never forget. I’ve had two four-page spreads in national publications and started this blog, that you, whoever you are, wherever you are, are reading, right now. (Thank you!)

I’ve figured out I like it on top more than I like it from the side and while charming and handsome is great, dependable and cute is better. I’ve fallen for the wrong guy and passed up someone who may have been the right guy if he was just a few inches taller (or larger). I’ve been kissed in Grand Central Station and the Lincoln Center, as I always dreamed, and figured out that sometimes dreams are more vivid in your head than they will ever be in reality. I’ve landed my first job, paid my dues as a hostess (with the most-ess), a maid (seriously), a freelancer (always), retail sales clerk (folding clothes, yay!), and a babysitter (girls are better than boys).

And now, I’m here. A 20-something with a lot of highs and lows, ups and downs, trails and successes, loves and losses, hopes and failures, miles and travels behind her. But you know – it’s only been two decades. I can’t even begin to list what I hope (and know) is ahead of me.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for huge coffees and the company of a new best friend :)

In An Ordinary Afternoon

The city has a strength that few can deny – in one powerful moment on an ordinary afternoon, it can steal your attention and calm your soul instantly. It takes what it can take and gives the very least it can, but you push through anyway. New York doesn’t make excuses for anything it does and it expects no less or more from its inhabitants, either native, visiting or transplanted. It’s unbearably hot, frigidly cold, entirely unpredictable, and ruthlessly relentless. But us dreamers? We keep coming, one-by-one, and two-by-two, with a few suitcases and singing a duet of ego and fear, determined to be destined to make it here, in New York freakin’ City, the place we were meant to be.

But the city fails us.

It kicks sidewalk trash in our eyes, places pigeons in our path, and tosses our dignity away with the unexpected Marilyn-Monroe-like subway vent gush of warm air up our skirts. It rains when we wear suede even though the forecast promised super-sunny highs. It has train delays on the days we need to get somewhere and is entirely too fast when we’re going to a place we just don’t want to be at. It goes express when we need local, local when we wish for express, and if there’s a rooftop party with a view, it’ll give us something to toss up the afternoon. It keeps enduring it all, failing us constantly, and we keep living.

And one day, out of nowhere in the middle of another ordinary afternoon or night, we meet some boy. With some story, from someplace we’ve never been or a town we knew from this person a few years ago who used to date our best friend who recently got married – and we’ll click. We’ll have the distracting click. We’ll watch the way they stick out their tongue when they concentrate and adore the rosiness of their cheeks when they sleep, regardless if it’s humid or chilly outside. We’ll grow accustomed to the shape of their body, the flash of joy our body experiences when we see their name pop up with a text message, and having those things that are “our” things, just between us and that boy we met that day we’ll always find just so damn glorious.

But the boy fails us.

He’s human and he’s a guy, so automatically, he’s doomed to be someone we won’t always see eye-to-eye with. He’ll call most of the time when he says he will, but on those gloomy, crappy, downright awful times when we’re blubbering hot messes in need of a shot of Merlot and a Magnolia’s cupcake, he won’t be around. He’ll be out-and-about or an emergency of the real kind will pop up, and he’ll need to have his attention elsewhere. He won’t always give us what we need and we won’t always know how to ask for it. He’ll come and he’ll go in a sweetly sickening stance, teetering between being the man we always craved and someone we pray won’t shatter our heart in the end. But we keep going, we take our relationship as it is, enjoying the beautiful highs and weeding our way through each of our jungles of the past, and we keeping loving.

Then after we take the leap of faith to tackle our city and stomach the nerve to actually let ourselves sincerely care about someone, there will be one of those ordinary afternoons again, where everything seems to be going well and we find ourselves smitten by the state of our lives, wondering where the rain cloud went and pensive it’ll return. I mean, it always does, right? Or does it? This happiness can’t actually end, we’re too big for our shoes now. We’re too self-bloated to believe anything could change. We worked for this pleasure, we paid our dues, we did what we were supposed to be, minus skipping a few steps here and there. So why would anything happen?

But then we fail ourselves.

We’ll have some news that makes us crash-and-burn, question our skills and the way we’re leading our lives. We’ll want to run and run as fast as we can in a direction we don’t dictate, hoping that by moving quickly, we’ll escape the pressure that’s building, the regret we are attempting to ignore that’s bubbling in our chest. Avoiding tears because they make us weak, then letting them escape because we’re told that’s healthy, we crumble to the ground or into our beds, smothered in pillows and sorrow, wanting nothing more, no matter what age we reach, then to hug our mother, smell her hair, and just leave it all behind.

Because we know we went right when going left would have been smarter. We keep letting ourselves get down instead of working hard to push ourselves up. We made decisions we knew weren’t right, we stayed longer than we knew we should have, we made impossible demands on things there were once possible, but now are not. We let our attention wonder when it should have stayed focused, and when we were faced with a challenge, we tried to hide instead of stepping up to it directly. We lingered on the past, on the ideas of what we were, of what we could of been, of where we were going, without remembering who we’re becoming, what will be, and where we’re headed. We got lost in the losses instead of seeing the beauty in losing.

Failing doesn’t mean the end, it means the beginning. And failing is only defined by our own terms based on experiences we’ve had where we were told doing this or doing that meant falling. We can’t fail if we’ve never failed before. But we also can’t win if we haven’t failed. If we don’t know what it feels like when life most literally sucks (there is no more eloquent word), we wouldn’t know to appreciate the blessings when they come our way. Without failure, there is no progress, and with no progress, there is no way to fulfill those dreams in New York, or with or without a man. There is no right way, if there’s never been a wrong way.

So, fail. Learn. Take the road less traveled and figure out it’s wrong. Love someone who doesn’t deserve you. Give away your heart and let that spirit crumble. Make poor decisions that leave you sitting alone at Dunkin Donuts with a red suitcase, an attitude, and a banana you can’t eat (story to come), waiting on a comfort that no one can give you other than yourself, no matter how supporting your possibility is. Be a critic of yourself and give bad reviews. Eat that cheesecake. Yes, the whole thing.

And then breathe. Pick yourself up. Pay your gratitude to the fates, who gave you the beautiful opportunity to fall hard and get a little bruised up. Because now, my friend, it’s time to heal. And of course, to again, one day, in an ordinary afternoon, succeed.

Daily gratitude: I’m thankful that I’ve failed. And that I survived it.

(If you’re wondering, no, Mr. Possibility and I didn’t break up. It’s a different kind of loss)

The Freedoms We Don’t Choose

We all value our freedoms in different ways and at different degrees. Some of us are so liberated we have a difficult time committing to anything or anyone, while a few only like freedom when they need a little space (but even then, they want to know someone or something is close by, just in case they feel lonely).

Freedom is funny in that way – we want the freedom to choose our freedoms, not have them decided for us. If we don’t want to be free of something, then we want the option not to be, but if we do, then we want that choice, too.

Say for instance, we’re dating someone we really like. He fits the bill, he stimulates us intellectually and otherwise, he is giving when we need him to be, but demands that we take, too. He’s tall and handsome, chiseled and yet has that boyish demeanor…we’re smitten. But then we’re an independent, self-sufficient, confident female. We don’t really depend on him to fulfill us in each way we need to be compensated. We don’t need him to open really tight jars, just need him to be at an arm’s reach in case we absolutely can’t budge it. We don’t need him to help us move – we can hire movers, after all – but it’s nice to know he’s there…

…until he’s not.

And then, all of those freedoms we craved, all of the space that our independent-self thought she needed, suddenly doesn’t seem so important. Now what we want more than anything is to reverse the breakup, reverse the fight, reverse the need to be liberated, and have him, right here, right now. But the freedom of choice is gone because someone else decided to exercise theirs.

Or what about a job? They’re hard to come by these days and seem like precious little entities once you find one you actually like. Or at least one you like a little bit, at least. And so, you work hard and you dedicate your time, your energy, your creativity to making your company and your own career better and more competitive. You suck up the things you don’t like and you make a promise to yourself (and to the job gods) that you’ll find a way to make any work, work…

…until it doesn’t.

Until a company downsizes or collapses in a dismal economy. Until job performance suffers because as 20-somethings, we’re given the same advice for our career that we’re given in the similarly dismal dating world: keep your options and eyes wide open – unless you have the dream job (or man) of course. But in keeping freedom in mind, do we ever really commit to anything?

Or anything other than wanting to be free? Or at least have the opportunity to choose those freedoms for ourselves, instead of having someone else pick for us? We want the ball of freedom in our courts, not in the court of the universe, but more often than not, our speed, our agility, or our ability to slam dunk has little to do with us, and a lot to do with fate.

Because maybe that guy seemed wonderful and perhaps that job kept a roof over our head and happy hour drinks in our tummy, but it wasn’t what was meant for us. Maybe we end up staying with guys or at jobs longer than we should for fear that nothing else will along or that every human’s greatest fear will come true, and we’ll be left alone, homeless, broke, and unloved.

But those things don’t happen as often as we’d like to believe. And when they do, the universe just takes the ball back and encourages you to shoot again. To aim higher. To run faster. To feel the sweet wind blowing through your hair. To enjoy your freedoms, even when you didn’t decide to have them for yourself.

Because sometimes, these liberties are the ones that open up the most doors and ultimately, make us the freest of all.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful to be free.

Picnic for One

On the tiny border of North Carolina and Georgia, there’s a small town called Hayesville. If you’ve driven through it, I hope you didn’t blink – because you may have missed it, if you did. It has one flashing traffic light, a courthouse nestled in the middle, a few grocery stores and barbque pits, and inhabitants that gossip as quickly as they speed.

But it does have one very beautiful redeeming quality – Lake Chatuge. A man-made manifestation, this wavy glory is where I learned to swim, ski, sail, knee and wake board. It’s banks taught me how to kiss boys on hot, sticky summer nights. In fact, it’s the place where I spent most of my summers and all of my Independence Days. It’s where my family is right now, cruising under the sun, glancing behind the boat, remembering when I used to make them go faster and faster so I could try a 360 on a pressing water-bump.

When I think of the 4th of July at my lake home, I always see endless lines of foods from our potlucks with neighbors in the community, and I remember my sunburns so vividly on my shoulders and cheeks that I swear my skin still resonates warmth. I can feel my hair wet and tangled, void of shampoo or product for days because A – it didn’t matter, and B- I was too young to care about such frivolous things. I can see the fireflies in Mason jars, hear the tree frogs humming and the sound of illegal firecrackers illuminating the sky from some cottage in the deepest, darkest part of the woods.

And of course, I remember the constant urge to be free.

I didn’t want a curfew and I wanted boobs. I didn’t want to drive the golf cart around our gated community, I wanted to have a real car with a real license. I didn’t want wine coolers, I wanted to have a glass of real wine with my mom. I didn’t want to hold hands by the lake, I wanted a boyfriend who I could make out with like I saw in movies. I didn’t want to be instructed on what to do, what to wear, or who to see. I wanted to shave my legs and go places all by myself, with my own money, on my own time.

I thought time passed slowly then, and I wish I thought the same now. I’m still wondering where May and June went, and I find it hard to believe I’ve been as “free” as I always wanted to be for quite some time now. And though there are moments when I wish I could tuck my Tigar tail and hop a flight home, run into my parent’s arms and have them fix everything – freedom is just as sweet as I always thought it’d be.

I don’t go to lake houses anymore, but I frequent rooftop parties and throw my own Bubble-Q’s (champagne and BBQ, duh!). I don’t have to be home at any particular time, though I inflict a midnight bedtime on myself most nights. I have boobs and I like them, but sometimes wish they’d stop getting in the way of every physical activity I enjoy. I have a driver’s license I only use to buy alcohol with, and I do drink Merlot out of nice glasses, for free, most of the time. I do make out with my boyfriend, plus some – but we hold hands, too. No one dictates what I wear or what I do, though my friends’ input is appreciated for both of those things always. I don’t shave my legs as often as I probably should, but I’m allowed. And all that food – well, now I put together what I can, and instead of big picnics with family and neighbors, I quite enjoy picnics for one.

Where I gather cheese and grapes, pretzels crisps, orange juice, and maybe a sliver of dark chocolate and sit, alone in my apartment. With no one around, no one to hold a conversation with, no cell phone nearby or computer in site, I just enjoy the company of myself, the serenity of my little picnic for me. And I pretend I’m a sophisticated adult, sitting in her breakfast nook wearing Dior like it’s normal, drenched in pearls, with my Loubies tossed off under an antique table. In the background, I hear the sound of my husband’s voice talking to our children and outside, I hear laughter and taxis singing the chorus of the city in a harmony that only an outsider, like me, can appreciate. My face is freckled with the imprint of a sun that didn’t burn and the fridge I can see out of the corner of my eye is tattooed with fingerpaintings from the two year old, photos from my wedding day, and the title page of my very first book.

Next to me lay dozens of magazines I worked for or freelanced with for a period of time, and as I think about how I’ll spend my day, I’ll remember back when I sat in my Upper West Side apartment in my 20s, young in my career and in my spirit, dreaming of the day I’d be independent of the worries of my future and what it would become and who I would grow into. When I sat with feet stained with dust from old floors and my roommate’s music blasting in the background, writing a blog I’d one day look back at and grin.

Because those maybe were the days when I was the most liberated, I just didn’t know it yet.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for picnics for one, and I’m sure, that I’m returning home from the countryside.