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.

 

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The Girl Who Changed It All

Once upon a time in a far-away land called Manhattan, there lived a man.

He was a favorite at his firm, the comedian of his group of friends and the best uncle he could be to his nephews. He was attractive in the most all-American of ways, chiseled and fit, and blue-eyed with hair that curled at the ends. He had no trouble courting and finding women to share his bed, and several tried to claim his attention too. But that — that was the one thing he couldn’t do. As wide as his mind would open as he traveled the world and as big as his checks grew over the years to the charities he admired, the one part of his life that wouldn’t grow was his heart. It had grown weary after a bitter breakup right after college, and as he approached the big 3-0, he was happy and satisfied with all he had made for himself, but love just wasn’t in the cards. Sure, he thought about it occasionally — when he had one too many whiskeys with his colleagues or when he suffered through an unimpressive date with another tall, thin-someone from somewhere, who didn’t do much more than turn him on with her looks. He remembered the days when he wanted a family, and sometimes finds himself jealous of his siblings who seemed to of mastered the home life without much consideration for their career.

He was smarter, he thought. He had focused on the right things and didn’t let something as silly, as transitional, as fleeting as an attractive broad shake his priorities. He made the right choice  — if it had been a decision at all, that is — and without a doubt, he’d be running the company before the next decade was over. And that soft-something to come home to? It’d be a nice blanket of cash to rest easy on, and to give those around him all the monetary needs to be happy. He’d be a great uncle. He’d be a game-changer in his industry. He’d have an amazing apartment in midtown. He would always have incredible sex. But love? He could do without it.

Or at least he thought.

She was always the odd one of her group of friends. A little distracted by her dreams instead of living in the here-and-now. She didn’t realize her beauty or depend on it to get her where she wanted to go, as many women do. Loveliness drenched through her body, all the way to the soul — she always captivated those who knew her by the depth of which she cared. She was successful in her own right, but in a way that wasn’t typically considered remarkable. She didn’t fret though – she had come a long way and if she made any difference in the world, she hoped it was by helping someone else. She loved to draw and missed the girly-girl gene, often sporting casual attire that suited her lifestyle, but wasn’t what most would call trendy. Independent to the bone, she went backpacking through Europe, spent a year in Australia just because she could, and skipped the Ivy League college to study art via the streets of Venice. But she was brilliant. She soaked up the energy of those around her and men often fought to win the upper hand. She never let them – while she believed in love and knew one day she’d wed, she was in no rush and felt like it should just work itself out. It would be easy. She knew what she was worth and that she would know when she met someone who knew it too.

For him, she was the girl who changed it all.

They met in an ordinarily, extra-ordinary way — by chance. The chemistry was unmistakable, those passing by would have sworn the couple had known each other for years. They felt it, too. Instantly. She was careful not to give too much away and he hungered after the chase because he finally felt alive. That spark that had blown out so many moons ago, started to ignite and he couldn’t deny it. If there was to be love, if he was to love, if there was such a thing called fate after all, it had to be with her. Because she arrived, he could arrive at a different decision. His entire life changed course – now things like family, romance and nights-spent-in cooking and making love throughout the early hours of the morning were far more enticing than working longer or going in on the weekends. Her art had never been better – she felt inspired and warm, almost in a constant state of awe that she had found him. He counted his blessings every night she fell asleep in his arms, naked and entranced that he really could be one of those guys who found the girl who made him a better man. A girl who changed everything.

This is a storyline you’ve heard before. It’s one you’ve watched, one you’ve read in books with pages you couldn’t stop turning. It’s the story you’ve believed with all your heart from the first time you heard it. It’s the same story you tell yourself when you’re unsatisfied with your relationship but really want it to work out. So you wait. Because you can be the girl who changes the man. You can be the sparkling, captivating, irresistible woman who changes a darkened man into a lighting bolt. Who can change the one who refuses love into the one who seeks it. The gal who can not only mend a broken heart that’s been down for years, but you can give it a new life. You can make it better than it was before. We all want to be the one who changes a toxic bachelor into a hopeful romantic, simply because we are so wonderful.

Because if we can do that – if we can be that girl we’ve watched and read about then we must really be something. We must be glittering with golden specs, eliminating the black-and-white and bursting with color. If we can be that intoxicating, if we can break the mold and break in the man, then we’re really that remarkable.

I’ve wanted to be that girl.

I’ve believed I could love someone so much that they would change their heart and love me just as much in return. I knew if I could do anything, it was being kind and understanding. It was being so alluring, so entrancing, that no matter what – a man would come out of his shell, out of his own standards and see that he had to believe in love, because he believed in me. If I could get a man – a man I loved – to see me like that, then maybe I really was something special. I was determined to be the one who could make everything  sensible for someone else until I realized I was already the girl who changed it all…for me.

I have been brave enough to try things that truly terrified me – from moving to New York to falling madly in love. I have been strong enough to change my mind, even when I didn’t know where my new direction would take me. I have changed my style, my opinion, my home and my attitude time-and-time again, without worrying if it was right or wrong. I have healed my own heart so that love can find it again. I have opened my eyes to see the truth, instead of getting lost in make-believe. I have become something special, without any validation or any approval from any man, or anyone.

I have been the best me that I could be, without ever needing a man to change me or to prove to me that I’m great. So while my life may one day become even more of a romantic comedy than my friends say it is — if I do happen to meet someone who decides to give love another go, just because of me – then I’m happy I could help. But I don’t need a man who needs me to change it all for him to make me happy with the path I’ve picked and the me I’ve become.

I’ve already become the girl who changed it all, by changing myself.

We’re Such Little Adults

Chatting way over drinks at The Standard Beer Garden, my bubbly and sassy new friend A says: “We’re such adults now.” At the time, the rest of us laughed and shook our heads playfully at her with the “well, duh” look on our faces. The conversation and the beer continued, along with a block-or-two walk to catch the train.

On the way home, M and I stopped by Trader Joes – an inexpensive grocery story with mostly organic, healthy items – to shop for the week. We compared prices, came up with lunch and snack plans by thinking about which nights we’d be out and which ones we’d spend in. We chatted happily about our new jobs, both floating on Cloud 9 of success, finally landing just where we wanted to be. We continue to dream about an apartment together one day, maybe some place downtown, maybe a little more pricey, but one that’s definitely kitty-friendly for baby Milo. I’m hoping to adopt a puppy from the rescue center within a year – I’ve already named him, but I won’t share it here, just in case it jinxes it.

Because of M’s super-bus-riding skills, we caught the M7 heading uptown and people-watched while commenting on our tired feet and excitement for taking a much-needed good night’s rest. My stop is a few ahead of her’s, so I hopped off and called my mom to check in, then checked the mail, checked the fridge for expired things, checked my Gmail for the first time today, checked my bank account to see where I stood on budgeting, and checked to make sure I had everything ready for work tomorrow.

Slinging off my Jessica Simpson slingbacks, plopping down on my bed, finally, mentally going over my life checklist, I heard A’s voice ringing in my head: “We’re such adults now.” My, oh my was she right – my birthday’s approaching (guess how old, folks?), and though by any standard I’d be considered an adult, I’m just now starting to feel like one.

We are such little adults.

I’m refraining from unleashing my Southern roots by typing the lyrics to Martina McBride song, “This One’s for the Girls” where she describes 20-something females in tiny apartments, just trying to get by, living off of dreams and spaghetti-o’s. I may upgrade to higher-quality food these days, but I practically live off of dreams, that now, somehow have a bit of reality to them.

As much of a fantasy land New York always has been for me, it now is a place with commitments. It’s now the place I call home, where I pay my cable and electric bill, my rent, my student loans, where I save and where I spend, where I have a library card, where I have a gym membership. It’s where my boyfriend lives and where I’m developing some strong friendships I’m convinced will last my lifetime. It’s where I started and where I continue my career. It’s the location I picked just for me.

It’s the first thing I want to see in the morning and it’s really the place that made me into that little adult I am.

Into that woman who knows how much to set aside to save, have fun, and meet monthly monetary requirements. Into that woman who grew incredibly excited by the idea of a book club proposed by a friend. Into the woman who can map out the subway – mostly – without the help of Google (not the buses, though). Into the woman who pays taxes, votes, reads the newspaper, does the crossword, attempts to gym-it and now read a book a month, who checks the New York Times each morning and has more Google Alerts than probably necessary. Into the woman who wants so much more than where she came from, but values and loves that Southern state so deeply. Into the woman who can go from rockin’ heels and a dress to an all-cotton assemble in a minute and feel just as beautiful.

Into the woman who knows she’s a little adult now…and couldn’t be happier for that sweet responsibility.

Beautiful Little Fool

I’ve decided to dedicate this summer to re-reading great classical literature. I came to this decision after helping Mr. Possibility clean out some bookcases and stumbling across an original 1925 copyrighted edition of The Great Gatsby.

Thinking back to the first time I read it in high school and then again in between years of college, I instantly remembered where I was at those points in my life. That’s the thing about good books; they leave your forever impacted, remembering just where you were just when you read their pages.

And so, in addition to my long list of magazines and websites I read daily, I decided to make New York memories reading some of my favorites throughout the summer. After all, what’s better to do in Central Park or on the train then get lost in a novel that’s so old, so lovely, that the sentences flow together with such ease you’d swear that type of writing doesn’t exist anymore? (It doesn’t really)

Flipping through Fitzgerald’s vivid description of the 20s, I fell in love with this line: “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Daisy’s words never meant anything to me until now, after being the beautiful little fool a time – or two or three – in my adult life.

While Daisy isn’t the best leading lady in literature, she makes an interesting accusation. Is a fool really the best thing a girl can be?

Looking back into relationships I’ve had, both those that ended far too quickly and those that lasted way too long, I’ve admittedly played the part of the fool a few times. And as I’ve said before, to be a fool you have to be a little brave; for being foolish means opening yourself up to ridicule or failure.

But when you’re starting to date someone new – should you be foolish to red flags so you get to know who they really are before passing judgment? Should you be foolish before you make it official, putting it out of your mind that they are free to date and to sleep with whomever they please until titles are concrete and promises promised? Should we be foolish to believe that no matter how many times we’re hurt, we can get back up and try it again…and again?

Or can you only truly be a beautiful little fool until the first time you’re fooled? Like the same way patience runs dry the first time you’re passed by?

I’m not sure – some of the best relationships I’ve witnessed are based off of an encouraged oblivion. My parents, as an example, have never discussed their past. Neither know how many the other have slept with or why past boyfriends/girlfriend bit the dust. When they said “I do”, they said “I don’t” to the past – and never brought it up. Does it matter 25 years later what happened 26 years before? Nope, not in the slightest.

So is foolishness beautiful or is it a way to process things without thinking too much or reading in between lines that you can’t define? Should we be beautiful little fools or maybe in today’s speech, pretty little liars?

Only though, if we’re fools or if we’re liars, are we fooling and lying to ourselves? And is that healthy? Is that…beautiful?

It’s the Little Things

My apartment smells like cardboard and glass cleaner. I’ve been sneezing for the last twenty minutes and if I squint my eyes and look intently, I think I can see my floor. I can’t tell if my throw-away pile or my climbing mound of packed boxes is higher, and I really never noticed how white my walls were until right about now, sitting and wondering if this room was always this big, or if it somehow grew in the last few hours.

I’m moving to a different part of New York and I couldn’t be less prepared. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve moved in my life and unlike other things, it never gets easier. In fact, I’d like to think it gets harder because I continuously accumulate more and more stuff. But like an evening following a stressful day and cooking in a tiny kitchen – I prefer to pack alone.

So, with a discovered airplane bottle of Grey Goose in the back of my fridge and orange juice, a green masque from the dead sea (thanks Mr. P), and the Best of the 80’s with some Sean Kingston and Adele mixed in (no judging of my musical eclecticness) – I started pulling apart and piecing together the contents of my tiny studio.

Admittedly, I’ve only given my apartment a thorough and heavy-duty cleaning once or twice in the entire time I’ve lived here. As my life become increasingly fuller and I found myself distracted from my address, I let things sit around and I forgot my in-the-moment organizing habits. I collect antique cigar boxes for decoration and occasionally for storage, and such a collection usually leads to random discoveries as well as many searches that leave me empty-handed. In a rush and without a conscious thought, I’ve tucked away things for safe-keeping and then kept myself away from them for months.

But maybe that’s the fun with boxes anyways, you open them and never know quite what you’ll find. Luckily for me, the surprise has never been a cockroach in an empty wooden container, but some findings I found yesterday were almost as scary.

Or at least, when I first saw them, I thought they’d be.

Unknowingly, we all attach emotion and sentiments to objects. It is why we started having “ex-boxes” in high school, to keep us from lingering over a lost love. Or the reason why as children, we grow attached to a blanket, a teddy bear, or a doll and carry it around to give us the comfort a sippie cup or bottle simply can’t. It’s why the engagement ring is something so many lust after – the symbolic meaning that you’re taken, that someone wants to love you forever, that someone gave you such an expensive, beautiful, or historical thing that tells the world you’re to-be-wed.

But as time passes, our attachment to things changes. Or maybe, it just lessens.

As I was going through my jewelry, safely placing in padded pouches the ones that meant the most to me, I came across a necklace Mr. Faithful gave me, nearly a decade ago. Still in good condition and still the same mini spec of a diamond it was then, it glistened in the light of my lamp and I just smiled. When we first broke up, I couldn’t look at it,  but by the time college was over, I found myself wearing it without even thinking of him. When I packed up my pajamas, I came across a pair I threw on the night my mother and I had to rush my father to the hospital when he was ill. After a night from hell, spent worrying and pacing, and attempting to get some sleep on uncomfortable waiting room chairs, I almost threw away the cotton pants out of disdain. Once my dad recovered and returned to the same adoring man I always knew, the pants stopped being so difficult to wear, and eventually, I grew quite fond of them and even took them with me to New York.

I stumbled across all sorts of things, frames that have seen a cascade of photos, from boyfriends and friends to family and pets, year after year as new friends, men, or experiences changed. Outfits I bought for a specific purpose, ones I bought with the intent to be ripped off of me, sweaters I bought for the first day of school that somehow still fit, and jeans that will no longer fit, no matter how much weight I lose or miles I run.

I came across dresses I wore frequently when I very first moved, but now can’t bear the thought of wearing in public, much less in Manhattan. Books that I read while riding the subway to my internship or laying in the Great Lawn in Central Park or the quad at my college. Notebooks from interviews I can barely remember conducting and quotes from sources I can’t picture in my head anymore. Shoes with a half-way broken heel I meant to get fixed and a skirt I loved that ripped at the seam and I swore I would learn to sew for the simple fact I badly needed to wear the skirt again (that’s still on the bucket list of skills to master). Notes from Mr. Idea I saved because they meant something to me, the pennies I found in my window seal of this apartment, and to-do lists I never finished.

All of these things, in significant or insignificant ways, meant something to me at one point. Some words in books I read or places I went while wearing specific shoes, or people I met while sporting a tight number – changed my life. But it wasn’t the book or the shoes or the dress that made an impact, those are just reminders of the experience. And while those memories stay with us, the emotion we attach to objects that really didn’t matter too much to begin with, fade away. We pack them up in boxes to donate or to sell. We decide to give some things a second chance and we forget how good we looked in shorts and tights. We stop seeing items as things that hold meaning and see them for what they are: just things.

And like us, they will go on to someone else. Someone who picks it up at the library or bookstore when we donate books, or someone at a consignment shop who sees potential in an old scarf we couldn’t see. Not just stuff, either, transforms in the hands for a new person – my apartment will gain a different inhabitant in a few weeks. They will make this space their own, they will bring their own meaningful things, and set up shop differently than I did, and in a manner diverse from the dozen or more people who have called this place their home before me. In a brownstone that’s nearly 100 years old, there is no telling how many residents have made a home in the very place I’m sitting as I type this blog, in 2011 at an antique desk, someone else has sat, too.

But things don’t need emotion, really. Nor do apartments. They just need people to use them, to fill them up with life, to give them a purpose, and then to let them go. Onto to the next person or the next use or maybe put an end to their functionality. Even then, trash often turns into Earth that molds into something new decades later – but I digress.

The point is, the cycle continues. People come and go, and so do things – but won’t people always continue to collect things? Collect memories attached to those things? And then let them go as easily as they came? Of course. It is the little things that matter, but keep in mind, the little things will always change.