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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She Will Be Loved

When Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” first started spamming the radio, I was dating Mr. Faithful, my high school boyfriend. I loved the words and I soaked them all in, paying special attention to the “beauty queen of only 17” which was true at the time, and of course, “drove for miles and miles and ended up at your door,” which I dreamed of in many fantastic romantic clichés.

I imagined then that Mr. Faithful was the end-all-be-all for me, the love of all loves, the last man (and only man) I’d ever invite into my bed and into my heart. I instantly sent the song to him and he played it for me a few times while we drove the rolling country roads, and even when we made love in the way only a 17 and 18 year old can. Sweetly, naively and awkwardly.

I hadn’t thought about him or those premature stages of teenage love affairs in a long time, but on my way to a date recently, that song came on my Pandora. And suddenly, it all came flooding back:

Back to when I got drunk off cheap wine coolers and sweet hand-written words on notebook paper. Back to when I could spend hours cuddling in his backyard on a trampoline, talking about the future like we knew what was coming and where we were headed. Back to when flowers were picked from gardens and corsages were given at prom and graduation. Back to when dating a football player seemed so sexy and so important, back to when I watched the lights bounce off of the lake, dreaming about when I’d see lights bounce off of buildings in the Big Apple I’d only visited once.

Back to when I was unaware of what those lyrics really meant, or what they would mean, or how intensely I would feel everything in the years to come. How fleeting and innocent young love is, and yet, how final the end would feel in a few years. How much that girl who always knew there was a life ahead of her beyond the mountains, just waiting.

How that girl had no idea that this girl was always somewhere inside of her, waiting to fly, waiting to leap, waiting for that big opportunity, that big love to happen. How that girl had no idea just how much this girl would be loved…

…She would be loved by men who crossed oceans and took redeyes to arrive on the doorstep of her Harlem apartment with tulips, chocolate cake and a flood of kisses. She would be loved by men who made her homemade Valentine’s Day cards using the old-school paint program and drop off an orchid off at her office – along with a coffee, just like she liked it. She would be loved by men who walked a mile in 6-inch snow to the closest grocery store to buy the staples, including her favorite orange juice, with extra pulp.

She would be loved by men who left notes hidden inside picture frames that hung on her wall in her second New York apartment, and long after the relationship ended and the flame died down, they would ask her to open that picture and find words of encouragement buried inside of it, unknowingly, for years. She would be loved by men who make her homemade gnocchi and ask her to dance in the kitchen, barefoot and underage-tipsy, kissing the top of her head and whispering things in her ear she would never reveal to anyone, not even this blog. She would be loved by so many men that would see her sad smile, who would stand outside in the rain with her, who would care for her even when she preferred someone else.

And somewhere in between all of those men, that girl would also learn to love her own broken smile. And she’d learn how to heal it. She would watch the storm coming in as she ran miles and miles in Central Park and she’d let the rain fall, washing away her mascara, the sweat and her frustrations. She would love someone when they didn’t love her back. She would learn to love herself, even when she didn’t quite like the person she was.

She would be loved by the men, sure, just as promised. But she would also be loved by strangers and friends, mentors and travel mates. By a white fluff that would capture her heart from a pet store in the West Village. By her parents, more and more, with every passing year.

That girl just didn’t know all the love that was coming her way. Not at 15, not at 20, and really, not even at 25. Because that girl has been loved… and will be again. In a way that this girl –that girl – can’t even begin to believe yet.

Heart Open, Feet On the Ground

I waited anxiously outside of my favorite sushi restaurant, cursing myself for showing up early for yet another date. I knew being fashionably late was sexier than being on time but I hated missing a deadline, even one that was more about sake than sentences.

I tried (and my friends convinced me) to ignore my gut. Everyone said to give it a chance, to keep myself grounded and not to make judgements. After so many men who disappointed or were more interested in what it felt like to be in between my legs instead of in between my heartbeats, I was more than a little hesitant.

He could be different, I reminded myself. He could be something more, something better, I told myself. Every joint and fragment in my knees wanted to run downtown to meet my girls for a drink instead of waiting for this 6’4″ tall drink of water to arrive.

But I stayed.

And I sang my little “love is not dead” mantra until I saw him walking toward me from 20th street. I immediately turned away, acting like he could catch me by surprise, just like he did the night we met a week earlier.

On the 34th street uptown platform. I really do have some luck on public transportation, don’t I?

I was coming home from a night in with my kind friend, A, who offered to help me with my taxes. In exchange, I bought her dinner and brought Lucy so she could have a play date with A’s dog. It was 11:30 p.m. and it had been a very long day, so I was playing with my phone and tired, when I heard someone ask if they could pet my dog.

I turned on bitch face and turned my head, only to realize it was a handsome guy reaching for Lucy. I smiled, instantly wishing I would have at least put a little makeup on. We struck up conversation and had things in common (like talking to strangers on the train and taking philosophy classes), and we got off at the same stop on the Upper West Side. As we were about to part ways, he asked for my number and texted me 10 minutes later.

I was instantly intrigued.

After meeting up for drinks midweek and feeling that spark, we now found ourselves going out on a Friday night, and I found myself scared to death to like someone. But then he showed up in front of me. I smiled…

…and he pulled a single long-stem red rose from behind his back. Swoon.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have been so worried about this, I thought to myself silently. We talked and talked, laughed and laughed, danced and sang karaoke, staying out until nearly 4 am. I’m never one to lose track of time, but I did. And I liked it. After so many online dating profiles and dates gone wrong or sour, here was someone I met in real life and I actually liked in real life.

After our second date, we texted constantly, planning our third meet-up together. He watched my favorite movie (Roman Holiday), he remembered things I told him about my family, my friends, my preferences, my interests. We started talking on Gchat and he was excited when I announced I found an amazing new job (more on that later). I was enjoying the smoothness of the conversation and the sweetness he exuded until…

… on a random night while watching Netflix, his texted turned dirty.

I’m not one to shy away from sex talk, but if I see the possibility for a relationship, I try my best not to rush or to ruin the fun by putting too much pressure on it. I don’t want to talk about getting off with someone before I’ve had a chance to figure out their intentions. I felt that little rumble of clarity come back to my gut- the one that was there before date 2- that said he was probably not interested in more. His thoughtful actions might have steered me differently, but this ploy to discuss getting naked was reminding me of my initial reservations.

I quickly veered the conversation, but felt hesitant about another date where he might push things too far, too soon. It’s not that I have rules on when to sleep with someone – it should happen when it feels right – but I didn’t feel that way, just yet.

I mean, it had only been a week and a half, right?

When things didn’t go all the way on date three, our rapid, interesting and fervent conversation turned to silence. No “make a wish!” text message at 11:11, no asking about my day or my night, no discussing date four. The furthest we got in a texting or Gchat was about Snapchat and then one quick: “I had fun last week!” followed quickly by “You have really great boobs.” If the red flags weren’t flying sky high, I’d try to ignore them but they were there, bright and waving at me.

And so, I finally cut through my politeness to kindly ask what the f*** was going on and if his initial interest in me had changed. To which I received a text message that – for lack of exact words – said: “I’m looking to have fun, be intimate and play, but I don’t want to be monogamous or just see you. It’s just not where I am in my life right now. But if you’re up for that, cool!”

Did I mention that he’s 34?

So, here I am, back to the drawing board after a barely two-week-whatever-that-was. Was I disappointed? Yes, a little. Was I invested? No, not really. Does it annoy me? Obviously. But more than anything else, I surprised myself. In a way that I didn’t think I was capable of anymore.

I’ve now been single for about two-and-a-half years and it hasn’t been easy – in fact, it’s been one of the most frustrating parts of my life. I often wonder what I’m doing wrong or if I just pick the wrong guys or if because I want it, the way of the universe just won’t give it to me until I’m uninterested. I’ve been afraid that all the men I’m actually attracted to, aren’t attracted to me, or the guys that I’m drawn to, just never want relationships, they just want to get laid. But what I’ve been most scared of it my ability to feel something. After so many failed non-relationships that ended before they ever started, my guard is up. My faith in men is not very strong.

But I do have hope. And I am able to let myself feel something. It might be with some trepidation each time, but I still do it. So I might be a bit bitter and fairly frightened, but I haven’t given up. I’m still standing up for what I want and refusing to settle for anything less than what I know I deserve.

As my friend J advised me as I talked about this past dating experience: Keep your heart open and your feet on the ground. And I might add – and keep on walking toward whatever is surely waiting for you in the future that you can’t quite see.

Not yet anyway. Not yet.

You Can Do Anything

I wondered if everyone who warned me about the dangers and lasting effects of forcing my wide little feet into heels every day had some merit in their concern as I hobbled back into my Harlem apartment in 2010. It smelled like marijuana and though I bought the cheap air fresheners from the Duane Reade around the block (a pharmacy I had never heard of), the scent was far too overpowering to ignore. The big box my mom sent me from North Carolina sat in my “kitchen”, or rather the furthest left portion of my 400-sq-feet room that amazingly cost $850 a month. I had spent the day going to interview to interview, scouring through every possible magazine masthead I could, emailing to meet up for coffee and praying to the job gods to give me their blessing. I had only lived in New York for two and a half weeks and most of my savings were gone thanks to a security deposit and first months rent. I started my hostessing gig in a week if I didn’t find employment before then. My parents couldn’t help. I was 150% on my own. I was terrified. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted the city to welcome me with the open arms I always thought it had somewhere buried underneath it’s tough exterior and soiled streets. But instead of falling apart, I repeated my mantra:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Putting the dirty details of my existent and non-existent dating life on the internet was rather a bold decision, I told some girl I met through a new friend I didn’t know well enough yet. The girl was “obsessed” with my blog and I felt a little naked in front of her – considering she knew about my last one night stand the boy who broke my heart in college, and yet, I had no idea what she told me her name was 10 minutes ago. I should be thankful for my job, I reminded myself the next morning while writing a blog about taxes for small business owners. It was a challenging subject matter, and my salary (barely) covered my expenses, but I longed to do what I already did for free: write things that will help women feel less alone. I knew how to get from point A to point B, but the thought of keeping up a popular personal blog, working 9-6, dating, attempting to make friends and applying for a new job seemed daunting. I had done it before when I moved here a year ago, I reminded myself. My drive didn’t seem quite as high but I knew that passion could never really be put out. After all, I repeated:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

It was as if the city knocked the air out of me on the ride up Broadway to the Upper West Side. The cabbie had asked if I wanted to take the highway, but I said I preferred to pay a little more and watch New York wind down on that Sunday night. We had been broken up for six months then, but never stopped sleeping together. Even though I acted like I wasn’t seeing him drunkenly or haphazardly, dangling my heart in front of him as he pushed it away. As always. But then the last shoe dropped and something inside me woke up – was this really the love I wanted? Was this the type of relationship I would encourage my friends, my readers, the strangers in the street to have? It wasn’t – and I gave him the choice to make it better. Pick me and work on it, or get out of my life. He wouldn’t decide – per usual – so I made the choice for him. But as I cried silently and the driver ignored my sobs, I felt the fear building up. What if that’s as good as it gets? What if I don’t meet anyone? What if I can’t feel it again? To keep from sobbing from that pit in your heart few people ever touch, I sang my song:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Your knee doesn’t really hurt, you’re just listening to the pain instead of focusing on the finish. Remember philosophy class? What you give your attention to grows – focus on something else to distract yourself. I decided to think about complicated things as I pasted mile 8 on the West Side Highway last Sunday. Only 5.1 more miles to go to complete the NYC Half-Marathon that I didn’t have time to train for with everything. With my dad’s 5th surgery in one year. With the uncertainty surrounding my future. With my dire need to get laid after quite the dry spell. With a trip to Europe so close I can see it, but can’t get excited about just get. Not until my dad is fine. Not until my finances are balanced and my taxes are paid. Not until I finish this race, with my ears freezing and my joints aching with every step. But if I can just keep moving, I know I’ll be home napping before I can think. I know what to tell myself:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Just when you think the sunshine that always defined you was withered away into the clouds that just keep surrounding you, a little ray shines it’s way through. People always warned me that finding my way on my own would be hard. That dating wasn’t easy in this city. That careers are flaky and my industry is shaky at very best. That friendships would require work and diligence, patience and understanding. That loving yourself and believing in the good gets easier and harder as you get older, as you experience more things and question, well, everything. And at times, it all seems impossible. It seems stagnant and unreal. Scary. Like all that you worked so hard for, all that you wanted, all of those magical things that you imagined growing up would never come true. And sometimes, they don’t. Other times, they do. Most of the time, they work out just how they’re supposed to – without you realizing they ever came to be at all.

But of all the struggles and the dilemmas your adult life puts you through, of all of the trouble, and all of the unanswered questions left spiraling in your mind, if you can remember one simple truth that’s true for you, that’s true for me, that’s true for everyone:

You can do anything.

That is, my dear, if you never stopping believing that you can. That you already have. That you always will.

You’re Missing It

You’re missing it.

Your youth. You’re missing it. You’re missing it because you’re worrying too much. You’re missing it because you aren’t living in the moment. You aren’t fully in today, in the right now, in the present. You’re missing it because you’re not realizing your growth or your worth.

Linds, wake up.

Stop worrying. Look around: you’re a healthy, pretty, 25-year-old who has made her greatest dream come true. You’re living in New York City. There are girls around the world who would kill to be in your shoes right now. You are a subway stop away from Times Square. You have a favorite coffee shop in the West Village. You work in Meatpacking and live next to Central Park. One day you will live in suburbia and you will remember your life in the city, and you will think of how silly you were to worry away your early-20′s.

Stop worrying about your career.

Yes, you wonder what’s next. Yes, you question what you want. Yes, you get so incredibly frustrated thinking about what you should be doing and if you’re moving at the right pace and if you’re staying relevant. You question if your resume is as impressive as it can be at your age. Just remember, you’re growing your skill set. You’re expanding your contacts. You’re improving your writing. You’re meeting people who will one day be instrumental to your career path. You’ll figure out what you want. It’s not that far away. You’ll publish that book and it will be a best-seller. It’s all going to fall into place -so keep grinding in the 9 to 6 (or 7 or 8) groove, and work your little butt off. It’s going to pay off in big ways. Your name will be known. Women will benefit from your writing and buy books that will help them realize their value. You’re going to change lives.

Stop worrying about your apartment.

It’s old and dusty. You would have probably melted if you didn’t buy that air conditioner. You would freeze if you didn’t have sets of comforters to pile on top of you when the heat doesn’t work. Or the hot water doesn’t actually get hot. It’s not glamorous and your landlords are not the brightest. But one day, when you’re old and gray and telling your grandchildren about your New York adventure -you’ll tell them about this place that you decorated with cheap charm and made it feel just like home. You’ll tell them about how you never kept food in the fridge and you waited weeks to clean your dishes and do your laundry. You’ll tell them how you were scared about living uptown, but you sucked it up and you made friends with the hood. They will giggle and you will smile a smile that only belongs to you, and the memories of your youth. One day, you’ll move into a nicer apartment. One day, you will live alone with that little dog. The next move will help make you feel more established in a new New York, and new chapters will start to unfold.

Stop worrying about how you look.

Those zits that seem so worrisome now, will be nothing compared to the wrinkles that will grace your forehead, your cheeks and your eyes. Those extra five pounds that make you feel like you’re gaining weight, won’t seem as important when you’re 60 and enjoying stretchy-pants every single day. Those clothes that just don’t seem good-enough, trendy-enough, chic-enough, expensive-enough, or New York-enough, won’t be as important when you buy your daughter jeans and try to remember where your old clothes are so you can pass them down to her (even if she will never wear them). Your dirty feet that are constantly destroyed by the pavement and the heels or running shoes you insist to wear, won’t seem so gross when you ache in your bones and you can’t wait to get home to soak your feet. That hair that doesn’t corporate and never looks as silky or healthy as every other girl, will seem beautiful and stunning when you see yourself in the morning with gray hair that you’ll need to highlight with blonde again, just as your mother does. That skin of yours that doesn’t like to retain a tan or take well to self-tanning lotion, leaving you pale unlike the other girls, will seem heaven-sent when everyone else is pruning worse than you, and your skin is still healthy. Stop comparing yourself to others and cut yourself some slack. Beauty comes from the heart, and your kindness and compassion will take you farther than those toned legs you have.

Stop worrying about money.

You’re self-sufficient, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Even if you feel the need to save more and spend less, and to ask for a raise or figure out if you really need to take that weekend job -you’re doing just fine. And you’re only going to make more money as your career progresses. Stop beating yourself up for a splurge here-and-there, and keep putting a little money away each pay check. But, Linds, go for that drink with your friends. Buy those shoes on sale down the block. Keep booking trips like you did to Europe this year. You can’t hold your savings so close that you keep yourself from having experiences. That’s what you’re saving for anyway. Keep budgeting, and you’ll see how it will pay off one day. One day, you’ll pay for things like a house, a new car and college tuitions and those monthly-rents of the past and tiny paychecks won’t seem like much.

Stop worrying if you’ll have children.

Those little girls with braided hair and pretty smiles who point to your high heels in the subway, admiring them -are like your future children. You’ll have them. Your kids are beautiful. They are smart. They are healthy. They are able and they are dreamers. They are go-getters who will know more than you do by the time they hit high school. They are loving and they will be your whole world one day. Don’t rush that. The moment they come to this planet, you’ll wish time would come to a stammering standstill. They will grow up faster than you could ever imagine.

And, dear younger-me, stop worrying about love.

This one is a tough one for you -harder than any other part of your life. Take a deep breath and let it go. Let all of it go -the heartaches, the disappointments, the not-quite-enough, and the let-downs. Stop hanging onto old relationships. Stop thinking about the idea of what you thought previous lovers would become. Look at people for who they are. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Forgive others for hurting you or for leading you on. Give yourself more credit and change your negative mindset. Go out to dinner with someone new. Accept a date, even if you don’t think he’s exactly your type. Smile at the stranger who sits next to you every morning on the train and is cute, but you are too tired to care. Put that extra pump in your step and swivel of your hips.

One day, you and your husband will talk about this time in your lives. You’re going to love him, Linds. You’re going to love him in a way that shakes and soothes your soul all at once. He’s going to put a light and love into you that you can’t even begin to feel. He’s truly wonderful, charming and handsome. You’re going to get that great story that you’ve dreamt about, wrote about, and thought about for so long.

So stop worrying.

He’s out there. You can’t speed up the process and you can’t make time go backwards once it gets here. Stop being jealous of the couples walking on the street -one day, there will be a young single gal like yourself who will look at you and your hubby, and feel exactly the same way. Stop getting discouraged and blaming yourself -all of life is part of a magical plan and a blueprint that you can’t fill out completely on your own. Love is out there, and I promise when you’re ready -it’ll be here. So go kiss those frogs -there will come a day when you miss the anticipation of a first date, and the surge of the first time you hold someone’s hand or see them laying next to you as the sun peeks through the blinds.

Don’t miss it.

Stop letting it pass you by. Your youth won’t last forever, and neither will the sharp twang of loneliness in the big city. The puzzle is just starting to fit itself together -so let it. Go live your life. Go get that drink. Go for a run.

Go be you. Your future awaits.

I’m serious, don’t miss it.

Love ya,

Lindsay

PS- Go back to Macy’s and get those shoes that were on sale for $24 -you’re not going to find a better nude heel this summer. I promise. And call your dad!

Originally written July 16, 2010 before you started this lovely blog. It’s funny how little you had to edit to make it relevant four years later… Food for thought. No matter where you are – don’t miss it. Stop missing it. Live it, instead.