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.

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You Can Fall Apart

A few weeks ago an article went viral on how to cry in New York.

Like anything that makes fun or sheds light on the city, I opened it, knowing I’d relate to whatever it said. I laughed at the tips – wear sunglasses and have a good song to really get you in the sobbing mood – and I liked the link my friend shared on Facebook.

And then on Friday, after a particularly stressful day, I found myself overwhelmed with my ever growing to-do list and as I talked to my mom (our nightly ritual on the two block walk to the train at night) – and I felt them.

The tears start to well.

I pressed into the receiver, complaining about the stress of doing taxes and how freelancing makes everything complicated and expensive. I expressed my anxiousness over the half-marathon I was running on Sunday (that I ended up rocking!). I talked about how guilty I felt about being jealous of my friends and their sweet boyfriends that surprise them with dinner reservations and a night out dancing – just because. I basically screamed into my iPhone that it wasn’t fair that for the past two and a half (and counting) years, I haven’t felt a lick of any emotion toward any man. My list went on – far too melodramatic to continue here – and as I kept going, I couldn’t hold back the sadness anymore.

I stopped in front of a party supply store and turned away from the people passing me on the street to hide my embarrassing, splashing drops, and my mom tried her best to comfort me with euphemisms and words of encouragement.

I got off the phone, finding it too difficult to talk, and stood there, collecting myself in the cold weather, praying no one I knew walked past me. I had cried in New York – like I have many times before – but I didn’t have sunglasses this time. Or a song to listen to. Or even tissues.

I avoided eye contact and kept my head down on the train home, willing myself to just make it to the UWS before collapsing on my bed, Lucy greeting me with her worried face and diligently licking away the salty mess. And though the article was right about ways to go about crying in New York, I’ve always found it hard to fall apart.

Certainly in public and often times, not even alone.

Somehow, letting it all come pouring out feels like opening the flood gates to something I don’t want to reveal or even see for myself. Why open the doors when denial feels so warm and protective? If I let the stress build and then I admit that it’s heavy, I fear I won’t be able to pick it up again, paralyzed by the thoughts themselves.

Falling into negativity doesn’t wash away the despair, it just heightens it.

And so, I mostly keep it together. I sing little mantras in my head for when I’m nervous. I remind myself that most everything is temporary and the best thing about life is that it always changes. I hold my head high and I try to count the things I’m thankful for instead of rhyming the things that make me bitter. I believe in the great tapestry of the universe and that I will never be dealt a hand so bad that I can’t handle it. I try to place my faith in the goodness, the boldness, the kindness of the world – and of this city – and thus, by merely having hope, I have strength in my heart.

But sometimes, like on Friday, the best possible thing I could do for myself was to let it go. To allow the thoughts to race through my mind, dangerously close to the edge of reason. To watch myself spiral wickedly out of control, witnessing my emotions like an outsider, seeing the adult tantrum take form, and eventually, end.

Because the thing about falling apart is that once you do it, you feel lighter. Those damning feelings don’t read as threatening anymore. Anger, jealousy, fear – whatever was building within you – go from boiling to simmering to frozen. Sure, there may be messy tissues and mascara-stained pillow cases, but once you’re finished, once you really release it, you’re you again.

And the world can see it.

Everyone around sees the weight that lifted. Your eyes are clearer, your head is not as cloudy, you’re smile is more generous. And perhaps, you attract something – or someone – just by releasing the tension you were clinging to for far longer than you needed to.

So you can fall apart. You can let it all hang out. You can lose control and have a meltdown. You can curse the world and fear your future. You can watch everything crumble and break, and you can bend yourself to the negativity. You can cry your eyes out like you have so many times before.

But then, you have to get up.

And though you may fall apart again and again and again – what’s more important is how many times you pick up the pieces and put yourself back together. The mark of a person is not how many times they have suffered or failed or been disappointed, but how many times they have said, “Okay, I’m done. Now what?”

So go ahead. Cry. Let it out. Let it go. And then figure out what comes next. Because trust me, there will always be something more – something better – to come.

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.

Why I’m Not Ready to Get Married

Originally published on YourEngagement101.com

When I was a little girl, I would wrap a white sheet around me, put on my plastic princess heels and steal wildflowers out of my mother’s garden to play bride.

Because I grew up an only child, my parents were forced to indulge my imagination: my dad serving as my grinning groom, my mom stuck as the minister. I would make my kind, patient father write and deliver vows and then I’d perform them as if it there was a studio audience that consisted of more than my wide collection of stuffed animals.

Getting married wasn’t the only thing I played make believe with though: I was also Indiana Jones, a secret spy solving a murder mystery, a woman finding her man cheating, a homeless person begging for pennies, a teacher and Lois Lane – just to name a few.

But of course, all of my adventures in pretendland always ended with a happy embrace, finding love, meeting that perfect man, having a family.

Happily ever after.

Twenty years later, a lot of things in my life feel unreal because they’ve turned out so much better than I could have dreamed up myself. I live in New York City, I’m a writer, blogger and an editor, I have the luxury to travel and explore, I’m blessed with friends all over the country, I’m healthy enough to run a half-marathon, and though I haven’t met the man I’ll marry, I’ve been lucky to fall in love a few times with some pretty great guys.

Part of me can’t wait to start that relationship – or to at least be reassured that this mythical creature actually does exist out there, somewhere, dating all the wrong women while I date all the wrong men. Part of me is afraid that I picked the absolute worst city to capture the right guys attention.

And another part of me - probably the biggest part of me – is nowhere near ready for marriage. Even if the average bride in the United States is 25 – it’s hard to imagine being wed at this point in my life.

I’ll admit it though – I scour through my Facebook friends walls, reading their engagement stories, liking all of the photos in their wedding albums. I smile at little baby bumps that grow into bouncing toddlers. I get excited thinking about when some of my best friends will get engaged and how I’ll be a bridesmaid and watch them take those sacred vows, joining together with boyfriends that I’ve started to call my friends, too.

There is no doubt that I’m a sucker for love.

It’s my driving force behind everything, and above all other things, it’s the one truth I’ll always believe in: love is powerful and it exists in so many different forms.

But it’s also something that I have faith will always be there and is never anything to rush into. As much as there is happiness and hope surrounding marriage, I think a lot of women also feel fear (I know I do): what if he doesn’t exist? What if this kind-of-okay boyfriend is really the best I’ll ever find? What if I wait too long to get married and can’t have kids? What if I really am too picky? With so much doubt and questioning, it’s easier to throw in the towel and settle down with someone who is good enough…

…but maybe not quite great.

Before I’m committed to someone, I want to commit to myself. I want to go through lots of difficult things as an individual that will make me brighter, stronger and happier. I want to be a whole person before I meet another whole person – I’m not looking to be completed by anyone else. Before I say “I do” – I want to say, “I do” to adventure and travel and experiences that don’t involve a man. Before I get into a relationship or put on an actual gown (and not a sheet), I want to know that no matter what, I’d be totally fine on my own.

Because there’s a difference between wanting a man and needing one. And I’ll know when I’m ready to get married, ready to walk down that aisle, ready to maybe change my last name when I want a partner, I don’t need one. Most fear, after all, comes from desperation, and most of our regrets are from when we were afraid.

So I’m single. I’m 25. I’m not desperate. I’m in no rush. I’m not ready to get married. And that’s better than good enough. It’s great.

The Illusion of Mr. Right

Originally published on YourEngagement101.com.

I’ve always imagined that at the end of my long dating road, with its twists, accidents, forks and bumps, I’d make it up the staggering hill and there, standing atop, would be this shiny, sparkling man. He’d be made of everything I wanted in a partner – kind, loyal, tall, successful, loving – and maybe sport a few special qualities that I’d inevitably fall in love with. The price of playing the dating game is steep and strenuous, but the payoff must be tremendous if you have to work so hard to earn it.

Or at least, a girl can hope.

I’m still owning my single status, but if the countless dates have taught me something – it’s that you can’t predict anything. And you certainly can’t carve out your husband out of vision you’ve dreamed up in your head. Somehow, life just doesn’t work that way. But a lot of women think that it does – and when they’re dealt a different hand than what the prepped for, suddenly they feel lost because they never made the effort to define themselves before they went searching for a man.

But the thing about making up Mr. Right is that every single man you date, including the one you’ll marry, will never be Mr. Right.

Because no one – absolutely no one – will fulfill you in every way that you desire. He will not say all of the right things at all of the right times (and if he did, you’d find him patronizing). He will not always know exactly what you need when you need it without you telling him (or you would long for someone who surprises you). He will not be overly romantic and terribly kind 24/7 (or you would wish he’d make you work for it, just a bit more). He will not make an astronomical amount of money, tower over you when you’re in your tallest heels and still have time to cuddle on the couch for hours at night (or he would would be a character in a Ryan Gosling movie).

The thing about admitting that you’ve found Mr. Right is admitting that your description of him (and yes, your expectations that you’ve had since you were 6 years old)… were wrong.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a long list of things you value in a partner and standards you hold them to – it just means that to be happy, you have to accept that really, the person that will (and should) make you the happiest is yourself. And it’s only when you can accept your flaws and the fact that your dream guy will also have some imperfections, is when you stop believing in this illusion of Mr. Right.

It’s when you realize you never needed a Mr. Right to come and rescue you from the woes of singledom – instead, you learned to savor the time you have alone and go on adventures without having to worry about someone else to consider. It’s when you become proud of the life you built, all on your own, on your own two feet, without having to depend on any man to lay the foundation for you. It’s when you see yourself as this whole being, this entirely grounded and secure person, that’s not looking for another half or for an idealist man to make you complete. You’re complete already, and though you might not need a man to share your journey…

…you want one.

And you don’t want the world’s best guy. You want the best guy – for you. One that has wrongs: he’s always three minutes late, he can’t remember anything to save his life, he isn’t as motivated as you, but he’s happy with his job, he’s more introverted, he might be balding. But he has goods too: he absolutely adores you, he’s awesome in bed, he’s super smart and teaches you things, he’s interested in travel, he always wants to hold your hand. And you would have never known what you want if you didn’t date. If you didn’t learn how to love yourself, no matter what, with or without someone.

If you didn’t have to go through all the trouble and all the lessons, you’d never make it to the top of that mountain. You’d still be sitting at the bottom, waiting for a prince and his horse to carry you to the top. But you didn’t wait. You went ahead and made it yourself. Now, just maybe, you’ll meet the guy who climbed it too – just on the other side.

And perhaps you’ll meet at the top and take in that view together.