Most couples who have somehow managed to not only stay together, but stay happy too, will tell their single friends the same thing: when you meet the right person, you won’t worry, you won’t have to question, you’ll just know. It’ll just be so easy.
Though the sentiment is meant to be encouraging and to give us struggling, disheartened gals a glimmer of hope that one day our luck will change, for me, it usually has the opposite effect. My initial reaction is to nod along and smile, and mention how I know that’s how it works out in the long run, but the short run isn’t quite that simple. And while I know better and I know it’s petty, I often find myself working so hard to swallow my jealousy that I spend the better part of the pep talk biting the side of my cheek so I don’t say something inappropriate.
It’s not that I’m bitter (well, maybe a little) or I don’t appreciate their words, it’s that I’ve yet to experience a relationship that I would classify as easy. Sure, the love writer in me knows that no pairing or marriage is always easy all the time, but that the healthier, stronger relationships are the one who know how to get through the bad so they can savor the good. I know that they might start off easy – without the decoding of the text messages, the wondering if he’ll call, the squirmy attitude toward making it official – but that it won’t be beautiful and sensational every single day they spend together. I do get that – but from Mr. Fire to Mr. Possibility (and Mr. Idea and countless men I never bothered to give aliases to), not only was the beginning a little rocky, the relationship was, too.
Sure, certain periods were smoother than others or I would have never remained by their side for as long as I did. But really, I’ve spent most of my adult life hoping, praying, working my ass off to make it easier. To have that easy, freeing, loving, relationship that I’ve been promised will one day be mine. Two years later, still single in this city without a prospect in sight (or online or in my mind), I keep waiting for that bright and shiny moment at the end of an ordinary work day where “catching a drink” turns into “the easiest feeling I’ve ever had, ever.”
But as I expressed all of this exasperation to my mom while watching Lucy and her pup friend Liam run around the dog park last night, I nearly screamed into the phone: “When does it just get easy? Why can’t it just be easy? It’s supposed to be easy, not this complicated. What more do I have to do?” As she does without trying, she said the thing that turned around my poor attitude:
“Has anything that you’ve been thankful for in your life started out easy?”
Of all the things I’ve accomplished or discovered, I can’t think of one that came without work. When I picked up three bags and more motivation than I knew what to do with and moved to NYC, I was so afraid that it made me brave. When I found that first apartment – in a slightly scary part of Harlem – I got used to the constant smell of who-knows-what from downstairs and walked confidently to and from the train, never letting my thoughts get the best of me. When I got that very first job that wasn’t anything like I expected, I still made myself get up for work, even if I was so uninspired that I started this blog for a creative outlet. A-year-and-a-half later when I was laid off, I sat in that Dunkin Donuts, crying over iced coffee with Mr. Possibility while he reassured me that one day, I’d write about that moment and it wouldn’t seem so bad after all. When I didn’t know anyone at all those first few months and I wondered if I would build friendships like I did in NC or if I would just never fit in, spending my days and evenings exploring the island I loved, alone.
All of these things that ended up turning out just how they were supposed to, were not easy at first. Now, I live in a safe, vibrant New York neighborhood, I have a small nest egg of savings to rely on (and travel with), a group of friends that I couldn’t survive this town without, and a place of work where my ideas are not only encouraged but produced. These things are not always easy, but they feel easier because of all the work that I put in to get to them.
And that’s what everyone leaves out of their happily ever after stories: yes, it felt easy by the time they found the right guy or that person they decided to spend their life with. But it was only because they worked so hard to get there. Because they worked their way through all the terrible dates and disappointing mini-month relationships to get there. Because they kept going on dates even when they wanted to throw in the towel and retire their heels, because they might have given up all faith that magic can still bloom in the dark city streets, but they marched through them to that next date anyway. Because even after the guys who randomly disappear after three great dates or the men who just didn’t excite them for whatever reason, they still don’t know.
Because it might feel easy once you’re there, once he’s finally sitting next to you on the couch and laying next to you in bed, just like you wanted him to be. Just like you wondered and dreamed about for so many years before he showed up. And even though he did in fact exist (though you worried he didn’t), the relationship will still be work, even if it ends up feeling easy because you want to work on it with him.
But today, while you’re sitting at work, going through your emails, it doesn’t feel easy.
And that’s okay – it’s not supposed to. You’re still working on it. But you’ll get there – and you’ll remember to tell the single girls you meet after that yes, it’ll be easy one day, but it’ll be work before. Work that’ll one day, be well worth it.