Liberated By Lucy

On my 24th birthday last week, I was feeling antsy.

In fact– all the weeks leading up to my birthday I had felt anxious and unsure, wondering what my last year of the early twenties would bring me and what I should do next. I found myself lusting after expensive things and fancy travels, men in pressed suits and visions of apartments that are rent controlled with views of the park. I was wishing and hoping for a huge change that would rock my world in the most exquisite of ways, that would shift my negatives to positives and my fears into flights.

But maybe those things were less realistic and more idealistic, I thought as I walked from the subway to Union Square to meet my friend M. I’ve been lucky to experience so much so quickly. I’m happy in a job that brings me happiness each day,  and while the floors are old and the walls dusty, my name is on the lease of an apartment that feels like home. My friends are as thoughtful as they are entertaining, bringing me the best support and experiences I could ask for. And yet, though the weather was the perfect blend of summer days and fall mornings, I felt like something was missing. Like something had to transform for me, just as the seasons were doing. Like I needed to take a plunge and try something I hadn’t before. Something I’d always been scared of doing.

Many friends said I needed a man  — and while I won’t disagree that I’d love a love affair of sorts, it wasn’t romance I ached for as much as I longed to… nest. To really let my roots run as deep as the subway passages and make my stay in NYC more permanent than the zip code I write on the back of cards.

I considered redecorating but that felt silly when I know I won’t be at this apartment forever — and paint and drapery is both as expensive as it is unnecessary. I dreamed about recreating my wardrobe and putting the old out to find another life to indulge in the new I simply don’t need. I thought about starting another blog until I felt guilty about not updating this one as much as I would like. (Sorry, y’all.)

It’s true, even walking from store to store and giggling with M about the things that only best friends can find funny, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to do something. To own something, to try something, to go or to stay or to run or to sit still. Or to what? I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was making me so uneasy, when really, everything in my life (give or take) was rather, well, easy.

And then I saw Lucy.

Or, rather a seven pound, six-month-old Maltese and Pomeranian mix at a pet store in the West Village. Not just any pet store though — it’s the one I always go to when I’ve had a stressful day or something is causing my heart to ache apart. It’s the one that’s near my friend K’s apartment and the one I’ve stumbled into far too many times after a boozy brunch to ooh-and-aww at the puppies that I wished weren’t trapped in tiny cages. But this time was different. This time — Lucy was there. Though I’ve never had this feeling about a man, when I saw her… I just knew. I knew when she climbed into my lap effortlessly and snuggled herself asleep that I’d be taking her home.

And I did…

I always knew that having a dog would be part of my life in New York. I had considered it further down the road — when I was in a shining, healthy, functional relationship. Or when I was newly married in a newly-remodeled apartment with my new husband who I adored. Maybe the puppy would be the precursor to babies — you know, practice? But as this city has taught me time-and-time again, nothing quite goes as planned. And the best thing you can do is just to roll with what feels right. Admittedly, I’m not the best puppy mom that ever was — I’m neurotic and incredibly worrisome, plus a little freaked out by mostly everything she does or doesn’t do. I don’t have the most patience but I’m learning. I’m getting to know this lovely little dog who in a week, has already brought so much joy — so much love — to my life.

She’s getting to know me too, and my schedule and this “gigantic” apartment that’s near the biggest, most exciting park in the whole wide world — or at least, almost as thrilling as the trash outside. I’m running more than ever, now that my alarm is set earlier, forcing me to get up to relieve a bladder that’s not mine. My room has never been as tidy or organized as it is now, for fear that something as small as a piece of a paper could be dangerous to something furry and adorable. I keep to a routine and I watch my money, knowing that anything could spring up and I need to be prepared to care for something that depends on me fully. Plus, you know, she’s enrolled in puppy obedience school already, hence why she’s passed out in my lap as I write this blog on Sunday evening.

Maybe what I needed — what I felt was missing — was unconditional love. Was something to come home to. Sure, that could be in the form of a boyfriend, and I know (somewhere deep in this only slightly-bitter heart) that I’ll find someone special enough to share this life with one day. But for now, Lucy is the perfect companion. And like her middle name after the lady of New York herself, Lucy Liberty is teaching me to liberate myself from all of those silly two-year, five-year or ten-year plans I had for myself. To liberate myself from worrying about what’s next or if I’m doing everything right. Because really, there’s no way to ever know. And nothing ever turns out just as you thought it would.

Instead though, something sweeter does.

Avoidance is Adult Like

When I was six, I loved dressing up in my mom’s old maxi dresses, stuffing my chest to pretend I had breasts, and walk around in plastic high-heels, pretending to be a real woman. When I was sixteen, the freedom of wind in my hair driving old country roads alone was incomparable – I was finally independent, minus an 11 p.m. curfew. When I graduated from college, degree-ed and certified employable, I just knew I’d find a job eventually. I couldn’t wait to have my own little place in my oversized city, eating Ramen, and making ends meet.

I’ve always wanted to be an adult. Except now that I am one.

And some of those things – like having real ladies that fill out dresses and real high-heels that are significantly more delicate than the chunky, plastic ones, are great. I indulge in my curves, I celebrate being a woman, and though I’m not high-maintenance, I’m quite girly. The state of North Carolina, my family, my friends, and pedestrians are overjoyed I don’t drive anymore, but I get the same sense of autonomy when I navigate the city without looking at a map or Googling. And of course, the fact that I’m happier than I’ve ever been, living completely, 110 percent on my own, makes me proud of the path I picked for myself.

But then there are the things about being an adult that no one tells you about.

Like these really difficult, emotionally-draining choices you have to make. The really sticky ones that have awful consequences but in the grand scheme of things, are best for you – even if at the time, when your vision is blurred with mascara tears, you can’t see it. It’s those decisions that you have to remove yourself from, tug at your heart-strings so they loosen enough for you to be realistic, and stand firm in your resolution, even when those heels are shaking and your heart is about to burst into open air from your chest.

Maybe we’re not warned of these difficult decisions because they don’t come around often. They really aren’t all that common, but when they come, they arrive with vengeance. They burst into your everyday, ordinary existence and demand you pay attention to them – stealing you from any other task, every other priority, and get you to the edge of tears in the middle of the afternoon.

But that’s when you reach into your adult tool belt to find your gumption, your pride, and your big girl panties. You swallow that pride in one swift gulp, gather all the gumption you can build, and put on those panties with a mission – you won’t be upset, no, not right now, not today. You’ll make the adult-like decision to avoid the worse –even if it is imminent – until you absolutely, positively have to deal with it.

You’ll distract yourself with long to-do lists that include things you’ll never actually do like clean out the junk drawer and dust the corners of your apartment. And then you’ll overexert yourself into your social life, planning and making happy hour dates, going to dinner and events, spending money you don’t have out of purses you saved for years to buy. You’ll pick up a new project or come up with great entrepreneurial ideas, but never write business plans, and leave the pieces of the masterpiece scattered about your homes until they ultimately end up right back in that junk drawer you never cleaned out.

Avoidance is a vicious circle. And avoidance is very adult like.

If you ignore a problem or a rough-and-tough, life-altering, plan-changing, dream-killing decision with an outcome you just don’t want to face – it’ll eventually go away. The adult, mature thing to do is to believe as such. The adult thing to do is to focus more on pushing our boobs up with push-ups, renting fancy cars for weekend getaways with Zipcar, and dreaming of the day when we’ll be grown up enough to avoid things better than we pretend to do now.