A Sweet Longing

The last week or so, I’ve been feeling a little homesick.

While this may break my mother’s heart (I apologize in advance, Mama), I don’t miss home all that often. I’ve come to find that home is where you make it and who you make it with, so really, right now, my home is inNew York, in the company of my friends, and in the lights of the city.

But nothing really replaces your mom. Or your dad. Or the smellNorth Carolinaeludes with the arrival of summer. Or the quiet that comes from an old country road where the only noise prohibited is the sweet melody of song birds in the morning. And no matter how many years I’m away from NC or how many friends I make or how many roots I try to plant  in the pavement, holidays are tough away from the place you always spent them.

They say the mark of a successful parent is when they raise their child to be a mature, functioning, self-sufficient, and happy adult who can handle life without them. I’d say my parents have achieved this feat and I would think that all great parents want their children to turn into capable adults who create an existence that brings them joy, prosperity, and love, of course – but part of growing up is moving on.

If you’re the product of a very happy home with a supportive, loving family, and a community that encouraged success and bigger things than what sweet littleCarolinacan offer – the process of moving on means letting go of where you were to establish where you are. And it isn’t easy. I love my background but I’m confident my future has just as much possibility, if not more. But making that possibility feel just right is a process in itself.

I do consider myself an adult and I am completely independent of my parents for all of my financial needs and wants. I don’t depend on them for anything more than a daily phone call and to be there should I want to spend an outrageous amount of money flying south for a weekend. But there are times, like when I miss them that I feel like I’m less of an adult.

Maybe it is a misconception on my part to think that longing to see your family makes you more of a child and less of a grown-up, but when you travel away from home, as children should – when do you stop missing where you come from? Or not really where, but who?

I think part of the appeal of a relationship or the desire to one day get married comes from the hunger for a home. Especially if you came from a healthy and happy home – why would you not want to design the same foundation? And maybe we think by finding that sense of security or making plans for the future, we’ll stop missing what we had to leave behind to get to where we wanted to be. Maybe we think that sadness that surprises us from time-to-time will stop coming around. Maybe we think by finding love, the love of our childhood home won’t be something we wish we could capture and carry around with us, should a day ever be nothing but doom-and-gloom.

I’m not there yet, so I can’t argue effectively, but I know that nothing compares to my mother’s embrace or the smell of her perfume that lingers on you after. Or my father’s infectious laugher that burns his face and fills in the lines of his wrinkled cheeks. You can’t capture the same smells of bacon and eggs in the morning paired with instant-coffee, or the sound of the washing machine constantly running while my dog scratches at my bedroom door.

And not being able to see your parents on Easter or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – because it isn’t sensible to fork over $300 in such a short period of time, just sucks. Or knowing the baby cousins you left will only see you once or twice a year, meaning you won’t watch them grow, is sad. Or that you only get to hug your family for a week at a time, maybe twice or three times a year, hurts.

There really is no place like home, no matter how sweet your new one is.

The Bravery to Be Me

I attempt to be eloquent as a writer and a lady as a person – but certain experiences are appropriate for being inappropriate. Such is the moment when you look at yourself in the mirror, accept your flaws and conclude that what the world thinks and how they judge you causes you to only think one thing: “They can all go f*** themselves.

Pardon my language or don’t – doesn’t matter. I usually don’t use such a word (I somehow still taste soap in my mouth when I do) but stepping out of the shower yesterday, I was flooded with the beautiful self-assurance that I’ve often craved.

As I touched on yesterday, when you “live” with someone, you can’t really hide much. To be at home, you must be at home – and leave those doubts and worries at the door. I can’t (and refuse) to go to bed with makeup on to cover my acne that has followed me into my 20s. I can’t stop going to the gym or running around the park because I’ll look sweaty and red when I return. I can’t not do those me-touch-up things that aren’t exactly attractive or sexy: shaving my legs and keeping a self-pedicure schedule. I can’t not exfoliate or have a wet head of hair when I go to bed.

And when you’re alone, when you have no one to watch you or to answer to, your behavior is different. You accept yourself more – you pick and nudge at your problem areas but don’t obsess. You walk around naked. You drink out of the carton if you don’t feel like washing a dish (or at least I have, once or twice). You eat things you normally wouldn’t admit to eating. You leave a pile of dirty laundry about your floor and a dozen pairs of shoes lying haphazardly in your apartment from weeks of coming home and kicking off the kicks. You stand on one foot, in lingerie and a green masque, drinking red wine, listening to Florence+ the Machine, and plucking your eyebrows without giving a second thought to anything – especially how you look.

Some of these things I wouldn’t necessarily do around anyone – man or girlfriend. But being in the company of someone else each night and every morning, when you’re the least done-up or covered-up, charges you with challenge to accept your imperfections without making excuses for them.

As I finished up in the shower and spent an excessive amount of time in Mr. Possibility’s bathroom, desperately craving some pampering time, I realized not just how comfortable I was becoming with him, but how comfortable I am with me. And really, the latter makes me happier than I could ever be about the progress of a relationship with a man.

It has taken me a lot of time to come to terms with myself – to really see myself for who and what I am, without making excuses, without comparing myself to other women. I still have off days, I still feel incredibly short when standing next to a statuesque blonde, and I still pray for clear skin each night. But overall – I like who I am. I find myself to be beautiful. I’m not the best and I’m not the worst, but I have something to offer that’s more powerful than perky breasts, long slender legs, and hair that fall just right.

And that’s the bravery to be me. In front of anyone – even the guy I hope finds me the most attractive or the women I’m jealous of. With or without my “face on,” with or without looking airbrushed and radiant, with or without those five pounds that nag my hips – I’ve found a peace within myself, within my looks, within my heart that gives me beauty from within.

So take me as I am, find me lovely or loathe me. I am who I am and I take me as I am, as I go. And if you aren’t a fan or see my flaws as a deal-breaker, I won’t use any more profanities than what I have already in this post, but I will use the phrase that will forever remind me of this blog and this period of growth in my life: frankly, my dears, I do give a damn…about me, but not about what you think.

Uncomfortable With Comfortable

Mr. Possibility and I had a conversation about chopped garlic the other day. Yes, I’m serious.

We were getting ready to go out to dinner in his neighborhood, I was brushing my hair and he his teeth, and as if it was the most important topic of interest, he asked about the new container of garlic I bought. He remembered buying a smaller size a few weeks earlier and wanting to save space in a fridge that’s already crammed, he suggested combining the two garlic bottles to be more efficient. I paused and must have given him a strange look, so he carefully inquired about my attitude.

“Do you realize we just talked about garlic?” I asked. He nodded and grinned. “Could we get much more domestic?” I continued. He laughed and pulled me into him, and while this cooking essential probably shouldn’t signify anything, I realized how comfortable we are.

And getting comfortable makes me rather uncomfortable.

Every relationship reaches this point – where you stop being so careful about what you say, you’re openly yourself, and talks are less about getting to know someone on the surface level as the option to be a mate, but getting to know how they are as a person in their everyday habitats. You stop worrying about always looking put together and focus more on just enjoying the company of the person you’re with, and you learn how to live together, though not necessarily literally as I am through mid-May, but by synching your separate schedules to make time for each other, yourself, and your friends.

For me, I’ve known I’ve reached feeling comfortable with men at different stages and for different reasons, and each time, it has made me a little nervous. While this important milestone denotes a positive progress, it brings with it a heightened sense of vulnerability because you realize how much of your heart and your trust is on the line. Once you’re comfortable, those walls don’t seem so thick or so high, those dreams so far-fetched, and those words or intentions so questionable. The relationship becomes engraved into your normal activities, his presence becomes something you expect, and as independent as we are, we let ourselves be a tad dependent on this person. If for nothing else to help move heavy boxes, share our bed with us, and be a phone call, train, or text away.

But when you’re comfortable, you realize how uncomfortable it would be should things change. Or how uncomfortable it is to let someone in when you’ve kept romance at bay for so long. Really though, it’s more than that – it’s also uncomfortable because we’ve been here before. We’ve grown accustomed and laid down our guard, and soon after watched everything fall apart. We’ve felt that pain; we’ve felt that disappointment in another person, in ourselves, and in love itself. We know what it feels like and we know the steps to take to recover.

I’ve been lucky that each relationship I’ve been in is a step up from the previous. I’ve been smart to learn from the past and apply it to my present, and I discover more about what I want and what I don’t as I go and as I grow. And so, as Mr. Possibility and I settle into comfort, I also prepare myself for uncomfortable feelings that accompany the shift.

While I’m learning to trust and allowing myself to relax in the scariness of vulnerability, it’s easier to enjoy the progress because for the first time in a relationship, I trust myself. I trust my ability to take anything that comes my way, survive any heartbreak or struggle, and believe in other possibilities if this one ever turns impossible. I trust my strength and my heart, my decisions, and my mistakes – all of which make me capable of giving and receiving love.

Though I hope the majority of my conversations with Mr. Possibility don’t resort to condiment discussions or laundry that needs to be folded – I’ll enjoy the time spent side-by-side, comfortable and content with where I am right now, with or without him. Because for once, it isn’t that I’m uncomfortable because I think I need someone, it’s that I comfortable just wanting them.

A Royal Reminder of Love

I did not get up early today to watch the wedding of Kate and William. I have not been following all of the blogs, scrolling through pictures, or admiring her beautiful heirloom engagement ring. I haven’t been up to date and I haven’t found myself submerged in Royal Wedding bliss and obsession.

But I’ve found all the hype refreshing.

And while we don’t know more than the glamorized surface level perception of their relationship, it is nice to have trending topics and stories about love. This nearly decade-long courtship that started at college, made its way through breakups and makeups, has now ended in what so many are calling a modern-day, real-life, fairytale. The bride, without titles or royal heritage not only finds the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, but he happens to be an actual prince. The charming is negotiable.

She may not be Cinderella, but she is living and breathing the story so many little girls grew up reading over and over again, praying and hoping and wishing that someday, their prince would come too. Kate didn’t need rescuing and she’s always projected an independent, classy, sophisticated, and ambitious attitude. When they did split however many years ago, she admitted her sadness but wished him well and sought out on her own accord to pursue her own pursuits. And as things always do in one fashion or another, they worked themselves out, and here she is the new stunning Duchess of Cambridge.

As I went to write this blog, I found myself more interested in Kate herself than the wedding. I thought what it must be like to wake up and realize the vows you’re about to take – not only promising loyalty to a man but to a country and its people. She’s slipping on a new pair of shoes, handmade McQueen and lovely, that carries more than just a hefty price tag and heel. She stepped into a role she may have dreamed of being in, but never really conceptualized until she found herself there.

Go ahead and call me a romantic, but she accepted this part and is beautifully playing it all because of love. All because she met someone who forever changed her life.

Getting married to a non-prince may not carry as much weight and pressure as Kate probably felt today, but perhaps that’s why love is partly so scary. And why so many are quick to advise against marriage than for it – the skeptics are quick to deliver divorce ratings if you dare mention you’re interest in nuptials at some point in your life. They are right, it is a wager: when you agree to become exclusive or to ultimately promise to dedicate your life to someone else, you put a lot on the line. Not only your heart but your identity, your day-to-day choices, and your priorities. And if it doesn’t work out, say in the bittersweet story of Princess Diana, you must rebuild your old life back – though, you’ll never be quite the same again. Every lust and rush takes its toll and while I believe we can all find our footing no matter how severe the shatter, making a commitment and being vulnerable carries great risk.

So why do we do it? Why do we all admire the glowing bride and the gushing groom, rising so early to watch people we don’t know share their vows in front of the world? Why do we stand in front of TV monitors at Dunkin Donuts, blocking the line to sip coffee and watch the bride walk? Why do we admire a woman who is living out the fantasy we’ve all seen ourselves in at some point? Why do we tear up at weddings – royal and promoted on Twitter, with its own special section on People.com – or just the typical ceremony? Why do we buy into the buzz, even when we don’t always buy into love and all that stuff, anyway?

Because love is love. And resist it or not, wonder if you’ll lose who you are or find yourself buried in regret at the end of a relationship’s tenure – love is heavy in our hearts and hopeful in our minds. Seeing love displayed with such splendor in magic makes us remember what it felt like to be naïve and optimistic about the love we surely knew we’d find before we knew what it felt like to lose at the game. It makes us get back some of that faith that fairytales can come true, it can happen to us, if we are among the very young at heart.

If we are among those who would rather believe and be deceived time and time again, then to never believe at all. Because someday, maybe our prince will come and maybe he won’t – but I’d rather kiss dozens of frogs than never kiss anyone at all. I’d rather be scared out of my mind of being crushed than to never have a crush or take a leap of faith and trust someone almost as much as I trust myself.

And though I’m not sure I would sincerely want to be a princess and manage the pressure of possibly leadingEngland or any country– I toast to Kate and her prince, who have reminded us all that love doesn’t have to be legitimately royal to be spectacular. Love itself is royalty – something that should be prized and preserved, and with or without money, makes you richer than any jewel or Cartier bridal headset can.

What’s Age Got to Do With It?

There’s been a lot of talk in my life lately about age. Some people in my life are celebrating it gracefully, some really don’t care at all, and others are fighting it tooth-and-nail.

I fall into the oblivious category. I’ve never given much thought to how old I am and once 21 came and left, birthdays haven’t been that celebratory, except for an excuse to gather all of my friends together and pretend calories don’t count for an entire day…or week, sometimes.

Because I’ve never been one to make excuses for myself because I’m young or believe I’m too inexperienced to accomplish what I want to accomplish or go where I want to go, I’ve never made my age part of my opinion of myself. At fifteen, I had my first internship, I graduated college a few months after reaching the legal drinking age, and I interned in New York, without knowing anyone for three months at 19. I’ve dated guys my age, ten years older than me, and a year young than me. My friends range from freshmen in college to early 40s and I get along with them all the same. For all intents and purposes in my life, my age has been just a number based on the day I was born, not by my maturity level or experience.

But with a dear friend turning 30 today, I’ve found myself thinking more about what age has to do with it.

As a child, being in my twenties seemed like it would be so glamorous – I’d be a real adult. I’d have my own place. I wouldn’t have to listen to my parents. I would be able to walk around in pretty dresses and high heels and I’d actually have that curvy figure I always wanted. I would make real money and could buy whatever I wanted. I would work at some fancy magazine or The New York Times and people would love my articles and I’d be admired and filthy rich. I would go out on dates and I’d meet the man who made my dreams come true and we’d live happily ever after, in a beautiful home following an exquisite wedding, and we’d be happy for all the rest of our days.

Needless to say – my twenties haven’t been quite as rose-colored as I imagined them being and they are far from fabulously sensational, most of the time.

I don’t have my own place, but I rent with three other lovely girls and through mid-May, I’m sharing Mr. P’s place. I don’t have to listen to my ma and pop, but I take their advice closer to heart than anyone else’s. I do walk around in flowy and tight dresses with heels, but I also know the pain of frolicking on my tippy-toes and the reality that most of the clothes I want the most, I simply can’t afford. I do have the figure I hoped I would, but like most women, it is never quite up to the intolerable standards of beauty I’ve set for myself. I don’t quite work at a prestigious magazine and I’m far from qualified (or talented enough) to work for The Times, but I have no doubt my career will continue to excel. I have gone on dozens of dates, some dreamy and some quite the contrary. I’m not engaged or married and thrilled about it.

Maybe my expectations of what this age, this decade would look like were far-fetched and idealized, and though before I knew what being a 20-something was all about, I thought I wanted that picture-perfect existence. I wanted all those ducks-in-a-row and my future settled in stone by 25. But maybe that’s the thing about expectations, you expect to want something until you get there, and then you discover while your expectations weren’t met, you’re glad they weren’t. Though I thought I wanted more of the Upper East Side, heavy left-hand life in New York with bylines on demand, I’m enjoying my Upper West Side barehanded and constantly challenging city journey in ways my dreams could never predict.

Turning 30 doesn’t freak me out and I’m not sure I have a scary age, as some do. What I have about my thirties are the same ill-conceived notions I had about my current age, so how can I tell how I’ll feel about the decade change until I’m  actually there?

What I can say, though, is while there are certain things I’d like to do by then, certain people I’d like to meet, and certain places I’d like to add to my traveling Rolodex, if my twenties have taught me anything so far, if those things don’t happen, if I don’t meet those people, if my passport doesn’t get those stamps – I’m sure I’ll be fine. And more than likely, I’ll be better than fine, but happy.

Because when it comes to learning to accept the place you are in your life, wherever that may be, with or without someone by your side, and find happiness in what you have instead of what you wish for – age has nothing to do with it. But maybe if you’re lucky, the older you get, the more comfortable you grow in your skin, and the happier you find yourself because while aging is inevitable, finding happiness isn’t. It’s a choice you have to make all on your own – at 20, at 30, at 40, and every decade that you’re blessed enough to reach.

PS: Tell me a horror story from being a bridesmaid and you could win the Bridesmaids Survival Kit: Mesh bag filled with lip balm, mints, comb/mirror, nail files & shot glass engagement ring, in celebration of the upcoming movie, “Bridesmaids