It’s the Little Things

My apartment smells like cardboard and glass cleaner. I’ve been sneezing for the last twenty minutes and if I squint my eyes and look intently, I think I can see my floor. I can’t tell if my throw-away pile or my climbing mound of packed boxes is higher, and I really never noticed how white my walls were until right about now, sitting and wondering if this room was always this big, or if it somehow grew in the last few hours.

I’m moving to a different part of New York and I couldn’t be less prepared. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve moved in my life and unlike other things, it never gets easier. In fact, I’d like to think it gets harder because I continuously accumulate more and more stuff. But like an evening following a stressful day and cooking in a tiny kitchen – I prefer to pack alone.

So, with a discovered airplane bottle of Grey Goose in the back of my fridge and orange juice, a green masque from the dead sea (thanks Mr. P), and the Best of the 80’s with some Sean Kingston and Adele mixed in (no judging of my musical eclecticness) – I started pulling apart and piecing together the contents of my tiny studio.

Admittedly, I’ve only given my apartment a thorough and heavy-duty cleaning once or twice in the entire time I’ve lived here. As my life become increasingly fuller and I found myself distracted from my address, I let things sit around and I forgot my in-the-moment organizing habits. I collect antique cigar boxes for decoration and occasionally for storage, and such a collection usually leads to random discoveries as well as many searches that leave me empty-handed. In a rush and without a conscious thought, I’ve tucked away things for safe-keeping and then kept myself away from them for months.

But maybe that’s the fun with boxes anyways, you open them and never know quite what you’ll find. Luckily for me, the surprise has never been a cockroach in an empty wooden container, but some findings I found yesterday were almost as scary.

Or at least, when I first saw them, I thought they’d be.

Unknowingly, we all attach emotion and sentiments to objects. It is why we started having “ex-boxes” in high school, to keep us from lingering over a lost love. Or the reason why as children, we grow attached to a blanket, a teddy bear, or a doll and carry it around to give us the comfort a sippie cup or bottle simply can’t. It’s why the engagement ring is something so many lust after – the symbolic meaning that you’re taken, that someone wants to love you forever, that someone gave you such an expensive, beautiful, or historical thing that tells the world you’re to-be-wed.

But as time passes, our attachment to things changes. Or maybe, it just lessens.

As I was going through my jewelry, safely placing in padded pouches the ones that meant the most to me, I came across a necklace Mr. Faithful gave me, nearly a decade ago. Still in good condition and still the same mini spec of a diamond it was then, it glistened in the light of my lamp and I just smiled. When we first broke up, I couldn’t look at it,  but by the time college was over, I found myself wearing it without even thinking of him. When I packed up my pajamas, I came across a pair I threw on the night my mother and I had to rush my father to the hospital when he was ill. After a night from hell, spent worrying and pacing, and attempting to get some sleep on uncomfortable waiting room chairs, I almost threw away the cotton pants out of disdain. Once my dad recovered and returned to the same adoring man I always knew, the pants stopped being so difficult to wear, and eventually, I grew quite fond of them and even took them with me to New York.

I stumbled across all sorts of things, frames that have seen a cascade of photos, from boyfriends and friends to family and pets, year after year as new friends, men, or experiences changed. Outfits I bought for a specific purpose, ones I bought with the intent to be ripped off of me, sweaters I bought for the first day of school that somehow still fit, and jeans that will no longer fit, no matter how much weight I lose or miles I run.

I came across dresses I wore frequently when I very first moved, but now can’t bear the thought of wearing in public, much less in Manhattan. Books that I read while riding the subway to my internship or laying in the Great Lawn in Central Park or the quad at my college. Notebooks from interviews I can barely remember conducting and quotes from sources I can’t picture in my head anymore. Shoes with a half-way broken heel I meant to get fixed and a skirt I loved that ripped at the seam and I swore I would learn to sew for the simple fact I badly needed to wear the skirt again (that’s still on the bucket list of skills to master). Notes from Mr. Idea I saved because they meant something to me, the pennies I found in my window seal of this apartment, and to-do lists I never finished.

All of these things, in significant or insignificant ways, meant something to me at one point. Some words in books I read or places I went while wearing specific shoes, or people I met while sporting a tight number – changed my life. But it wasn’t the book or the shoes or the dress that made an impact, those are just reminders of the experience. And while those memories stay with us, the emotion we attach to objects that really didn’t matter too much to begin with, fade away. We pack them up in boxes to donate or to sell. We decide to give some things a second chance and we forget how good we looked in shorts and tights. We stop seeing items as things that hold meaning and see them for what they are: just things.

And like us, they will go on to someone else. Someone who picks it up at the library or bookstore when we donate books, or someone at a consignment shop who sees potential in an old scarf we couldn’t see. Not just stuff, either, transforms in the hands for a new person – my apartment will gain a different inhabitant in a few weeks. They will make this space their own, they will bring their own meaningful things, and set up shop differently than I did, and in a manner diverse from the dozen or more people who have called this place their home before me. In a brownstone that’s nearly 100 years old, there is no telling how many residents have made a home in the very place I’m sitting as I type this blog, in 2011 at an antique desk, someone else has sat, too.

But things don’t need emotion, really. Nor do apartments. They just need people to use them, to fill them up with life, to give them a purpose, and then to let them go. Onto to the next person or the next use or maybe put an end to their functionality. Even then, trash often turns into Earth that molds into something new decades later – but I digress.

The point is, the cycle continues. People come and go, and so do things – but won’t people always continue to collect things? Collect memories attached to those things? And then let them go as easily as they came? Of course. It is the little things that matter, but keep in mind, the little things will always change.

Baby, Talk is(n’t) Cheap

Some become uncomfortable when others talk religion. Or politics. Or the birds-and-the-bees. These conversations rarely make me lose my train of thought and though others may not agree, I don’t sway my opinion to match what’s considered acceptable by whoever’s standards I’m discussing such topics with.

However, while money talks louder than sex, I’d much rather review every sexual encounter I’ve ever had than talk about cash flow.

For whatever reason, finances freak me the [insert foul word] the out. I come from a family that never struggled to make ends meet and my parents managed our assets smartly and strategically, giving me mostly anything I wanted – minus the pony in the backyard when I was six, but who remembers that? I’ve always been taught to value the dollar and that it is something that comes with hard work. Applying that mentality from the get-go, I started my own baby-sitting “business” at 13, after taking classes at the Red Cross for CPR and childcare, and my dad printed business cards for me, un-cleverly titled, “Lindsay’s Baby-Sitting.”

At 15, off the books and under the table, I earned an hourly wage at a privately owned hotel as a maid. My first day on the job, the head maid escorted me around the premises and I shadowed her cleaning skills and how to tuck the corners of the bedspread carefully. However, when we pulled off the sheets in the first room to discover whipped cream and strawberries, my virginal-self was a bit distracted during the rest of her lessons. Come to find out, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing I discovered at that job.

During high school and college, I worked at grocery and retail stores, restaurants, and daycares. On the side, I freelanced articles for next-to-nothing pay and for eight months, I wrote a weekly column for $10 a pop about worldly issues affecting local teens. I started a non-profit and I became a marketing machine of what I considered my greatest potential – my words. I was using MySpace to network before social networking was ever a topic of discussion. And through all of these odd jobs and while I developed an entrepreneurial spirit, I never stopped worrying about my mini un-wealth. It wasn’t – and maybe still isn’t – something I feel at ease talking about and while I believe in the freedom of speech, for me, that’s a talk that isn’t cheap.

To combat my woes, I’ve always been a saver and never one to really accept financial favors from anyone. After a certain age, it would churn my stomach to ask my parents for cash and I felt a sense of guilt that they were supporting me during school, while so many of my friends were already independent of their families. Men have often paid for my dinners and I almost always allow them to, but once I’m in a relationship, I feel more of a need to go 50/50. Mr. Possibility‘s bonus is more than my annual salary and while he can afford to cover me for every outing we take, I always make an effort to add in my literal two cents frequently. Because I’ve placed my savings where I can keep track of them, I know where I can spend money and where I can’t.

Even so, for years and even at points to this day, I’ve lost sleep stressing if I was making the right decisions with my income. Am I saving enough? Should I start investing? Am I getting the best deal? Do I really need that or can it wait? Have I gone out for drinks too often this week? Should I not get coffee this morning? Should I book that ticket or can I afford it?

And who the hell thought I was capable of maintaining my own financial stability when my idea of managing my money is logging onto BankofAmerica.com?

It took until I was truly on my own, without any financial support from mom and dad, paying my own bills and student loans, having only my name on a lease, and depending only on myself to eat, drink, and be merrily-with-money, that I started to relax. Within the first three weeks of moving many moons ago, I bought a plane ticket, transitioned myself into a new apartment where I had to fork over $1,600 for a deposit and first month’s rent, plus fed myself, and bought an unlimited Metro. I watched the stockpile of money I had been building for over six years quickly disassemble and realized that money was meant to be spent, not continuously counted and admired. I had not gone into banking because I couldn’t stand the thought of it – I had picked a career that no one pursues for the monetary pay-off, but almost all are satisfied with the print-out.

If the last few years attest to anything, it is that much of what we consider permanent is not as sturdy as we view it. Stocks and companies crash, bailouts aren’t always the best choice, and the lap of luxury we’d all like to lay in may never be an actual option. Their is no secret remedy to dismissing the fear of losing it all because no matter how much we make, how much we spend, or how much we save – there is no guarantee that what have today will be there tomorrow. Though I find myself mature with my finances and for the most part, I always make smart decisions – I’ve discovered the key to managing money is learning that to get, you have to give. Not just in charitable donations (as you should) but by enjoying your life instead of preparing for what could come or what may be inevitable.

I’m not to the point of frivilous spending or unplanned trips to exotic places, but if I want that Kate Spade bag or a pair of shoes half-off at Bloomingdales, I remember I’ve worked this hard and treating myself won’t destroy my accounts. Even so, if you ask me about it, I’ll won’t reveal my purchase. I’m just not one to spend and tell.

Could I Be Happy?

Last night, as I was picking up groceries that make up my diet – orange juice, humus, grapes, bananas, Greek yogurt, and dark chocolate – I was forced to wait in a ridiculously long line. The grocery store by my current apartment is new and attracts customers from dozens of blocks away, and therefore, is always crowded. I usually don’t mind – it gives me the opportunity to eavesdrop and people watch.

Curving around the escalator, I noticed a good-looking man in front of me. He looked early to mid-30’s, was well-dressed and groomed, and had a simple basket full of good food and good beer. Not really inclined to say much of anything to anyone, when he looked back and shared a grin with me, I returned one, and then took my eyes in a different direction. A few moments later, as I casually looked his way again – a family had appeared. His arm was around a lanky young boy in soccer clothes, and a pretty curly-haired blonde in boots was laughing with a little girl whose face mirrored her’s.

The children had been in the bakery, picking out the one sweet treat they are allowed to have with their mom, and when they returned – so did the light in the man’s face. As the kids were somehow entertaining themselves with a display of sugar cookies (seeing who could reach the top), the man leaned over and kissed the side of his wife’s face, and as she probably has since they met, she warmly laughed, and looked into his eyes. They were about the same height but she looked tiny next to him and their body language was so easy and so loving, I noticed the others behind me watching them too.

As any child would do, the brother and sister duo returned, begging for cookies on top of their goody from the bakery. The man automatically dismissed their pleas but mom chimed in by teasing, “But Dad, they are peanut butter. Your favorite.” Blushing at what seemed like an inside joke, he agreed they were his top pick, and allowed the kids to have them – under the condition that they couldn’t have eat any tonight. At 8 p.m., I thought that was a smart decision on his part, having baby-sitted and mistakenly given sugar way too late. Excited, the siblings returned to pick out the best dozen, and mom teased again asking, “But I want one tonight, can I have one tonight?” Dad wrapped his arms around her waist, squeezed her hand, and in a sweet-and-sexy tone promised, “Oh yes, you can have one tonight.

I had zoned in so deeply to their conversation and watching the family interact, that I hadn’t noticed my arm had fallen asleep holding a heavy basket, or that I was next in line. Minutes later after selecting debit and thanking a cashier that didn’t say anything to me, I walked the two blocks back to my packed-up apartment and for the first time, in a long time, I felt sad.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really happy with my life. My weeks are spent writing articles and blogs, attending events and happy hours, trying new foods and neighborhoods, and spending time with friends I love and a Mr. Possibility I adore. Soon, I’ll be able to run in Central Park and this summer is filled with trips I’m counting down to, and within a few weeks, I’ll move into a new place on this island. My life is constantly in transition, I have more freedom than I know what to do with, and much of the beauty of my 20s is that they are unplanned, unknown, and uninhibited.

I’ve spent 203 posts – or 203 days – reaching this point of content. Of being ale to feel secure in my single shoes, of not feeling like a man is the end-all-be-all to my existence, of not feeling incomplete without admiration from the opposite sex. I’ve developed a security in myself and should Mr. Possibility and his many possibilities walk away tomorrow, I would be upset, but I would be fine. His presence isn’t the most important component of my life, it’s just a bright one. I’m no longer defined by a man and I don’t feel this incredibly intoxicating urge to be in a relationship or to be reminded of how wonderful I am by a guy. I think I’m pretty great without someone telling me, as I should – I’ve worked hard and loved long to get to where I am.

So why did I feel sad after witnessing a healthy, engaging, and adjusted family? Why did it leave a poor taste in my mouth and make me feel like my life was hollow – filled with boozing and blasé brunching? Even though I know I’m nowhere close to wanting or being prepared for marriage and children, why did I instantly want both of those responsibility-ridden things in that moment?

Well, because I want them. One day, that is. And while I can push at the American dream and work as hard as I can to raise myself up from my heelstraps, move to the city I always knew I belonged in, and go on countless amazing and awful dates – I cannot control success in love. Or in creating a family.

And maybe that’s what is the hardest about being single – the lack of control. Even if you do all of the right things, find a peace inside yourself, and love the life you lead – if you want children and you want to get married one day, you want it. It isn’t something you can or you should change, it is just part of who you are – encoded in a DNA that few understand. And if we observe the world around us, the women who have found it and the women who have not, we realize which category we’d like to end up in. Sure, happiness isn’t defined by if you get Cartier or if you are able to produce offspring, and there are splendors a career can give that nothing else can match -but for me, and the life I hope to have, I don’t want to kiss or be kissed goodnight by my byline forever.

The question is – if I’m not among the lucky who finds someone they can tolerate and agree to share a bed and bathroom sink with until death parts us, or if I can’t carry a baby or afford to adopt or if my eggs becoming infertile by the time I become ready for that chapter – then what?

Can I still be happy? As satisfied and blessed I feel to be where I am today – miles and miles away from needing to even worry or think about such things – I can’t answer that question. I’d like to think I could find happiness anywhere with anything – but I also know that I wouldn’t want to do it without anyone. I’d rather have a someone and few little somethings.

Thank You, Mr. Wrong

As it usually is on Monday mornings, yesterday the downtown train to Chelsea was packed. I’m one to stand near the door and let others grab a seat, a gracious tactic that usually results in a quicker exit and entrance. This quarter past eight in the morning decision landed me squished between an elderly man reading The Times and a pair of matching tourists, complete with fanny packs and “I love NY” shirts and all.

Nearing my stop, my cart started to disperse and as I turned to catch a spot closest to the parting doors, I caught a whiff of an old familiar smell. Unable to keep myself from turning away, I subtly followed the scent to find the trail. A few mini steps clockwise, I came face-to-face with a 15-year-old with shouting headphones, who was not amused by how uncomfortably close I was to his sideways-cap.

Embarrassed, I grinned at him (he didn’t return one to me) and left the subway quickly as I couldn’t keep my head from buzzing with memories Axe Deodorant Spray. Scent is, after all, the strongest sense tied to memory, and for me, that scent will never represent anything or anyone but Mr. Faithful. My very first boyfriend, my puppy love, the man whose heart I shattered, and the dude who I lost my virginity to.

And that same fragrance takes me back to all of those things – laying with belly buttons touching as I wondered if sex would get better; if he was the man I would marry, if I would be the one who ended up with her high school sweetheart; if this was what real love felt like; if I would ever meet anyone I felt as strongly about. If it got better than this.

But if I could have reassured  my 15-year-old self about how much I had to look forward to and how much love I was actually capable of giving and receiving, I would have never worried. I would have enjoyed those moments of innocence, toes dipping into the warm lake at twilight, gleaming into the eyes of a guy, who three years later, would be far removed from my life.

Because in those hot summer nights and the cold winter evenings we spent together as two kids, feeling what we thought was love for the first time –we were each other’s right person. If you would have asked me a few months into our relationship – maybe up to the first year, even – I would have told you I’d go the rest of my life smelling that Axe spray every morning and be perfectly content.

Or when Mr. Fire introduced me to gnocchi – something that always reminds me of him when I see it at the grocery store – in his tiny kitchen in our tiny college town. Dancing  (and sliding) in our socks to Dave Matthews, laughing, sipping wine we were too young to buy, and our hearts racing in anticipation of the love we hadn’t made yet. With those wild eyes that always seemed to get me – he rubbed his nose against mine, scooped me into his arms, spun me around, and dipped me toward the ground, playfully asking: “Do you trust me?” In that instant – I would have proclaimed to the whole world I would trust him with my everything, would have given him anything, and would have said whatever I needed to say to stay in his grasp forever.

In thinking about this ever-elusive Mr. Right character – I’ve thought about all the guys who didn’t fit the bill. All of the ones I loved or the dudes he didn’t fall for me as fiercely as I intended them too, and all of the suckers in between.

Because while Mr. Curls, Mr. Faithful, Mr. Fling, Mr. Idea, Mr. Disappear, Mr. Unavailable, and Mr. Rebound all have names specific to my experience with them – their ultimate titles are all the same: Mr. Wrong. Even if at one time, they had the opportunity be Mr. Right or were Mr. Right Now when they stood by my side.

I’m not convinced there is only one right companion for every person, but I do think it’s important to remember the guys who weren’t right. The Mr. Wrongs, after all, will never be completely gone – because if they were, then what would have we gained from their love – or lack of? Would we be able to understand what works for us and what doesn’t? What it takes for someone to be what we need and what will never measure up to fulfill us?

How can we know when it’s right if we don’t know what it feels like when it’s not?

The Mr. Wrongs ended up not to be the men I decided to lead with, but they all served their purpose. I’ve learned the lessons I’ve decided they’ve taught me and with all of them, I’ve released the “what could have been” thoughts that always attach themselves when love goes astray. I’m not interested in rekindling any flame that’s burnt out, bur rather excited about what’s next.

Because if history truly does repeat itself, then I’m lucky. I’m blessed to be strong enough to overcome heartache, to choose what I need over what I want, and to be loved by a few incredible men. And though at the time, I didn’t always realize what was waiting for me is better than what I’ve felt before – I know it now. And without dating, loving, losing, and leaving the Mr. Wrongs, I would never have the confidence that a Mr. Right – or maybe a few Mr. Rights – await for me in the days, the months, and the years to come.

It is sometimes those unanswered prayers that are answered against what we thought we longed for, those memories that were once bittersweet but are not just fond, and those men who were right at one time – that teach us more than the one who ends up being right, right now. They may have broken our hearts or steered us in the wrong direction or we could have stepped all over them on the way to our own happiness and personal gains – but without them, we wouldn’t be one step closer to finding the love that doesn’t bite the dust.

So, thank you Mr. Wrongs – for a lot of things, but mainly, for being wrong.

The 20-Something Syndrome

There’s something special about being a 20-something.

It’s after the uncomfortable teenage years, but we still have enough awkwardness to keep us humble. Well, at least at the start of our twenties anyways, until we discover a certain power we have because we’re young and yet to be jaded. By the time we reach the mid-way point between the second and third decade, we’ve been burnt, hurt, used, tossed, and treasured, and we’ve done to the same to countless men, jobs, friends, apartments, and shoes. But more than the year before and less than the one that will follow, we’ve managed to capture and ignite the spark we have to offer the world and the men in it – and though we may still settle for less than first rate at times, at least we’re aware we’re settling. Unlike before when we may have not been able to spot a red flag a mile or an inch away. I haven’t reached the late 20’s, so I can’t speak for that crowd – but if my friends are any indicators (or Mr. Possibility), it seems something happens around 27 or 28, where the need to lockdown a relationship or make some really impressive steps in our career becomes priority. Either, in my opinion, seem like a lot of pressure when desired at the drop of a dime.

But really, isn’t being a 20-something about pressure? Isn’t the 20-something syndrome an ordeal (or a blessing?) we all have to pass through to make it to the 30’s? (Which, I’m told by my mother and every 30 and beyond, will be the best time of my life.)

The pressure of being a 20-something is not just from external factors but often enforced by ourselves. If this 10-year span is when I’ll look my very best, be in the best shape, feel my best, and put my best face forward – shouldn’t I be going out constantly? If this is the period where I’ll have the most opportunity to travel, where I won’t have to consider anyone as a higher priority than myself, where the decisions I make won’t weigh as heavily as future choices, and where I’ll have the most energy and brightest perspective on life – shouldn’t I go after whatever I want with diligence?

But isn’t that the issue? When you’re a 20-something, the options seem limitless, but the resources are often not – at least for me, currently. However, I have ways around monetary setbacks, primarily because I’m female. Right now in this late hour as I write this blog after a few glasses of wine and an evening spent with Mr. Hubby, I could grab a pair of heels and a swipe of my signature lipstick and be at a bar in midtown in thirty minutes or less. I could lure in an eligible bachelor or two, have my drinks paid for all night long, and head back uptown in a cab paid for with cash given to me by a stranger I met an hour earlier. Tomorrow morning, I could go anywhere on this island I want to – Times Square, the Empire State, Wall Street, and Magnolia’s (let’s be honest, it’s sadly a landmark now) are not destinations for me, they are just part of my home.

If I wanted to – or if I was brave enough – I could save enough money to live abroad for a year, working low-paying jobs, backpacking, and experiencing the world I’ve never witnessed. I could consume alcohol in vast amounts, I could go by the golden rule that if he’s foreign, he doesn’t count as part of my “number”, and instead of focusing on editing and writing, I could take a completely different turn in my career. Or not focus on work at all and throw my luck to the fates, hoping I’ll land up where I’m meant to be, even if it is far away from what I pictured or hoped for.

I have no real obligations – my lease is actually up in May and it is undetermined what commitment I’ll make after that. And really in New York, signing your name has merit, but finding a subleaser is quite simple. I’m not married. I don’t live with a boyfriend. I have no children. I don’t own a pet, unless you count Giorgio the fish – who I’m sure would be happy with anyone who fed him and cleaned his bowl once a week. I have barely any bills to pay (damn you Best Buy and Student Loans). Nothing is keeping me in New York other than the magazine job that’s important to me and the fact that I love this city with most of my heart.

And yet, when I think of being in my twenties, when I feel the pressure from the 20-something syndrome, I never feel like I’m doing enough. If I go out three times a week and stay in on a Saturday because I’m tired and the commute home at 3 a.m. nearly kills any opportunity for a 10 a.m. run – I feel guilty. If my friends beg me for one more glass of wine or one more song or one more hour when I’m exhausted, if I don’t give in – I feel like I’ll regret it or I’ll miss something. When I see my peers who, instead of joining the workforce or going to grad school, like many of us who graduated in the downward pivot of the economy, decided to live in another country without any concrete plan – I’m envious. When I skip a night at the gym to cook dinner and consume large quantities of ice cream with Mr. Possibility, the next morning – I feel fatter, though I didn’t gain a pound. When I succeed at work, only to take two steps backwards the next day – I feel like I’ll never get to where I want to be as a writer. And then again, sometimes I have no idea what the endpoint or goal is – or if there even is one.

So what’s the cure for the 20-something syndrome? How do I forgive myself for indulging or giving myself a much needed evening in for me-myself-and-I? How do I celebrate what I’m doing right instead of turning every little miss into all the reasons I’m going about my life the wrong way? How do I prepare for this seemingly inevitable end-of-decade turn when my priorities will become more important? How do I get through my twenties happily, successfully, and healthily – feeling like I’ve done all that I could with all that I had?

I’d like to have a real answer, but I don’t. I only have a guess – and it’s maybe simplified too much. But to overcome the 20-something syndrome, I think the trick is stop trying. Or deciding it isn’t something to get over or to get through or to survive. It is, like every other period and person we’ll experience, temporary and yet, absolutely necessary. Children grow into teens, and teens into twenties, and twenties into thirties, and so on, and so it goes – there is no end in sight until it is, the end.

Time may seem to pass as quickly as it does slowly. I may be dumbfounded seeing the start of April this upcoming week. I may be shocked to know I’m closer to my next birthday than I am to my last. I may not always feel like I’m doing what’s best or what’s good or what will take me the furthest or make me the happiest.

But I’m living. I’m learning. I’m loving. I’m 20-something.

A Lifetime of Magic

And so it has finally arrived.

That moment I’ve been waiting for my entire life. That instant where the world stops, the earth becomes still, and you feel like you’ve finally felt that one thing you’ve always wanted to feel…in the place you wanted to feel it. Pieces of your soul float together and your heart mends in a single moment, with one little look, and one glimmer of shining, brilliant hope.

Yes, my dears, Christmas has arrived in New York.

The streets are paved with thoughts of sugarplum fairies, the windows are frosted, and people of all shapes and sizes look all-sorts-of-adorable in their mittens and their coats. But most profoundly, there is this vivid feeling surrounding the city streets and corner-lights: magic.

As soon as Macy’s finished their decorations, I wasted no time in scoping out the extravagant displays and walking through each floor to see what holiday-madness I could find. Since it is my very first Christmas in the city, I will forgive myself for acting like quite the tourist for a few weeks. And while I’m relishing in this freedom -I plan to do it in style.

To top the hat off of Macy’s cheerfulness, a friend of mine, M, asked me to be her date to Radio City Music Hall’s A Christmas Spectacular.

It was her last night in the city before moving back to North Carolina to support her family and continue down a path she was born to walk on (or strut, rather) – and we wanted to take this little island by storm before she left. Her seats were first mezzanine and center – basically the very best seats you could have gotten in the house. We decked ourselves out in Christmas-ey dresses and stockings (with heels of course) and got there early to get the full-Rockette experience.

When we walked into Radio City, my mouth about hit the floor: it was about as classically Christmas as anyone could imagine. I was surprised to not hear a jazz band playing “The Christmas Song” in the corner with a woman in a red dress leaning up against a baby-grand singing in a sultry voice. And once we sat down and the show began – I was taken back to another time in my life.

To those Christmas visions at the holiday season when you’re a child. When there is nothing more important than being good so Santa will bless you with his many toys. Where shaking boxes wrapped under the tree could take up an entire hour of your time easily. Where the first snowfall that brought the chance for a snow day was almost as great as your birthday or Christmas Day itself.

Where there was no reason to doubt magic because you just believed.

There was no questioning or wondering if you’ll get that one gift you so desperately desire -you knew it would be under the tree when you wake up at the crack of dawn. When you thought about growing up – you knew exactly what you wanted to do, no matter how absurd or unrealistically achievable it may be. You never wondered if you would get to kiss your Prince Charming underneath the mistletoe one day, and frankly, it was not really a priority – because you just knew it would happen. Everyone got happily ever after and everyone became a princess. Everyone got that mini-truck or the Barbie Dream House because why wouldn’t they?

Magic is simply guaranteed and we never really think we’ll grow up into big boys and girls, until we find ourselves as a 20-something, in the middle of Radio City Music Hall, realizing we’re completely on our own. And not only that, but for the longest time we’ve been skeptical about the splendor that we once thought would always be ours.

When do we lose that beautiful, pure, and unrelenting hope we all had as children? When do we lose that sparkle and that bubbly faith that comes with being inexperienced and out-of-tune with the functions of the so-called harsh reality of life?

As I watched the dancers, the singers, the actors, the ice skaters, and the musicians who put on literally one of the best performances I’ve ever seen – I thought about how at one time, all of them were children. Just like I was. They had big dreams and perhaps, at some point, they said unquestionably to their parents: “I’m going to be a Rockette one day!” And now, there they are– tapping out a beat on the stage they knew they’d always grace. But even so, after they bow and take off their dancing shoes backstage – they probably criticize and belittle their achievements or their talents and always think “I could have been better. I could be more entertaining. I’ll never get to my full potential.” Or maybe the man they were seeing promised to show up and even though they are a smokin’ Rockette or an incredibly talented figure skater – he decided to cancel at the last minute.

Do we stop believing in the promise of magic because somewhere along the way, we allow our spark to be put out? Because we start analyzing and comparing ourselves to others or dwell on the idea of absolute perfection? Or when we get a glitch in our hearts, we decide feeling that immense all-consuming feeling of falling in love is impossible in the future?

As I watched the show, listened to the words, and thought back on my wild and wonderful hopefulness as a little girl, I thought: what’s the harm in believing?

Everyone tells me not to have expectations because then if something even half-way good happens, I will be pleasantly surprised. But what if instead of being satisfied with the ordinary, I actually gave myself permission to believe that the extraordinary was a true and real possibility?

I left Radio City with a swollen heart completely in awe of the city I live in and the stage of my life I’m blessed to be exploring and experiencing. M and I walked to Rockefeller Center and it was almost as the heavens rained down magic for this special night. As we walked around, I witnessed every stage in my life: there was a little girl with her best friend and their moms, smiling for the camera with curls and bows in their hair and saying “Ice skating!!” And then we walked a little further and saw a group of high school girls and boys infamously flirting with one another on and off the ice. There were groups of twos and threes, solos and families – all skating on the same rink, in the same direction – but at completely different points in their lives.

Leaving the center, we looked at each other, with this sense of knowing we were talking towards our futures in some majestic way, to whatever stage may come next. And sure enough, there was a limo, signifying sure success, and a couple stealing a kiss on the corner of the block, showing us that believing in magic maybe isn’t such an outlandish idea, after all.

Does believing hinder my growth? Or my self-proclaimed recovery? Does relishing in the soft cloud of hope make me vulnerable for falling to a slow, painful, heart-breaking demise? Nah, I think it just gives me a power above the rest. It keeps that youthful, inexorable glow that we all have as children but let go of a little more with each Christmas we experience.

I will never be able to see through the same pair of eyes I looked through as a child, or as a teenager, or even the me I was before I moved to Manhattan. But if I keep this reminder of hope inside of me, at this very special time of the year (and always) – maybe those visions I dreamt of, those kisses under the mistletoe I’ve longed for, those holiday parties I’ve wanted to attend at the magazine of my dreams – will become more than a image in my mind. But rather, they will grow out of the magic already burning inside into something even more outstanding: my reality.

Star Light, Star Bright, First Wish I Make For Me Tonight

If you visit New York City, you will find several things: buildings that reach the clouds, people from every country on the planet (and in all stages of life), hidden gems that no tourist guide should ever get a hold of, and the next big thing on every corner.

You will also find love in the simple places and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch yourself wanting to take a picture of the city you’re buzzing around with – just so you can capture that feeling, that energy in something you can take back to your own zip code.

But no matter how many pictures you take, views you see, or places you scout out –one thing you won’t find in the city of dreamers are stars. Much, anyways. And as a gal who was raised in the south and spent many-a-nights laying in her backyard watching the stars compete in quantity with the fireflies – it just may be the one thing I miss about living in North Carolina.

I’ve seen the stars twice since I’ve lived in the city. The first time, in Columbus Circle, Mr. Unavailable was quick to tell me they were probably just planes. I glared at him and matter-of-factly responded with: Maybe you’re just a jaded New Yorker, hmm?

But last night as I was walking from the train to the gym, iPod on shuffle, 3-inch stilettos on foot, I saw a star. I looked around to see if there were any other stars showing their face and waited a second to see if it moved (I guess it could be from LaGuardia). But no, it was not only an actual star and the brightest star, but it was the first star of the night. (If it wasn’t, I’m pretending it was, anyway.)

Without hesitation, I closed my eyes and made a wish, smiled, and kept walking –just like I always have. It didn’t occur to me until I was on mile two at the gym that I had made my very first wish on a star that was a desire that had nothing to do with a man. And even better, I made this wish even though Michael Buble’s “Just Haven’t Met You Yet” happened to come on just as I saw the star.

Sure, I’ve wished to move to New York and to be a writer, but it was always coupled with another plea: find me a man or make me fall in love! I’ve even gone as far as giving stars deadlines when they should have this perfect person to me, and while I adore stars, they wouldn’t make great freelance writers because they’ve never met this time limit.

But last night, surrounded by the buildings I see daily, I made a wish that wasn’t about falling in love. Had nothing to do with romantic notions or happily ever afters or getting hitched or having babies. No part of my wish was about kissing in the rain or walks through Central Park.

Although I can’t give it exactly away (it wouldn’t come true!), the wish was for something that came from true bliss, complete happiness, and incredible personal contentment. For the desire to have something that comes from a place of thankfulness and bloom of sincere peace.

I don’t believe my over 20 years worth of making wishes on the first star I saw were wasted on men, nor would I go back and change my words – but there is something gratifying about making a wish independently.

And really, that’s what this whole journey is about. In so many ways, single women get lost in the instability and the uncertainty that comes with being a minus-one. We stand guard by our phones and put ourselves out there and we read every self-help book imaginable to try and figure out “what we’re doing poorly” or “how to attract the man we want” or “the way to lose ten pounds and get a husband in a year”. But in reality, there isn’t anything wrong with us, nor is there anything bad about desiring a remarkable love and person to share our lives with.

It’s not about how we look or what we say at a bar or how long we wait between the first email and the response – it’s about the feelings we have towards ourselves. If we love who we are, if we believe in what we have to offer, and if we trust that we really can’t screw up what’s meant to be (because, we’ve tried, right?) – the rest of it just falls into place.

Does this mean I’ll stop making wishes? No. It just means that if I’m always wishing for the same dream (or the same man) – maybe it’s time to take a risk and wish for something that’s just about me.