Until We Meet Again

Yesterday morning, as I rolled (or dragged) my red suitcase up and down several flights of stairs on my way to the airport – I took a mini-trip back in time.

Almost a year ago now, I lugged this same suitcase (along with two additional ones) from North Carolina all the way to a friend’s couch in Brooklyn. I distinctively remember stepping out of the cab on my friend’s block and the March air hitting my face as if it was saying: “What the hell are you doing? Don’t you know you don’t have a job? Or a place to live for very long? Are you out of your mind?”

Maybe I was crazy (perhaps I still am) – but somehow, I found myself moving those same three suitcases into an apartment uptown and starting my first day at my job, three weeks later, on April 5. When I think of my journey to New York, I’m often dumbfounded by how, for whatever reason, by whatever twist of good fortune and faith, all that I wanted…happened.

The decision to move to the city wasn’t ever really a choice in the first place. I made my mind up a long time ago that I would live in New York (not a borough, but Manhattan), I would be a writer (magazine first, then an author), I would run in Central Park (except in the winter), and I would find the love of my life.

And I believe I have. If anything challenges me, brings me unsurpassed joy, makes me feel adored and lucky – it is the boisterous and beautiful island of Manhattan.

Leaving yesterday, I felt a sense of dread. Of guilt. Of sadness. Because here I was, leaving my love at such a special time of year. I could hear the city saying, “But Lindsay, don’t you still love me? Don’t you want to spend your Christmas here? Look at how much we’ve been through together, why are you going back to the South?”

Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to see my mother’s and father’s face light up when they see me walking towards them or celebrating the holidays with childhood friends. I could almost taste the sweet tea, the biscuits with honey, and the fried-is-fine-by-me seasoning. I was looking forward to having a puppy to keep me company at night, sleeping in until 10 in the morning, and of course – Christmas morning with those I enjoy the very most.

But as that airplane took off, as I watched the glittering skyline disappear behind the tailwind – it was as if I was abandoning a piece of my heart. While I didn’t tear up, I did sigh and dive into my New Yorker magazine which outlined 20 reasons why I should love New York. I did thoroughly enjoy the issue (as I do every year), and it inspired me to make a list of my own.

So, my dearest love, since I’m leaving you on your own for ten days, don’t forget just a handful of reasons why I adore thee:

1-     At any given moment, you can step outside of your office, onto the train, or just walk down the street and hear a few different languages.

2-     It harbors and caters to the artists, to the dreamers, to the crazies, and those who dare to light up the lives of others. The passionate and determined are the successful.

3-     While the single women may outnumber the single men, it is nearly impossible to not be bought a drink on a Friday night. Hmm – or really any night.

4-     I can go anywhere in the five boroughs for $2.25 (soon to be $2.50, sigh).

5-     Even though it has a bad rep, there is always someone there to open a door, help you carry something heavy, or hold the train or elevator door open for you.

6-     The moments on the train when you see another train on a different rail and catch the eye of a stranger – fully knowing you will probably never see them again, but in that second, you shared a moment that somehow, in a strange way, meant something.

7-     An entire afternoon can be spent in Central Park and there is never enough time to give any museum a justified tour.

8-     If you’re feeling down, upset, discouraged, or just frankly pissed off – walking through an un-crowded portion of the streets will energize you.

9-     Those moments where the city seems silent. And those where it is filled with so much enthusiasm you have to smile.

10- Heels are not only accepted, but highly encouraged and those fashions that were frowned upon in the south, are gladly gawked at here.

11- Heartbreak be damned – there are more than enough pastry, ice cream, cookie, and Gelato bakeries or cafes. Not to mention endless amounts of fantastic wine and interesting people to meet who will force you to forget about Mr. Yesterday.

12- Staring in the city is not only allowed, but supported. And the views, where they be characters or skylines, are beautiful and entertaining.

13- If you have a day where you stop believing in love, all you have to do is look around. There is kindness, compassion, and romance on every corner.

14- You can decide to be in your own little world with headphones and high heels or simply take them off and be welcomed back into the Manhattan universe.

15- The city forgives you if you curse it one minute and apologize the next. Doesn’t even ask why – it just gets it.

16- If ever in doubt, throw up a hand, get a cab, and go home.

17- Possibilities lurk even on buses coming to and from the airport.

18- There are a million and one resources to help you find not only friends, but people who have similar interests and passions that you do.

19- You can play tourist whenever you want and then decide they are the enemy the next morning.

20- After a while, or maybe just a short span, the lights, the wonder, the people, the food, the sights, the experiences – still feel just as magical, but even more so, they start to feel like home.

And that’s what it is. The love I always wished for, the address I used to doodle in my notebooks, the bylines I use to imagine – are not the dreams of a young girl anymore, but the reality of, the home for – a woman. Even better, a single woman, who has the freedom, the opportunity, the brilliance, and the bravery to tackle this location, this decade of being a 20-something – on her own.

Well, maybe not completely alone. This city will always be on my side, calling me ridiculous, yet sweetly reminding me: “You’ve got this, lady.

And just so you know, New York, I’ve got you, too. And I’ll be back – I may bring you a little sweet from the south to up your charm a notch. Until we meet again…

 

 

 

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All I Want for Christmas is Me

There is something about this time of the year that makes everyone, young and old, near and far – want to be less of a “patridge in a pear tree” and rather one of two turtle doves. With less than 12 days left to Christmas – how’s a girl supposed to get through this season without wanting five gold rings (or just a diamond one), a kiss under the mistletoe, and someone to prove to us that really, every kiss does begin with Kay.

Since I started college, and freshman, sophomore, and junior year passed swiftly without a significant other to dote on me during the holiday season – Christmas has served as a nagging reminder that I was (and am) in fact, single. As my friends and their newly found college sweethearts would plan out trips to their respective hometowns (and now are married, by the way), and obsessively describe what they wanted and what they were getting their boyfriend – I silently wished they would all just shut up.

During breaks, I’d work at a retail store at the local mall and constantly watch couples cooing and smiling with their little shopping bags and hand-holding techniques that made me want to gag myself. And of course, at my Southern-inspired Christmas dinner, where at the ripe ol’ age of 20 – I was the strange one who was not only without a boyfriend, but also with no intentions of getting married right after graduation. Nope, I was the crazy misfit who wanted to move far, far away to a scary place called New York City and be a writer. Though they supported me, I’m not sure they ever quite understood.

But this year, this Christmas, this season, something in me is different. In fact – I hadn’t even noticed that I was single for the holidays until a dear friend of mine, K, sought my counsel and said “You know, it is just really hard to be single right now.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been well aware that Christmas is quickly approaching. I’m flying home on Friday to spend some much-needed time with my family and long-lost friends whom I haven’t seen in ages. I’ve toured all the window-displays on Fifth Avenue both with my friend E, and Mr. Possibility. I had front-row tickets to watch the tree at Rockefeller Center light up with Mr. Unavailable. I saw the Rockettes in complete style and everlasting wonder with my friend J, and I’ve walked throughout the city admiring the lights and the peace that seems to come with this time of year. Mr. Possibility took me ice skating and we went to Macy’s to check off gifts on our shopping lists. Right this very second and for the last few weeks, my Pandora “Christmas” station has been getting quite the workout. And most important of all, when that first flake fluttered to the Manhattan ground, I was completely alone and completely in awe.

I’ve embraced Christmas, and without even knowing, I’ve been perfectly content without a boyfriend. I haven’t been putting myself down because for the fourth year in a row, one of my best friends, L, will be my date to our Christmas Eve dinner. I haven’t felt ashamed that I’ll reunite with my extended family and they will probably ask me when I’m getting married. I haven’t wished and hoped and dreamed of being proposed to on Christmas morning (as I used to carefully plan out in my head). I haven’t cursed the smitten couples or the newlyweds who are so excited to spend their very first Christmas together.

But for the longest time, this season was so difficult, so grueling, so sad, so disappointing – because isn’t Christmas or any type of holiday at this time of year – supposed to be about love? About celebrating miracles and hoping for all that is to come? Or trusting that even if you can’t see it, it is out there – waiting to come into your life and shower you with gifts not only under the tree, but also helping you hang ornaments on the top limb.

But really, aren’t all of those ideas applicable to being single? Even when we relate it more about being a pair?

That while we think meeting Mr. Right will be a miracle, the true amazement is that before him, we get this incredible time to just love and concentrate on ourselves. We hope to see our children’s faces light up and ask us about Santa and play with our hubby in the snow – but don’t we also hope that we don’t lose ourselves in a relationship, and that we continue to adore the person we’ll see staring back at us in the mirror, each and every day for the rest of our lives? That sometimes it is so tough to believe there is a light at the end of the single tunnel or a glimmer of positivity in truly, finding peace in being alone – but even if we can’t feel it, we know it is possible, we know it can be ours.

This anticipation of a man to enter, to make the holidays brighter and fuller, to give us little boxes with bows, and to love how we look in our red sweater dresses – tears us up inside. Because really, we fear it will never happen. But instead of doubting the process, doubting the fates, and even worse, doubting ourselves – we miss out on how magical and truly beautiful a Christmas can be without a man. How experiencing flickering lights, parties, and travel can be just as entertaining when we’re out of love.

I don’t feel like I’m waiting on something. I don’t feel like I’m missing something from Christmas or that the universe is depriving me of a companion to make the holidays bearable. But instead, I’m excited. I’m so ready to shout from the rooftops that I’m single and that I’m happy. That I have a life that I created, that the presents you see were bought by only me and my money. That while I’m not kissing under the mistletoe – I haven’t lost hope that one day I will. Besides, it isn’t the number one priority anymore – not at Christmas, not at New Year’s, not at all. Right now, in this moment, in the snow, in the lights– the only thing to focus on is myself and this journey. And I can say with confidence that I disagree with you, Mariah Carey – I don’t want you (whichever man that represents) for Christmas, but all I really want is me.

Tis Christmastime in the city, and my, oh, my is the weather frightful

…but the feeling I have inside is so delightful. It is a feeling of wholeness, of completeness, of security, of magic – that derives from the greatest blessing, the most thoughtful gift, and the most incredible miracle I could ever experience – and that’s celebrating self-love. Celebrating…me.

 

 

A Single Snowflake and a Single Girl

Yesterday morning, as I frantically hurried out of my apartment to catch the train that probably had already left, I stopped dead in my tracks as soon as my face hit the outside air.

It smelled cold.

Now, for some this distinctive scent doesn’t mean much, but for this Southern girl it brings back a whirlwind of loving, romantic memories and hopes. I’ve fallen in love in all different seasons, but there seems to be something unique about the days that transcend November through March.

While everything that nature bore is withering, something more inviting is always growing inside the buildings that protect us from all the conditions beyond the front door. People are gathered together around something – a fireplace, a Christmas tree, o’dourves and champagne, or a table. And regardless if it is literal warmth – there is something about winter that illuminates electricity. Somehow, when it’s cold outside, there is no better place to be than as close as possible to those you love.

In year’s past, I remember being in my one-bedroom, peering out to the falling snow, wondering when I would have the chance to be hand-in-hand with a man who adored me. I could imagine him, whoever he may be, with this passionate look in his eyes, smiling back at me as I picked up a handful of snow, ready to play with him, and instead, he knocks it out of my hand, wraps his arms around me and steals a kiss. And this Mr., in my dreams, will view me as the single most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and he will not be able to control his fervor to touch me, to be part of an essence that only belongs to me. And he would be thankful that we’re sharing the simplicity of snow, rosy-cheeks, and hot chocolate together.  Cheesy and completely idealistic? Absolutely. Desirable? Utterly.

Will it happen this season for me? Probably not. But for a reason unknown to me and possibly credited to this blog and journey – I’m okay with it. And not just okay, really, but happy and satisfied.

Like the seasons change, so much of life is an ever-cyclic transition. I’m going through so many firsts the longer I live here: from the first time I about died from the summer heat, to seeing Fall arrive in every brilliantly-colored leaf and wrap-sweater, to seeing trees light up and candy canes line the street corners.

Soon, I’ll feel the first flake fall from the New York City skyline–and for the longest time, I always dreamt of experiencing that moment, that silence that only comes with snow…with a man. But somehow, my feelings have changed. I’ve decided that if I’m not alone when the atmosphere breathes what I used to call “cotton from the clouds” – then the moment will be ruined.

Because as I’ve discovered being a single woman and learning to embrace the solitude that comes with that title – there are some instances where being alone can bring just as much magic (if not more) than being with someone else. And especially if that other person isn’t the person that you really do want to share such a cherished memory with. Sometimes, you’d rather just be a single girl with your single snowflake.

I have so much to do, so much to see, so many places to go, mistakes to make, books to read, articles to write, jobs to accept, plans to break, rules to dispose, and I can’t have every single little thing I’ve wanted in Manhattan within the first year I get here. If that was so, the city that never sleeps would lose its luster. If I can make it here so easily, where would the challenge and mystery be?

I look forward to a winter season that I don’t make lonely or depressing due to my singledom and I’m crossing fingers and toes that when I do see snow for the first time, I will get to be just in the company of myself. Does this mean that I’ll forget those wishes and dreams of romance on the ice or under the gray ambiance? Of course not.

When I see couples kissing in front of NYC landmarks that I’ve always idolized as inexcusably romantic in the winter like Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Fifth Avenue, Central Park, and so on – a small part of me still aches.

But instead of entertaining the longing, I’ve recently learned to dwell in the possibility.

In the opportunities that I’ve been able to take, the blessings that I’ve been lucky enough to experience, and the love that I’ve shared with some pretty incredible men. And without a doubt, the relationship I’m developing with me, myself, and I, and with this dream city that is finally my reality.

And one day, there will be a man who stands by my side in the sweltering days of summer, in the crispness of fall, and the blistering yet beautiful days of winter. Just because he isn’t here, I know my life isn’t to be put on hold. It isn’t to be spent lingering. I’m not to be a lady in waiting.

But a lady in the embracing, a lady who opens her eyes as wide as she opens her heart – to not only the snow and cold that’ll flush her face, but to the self-love that’s flourishing…and to the love who is surely on his way.

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.