You Look Perfect

Last week, I had an important meeting that had my nerves on fire. Not to mention, I was literally on fire because of the relentless heat in New York lately – I’ve never been more thankful for unexpected rain before. Even if my hair goes flat and frizzy, God bless the downpour and let it flood.

Escaping the burning pavement into one of my favorite buildings in New York that also happens to be one of the greenest, I took in a deep breath to calm my nerves. This meeting could change my life and here it was, getting ready to begin regardless if I had sweat beads trickling down my back or not. I checked in with security, giving my best shot at a grin that hid my nerves, headed up the escalator to reach the elevators that moved so quickly up 40 floors that it made my stomach leap.

Nodding at the elevator attendant who pushed the numbers for me and led me to the cart that would take me up to my could-be future, I entered the doors without acknowledging the man who was sharing the ride with me. As I always do when I’m face-to-face with a mirror, I straightened my hair and attempted to graciously wipe the sweat from my brow without messing up my interview-ready makeup. Playing the part of a girl at a bar mirror, I did a 360, only to notice my tag was untucked. Mouthing the word “s**t” to silently to myself, I tried to carefully conceal it without appearing to ridiculous to this man standing near me. I had avoided eye contact out of embarrassment and because I wasn’t sure if he thought I was some crazy girl fidgeting on an elevator that houses some of the most influential players in publishing.

I didn’t realize, of course, that he happened to be one of them.

As I awkwardly reached across my back, contorting my body to perfect my outfit, I was caught off guard in mid-tuck when this man said, “You look perfect.” Surprised and instantly curling my lips to form a smile, I realized who it was at the same moment he realized who I was. Out of shock, I said his name and thanked him for the compliment while he wished me luck. I would later email him to describe how great it was to run into him before this meeting and he would respond by saying he hoped to see more of me and that my meeting went smoothly.

It did and you know what, I didn’t look perfect.

I didn’t say the perfect things. I didn’t read off a script. I didn’t have the best experience, the best clips, the best anything. I didn’t go to the best journalism school, I didn’t have the most solid background that a journalist of my age and tiny tenure could have. My dress wasn’t expensive and in fact, I didn’t even own it – it belonged to my friend M who thought it looked great on me and encouraged me to take it out for a spin and for some luck. My shoes were a little too big and my face wasn’t as perfectly clear as the models who grace the magazine I hoped to write for.

But I did a great job and more importantly, I was myself. And that’s the best anyone can ever be. If I spent less time worrying about how I looked or if I was saying the right thing or if I was putting on the best show or writing the most diverse articles or being the most creative, and just relaxed – then maybe I’d feel more at ease. Maybe if I could look at myself and say, “You look perfect” instead of criticizing all the ways I didn’t measure up, I’d find that sense of simple confidence that is so attractive, so employable.

Maybe if I looked at myself through the eyes of a stranger instead of the my own eyes, I’d see how perfect I really am…in my own imperfect way.

Daily Gratitude: Today I’m thankful for my friends who encouraged patience the last few months, it finally paid off!

My Chats with God

After a particular stressful evening at the student newspaper in college, I needed some air. So, I decided to do something that always clears my head: go for a run. Not in the mood to go to our 24-hour gym or trot around the track, I decided to just run through town until I couldn’t go anymore.

I was 20 years old and silly – I knew better then to run alone when it was dark outside, and it was nearly midnight. But I went anyway, filled with frustration and stress, wanting nothing more than to feel the wind blowing through my hair and have the cool evening cool my mind. I started at my apartment on the main strip in town, hustled past the Wednesday-night bar-goers, boozy and insisting I join them in my sweats and tee for a $2 PBR. I smiled, refrained and turned up Rihanna to tune them out. Two miles later when I reached our stadium for the second time, I decided to push myself a little further and run up a massive hill (North Carolina is good for those), past the Chancellor’s House, into an abandoned parking lot.

Again, not the smartest move in the world.

Making my final lap around the lot, I noticed a sneaky path that led to a hidden trail behind the trees. I glanced at my phone – almost 1 a.m. and I had class at 10 – did I really want to venture some more? My legs hurt, so did my body, and though I was less upset than a few hours ago, the running wasn’t totally curing me. Was I a complete idiot to go into a dark forest with only a few streetlamps strung along here-and-there? I sure was, but I did it despite the fact. I moved slowly and cautiously, without a soundtrack to serenade my adventure except for the Autumn leaves crunching under my feet. I looked around at my surroundings, braced myself for the billowing wind that whispers its way around the mountaintop my school was nestled on.

And there it was. My spot.

We all have them – a place somewhere in the middle of nothing or the middle of everything, wherever you find that’s right for you, where you can stop and feel at ease. Where you in your own words, in your own way, can think and breathe, relax and let go. Where, if you’re anything like me, can chat with God.

I do pray, mostly when I’m scared or nervous, and also when I’m really thankful. Always when I find a penny. But while in college – I used to talk to God a lot more. I’d have full-blown conversations with him, complete with yelling and crying, asking and pleading. Always in that same spot after a run or when it was really cold, I’d drive and go out for just a bit. This ledge overlooked the campus and I loved how the lights twinkled in the night, reminding me of New York, reminding me of where I wanted to be.

I sometimes sat on a large rock, but mostly I paced and chatted, watched the minimal cars go by and hoped no one would come and interrupt me. If they did, I had mase, just in case. I don’t know if God talks back. The only true way I feel like I get answers is when I find a penny when I’m feeling lost or when something so perfectly designed for me, happens, and I can’t accredit it to anything other than divinity.

I don’t have a spot in New York. I can’t seem to find a place where it’s quiet and comforting, where I feel safe enough to say all of those things out loud to the sky that I could never say to someone’s face or in a crowded space. I hadn’t even realized I didn’t have a spot until Mr. Possibility and I went away for the weekend a few weeks ago, and there, at a house by the water, with the sun cascading down, I felt the urge to talk to God.

Mr. Possibility was inside napping and I was alone with only the sounds of nature around me and the feeling of my toes tickling the top of the surprisingly-cool July lake. I hadn’t talked to God out loud in years, even when I went home to North Carolina for visits, so I wasn’t sure how to start. I glanced around me to make sure no one else was around to hear me, the crazy, 20-something who was jabbering away into the distance to something that didn’t meet the eye.

But once I started, it felt good. It poured out. Years and years of things I’ve needed to say, things I needed to admit to myself and to the universe, though both of us already knew. I talked so much my throat got dry. I cried so hard, I had to breathe out of my mouth. I was there for so long that the porch light came on and I decided it was time to head inside. And when I reached the steps, my eyes puffy with a big, wide smile on my face, Mr. Possibility asked what happened and I simply said, “Just had a nice chat with God. Everything is going to be okay.”

The rest of the weekend, I continued to chat down by the lake at night when no one was around, and when I left, he would say, “Have fun, tell God I say ‘hello!'” and off I’d go. By the time I returned to New York, I felt fresher and energized, ready to unfold yet another chapter in the many chronicles of my twenties.

I still need that spot though. I still need a place to unwind and feel free to spew. So for now, my chats with God are limited to, “Please guide me to a place where we can talk more. Where I can feel closer to the universe, where I can feel closer to myself, where I can feel closer to you.”

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for Borders Free Wi-Fi today, where if I stand in the right corner, legs crossed, holding my laptop, I can finally get a signal.

Put That Sorry Attitude to Bed

Yesterday, I was in a bad mood.

I could blame a recent turn-of-events, an impending monthly visitor, the extremely humid weather, or an overall feeling of being quite lost. As it usually does, New York’s been throwing me for a loop lately and it’s testing my patience and my dedication to the city I grew up adoring. For the most part, I’ve held true and strong, riding the waves as they come and living on a prayer that everything does happen for a reason and that this period of feeling downright shitty will pass. I’ve learned to see bad times for what they are and not let my mind cycle into the long list of things that are or could be wrong in my life.

But sometimes, I slip.

I let myself get so down into the dumps that nothing and no one can do anything to change it. No joke or funny moment can alleviate my sourpuss attitude, no amount of motivating blogs or long talks with my mother can turn my sullen frown upside down. I know myself well enough to know that when this happens, it is best that I spent some time alone. It’s best that I do the stupid, ordinary things that make me happy – like laying around in nothing at all, eating something that’s as terribly delicious as it’s terribly bad for me, watch a movie that’ll make me cry and snuggle with a blanket I’ve had for decades. It may be an immature way of coping with stress and adjusting my attitude, but if it works, why try and change it?

So why I decided it was a good idea for me to hang out with Mr. Possibility the entire day yesterday, knowing full well that even his dimples and loving nudges couldn’t shake me into my normally bubbly, talkative and happy self – I have no idea.

But I did.

We spent the day shopping in Williamsburg for gifts for other people and he continuously attempted to play around with me, offering his jovial nature and quick wit to raise my spirits. In return, I bickered with him over a beer he was buying me, nearly walking out because I felt suffocated and frustrated, wanting everyone in the world – including this sweet man – to just leave me alone. Then off we went to the city, to grab burgers at his favorite place, where I sat in silence feeling guilty and a tad angry at myself for being so irritable, when his request throughout the week was to spend Saturday with me because he enjoys having me around for lazy days of wandering. At some point over ice cream later, he casually mentioned that maybe we should go out with our friends separately for the evening, to give me some space and give him a break from my many evil glares and gestures that he didn’t deserve – or appreciate, I’m sure.

Not typically an insecure girl who attaches a ball-and-chain to her man, I found myself turning into the girlfriend I’ve never been. He had hurt my feelings by asking for some breathing room and I had denied him air. I demanded to know why we couldn’t hang out as we originally planned and he proceeded to calmly explain that a few hours away from one another would do us both some good and give me room to unload my spotty mood on something else other than him. He offered up his apartment, told me he’d be back later, and topped off his offer with a kiss on my forehead. I didn’t accept.

Hours later, after a nap and some cute videos on YouTube, he changed his tune and I switched my mood. He decided he wanted me to tag along and that we should enjoy a good night to make up for my bad day. Though in my state of ridiculousness, I was relieved to receive his invite, my realistic-self who had achy feet, a grilling headache, and tired eyes knew it would be better if I stayed in alone.

But the bitch in me took over.

She thought it was a brilliant idea and that I’d be able to make up for being snappy earlier by being the cute and charming woman I really am. I threw on some heels and a backless dress and joined him on the L into meatpacking for his friend’s birthday. I won’t get into details because they are so awful I don’t have the stomach to write them, but in a nutshell, Kettle One and I had a date at this party and it didn’t go so well. Still working out some trust issues from his straying before we were a couple, the jealousy I usually keep pretty calm came out to play.

And it didn’t play nice, to say the very least.

The night ended with a cab back home, Mr. Possibility furious with me, and mascara tears streaming my face. There are no words or excuses, rhymes or reasons for my actions, but when I woke up this morning with a hangover, un-brushed teeth, and puffy eyes, everything came together and for the first time in several, several months I felt like a hot mess. Getting out of bed for some much-needed water and bathroom break, I looked at myself in the mirror and tried to reason.

Why did I take out my frustration on Mr. Possibility when the reasons I was upset had nothing to do with him or with us? Why did I embarrass him in front of his friends, people that when and if they meet me again, probably won’t have the highest opinion of me? Why did I not listen to my intuition? Why didn’t I walk away instead of trying to finish a fight in a public place, for strangers to witness and to make me look like someone I’m not? I write dating advice for a living, columns and freelancing articles pay my bills, so why did I go against each and every single word of wisdom I had ever written or read?

What the hell was wrong with me?

In relationships, the easiest person to unload your every emotion and struggle on is your partner. They are there for you, hopefully, through each trial, and they often turn into what Pink would call “perfect little punching bags.” No this isn’t healthy, and yes, it’s hurtful to you, them, and your relationship.

But as Mr. Possibility so graciously and kindly reassured me this morning, it happens.

And when it does, any and every insecurity you have hidden away underneath makeup and confidence comes out. They pour out right past the very floodgates you set up to keep them away. You say things you regret instantly, do things you’d never do again, and feel things so deeply that you’ll swear this feeling will never, ever go away. And if you don’t happen to be with someone who sincerely loves you, who has your very best interest at heart, you may lose your partner in the process.

Because your baggage is your own, those bad days are your responsibility, those arguments will come to an end if you have the courage to walk away from them instead of pushing them so far that you may not be able to go back. Relationships aren’t meant to be wrapped in fancy paper and topped with a box at the end of every night – sometimes, the best thing you could ever give each other is what Mr. Possibility suggested to begin with – breathing room.

And the best thing you can give yourself is space to calm down, let things work themselves out, and put that sorry attitude to bed.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for Mr. Possibility who is sitting across from me right now as I write this blog, standing by my side, and contemplating how he can throw me down a well in NYC.

Little Blindly Ambitious Me

I’m not the prettiest girl on my block. Or the smallest. My skin isn’t flawless, I didn’t graduate with the highest GPA in my high school. I don’t know how to sew or to cook anything ridiculously complicated. I’m not extremely clean and I don’t always say the right thing. I’m not the best, most supportive friend I’ve ever met and sometimes, I can be lazy in love. I could run more and be more dedicated to a work out routine to give me abs like Jennifer Aniston. I complain when I’m tired and get cranky when I’m hungry. I can be impatient, demanding, and self-serving. I’m not well-traveled because I’ve never had the means to do so, and though I would love a dog named Henry, I know I’m not in any place financially to provide for one how it deserves.

I’m aware of my shortcomings, both physically and otherwise. I don’t claim to be the best or the greatest, the smartest or the most beautiful. I don’t consider myself average and while others may discredit my intelligence because I choose to write about my personal life for the web to see, I am well-read and educated. My interests are more than love, dating, and sex-related. But more important than how I look, where I came from, or the career path I happen to follow wherever it may lead, there is one quality I have that sets me aside.

And that’s ambition. Often times, blind ambition, actually.

I may not always know the right way to go or have the means to get to where I want to be, but I believe in myself. I may find myself unlucky in love at times and not be the most ideal partner or friend, but I listen. I take note of things people like and don’t, I read to better myself and when it doesn’t feel like I can push any further, I push harder. I’m not one to give up, even on things that I should – like a failing relationship with Mr. Idea that lasted way longer than it should have. I don’t walk away from things even when they’re pulling at my heartstrings or tearing me apart inside because I somehow feel like I can be the one who is different, the one whose faith will see them through.

I don’t feel the fear and face it anyway, I just ignore the doubt. I turn my attention away from the ways I fall short and I highlight the ways I measure up higher than the rest. I cold email and cold call, hoping that someone, someplace, somewhere will take a chance on me and all the little things that make me some kind of wonderful, some kind of brilliant. I’m not a hopeless romantic or a hopeless cause, I’m just hopeful of the life I hope to have.

As I grow and weed through more life experiences, I think my ambition will shape itself. It’ll stop being so blind and indecisive, and I’ll become more focused and wise of the ways I want to go. I’ll stop believing with my whole heart and start giving just a sliver, I won’t let my hopes rise, I’ll just say a prayer for the best situation to present itself. I won’t dream up the possibilities before a possibility is certain, and when it comes to love, maybe I won’t give myself away so easily. I won’t have to think if I’m doing the right thing or going the right way, that structured adult in me will just revel in clarity and a calm understanding of self.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe this blind ambition, this ruthless spirit that I can never seem to tame will be what makes me, me. Maybe it’s the part of me that won’t wither with age and perhaps it’ll stand the time more than my kindness, my patience or my heart.

After all – blind ambition may blindly lead you into the unknown, but I’d rather take the chance in the dark than to only stay in the light out of fear.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for early-morning wake up calls and breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant. 

There’s My City

Driving back to Brooklyn with Mr. Possibility today, we crossed the expressway at sunset, the skyline illuminating its everlasting shine. As he always does, he said “There’s your city.” I turned to him and grinned and then placed my attention back to the place I sometimes feel is mine and at other times feel like it’s not even within my grasp.

Like I did when my father would zip down old curvy country roads in his black Toyota, I rolled my hand in the wind, feeling the pressure and pretending I could touch the building tops. I always find myself reaching and extending when I see New York in the distance – perhaps the view from afar is even more enchanting than the view from the Top of the Rock or looking down from the Empire State.

Stuck in traffic though, I felt a pain that hurts me to admit, but lately, the city has lost its luster. Or maybe, it’s just me.

Yes, Mr. Possibility is accurate by giving the city to me – part of it does belong to me. It gave itself to me many, many years ago when I was a snaggle-toothed seven-year-old, grinning in a pink jacket as I saluted Lady Liberty and giggled at my daddy buying five pieces of New York Style pizza in a single day. I loved it then and I love it now, but like a guy can make you feel when a second date doesn’t result in a third, I’ve felt like New York has rejected me.

With some recent changes and a disappointment I can only credit to myself, I’ve wondered about my footing. I haven’t felt sturdy and stable, but rather wobbly and uncertain, trying to squint into the future, or at the skyline, to try and see  a glimpse of what’s next. I’ve been pulling at anything I have in me to gain some hope, to see the silver lining on top of smog and heat, and the offices of opportunity that have turned me away. And in Mr. Possibility’s car, watching the sun fall along with my spirits, I remembered I was returning to a borough and not my actual Upper West Side pad, which made the city seem even further away than it already did.

I watched my hand flutter in the wind in the passenger’s side rear-view window and I realized I was pointing toward Brooklyn, not toward Manhattan. I was going with traffic instead of fighting against it. I was not claiming or revealing myself to my city, instead I was going with a flow I didn’t want to ride. And so, with Selena Gomez’s “Who Says” blaring in the background, I turned my hand over. I placed my palm toward Manhattan and I whispered a silent prayer to let opportunity and faith find me. To let me rename myself and reroute my path so I can find that joy again, that peace, that confidence I’ve always had in New York. And in myself.

Because if it’s my city, I can’t be turning my back to it or to the wind. I have to take it as it is, even when it’s tough and rough-around-the-edges. Even when it doesn’t give me what I want and when it takes me far from where I expected. If it’s my city, I have to always remember to make it mine…and give it (and me), a little time.