The Freedoms We Don’t Choose

We all value our freedoms in different ways and at different degrees. Some of us are so liberated we have a difficult time committing to anything or anyone, while a few only like freedom when they need a little space (but even then, they want to know someone or something is close by, just in case they feel lonely).

Freedom is funny in that way – we want the freedom to choose our freedoms, not have them decided for us. If we don’t want to be free of something, then we want the option not to be, but if we do, then we want that choice, too.

Say for instance, we’re dating someone we really like. He fits the bill, he stimulates us intellectually and otherwise, he is giving when we need him to be, but demands that we take, too. He’s tall and handsome, chiseled and yet has that boyish demeanor…we’re smitten. But then we’re an independent, self-sufficient, confident female. We don’t really depend on him to fulfill us in each way we need to be compensated. We don’t need him to open really tight jars, just need him to be at an arm’s reach in case we absolutely can’t budge it. We don’t need him to help us move – we can hire movers, after all – but it’s nice to know he’s there…

…until he’s not.

And then, all of those freedoms we craved, all of the space that our independent-self thought she needed, suddenly doesn’t seem so important. Now what we want more than anything is to reverse the breakup, reverse the fight, reverse the need to be liberated, and have him, right here, right now. But the freedom of choice is gone because someone else decided to exercise theirs.

Or what about a job? They’re hard to come by these days and seem like precious little entities once you find one you actually like. Or at least one you like a little bit, at least. And so, you work hard and you dedicate your time, your energy, your creativity to making your company and your own career better and more competitive. You suck up the things you don’t like and you make a promise to yourself (and to the job gods) that you’ll find a way to make any work, work…

…until it doesn’t.

Until a company downsizes or collapses in a dismal economy. Until job performance suffers because as 20-somethings, we’re given the same advice for our career that we’re given in the similarly dismal dating world: keep your options and eyes wide open – unless you have the dream job (or man) of course. But in keeping freedom in mind, do we ever really commit to anything?

Or anything other than wanting to be free? Or at least have the opportunity to choose those freedoms for ourselves, instead of having someone else pick for us? We want the ball of freedom in our courts, not in the court of the universe, but more often than not, our speed, our agility, or our ability to slam dunk has little to do with us, and a lot to do with fate.

Because maybe that guy seemed wonderful and perhaps that job kept a roof over our head and happy hour drinks in our tummy, but it wasn’t what was meant for us. Maybe we end up staying with guys or at jobs longer than we should for fear that nothing else will along or that every human’s greatest fear will come true, and we’ll be left alone, homeless, broke, and unloved.

But those things don’t happen as often as we’d like to believe. And when they do, the universe just takes the ball back and encourages you to shoot again. To aim higher. To run faster. To feel the sweet wind blowing through your hair. To enjoy your freedoms, even when you didn’t decide to have them for yourself.

Because sometimes, these liberties are the ones that open up the most doors and ultimately, make us the freest of all.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful to be free.

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Legalization of Love

I don’t purposefully seek out political conversations. I’m informed enough to hold my own and while I think my views will forever shift as I mature and have new life experiences, I don’t prefer to talk politics.

But rather, I enjoy hearing about other’s perspectives.

It’s in this way that I learn more about why people think the way they do and also see if their views are based on fact, religion, or emotional responses. Most of time, it’s a combo of all three. When it comes to civil liberties and rights, if I’ve done any campaigning, it’s been for women and when I’ve volunteered for campaigns (once in NC), it’s because I believed in the candidate’s platform and thought they could make real change.

So for me to voice my opinion on a topic that is way more controversial than it should be is a rare thing. But right now, I feel ignited to do so. It’s unclear if Albany will vote on the bill to legalize gay marriage in New York state today or if it’ll be delayed a few days. To pass Senate, the measure needs 32 votes and with 2009’s defeat, many are optimistic it will succeed vote.

It astonishes me how passionate people are about gay marriage. Sure, I come from the Bible Belt of the conservative South, a place where the fury of God is feared and redemption looms boldly, threatening the end of time. But I’m also fromAsheville– a town with a very large homosexual population and usually, a city that turns blue during elections. Regardless if you’re conservative or not, I’m not even sure why marriage has been on the state governments’ chopping board for so long.

Frankly, it’s none of anyone’s business – especially political leaders – who we decide to marry or who we decide to love. And under any circumstance, there is no reason why you should be kept from being with the person you love because that person happens to be of the same-sex as you are (and note I say sex, not gender, for they are not interchangeable).

Those who argue say same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legalized because marriage falls under “religion” and not “state”, claiming that the Bible says Adam shall not lay with Adam. Those for it say it doesn’t matter what a text says because the legalization of love isn’t up to the state or the church – a union is a union and should be recognized by law as so. Your genitals and what you do with them shouldn’t be a matter of opinion or determine what rights you have or don’t.

It infuriates me to think that my friends who are homosexuals are not given the same liberties I’m given because I’m heterosexual. If I can walk down the aisle, if I can have my husband stand next to me on my death-bed, if I can adopt a child just because I’m a woman who loves a man, there is no reason why a woman who picks a woman or a man who wants to marry a man, shouldn’t have the right to do the same.

And if we want to talk about stimulating the economy – perhaps on a very small-scale, but on one all the same – passing a bill supporting gay marriage would mean more fabulous galas and events, more homes or apartment closings, and more assets tied together.

But does that matter? Is that the issue? Or is it that so many were raised to believe that homosexuality is wrong and that with therapy gays can overcome their perceived disease? If I didn’t decide to be heterosexual, if I didn’t decide to be sexually attracted to men, what makes anyone think homosexuals picked what their orientation? Why are labels “gay” and “straight” necessary to qualify the validity of feelings or the intended success of a marriage?

And you know, yes, I consider myself a Christian. Yes, I sleep with men, not women. Yes, I have friends who are gay. Yes, I have friends who would never support this to pass. Yes, I was raised by parents with opposing views. Yes, I know what the Bible says.

And yes, I think homosexuals should be able to marry. It’s a civil liberty of being an American, of being human, and of being a person with the capacity to give and receive love, take care of children, and build and share a life with someone.

Though for now, the legalization of love will be handled by the states, in my mind, it shouldn’t be handled by anyone except the two people in the relationship. It shouldn’t even be an issue at all. If you’re aUnited States citizen or a child of this world, your right to say “I do” should never be up for debate.

Seriously, Wake Up

Following the very last class I took in college, I stopped by our university’s post office to check my PO box and forward my mail. I was excited and hopeful for the future, feeling relieved I would never have to attend another lecture unless I wanted to. When I turned the dial, I was surprised to find an envelope marked from Raleigh, NC with my name neatly typed on the front. Full name, mind you.

As I walked behind the building to my apartment on the main strip in town, I stopped dead in my heels and my mouth dropped: I had received my very first hate mail.

More or less, the anonymous writer wished me ill-will in New York City. They said they hoped I fell on my face, that living in the city for two months during an internship was no indication I could survive full-time. They misquoted me and promised me that fairytales don’t come true, that my Prince wouldn’t be waiting at Grand Central or Times Square or Bryant Park to greet me when I landed on Northern soil. They were rude and blunt, standing their ground as a coward who wouldn’t reveal their name and though they started the letter with “this is not from someone who is jealous of you – there is nothing to be jealous of” -each and every one of my friends could feel the envy seep into their hands as they read it and laughed with me in the days that would follow.

They signed their Letter of Unlove with: “Seriously, wake up.” I think there were some Gossip Girl-like “xoxo”s thrown in for good measure, and in all, it didn’t amount to anything more than a few sentences strung together without proper punctuation or a real purpose.

At the time, I was a little stunned. Part of me was hurt. The biggest part of me was curious and annoyed whoever had such beef with me wasn’t willing to say what they wanted to my face. I read their words with a grain of salt, never being one to let anyone’s opinions stand in the way of what I intend to do, no matter how unmanageable a task may seem to everyone else.

And I mean, I couldn’t exactly disagree with them because they weren’t telling me anything I didn’t know.

I never expected New York to be peaches-and-ice-cream, sunflowers-and-roses. I didn’t think I’d prance in and climb the media ladder without faltering here-and-there. But I’ve been successful. I’ve landed on my feet with a great group of friends, a job I enjoy, an apartment I adore, and a happiness that’s unparalleled. I didn’t think I’d meet my husband the second I moved (though in my love addict stage back then, I wanted to)- but I’ve been blessed to love a few good men and discover a possibility worth taking a chance on. I never wanted to work in magazines because I was “pretty” as the author claimed, but because my byline could has the opportunity to make tides – even if women’s issues in dating, love, relationships, and such doesn’t seem like that big of deal to many. (But don’t we spend the majority of our time obsessing about those things? Just sayin’)

Before I left to return to NYC today, I went through some old things on a bookshelf my father made and inside a book I read before I took flight when I moved, I found the letter in its original envelope. A dozen life lessons, heart breaks, changes, and tearful nights later, it had a different impact on me than it did on that cold December afternoon.

In fact, it probably had the intended effect the writer wanted. I read the typed lines, smiled and realized, I was awake. Anything that I once took for granted or anything I thought would be easy and wasn’t, most of the unrealistic notions I had about love and men, and all of the things in between – they’re all different now. I’m not cured, but I’ve matured. I didn’t need a letter to wake something up inside of me but it’s nice to know someone cared (or didn’t care) enough to go to the trouble to say such cruel things. If anything, I now see it is a testament to my own impact, my own power, and the essence I exude into the world by dancing across keys. I’m not the best writer, but unlike this author, I’m actually one who is brave enough to state my name. Even when more often than not, it isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Without showing Mr. Possibility, I tucked the letter into my purse and decided just what to do with it. One day, when I find that private office, when I’m doing just what I want to do, when I’m happily married with a non-happily-ever-after mentality, when I live downtown and finally find comfort and cushion in my finances – I’ll frame this letter. I’ll hang it in my office where younger editors and interns can see.

So that they too, like every other dreamer in this city who also happens to have the conviction and courage to chase those desires with heightened ambition, will wake up. Because like me, they may find the life they created isn’t merely a dream, but a dreamlike reality based on your own hard work.

Seriously.

A Real Relationship

I’m a pretty relaxed traveler. I don’t over pack but I pack enough. I’m not afraid of missing my flight but I’m perpetually way too early. I don’t set my plans in stone but I always have a general idea of what I’d like to do. Most of the traveling and exploring I’ve done, I’ve done alone, so globe or stateside trotting with someone else is just about the only thing that makes me a little nervous.

Mr. Possibility and I have been through a lot together and I’ve known him almost the entire time I’ve been writing this blog, making the process of learning to love myself, with or without a guy that much more complicated. I was specific when I started this journey that I wasn’t going to make any rules and I wasn’t going to stop dating if someone happened to fall into my life that I was interested in. Most literally, I just about fell into Mr. Possibility’s lap on that sunny afternoon nearly nine months ago.

And here we are today, preparing for our first trip together, attempting to put the past behind us and set out into the adventure that is a relationship. I haven’t been in one for a while and the last one (Mr. Idea) wasn’t exactly sunshine-and-roses, but with Mr. possibility, it was nearly impossible (pun intended) to not give it a go. There’s something about connecting with someone on such a personal basis that even if there wasn’t chemistry or passion or sex or all of the above, you’d still like who they were as a person, all other things aside. That’s Mr. Possibility for you – a good guy. A guy who gets me, who makes me laugh, who doesn’t try to hold me back, who encourages my dreams and is pretty dependable.

He is many wonderful things or he wouldn’t be with me – but one thing that he’s not is organized. I’m not the cleanest person in the world, trust me. Neither is he and that not-so-winning combination has caused some sticky situations in the past. But when it comes to preparing to go away or getting my affairs in order before leaving home for a week, I start to think ahead…well, ahead. Mr. Possibility doesn’t quite think in the same way, or rather if he does, he’s far more relaxed about it then I am.

I’ve had my suitcase packed for two days, an idea of what time we have to get up to be there in enough time, and our itinerary, including our rental car information and flight schedule printed. I’ve packed magazines I’ve been dying to read (and one for him), formulated a few blog posts so I wouldn’t have to stress on vacation (but I’m bringing my laptop, can’t help myself), and came up with a list of things I want to do. Mr. Possibility, on the other hand, didn’t start packing until right now, is stopping by a friend’s birthday party when we have a 6 a.m. flight tomorrow, and I’m finishing up laundry so he’ll have everything he needs.

Needless to say, perhaps, there’s been a little tension.

A big part of a relationship is compromise and accepting someone’s idiosyncrasies. I know I have ridiculous traits and I also know he has his, but if we can both learn to relax, to take a step back, and remember why we care – instead of what annoys the hell out of us – then we have a chance at a great trip and at a great partnership. I probably packed too many shoes and will be a little flustered if I don’t get to see some of the things I want to see, and Mr. Possibility could run away screaming from me if I ask him one more time if he has everything he needs – but I take him for him. He takes me for me. It’s not perfect and it’s not supposed to be, but it is life and this is a real relationship. We can’t escape reality, even if we are going on vacation.

I’m still coming to terms with giving up the single status but I’m excited about taking a trip with a man. Even if he happens to be the sort of man who is standing in front of me, asking which tie goes the best with the suit he wants to bring and neither of his options match at all. Did I mention we’re leaving ten hours? And his suitcase is empty?

Sigh.

Worse Than Being Alone

At the time in our lives when we met one another, Mr. Idea and I needed one another.

He was in a job that didn’t respect him or give him the opportunities he deserved, and with a severe dislike for driving (especially curvy roads), North Carolina was no place for this native New Yorker. I was struggling to keep myself together my final semester in college, fighting away the fears in the pit of my stomach that I’d never make it where I wanted to be, and saving every nickel and dime that came my way. I had not been given the position at the newspaper I had eyed since I was a freshman, which kept me out of the office I practically lived for the last three years, and on top of wanting out, I somewhat felt like a failure and an outcast from the world that meant everything to me.

And so, Mr. Idea and I leaned on one another.

He reminded me of my talents and ensured that bigger and better things were waiting for me in the days and addresses I couldn’t imagine. I kept him confident that his Southern stay would come to a close and he’d find himself doing more of what he wanted in a place and a company that knew what they had when they had him. In a matter of weeks, we went from strangers who met on a semi-blind date to inseparable. I literally could not imagine my life without him and the way we clung to one another was definitely not healthy, but at the time, it was the only thing that felt right.

But that sense of need that so easily translates into a sense of urgency, kept me back more than it pushed me forward. I was so afraid of losing what I had found – Mr. Idea – that I did anything and everything I could to keep him around. I said all of the right things at the right time. I was never late but not annoyingly early. I supported him and stood by him, even when my heart begged me to question my intentions. I gave him the benefit of a doubt when he would say or do things that weren’t appropriate by my own standards. When he wasn’t interested in sex night after night, I tried not to take it personally and hoped he’d come around.

As our relationship progressed, I watched him turn more and more into someone that I knew I didn’t want to be with. All of the red flags were obvious, the signs were pointing to the exit, and I couldn’t help but wonder what else was out there. But for a while – I didn’t go. I didn’t leave. I didn’t walk away. I remained exactly where I was, miserable and feeling like I lost myself more than I had discovered some great love. But why?

Because it was safe.

When you’re in a relationship, when you finally find that man who isn’t deathly afraid of commitment, and actually wants to call you his and have you call him yours -there is a wave of relief. The guard can come down, the negotiations and convincing can stop. And that feels good. It feels comforting. It feels easy. Especially in my case, at a time when Mr. Idea and I were both unstable, it became a safe harbor, an arena where we could be accepted and not worry about “that part” of our lives, when all of the other parts were jagged.

And so, as many people do, I became comfortable. I knew I had someone there when I needed to be reassured. I knew I had someone to depend on. I knew that even if he wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I had wanted him at one time, and I thought maybe, he could grow into someone I couldn’t live without. I knew that I had prayed for love and I had been sent some sort of love, so why would I throw it away when problems and incompatibility outnumbered the good and the synced? Every time I felt the urge to hit the road, I remembered how difficult it was to be on my own, how much I hated being single, how much I didn’t want to face everything in my life alone – and I’d stay.

It wasn’t until right before I moved to New York that I had a great realization that I wanted to do my journey to the big city on my own. I wanted to say I did it just for myself, by myself, and in the right state of mind. And as much as I loved Mr. Idea and as badly as I wanted something to work out or for him to transform into my Prince Charming, I knew I couldn’t wait for it. No matter how awful being alone felt to me.

And what I found, after months and months of convincing myself I made the right decision about ending things with Mr. Idea, was there are worse things than being alone. One of which is being single in a relationship and having the only purpose of that union to be a bed of comfort, not a bed of joy. I was with Mr. Idea and I was committed, but my heart couldn’t get there because my mind was too worried about messing up the safety I found with him, and in return, I never was myself. And when he started becoming himself, I realized he wasn’t the man I wanted – but his presence kept me from facing the world single. Even if I was already singular as it was.

A few days ago, after a very long healing period for him, he extended a ring of friendship. He doesn’t read this blog (and I don’t blame him), and he doesn’t care to know about my Mr. Possibility – but he did want me to know what I meant to him and what I will always mean to him. In attempting to be a mature adult and explain to him verbally what I’ve discussed in this blog, he said:

“You never needed to be anyone other than yourself – you would have kept me even if you were a wreck – because Linds, you were at times. Or if you decided it wasn’t what you wanted sooner, I would I have forgiven you. Please, don’t ever be anyone other than the special person you are, because it is beautiful and I will always love that about you.”

So even with my charade, even with putting on my happy face to keep my comfort around, I had not fooled him. He had known my intentions in the relationship and what I hoped to gain. He wasn’t oblivious, even if I felt like I was being sly and strategic to keep my safety net around. Maybe he had felt single in our relationship too, or maybe he was at a different point in his life than I was, even if we both were unsteady.

But the thing about being unsteady and wanting to find structure in another person is that the more you look outside yourself to build the frame, the less dependable it will feel. But when you venture out into the shaky world, no matter how shaky you may feel when you’re single, you’ll come to find that while you thought you needed that protection or added support, the one thing you need more than anything else…is yourself.

And one day, you may just find someone who doesn’t need you to be comforted or vice versa, but they simply want you.