The People Who Never (Ever) Let Me Give Up On Love

Like any other single girl – there are times that I’m a bit down about not having someone special in my life. Though I think Valentine’s Day is a little overrated (if you love someone, tell them always!) – I really can’t remember the last time I shared a romantic holiday with a great guy.

That being said – this past year as taught me so much more about love, in all the forms it comes in. Because I finally let go of Mr. P (and ahem, stopped sleeping with him), I spent all of 2014 focusing on myself and cultivating truly incomparable friendships with the best human beings I’ve ever known.

So while I won’t be toasting with champagne with the man I’ll marry this Valentine’s Day, I will be publishing your Self-Love letters all the way from Copenhagen, Denmark with my dear friend, J. And before that, from my heart to yours, I want to share the best advice I’ve been given about dating, love and relationships from those incredibly special to me.

Even if I’m not in love, these incredible people make my heart so full, and for that, I’m thankful every single day. I love you all – thank you for reminding me to not give up on love, even when it’s the only thing I want to do.

Think of your future daughter.
Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 4.42.00 PM
“If you are looking for a husband, a true partner, think about your future daughter. Is he someone you’d want to set her up with? If your answer isn’t immediately ‘yes’ – then walk away.” –From my lovely, talented, sassy and kind-hearted friend, K. She is one of the wisest women I know, and is always willing to share her wisdom, heart… and bottle of wine. 

 

Find someone who pushes you. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 4.44.14 PM“I think the key is to find someone who pushes you to be your best self, but still loves you when you’re not.” –From K – who has an effortless enthusiasm about her that brings so much laughter, inspiration and beauty to everyone she comes across. No question is too crazy, no worry too awful, she’s always there to lend an ear. 

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Again.

My first winter in New York was my favorite one. I was a few months past 22 and a few years away from being slightly hardened by the city. Then – while I was writing the inaugural posts of this blog – I was captivated by every first that I experienced:

My first time seeing snow in the city. The first time I realized I was falling in love in New York. The first time I went home for the holidays, feeling much more grown-up then I actually was. The first time it really, truly felt like Christmas and magic unfolded all around me.

Even though at the time I was actually rather miserable at my job and fighting off stomach-worry-pains over Mr. P and his fleeting fidelity, and even though I barely made any money post-taxes, there was a gentle happiness that I almost always felt. Because I was still new, because the city still had it’s freshness about it, because I knew there was still so much to accomplish and so much to achieve, so much to enjoy and so much to learn – I didn’t think too far ahead. I didn’t miss anything in my past and I though I wondered what was next, I knew I had time to make mistakes. I still had time to figure it all out and come up with an escape route or an alternative direction if I needed it. I had picked New York and yes, it had picked me right back, but I hadn’t conquered it yet. It didn’t belong to me – I was still it’s visitor, waiting to be accepted, waiting to feel like I was at home.

Three years later, Manhattan is my address. It’s where I’m registered to vote. It’s where my dentist and my dermatologist are. My home is lived in and worn, my dog leaves her paw tracks wherever she goes. My most frequently called friends live no more than a few blocks or subway rides away, and I have memories in almost every neighborhood on the island. I can get from point-A to point-B without a map (most of the time) and I have areas that I almost flat-out refuse to go to (looking at you Murray Hill). I am settled and I feel extremely comfortable on these streets, at my grocery store, at the coffee shop where the barista knows my order and invites me to her birthday party. And this winter, I saw all the sights, yet again – from the shops at Union to the skaters at Rockefeller – and though it wasn’t the same simple happiness I used to feel, it was still something.

Something older, maybe. Something jaded, just a bit. Something… new.

There has been so much change, and yet so very little change this year for me. Though I’ve loved my job, I’ve been aching for new challenges. Though I love my city, I’ve wondered what’s next and what else is out there for me to explore. Though I love my friends, we’re all on different pages and listening to different songs, trying to figure out our own quarter-life crisis without belittling each other’s. Though I love the warmth of the Upper West Side, I long for the excitement (but not the pricetag) of downtown. Though I love most of what I’ve created and discovered here, I’ve felt so incredibly bored most of 2013 that everything felt common, uninteresting, redundant.. and just so not like how it used to.

But I think that just means – finally! – I’ve arrived in New York. It’s actually my home now. My life is firmly cemented here. My roots have started to spread. Because after all of that hard work of moving here, applying wildly for a job, looking widely for a man, smiling pretty and joining clubs to find friends, locating an apartment and saving money since March of 2010…

…I get to do it all over again. And again.

And I’ve been fighting it. Hard. Because it was so much work to build friendships, to meet Mr. Possibility, to get my first job and my second one, to explore a new part of town, to find new groups and new clubs and new things to try. But I was happier when I was open. When I put myself out there and I challenged myself to do something different. When I wasn’t afraid of failure, when I wasn’t terrified that I was running out of time.

Because that is what time is: always circular, always moving, always changing. That’s the part everyone forgets to tell you: your 20s are for learning the good, hard-working skills that you’ll use the rest of your life.

You learn how to make friends so you can enrich the friendships you have, and make new ones as the old ones fall and grow apart. You learn how to find a job so you know how to hire new people, how to keep your current one and how to make a move when the time is right. You learn how to date so you know what you like and what you don’t, with the hope that someone will one day fit your bill. You learn how to cook, manage your money, manage your time, manage your expectations and everything else, so you never forget your independence.

You don’t just learn things once – you keep learning again and again so you can keep growing.

And so, even though this winter isn’t my first and won’t be my last in New York, it’s the first one in my new cycle. My new beginning in the city I fell in love with so long ago. It’s time to go back to where it all began, so I can remember how to move forward. It’s time to find that drive that made me do everything I could to get a step ahead or at least a toe into some door. It’s time to find that energy that was rich and powerful. It’s time to find that softness again that made me see the good in people, and especially in men. Especially in my friends. Especially in me. It’s time to find that beauty in the process, not in the destination.

It’s time to walk away from everything that fell apart, so I can start building an even better tomorrow… again.

Walks Through the East Village

There’s that underground jazz lounge where the first champagne cocktail is free for blue-eyed girls with bright smiles. It’s where that older Polish man with a boa gave me and my friend A a feather to wear in our hair. My friend A, who is now married, living just a handful of blocks and subway stops away from me. It’s where I became hypnotized the first time by live music – watching the pianist dance across the keys, the saxophonist breathe and move deeply and creatively calculated. It’s where I sat in a Forever 21 dress at 19 years old, pretending I was old enough to split a bottle of wine with a man I didn’t really know, but was paying. It’s where I went when I wanted to feel classier and older than what I really was, where I wasn’t the girl from North Carolina who interned at Cosmo, but I was just a woman. A woman who somehow lived in New York fucking City.

There’s that hookah bar on St. Mark’s that never carded me. I wasn’t sure if I liked hookah all of the times I went and took smaller breaths than everyone else, but I knew I liked the sugary-sweet sangria, long before I knew what good alcohol tasted like. That’s the place where there are couches in the corner, cushions on the floor, where you can sit Indian-style or extend your legs long, far across to the other side of the table. That’s where I took my friends when they visited, to show them a new-something they didn’t know about, something terribly urban (though later I realized it’s not). That’s the place where just a few days ago, I brought a guy from Williamsburg to that very corner and though I didn’t know him, my red wine haze told me to kiss him. Right there, on the first date, with hookah saturating my hair and my breath. The breath that was making his glasses and the cold window behind us steam up.

There’s that movie theater on the east side that’s a hop, skip, Metro card and jump from Brooklyn. It’s where I saw that movie with a name and plot I forget, with Mr. Possibility, summers ago. It’s where we bickered between Sprite and Diet Coke and then snuggled through the movie, his hand on my thigh, my head on his shoulder, sitting awkwardly so we could touch, even though it’s uncomfortable and definitely unromantic. There’s the cheap Thai place a few doors down where we went once the credits started rolling, where we sat in that booth in the back, with polyester seats and fluorescent lighting. It’s where we talked about the future like it was our promise, where he leaned over to me while I was tactfully slurping a noodle I could barely hold with chopstick, and kissed my forehead. It’s where he said he wanted to always take care of me. It’s where maybe somewhere, deep down in his butchered heart, he thought he could mean it.

There’s that frat-tastic bar on Third Avenue that I absolutely hated going to. But I went the night after my birthday, with a terrible cold, barely able to speak and I waited for him. His sister and brother-in-law kept me company, bought me hot tea, tried to ease my worry. M showed up when he didn’t. Until two hours later. That’s where the man I thought I could love forever made me doubt if forever existed, for the first time. That’s where my then-highly-intoxicated boyfriend decided to go home alone instead of going home to work something out with me. That’s the street where I slammed that cab door shut and he didn’t look back. Around that corner, that’s where M promised me that he was just my first New York love, not my last. There’s where I walked myself home, bitterly sober and instantly lonely, wondering if I’d ever believe her.

There’s that bookstore where I curled up with a latte and my computer, writing about love and hoping for it. There’s where I sat for a few hours on late Saturday afternoon in the most brutal days of winter, reading through a book I didn’t intend to buy (but did). There’s the travel section where I met M for a day of shopping in the West Village for my birthday, and ended up bringing home an 8-pound puppy on a Sunday night. There’s the magazine section where I looked eagerly for the tiny engagement magazine I had a print piece in when I first moved to the city, where Mr. Possibility stood at the end of the aisle, smiling at me. There’s where he whispered in my ear as we looked at my bylined spread: “I would know you apart from anyone, just by the way you move so beautifully.” There’s where I listened to Adele while avoiding the self-help section, a year later, wondering if I needed a book about getting over someone or if I could just write the book myself.

There’s the park on Avenue A that I found so terrifying, hidden behind small rooftops and appearing out of nowhere in between the graffiti buildings along the east side. There’s where I stumbled in too-tall high heels in the cold with a friend, trying to hail a cab at 3 a.m. after a night of flirting and boozing, smearing lipstick and turning heads I didn’t care to see again. There’s where I wanted to sit down so badly, just to give some relief to my tired legs, but I didn’t, even more afraid of what lurked on the Manhattan streets I was still getting used to. There’s the address where, three years later, I fell in love with a new part of town while dog sitting for a friend who just signed a lease. There’s where the park felt so different and so much more welcoming, a place for coffee and running, a place that wasn’t so haunted, after all.

There’s just one small part of my home. Just one neighborhood in all of the eccentric zip codes of this island. Just a cluster of streets before Houston, where East Village turns into the Lower East Side, where Stuyvesant Town becomes Union Square. There’s just a few memories, a few local, dates and weekends at local pubs and restaurants, bookstores and theaters, I’ve Google mapped and others I don’t need to look up to find. There’s my walks through the East Village for the past few weeks, remembering the adventures, the love, the disappointment, the fever, the dreaming I’ve experienced in the short time I’ve been able to live where the 7-year-old me always knew I would.

And there’s the older me, the quarter-life-crisis-ing me, reminding myself that if so much can happen in just under four years, so many more beautiful, surprising things are surely still to come.

I Don’t Have My Shit Together

Staring down at my hands, thinking about the scar on my right thumb and the pinky finger nail that always outgrows the rest, I did anything and everything to distract myself from the conversation I was about to have. I needed to be tough. I wanted to keep my happy face securely stretched wide and open to conceal any doubt or bitterness I felt. If I kept smiling and willing myself to believe that I was satisfied, that I was indeed fulfilled and secure, then it would actually be more than a painted grin by my friends at Cover Girl.

But J saw right through it. As she usually does.

We ordered wine and I had an appetizer — always one to suffocate discomfort with salty and crunchy foods. Though I’ve grown so close to her in such a short matter of time, I didn’t know just how much I could share or how much would be too much for a friendship that was still blooming. After a few sips of Chardonnay that I secretly wished was Cabernet, she gave me the eyebrow raising cue to start talking. And as if the floodgates had been tightly sealed and protected against a barrier of makeup, glitz and teeth whitening for a very long time, I felt them crumble away. Not bit by bit or piece by piece but in one transformative release, letting out everything I felt, all that I feared, and the words sat out there, dangling on the edge of a turning point, waiting to be realized, hoping to be accepted.

I sputtered out each messy thought, every last fear and the growing pile of frustrations that I’m frustrated I feel. I let it all spew out as I let myself go, feeling the tears splashing angrily down my cheek and crashing on my lips, reminding me that if I’m still feeling this much – no matter how bad it is – I’m still alive. Pain and well, being honest and vulnerable, makes you feel just how human you are. Once I finished, I embraced the sense of relief and emptiness that came with it. I had said everything and here I was, wondering if I was the only 25-year-old gal in New York to be a walking disaster of indecision.

And then she said the one thing — the only thing — that could make me feel at peace and better about my current predicament.

“Linds, everyone feels that way,” she slipped out the reassurance in a casual, endearing way, making sure to keep eye contact while grinning a knowing look that eased my embarrassment. “The truth is, no one has their shit together, even if we act like we do. The grass is always greener somewhere else. Someone else always seems better off.”

Here I was in Chelsea, at a fine lounge (that I used to go to all the time with Mr. P), crying my eyes out because J was right — I didn’t  and still don’t, have my shit together. Excuse the language, but J picked the best words anyone could –and depicted it in the most accurate way.

I could talk about how I have many luxuries and privileges that so many do not because that’s also true. I don’t struggle to make rent and I luckily love the job I have. I’m healthy and vibrant, settled into an existence that doesn’t really have too many physical, actual pitfalls — but there’s something about this age that is infuriating. Something about being a mid-20-something that makes everything and nothing feel good and bad all in the same breath, all at the same time, all in one sweeping emotion that can overtake you with anxiety if you let it.

I’m somewhere in between college and turning 30, letting go if the love I enjoyed at 22 to find the man I’ll spend the rest of my life with. I’m not quite secure in the city I love, not yet able to afford to live alone, not sure if my next move will be alone or with a roommate or a boyfriend. I don’t know what the next five years will bring, and if the past few are any indication of just how silly predictions are, then well, I’m really in for a shocker.

But even if I feel older than I really am, placing myself under more pressure than anyone else, I feel like I should have it figured out by now.

I feel like I should know what my next career move is or at least have a plan. I shouldn’t rule out short guys or unemployed men or balding guys. I should be more realistic and possibly less picky about the men I date or I’m going to end up alone. And if that’s the case, I need to figure out how to be okay with that. On that note – I need to understand what it means to settle and if I’m settling in any aspect of my life. Or if I’m expecting too much? I really should save more money. I should drink less and pay more attention to my diet. I need to plan out meals and stick to a budget. I should understand my 401K, the effects of my birth control on my body and go to the dentist every six months. I should mange my time and spend equal times with friends, and never ever put guys before girls. I shouldn’t compare myself to others and I should not cry during cheesy romantic comedies that by now, shouldn’t get to me anymore. I shouldn’t get anxious or upset over the small things or the big things or anything – I should be more mature. I should keep a workout schedule and have all the children I’m supposed to have by a certain age. I should figure out what that age is and start preparing for it. I should save up everything I can so I can move apartments and pay more in rent, but feel more at home. I should get an expensive dog walker so I stop worrying about my puppy being alone too much. I shouldn’t talk about having a pet on a date because that’s too intimidating, it screams that I have too much responsibility. It says I’m not spontaneous and sexy and fun. I should not spend so much money on clothes or drinks or trips and instead, invest in my future.

I should have my shit together.

But as I put on a should-show in front of J, she should-ed me right back. She’s in a happy, loving relationship. She has an equally great job. She lives in a lovely apartment with two lovely felines, and yet, even as she has some of the things that I want – like a wonderful man to come home to – she has the same feelings I do. The same shoulds. And so does my friend M. My other friend J. And K and practically everyone else I know who is stuck in their mid-twenties, and early 30s even, figuring out what the hell is next. And getting over what should be next.

It’s easy before you reach adulthood to know what’s coming because it’s all mapped out before you – after middle school comes high school, after high school you go to college. During college you have internships that lead to jobs. Then maybe you go to graduate school and then you land in a new city with a brand new job, and then you…

…you start living your life. You start having so many experiences… and just as many mistakes. You give up on figuring everything out.

And if you’re smart and lucky enough to catch it early on, you realize that the most important part about having your shit together is accepting that you might never get there. And more importantly, you might not want to after awhile. Sure, at times you’re more balanced than at others. Some weeks are happier, while others are busier and more expensive. Sometimes you feel like you’ve accomplished the world and on some mornings, getting out of bed is enough. There are no shoulds to life or no magical prescription to take away your worries or your uncertainties about the future. The future, instead, is always this ominous, illustrative idea that’s far-fetched and seemingly impossible when you’re standing in the present. But you’ll get there. It’ll work itself out. You don’t have to should your life away to make all the things that will happen, actually happen.

The life you’re meant to live will work itself out… even if you don’t do the right things or follow the right timeline. Even if you make every wrong decision you can possibly make. Even if it doesn’t turn out how you think it will or in the ways your friend’s paths take shape. Because having your shit together is a nice idea, but it’s not half as fun as living a full, complicated, beautiful, messy and passionate life… that’s probably full of shit – but still pretty fantastic.

A Year From Now

This morning while trying my best to move quickly — even though vacation starts tomorrow — my friend M sent me a screenshot of this day a year ago from the app, TimeHop.

It was a shot of the two of us at the beach, the first week of July 2012, burying each other in the sand while sipping on the mixed beverages we technically weren’t supposed to have on Long Beach. Our hair was wet and our bodies were freckled, and though so much has changed since then, I remember that day so vividly I could almost smell the ocean air.

It was during that time that I had successfully ended contact with Mr. P after six months of post-relationship sex I grew to regret. At that time, I had not spoken to him three months and had painfully ignored every text, voicemail and phone call. A week after that day at the beach, he emailed to say he was moving overseas for a year and could he please see me. Please take me to dinner. It would be another month before I would eventually give in and meet him at Bryant Park, followed by too much wine in the Flat Iron District. And dancing in Madison Square Park at midnight, on a work night. That would be the last time I saw him, looking out the window of the number one train, watching him walk away yet again.

It was at that time last year that I was desperately uncomfortable with my body and pushing myself to get back on a running schedule. I had gained weight and lost confidence in the aftermath of my breakup and the uptick of my responsibilities at work, and though I wanted to turn down a beer (or four), I found myself feeding my insecurities with fatty food and beverages. I couldn’t stand the sight of myself in a bikini or get enough gumption to go up to a guy in a bar with my acne-prone skin and pudgy tummy. It would still be a month from that beach day, where sand covered my muffin top, before I’d pick up running again and another three before I finished my very first 5k in 28 minutes. A month after that, I’d go on Accutane and six months later, relish being makeup free and ten pounds lighter.

It was at that time that M and I were closer than we had ever been, roaming about town as single ladies on a mission for adventure, for intrigue, for some romance, for anything and everything that piqued our interest. It was at this time that we giggled on her couch in Sunnyside, Queens about who would meet someone first and how it would change or not change, shake or not startle our friendship. How we might miss this time being fun and fancy free. It would be another four months before M met her now boyfriend, another three before they moved in together in Brooklyn, and another two before they welcomed a dog into their home.

It was at that time that I had just gone to a psychic that predicted I’d meet the man I would marry by the end of 2012, that I’d be on TV in 2013 and see a big (positive) shift in my bank accounts in 2014. It was at this time that I was starting to feel released from the past, or at least letting go of its bittersweet hold on me. It was at that time that I started to feel so incredibly settled in a city that doesn’t stop for any heartache, any setback, any stint if unemployment or any hesitation. It was at that time that I found myself building up everything I thought I could, and it was at that time that I started to dream about a year from then.

I imagined that by the first week in July of 2013, surely I would be completely over Mr. P and gladly, happily dating someone, if not the the someone. I hoped I’d be lucky enough to still be at my job, still loving the work, even if I sighed over the sweaty commute in the dead heat of summer. I thought that maybe I’d be writing this blog more often, but also wondered if it would be around at all, if something else other than my dating and personal life would take priority in my writing. I didn’t think I’d have a dog or a new apartment, but I smiled at the vision of a one bedroom all by myself and a baby pup to come home to.

I’m far away and closer to where I thought I’d be at this time in my life. I have everything together and managed and yet, feel like nothing is quite going as planned. I want to be madly in love and am slightly terrified of finding the right person and making it work for the rest of my life. I find myself on the verge of wanting to shift and move everything in my life and holding on tight to things just as they are, for fear that something new will turn everything upside down.

But none of that really matters.

Because while I can come up with plans and visions of where I think I’ll be a year from now, just like I did before, I know that whatever I conjure, whatever I put together in my head, will never be entirely correct or terribly incorrect. Honestly, there is only one thing for sure, one thing that the past year has taught me — and that’s that change is undeniable.

It’s unstoppable.

Men come and they go. Some stay. Others linger. Jobs grow with you and over you. Some you’ll grow out of. Sometimes the best decisions you make are spontaneous and somehow, bring you more joy than the ones you labor over. Friendships have to be given room to bloom and will never grow in shadows. Acceptance of yourself is the hardest battle you’ll ever fight, but the most important one. Remembering you’re not the only one who doesn’t have their um, s*** together is a hard lesson to learn, but it’s the one that’ll bring you the most peace. Giving yourself a break is easier said than done, but something that’ll help you sleep better at night. You’re never going to remain stationary because you’re far too interesting to be boring, to be the same, forever.

The truth is, I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, but I do know that I will not be the same woman I am today. And instead of being afraid of changing and growing, loving and possibly losing, dreaming and maybe failing, I’m ready for the challenge. I’m excited to see just how much – and how very little – I know about the person I’ll be a year from now.

And whoever she is, whomever she turns into, I bet she’ll be pretty great. Because even with all the good and the bad of the past year, she’s somehow came out even better than she already was.

Finding My Way Back to Me

Wrapped up in the warmth of moment you know doesn’t come around very often, I closed my eyes and listened to the gentle crashing of the waves.

My best friend was breathing deeply next to me, slowly falling into the slumber the comes so easy when you’ve spent the day absorbing the sun and the fun of a place that’s not your home and relishing in the whirlwind of a few days that came and went faster than either of us thought they would. I felt the sand blow up against my sunburnt calves and the subtle spray of the ocean barely touching my skin, and I exhaled the biggest breath I have in what feels like forever.

I opened my eyes and tried to count the seemingly endless stars above me – their tapestry fascinating me and reminding me of the Southern upbringing I’m continuously thankful for. Their flicker and gaze didn’t remind me of the city I love – in fact, I hadn’t missed much about New York in the last five days. My Mexican oasis with my dearest friend in Manhattan had arrived at the most serendipitous time and more than anything else, it got me away from the constant rush and pressure of a life that yes, I created, but also, I was exhausted of. As difficult as it is to look out from underneath my rose-colored glasses and to unravel the picturesque story I’ve depicted of my grand escape from North Carolina to find success in the Big Apple – the reality of my life isn’t always so, well, peachy.

Over the last few months, I’ve not only grown frustrated and tired, wondering – and worrying – that my day-to-day would always be unfulfilling and unoriginal. Taking the same subway to the same place and back to the same apartment, walking a pup for probably the thousandth time, going on yet another boring date that might result in a kiss I’ll be sorry I wasted lipstick on. While I’m one of the rare breeds who does enjoy the challenge and stress of my job – when last Thursday rolled around and M and I’s flight to Mexico was about to take flight – I took great pleasure in turning off my Blackberry.

But, laying there in that cabana bed at 9 at night, equally exhausted and entirely at ease, full of food that wasn’t great and drinks that were, I didn’t concentrate on those negative thoughts I have let consume my focus lately. I didn’t think about the mess of my apartment or my mind. Or my heart. I didn’t think about turning 25 in September and the fear that another two years will come and go without another love to call my own since Mr. P. I didn’t think of him either. I didn’t think of my lack of savings or idea of my next steps or my next changes or my next choices. I didn’t think of my constant need to boost my own confidence and stop comparing myself to other ladies. I didn’t think about being good enough or pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or resilient enough – or anything enough.

Instead, I felt my eyes well up with tears with so much thanks for everything I’ve been taking for granted.

For every last blessing I haven’t been counting, for every wish that I once had that has actually, truly and sometimes incredibly, has come true. For the best friends, like M, who remind me of the beauty in everything, and especially in patience. For the paychecks that make living in New York possible from a job – a career – that supports and encourages me. For the love of a little dog that keeps me warm at night and smiling on the street at 7 a.m., without makeup, without any care at all. For the love I’ve been lucky to experience — even if it has washed away like the tide in front of me, I do know that the tide always comes back. For the apartment that keeps me cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s not, and the friendly folks who make me cleaner than I really am. For this blog that lets me express everything I can never verbalize in any manner that makes sense. For the family who may be very far away, but never that far from my heart.

For this five-day escape that made me realize how much I needed to get away from the city…. and also from myself.

This vacation was what I needed, even if I didn’t expect it to be as luxurious or wonderful as it turned out to be. I had not only needed the company of someone who knows me, who forgives me, who reminds me to relax (and take more tequila shots) – but I had needed to let go of it all. I needed those waves – and those margaritas – to wash away my funk. To cleanse me of my selfish attitude, of my bitter thoughts, of my fears that have no place in the back or the front of my mind. I had needed the sun to warm my heart up again – to remind it of what it feels like to be free and though imperfect (and maybe a little scarred), still vibrant, still full of the love that makes me…. me. I had needed space to recognize the gifts I’ve been given, the people who make me whole, the hope that makes me feel alive.

And underneath that moonlight, talking about nothing at all, I felt that hope come back to me. I felt my faith rekindle and my soul bubble with happiness. As we walked away to our beautiful home-away-from-home (complete with an outdoor shower and Jacuzzi!), I said a little prayer to remember this tiny piece of time. To remember the release I can give myself, to remember how to let go of the bad and feel the good again. To remember to breathe.

Because even though vacations (sadly) can’t last forever and like all important things, moments pass and change, just like friendships, just like your hopes and dreams, just like the best (and strongest) of loves – if you’re able to let yourself learn and let go, then you’re able to do anything. If you’re able to find gratitude in everything and anything, then you can always be under that cascading drapery of stars, you can always hear the calm and sudden rush of the ocean, you can always feel the sun on your back, you can always feel the comfort of the people you love near you.

You can always find your way back to yourself, even if you’ve been missing for a long time.

Last Single Girl Standing

Waiting for my doorbell to ring the day after New Year’s, I anxiously anticipated the arrival of one of my dearest best friends, M. We were ordering cheap Chinese, exchanging Christmas presents and catching up about the 10-plus days we spent apart – something we never, ever do except during the holidays.

She’s a girl who is as much fun as she’s dependable and honest – always giving you the support you want with a side of healthy reality that you need. We’ve been through the trenches together, had a knockdown, drag-out, three-hour-long fight in my bathroom — telling each other what we really think — helped each other move and build furniture, pick the other one up when they couldn’t walk home (whoops) and brought pizza when a breakup was enough to break us. New York has always felt like home to me, but it wasn’t until I found my partner in crime – and for sharing margs and guac weekly – that I really felt like I could settle into my city. There’s something about having a best friend that lets you let down your guard and know that even if the guys suck, the job is tough or the tummies pooch – you have someone who will love you unconditionally, make sure you get over yourself and remember how great you are, too.

Maybe it’s my hidden jealous side that I try to keep at bay or just the fear of losing something that’s precious to me – but I was nervous about M coming over that night. I knew we’d have a great time because we always do – yet I also knew I was about to receive a piece of news that I didn’t quite want to hear. And not because it was bad news (it was in fact exciting and amazing) but because I knew it would change things.

You see, M has always been my single friend.

The gal who encouraged me to dance a little more, stay out a little longer, give that short guy a chance or walk out of a date if it was bad (and meet her for martinis after). The one who would let me analyze everything to death and talk it into the ground, and then match my stories with ones as terrible as my own. If not more awful at times. The one who was there to swap our silly dating troubles, edit each other’s online dating profiles and talk about how weird it’d be when one of us got a boyfriend.

And weird it is.

I haven’t met her new beau — we’ll call him Mr. Bear — but I’ve never seen her so bubbly and giggly, and yes, because it’s M, a little uncomfortable with the whole thing. Since I knew it was coming (something in my gut just told me so), when she arrived — grinning from ear to ear — I went for it head on:

Do you have a boyfriend? I quizzed directly. Coyly, she tucked her hair behind her ear and nodded, Yes, I have a boyfriend. He asked if it was for real — and it is!

A real relationship is exactly what she needed and though she’ll hate me for saying it on this blog – something she’s been wanting for a while. She’s flown solo for a long time – five years! – and I knew her bright, shining “one day” would come along sooner than later. I also knew it’d take a special guy who could be tender with her while also challenging her in the way that keeps her intrigued. When we were tipsy off of wine one time – we made predictions about the guy we’d date next: she said my guy would be one of those goofy, slightly nerdy, but handsome and tall and unbearably kind kind of guys. I said she wouldn’t like her guy right away (she didn’t care for Mr. Bear at first), but that his charm, his sweetness and the way they connected would bring them together. And make her eventually give in.

I like being right – but I can’t lie that when my suspicions of her new relationship were confirmed, I felt a little disappointed. Maybe disappointed isn’t the right word per se – maybe more like: Oh god! I’m the last single girl standing! What if she disappears into the couple nook and I don’t see her for months because she spends so much time with him? What if she changes from the outgoing, fun girl that makes me a better, more relaxed person into a girl I don’t even recognize? What if she starts doing double dates with all of our friends with boyfriends and I’m forever the third wheel?

What if I lose my best friend?!

But when I looked at her – blushing and probably a little nervous to tell me about her new beau –considering I’ve been in the market for one of my own for a while, too – I swallowed my pride. And instead of seeing my fears and the envy I felt boiling – I felt something different: happiness. This man has brought her something that I can’t, that I wouldn’t want to bring – and for the first time in a long time, she looked at ease. She looked like she was bursting with stories to tell, incredible new experiences to tell me about, romantic encounters that of course, she has to share with her best friend. (Especially a friend who loves love to a disturbing, addicted degree.) I saw in her what I miss feeling myself: hope. Anticipation. Excitement. Wishful thinking. Love.

And so, I stopped thinking about what I don’t have (yet) to be a great listener to someone who has always listened to me. Because though she’s my best friend, her relationship isn’t about me and the choices she makes because of it aren’t up to me, either – it’s a new unchartered territory for her to explore with someone she could one day really, truly care about. And while I may wish for something similar of my own, I more so wish for continued glee – and a very long honeymoon stage – for M and Mr. Bear.

So when do I get to meet him?? I asked, matching her smile and giving her a much-delayed hug.

I may be the last single gal standing of my group of gals – but I’m proud to stand by them. And – I guess — their boyfriends, too.