She Will Be Loved

When Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” first started spamming the radio, I was dating Mr. Faithful, my high school boyfriend. I loved the words and I soaked them all in, paying special attention to the “beauty queen of only 17” which was true at the time, and of course, “drove for miles and miles and ended up at your door,” which I dreamed of in many fantastic romantic clichés.

I imagined then that Mr. Faithful was the end-all-be-all for me, the love of all loves, the last man (and only man) I’d ever invite into my bed and into my heart. I instantly sent the song to him and he played it for me a few times while we drove the rolling country roads, and even when we made love in the way only a 17 and 18 year old can. Sweetly, naively and awkwardly.

I hadn’t thought about him or those premature stages of teenage love affairs in a long time, but on my way to a date recently, that song came on my Pandora. And suddenly, it all came flooding back:

Back to when I got drunk off cheap wine coolers and sweet hand-written words on notebook paper. Back to when I could spend hours cuddling in his backyard on a trampoline, talking about the future like we knew what was coming and where we were headed. Back to when flowers were picked from gardens and corsages were given at prom and graduation. Back to when dating a football player seemed so sexy and so important, back to when I watched the lights bounce off of the lake, dreaming about when I’d see lights bounce off of buildings in the Big Apple I’d only visited once.

Back to when I was unaware of what those lyrics really meant, or what they would mean, or how intensely I would feel everything in the years to come. How fleeting and innocent young love is, and yet, how final the end would feel in a few years. How much that girl who always knew there was a life ahead of her beyond the mountains, just waiting.

How that girl had no idea that this girl was always somewhere inside of her, waiting to fly, waiting to leap, waiting for that big opportunity, that big love to happen. How that girl had no idea just how much this girl would be loved…

…She would be loved by men who crossed oceans and took redeyes to arrive on the doorstep of her Harlem apartment with tulips, chocolate cake and a flood of kisses. She would be loved by men who made her homemade Valentine’s Day cards using the old-school paint program and drop off an orchid off at her office – along with a coffee, just like she liked it. She would be loved by men who walked a mile in 6-inch snow to the closest grocery store to buy the staples, including her favorite orange juice, with extra pulp.

She would be loved by men who left notes hidden inside picture frames that hung on her wall in her second New York apartment, and long after the relationship ended and the flame died down, they would ask her to open that picture and find words of encouragement buried inside of it, unknowingly, for years. She would be loved by men who make her homemade gnocchi and ask her to dance in the kitchen, barefoot and underage-tipsy, kissing the top of her head and whispering things in her ear she would never reveal to anyone, not even this blog. She would be loved by so many men that would see her sad smile, who would stand outside in the rain with her, who would care for her even when she preferred someone else.

And somewhere in between all of those men, that girl would also learn to love her own broken smile. And she’d learn how to heal it. She would watch the storm coming in as she ran miles and miles in Central Park and she’d let the rain fall, washing away her mascara, the sweat and her frustrations. She would love someone when they didn’t love her back. She would learn to love herself, even when she didn’t quite like the person she was.

She would be loved by the men, sure, just as promised. But she would also be loved by strangers and friends, mentors and travel mates. By a white fluff that would capture her heart from a pet store in the West Village. By her parents, more and more, with every passing year.

That girl just didn’t know all the love that was coming her way. Not at 15, not at 20, and really, not even at 25. Because that girl has been loved… and will be again. In a way that this girl –that girl – can’t even begin to believe yet.

This is My Home

I consistently purge my belongings. When my bookcase is too full, I’ll sell a handful to Strand, only to bring more than a handful. When my closet gets too crowded, I make a donation or attempt to organize a swap-party with my friends. When a heel is beyond repair, my heart breaks just a little as I toss it and take out the trash before I have the urge to fish it out again. I throw out expired beauty products near-weekly and honestly, if I just get tired of looking at something, it goes.

But there are certain things I never, ever throw away. Like my dream journal – a book I’ve kept for over a decade that chronicles my firsts, my lasts, and any huge life changes. Or the boarding pass that brought me to New York and the sticky-note I wrote to myself on the plane to remind me I was doing the right thing, no matter how afraid I was. Then there’s the first piece of mail that had my NYC address on it (a bill, of course), dozens of cards from friends and families encouraging my dreams, ticket stubs to operas, movies, and Broadway shows. A copy of my first paycheck, my job offer letters, my first freelancing contract, magazines with my byline in them, fan mail, hate mail, and pictures of homes and apartments I cut out. Pictures of what I want and pictures of what I had.

These things aren’t necessary to my survival, I could do without them. I’d have far more room in my closet if I didn’t have a huge chest filled with papers and photographs, heavy magazines and ribbons from things I have to really think about where they came from. But I can’t imagine throwing any of them away. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Like last night, for instance.

Feeling the need to get rid of clutter, I cleaned my room from top to bottom, gathered a bunch of items I was done with and stumbled across my chest of memories. Having not looked through it in a long time, I pulled it out and sat it on my newly washed-and-made bed, and went through everything. And though I haven’t dropped to such a level in a while, I cried my eyes out.

Just looking at pictures from college, from when I interned, from when I first moved, from when I was a child, and an unattractive adolescent. I reread letters I wrote when I was still full of hope, when everything seemed in reach, from when I was unstoppable. I found fortune cookies with dates on the back and names of people I shared a meal with, but now don’t talk to. I cried when I found penny after penny, each carrying a special memory, if only I could remember every time one cent has changed my perspective. I laughed at silly promises I use to hold, journals about breaking up with guys I can’t picture in my head anymore, and I carefully held a mini-stuffed animal my mom gave me when I went away to summer camp for the first time, so I wouldn’t be afraid.

This isn’t Camp Greenville though – this is my new life. This is my home, as Mr. Possibility carefully reminds me from time-to-time when I’m really frustrated with the thought of the future and I whine that I just want to go home. “Baby,” he says. “This is your home now.”

And it is.

That box of memories is special to me but that’s all it is. It’s papers and frozen smiles and silly faces inside years that I’ll never return to, places I’ll never live again, and moments I can’t relive even if I close my eyes and click my heels three times. I have a new life, a new adventure that I can’t run away from, no matter what challenges I face or what obstacles I have to overcome to get to where I’ve always wanted to be. Even if the greatest obstacle to get through is the challenge of facing myself as I am, especially when that person isn’t someone I thought I’d be, and maybe a person who wants different things than she originally planned.

My old home, the old me, the old day-to-day I use to enjoy and experience is locked away in that box in my closet, underneath a Kate Spade bag and surrounded by shoes. I may never forget those people, the smell of the house I grew up in, or the path that led to me to where I am now, but it’s now, in this moment that will ultimately be a fleeting memory, that I have to live. I have to make this place a home, this life my own, and let myself out of the box of the past I’ve been afraid to let go of.

Because memories are wonderful to cherish, but I’d rather continue to make more than to dwell on the ones I’ve already created.

Daily gratitude: I’m thankful for today. That’s all.