When Time Turns the Tables

After the serendipitous meeting with Mr. Fire a few weeks before I graduated, where he confirmed my existence actually did mean something to him, he told me he’d let me know when he was in New York. He knew I’d be there and if he could help it, so would he.

Several years later, it looks like he finally made the move. Or at least for a job interview, that is.

Though it has been quite some time since I’ve laid eyes on the dude and I’m not interested in sprouting any new chapters with him – as I headed toward sushi for two on Wednesday, my mind couldn’t help but race.

After all, this was an evening, a moment, an opportunity I had dreamt of since the day he ended things far quicker than I thought he would. Following the late-Spring breakup in our college’s commons, I collapsed into my bed, equal parts shocked and desperately sad. A few hours later, with my puffy face and tired eyes and spirit, my roommate tried to console me, and though I’m pretty sure we both knew there was no magic phrase or surprising sentence that could alleviate my tears, something she said inspired me to move forward with a little hope: “It doesn’t seem like you guys finished anything. There are all these questions – he’s gotta have them too. I promise you, years from now, you’ll get the answers and you’ll see him again. By then, you’ll probably be happy and won’t care.”

I disagreed in that moment – how could I ever care less than I did then? How would this feeling ever leave or lessen? But maybe, if we were meant to cross paths again – say on Park Avenue South – it’d all make sense. Perhaps he felt just as broken as I did.

Come to find out, we both coined each other as the “one who got away” or the guy/gal who we’ll always wonder what could have been or what we should have experienced, but were too young to take a shot at. Since the split, we’ve never managed to be single at the same time. There’s always been someone else in the mix, another component to complicate any prospect of attempting to finish what we started or give another round to cards we laid many years ago. And up until that night, a part of me, even if it was just the tiniest sliver of silver-lining I had– I thought maybe, we’d end up together. That while I can’t be convinced I believe in fate in its indefinite definition, I do have faith in time.

And my love, my darling, time can do a gal many wonderful splendors in terms of love.

Walking to meet Mr. Fire, heels and lace-mini prepared to stun – I thought how my roommate was right. Here I was, living in the place I knew I’d end up, strutting toward my past, and other than a few butterflies, I was calm. And while I think there will always be questions left unanswered, love left unfinished, and ends left untied – it didn’t matter too much.

Because time, in its unpredictable ways, took me from lusting after this idealistic notion that Mr. Fire and I were destined, to realizing I didn’t want him anymore. In the seasons that had cycled, the tides that turned, and the feet that landed me in this city – I had changed.

And he hadn’t.

Sitting across from him, listening to him ramble and flush a sweet color of pink – I remembered the facial expressions I had adored, the gestures, and the stories I had fallen for. I still found him incredibly attractive – but had he always had that deep Southern accent that I was lucky enough to escape (Thanks Dad, from New Jersey)? I still found myself laughing at his comics, but that intelligent, witty conversation that I value in a man – does he have that? And yes, he was tall, but that stagger, that thirst to drink more than necessary – will he ever outgrow those silly habits?

Perhaps time can divide lovers for years and then bring them back together in some sort of romantic-comedy approved manner – but it also can make you see how wrong someone is for you. How while you loved them – or at least the idea of what they could be – when people grow, either together or separated, they end up in different versions of destiny than what they originally hoped. And perhaps, that ending is better than the happy one we once planned for ourselves.

Even if he was – or maybe always will be – the one who slipped through my fingers and pushed away the love I was willing to give him. Maybe the ones who do leave before we expect them too, were always meant to walk before closure could be granted, before reasoning and discussions could be completed. In some sort of twisted hand of Father Time, they are the ones who make us realize down the road, that what we think will happen, what we hope will come to be, who the people we can’t imagine living without – aren’t always what’s best for us. Or at least the us we become in this continuous progression we call life.

Sometimes, time makes you see that you love the you you’ve become more than the man who was. Or the we that was supposed to be. That while minutes or hours or days or even years may pass by so slowly -all that was, all that is, and all that will be, will work itself out, somehow, someday, along the way.

The Things I Don’t Know

The months before I graduated from college, however long ago, I couldn’t wait to get out. I had reached a point where anything and everything I was involved with or did was incredibly old. My classes stopped challenging me and I knew New York was in such a short reach, but it felt like I couldn’t extend to grasp it. I was in a relationship I knew was dead-end but my insecurities kept me from cutting the chord.

And yet, as I approached my graduation day (a semester earlier than anticipated, mind you) – I can’t count how many people warned, “Linds, college is the best time of your life. You’re going to miss it once you’re in the real world.”

I disagreed then, and I still beg to differ now.

Going away to school – even if it it’s just two hours away, like it was for me – teaches a kid a lot about growing up. You learn how to make Easy-Mac, how to avoid (or lose eventually) the freshmen 15, and how to force yourself to do things you do not want to do (biology at 8 a.m.). If you’re lucky, you also learn how to share a twin bed with someone, how to get over a college guy (or guys) with unfavorable intentions, and figure out not only your place on campus, but where you’ll be placed after you’re deemed certified by an accredited institution. When I was in college, I remember this feeling of not knowing where my life would go or if I’d ever get to the destination and the job I heavily preached and promised I’d arrive at. Because I never quite felt like I belonged on top of a mountain (imagine that) – I’m not sure I fully embraced being a college girl to the degree that I could have.

However, though I worried more than I partied, I also felt a sense of security by being in school.

When you’re a sophomore you know in a year, if all goes accordingly, you’ll be a junior. You have an idea of the track your courses will take or where you’ll rise in leadership at whatever organization you’re passionate about. You know when you’ll start applying for internships and you know when you’ll move out of the dorms and into an apartment. While there may be uncertainties about what happens after college, when you’re wrapped up in the books and the looks from upperclassmen you pass in the commons – you don’t have to wonder too much about what’s ahead of you. You basically know where you’ll be 12 months from that moment, no matter what. Perhaps it’s that feeling of not having to grow up too much, not having to plan everything out, or not having to stress over bills or if your career is heading down the right track or if you should be engaged or not, is what makes higher learning appear to be the best time of our lives.

Because once you’re out and you take on a city hundreds of miles away, all of the things you knew in college become all of the things you don’t know. If you ask me where I’ll be a year from now, I’d never be able to answer you. And for a while after I graduated, I hated all of the things I didn’t know.

There were no longer guarantees for my immediate future. There were no promises of housing and the comfort of the classroom never translated into an office. There wasn’t a sea of like-minded and similar-in-age people constantly surrounding me and the pool of dating options took a dive into deep diversity. There was no telling if the job I accepted would be the best move for me or if packing up all that I could into a few suitcases and taking a bite out of the Big Apple (or having it bite me) would be the start or the end of me. And while the majority of my classmates were heading (or planning to) down the aisle, I was ending a relationship and standing alone, without a friend, without a clue of where my life would go.

But, the older I get and the more comfortable I find myself in my own skin – I realize it’s the things I don’t know, the plans I can’t make, the questions I can’t answer – that ironically, make me the happiest. Dwelling in possibility opens up far more windows of opportunity than remaining in comfort. College may start the process of becoming an adult, but until you leave campus – you haven’t a clue about what living is actually about. More importantly, you don’t know who you really are yet or had the chance to define who you want to be – today or tomorrow.

And for now, the things I don’t know outweigh the things I do. One phone call, one offer from an unnamed source, one chance encounter in the middle of a city street or one email, one impossibility that evolves into a possibility, one opening in an international office, one impossible to pass up apartment, or one view on one page from one influential person – could change everything I know.

And it is the realization that everything, love and whatnot, is completely transitional, utterly temporary, and constantly in progression from one thing to another, that I realize the best days of my life were not years ago in college or even today – but rather, they on their way. They are in places, in people, in articles, in books, in magazines, in cities, in travels, in experiences, in trains, planes, and automobiles, in runs, in coffees, in embraces, in romantic escapes, in the laughter of children, in the growth of gray hairs, in all of the things – I’ve yet to experience.

When will I know I’ve reached the pivotal period where everything is just so, feels just right, and goes just as I hoped it would?  I don’t know. And really, I doubt I ever will.

Entitled to Be Single

When my parents were newlyweds, my father once made the mistake at a dinner party introducing my mother as “his wife.” While she was, and is, his partner – to my incredibly independent firecracker of a mom – this made her feel like she lost her identity.

Needless to say, she didn’t keep quiet about how she felt. On the ride home, as my dad tells the story: “She laid it out for me -I didn’t own her. If I was going to introduce her to anyone, I had to say her name first and then her wifely title. Or, I was just to say her name. Under no circumstances, was she ever to solely be my wife or was I ever to say ‘wife’ before her name.

Now – I don’t know how I would respond in the same situation because I’m not married, but I will say I think my mother demanded nothing out of her rights. Nor do I think it’d sit well with me if my husband dropped my first name just because I took his last. And really, just like my mom, I’ll never just be a “wife” or a “mother” – I’ll always be me, and there are not enough titles to represent who I am.

I’ve carried a few of them the majority of my life: female, daughter, and well, writer. Those have grown as I have, from girl to teenager to woman; from daughter to kid to adult; from writer to editor to blogger. And of course, I’ve gone from crush to girlfriend to lover, from single to attached, from hopeless romantic to love addict,  from committed to heartbroken.

But in relationships, title changes seem to carry so much more weight than the other ones. Somehow, we know that regardless of what happens we will still be people through any birthday, promotion, or change of friends, and we’ll still be able to call ourselves a woman, a person, a daughter – because those things can’t be revoked or erased.

So, maybe in terms of love it is less about title and more about entitlement.

As a lady who adores words (even when she isn’t the best grammar girl in the whole world) – when I edit articles and writers confuse “title” and “entitlement” – I always cringe at my desk. Much like I do about “they’re” and “their”, but I digress. You see, title is the name of something, say a book or a movie; and entitled means one is deserving of whatever they are getting.

By these definitions, when we approach relationships, though we think we’re seeking a title – aren’t we really seeking entitlement? To be told, to be reassured that we are in fact, worthy of being someone’s girlfriend? Or fiancée? Or wife?

Of all of the roles I’ve played and hats I’ve wore in my past, the one I wanted the very most was exclusiveness with a man. I wanted whatever dude who was stealing my attention, where it be Mr. Disappear, Mr. Fire, or even Mr. Unavailable – to view me as his dream girl. As this beautiful, irreplaceable creature who appeared from the dusty woodwork, and became as important, as vital, as necessary, as the air they breathed and the beer they drank. Maybe it was college, but I didn’t even know these men very long – probably just upwards of a few weeks – before I determined I had to do everything in my power to be that girl. That remarkable woman who caught them off guard and made them stumble in the game they seemed so good at playing. I had to be the different one, the woman who woke him up from whatever bachelor-daze he was stuck in and I had to persuade him to entitle me the title I wanted.

In pushing for a man to make me his, to be what he desired, and what I thought was attractive to him – I stopped focusing on if I actually wanted a relationship and became more intrigued by the challenge of roping in this character. Of being convincing enough by putting on a charade that I was calm, cool, collected, and aloof , when in all actuality, I’m anything but most of those things. In all of my dating experiences prior, as soon as I realized he made me nervous in the best of ways – I was ready to have the girlfriend title. In fact, it became much more important than any other title – friend, sister, daughter, student, editor, or employee – I may have had at the time.

But now, it seems the title I enjoy the most, that I feel fully entitled to – is single. Incredibly, proudly, surprisingly, happily solo.

Maybe the reason I feel a sense of entitlement to the single title is because I had to work for it. More so, because I really got to know what it meant to be single before I determined that yes, indeed, that’s what I wanted. I had to go through nights where I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fall asleep due to my heart that was pounding so hard, I was sure it would never stop hurting. I had to give someone every single bit of hope and trust inside of me, only to realize they weren’t deserving of it, nor did they really want it. I had to fall in and out of love, both with myself and with the parade of men who for a while, defined my life. I had to be willing to put myself through the very worse part of being in a relationship, take a chance on what felt like fate, and promise myself that no matter what happened, I’d still be able to stand again. I had to face some pretty harsh realities about myself, how I approach love, and the lessons I’ve learned from loving and losing, believing and grieving.

And most importantly, I had to get to a point where it didn’t matter whatsoever what title I had, as long as I stopped putting all of my energy toward becoming someone’s girlfriend. I had to turn away from searching for the love I thought would complete me, would make me a better person, would give me the confidence I wanted, and decide that that love is only possible from within.

Today, I know it isn’t about the man anymore. It’s about me. Instead of worrying about being entitled to a title, I instead try and determine if someone is up to my standards of being my partner, my man, my lover, my boyfriend, or even my man friend. They aren’t just entitled to a place in my life, my bedroom, or my heart – those are places that must be earned with something I’ve never given enough credit to…time.

So yes, I’m happy with my single title. And unlike other titles that must be given to you, this is one I decided for myself I was entitled to. But should you ever meet me, I won’t lead with “Hi, I’m single,” because though it is something that’s part of me, just like being a woman, a friend, and a writer – most importantly, I’m me. I’m Lindsay. And that’s a title that’ll never change.

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