All At Once or Not At All

I watched the girls chatter and talk, laugh and make sweeping hand gestures in a crowded, sweaty room in midtown east just a block or two from Grand Central. Most of them I didn’t know, a few I recognized but couldn’t place a name and some, I had watched grow from eager intern to unemployed maniac to confident, happy editor.

It was a beautiful thing to see – this program that was just a little idea of mine a few years ago – in its third year, matching the job seekers with the job keepers, and hopefully, creating friendships, too. I’ve been in all of their shoes before: moving to New York without an apartment or any income, working the 9-6 as an editorial assistant, barely making enough money to pay rent, eat and actually leave my apartment for a happy hour from time-to-time. I’ve felt all of those scary, invigorating and desperate feelings – wondering when my chance would come, when I could write home to North Carolina that I wasn’t a failure, that I wasn’t out-of-mind, that I was surviving. That I was really living that life I had imagined for so many years, that it wasn’t just a pipe dream or a silly fantasy, but my reality.

Nearly four years, three job titles and one very big blog later (wow!), I wish I could say that everything is easier. That I have it all figured out and my ducks are in their perfect little rows, and I’m relishing in the success I’ve made for myself. And in some ways and on some days, everything is smooth sailing. But if going through all of the stages of being an early to a mid-20’s something has taught me anything, the biggest lesson is…

…life happens all at once or not at all.

When you first make that huge leap to an unknown place with an unknown destination and unplanned outcome – you’re terrified. But you’re so full of drive and bubbling with so much energy, that you forget that you’re broke. You stalk job sites and you have as many networking hours and coffee dates as you possibly can – and then some Friday, on some random afternoon, when you’re wasting time on the internet, you get that phone call for your first job. You forget to negotiate the salary (you learn how to later on), but you don’t mind. And then the next weeks are filled with paperwork and learning curves and figuring out what to wear and getting to know the personalities of your team – people you’ll see more than you see anyone else in your life.

And then when you switch jobs two years later, you do it again. Three years after that, you’ll go through all the same steps with a new gig. It will happen so quickly, so intensely, after so many months of playing the waiting game, after so many dreaded edit tests and long, nerve-wracking interviews – it’ll just happen. And, dare I say it, rather easily. Because that’s how life happens. All at once.

Or not at all.

When you’re looking for that first apartment, when you don’t know the city and you don’t really understand the difference between neighborhoods and you don’t know how to tell if it’s safe or if it had bed bugs or if you can actually afford it (since you don’t have a job yet) – you wander aimlessly, hoping you’ll just know when you find it. You’ll settle on a place that’ll do, that’s not ideal, that’s most importantly, very cheap. You’ll make friends with the building, you’ll grow use to the rancid smells coming from downstairs and down the street. You’ll figure out how to drown out noise and the unreliable rhythm of the closest train to your place. And then just as you’ve started to feel settled, it’ll be time to move again.

So you will. And your budget will be different because your job will be new. You’ll find an upgraded place suddenly and move swiftly. You might even adopt a dog because you get so comfortable. And then three years later – with a new raise, you’ll crave a new place. There will be complications and gap months and broker’s fees and you’ll watch your money crumble away… but that’s how life happens. All at once.

Or just, not at all.

When you first start dating, it will feel like a rather clever experience. Entertaining mostly, and then so frustrating, you swear each time you’ll never do it again. But something makes you keep trying, keep putting your cards out on the table, waiting for the right hand, carefully eying the players for their poker face. You sign up and you delete, you give up and you repeat. You fall backwards and then forwards, believing, and then trying your best to hide the disbelief when someone turns out just so very… very…. wrong. You venture out alone on trips and adventures, you invest in yourself and in your future, figuring if someone is meant to be in your life, they will enter it.

It’ll take months that turn into years until you finally, somehow, do in fact, meet someone. Unexpectedly. And those bad dates will seem far away, those experiences that were so disheartening, feel enlightening. Those things that were once so hard – texting and setting up dates and talking plans – are just easy. Simple. Uncomplicated. Because that’s how life happens. All at once, instantly.

Or, not at all.

To those of you who just graduated – or have been removed from school for a while but are embarking on a big change, don’t let go of your faith. Savor those periods of flourishing and mystery, where nothing seems certain, where everything is in the air. Because while it doesn’t feel like it at the time, those are the days when the magic is unfolding. That’s when it’s all happening.

And even if you can’t enjoy it now – don’t worry. You’ll go through the same cycle every few years, with every new place, new job, new guy – and it’ll feel just the same. Except that you’ll just be watching i from a new point of view, the kind of view where you can look into a room and see different stages of your life illustrated in strangers. And you’ll hope that for their sake, they let life take it’s tides.

That they’ll have the courage to let it happen. All at once. And then not at all. All at once… it’ll just all unfold.

 

 

 

 

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Before the final round interview for my dream job, I went out to a handful of stores to find something I’d feel sassy and confident in. Considering how much I wanted the position, I knew I needed to not only study up and prepare intensely for the interview, but also have that extra kick that comes from an outfit that looks just plain killer.

It took a little time, but I ultimately found a pleated pencil skirt and silky top duo from H&M that seemed to fit the bill with some careful accessorizing. The morning of, my friend M came over to approve of the outfit I created (my personal fashion consultant who charges by the glass of champagne) and to come along with me, that way she’d be there once it was over. Mr. P was there in my apartment too, since he was visiting to wish me luck.

Standing in front of the mirror, I said to them: “I have something new (the dress), something old (the shoes), something blue (my cardigan) – but what about borrowed?” Instinctively as if he was waiting for it, Mr. P handed me his Chapstick (yes he carries Chapstick). I smiled and glanced over at M who was sweetly rolling her eyes at me. Mr. P asked as I applied his borrowed gift, “Are you going to marry this job?” I thought about it, pressed my lips together to make sure the gloss was even and said, “I hope…I do!” Mr. P kissed my head, told me to go get em’ Tigar, and headed to work. M and I caught the train after some prayers and some praises to the Job Fairies, and the next day, I got the call that would change my life.

The offer of my dream job. Tomorrow, I start.

Maybe it’s the way to pass time or to calm jitters, but I had a vision of wearing a blue dress on my first day. I wasn’t sold on the idea until my mom called to say she had the same prediction and that it was an astrologically-sound color, so I quickly went on the hunt for the perfect one. Turns out, finding a not-too-professional, not-too-casual, not-too-tight, not-too-loose, not-too-classic, not-too-modern dress in Manhattan isn’t as easy as it sounds. Maybe I was asking for a tall order and just didn’t realize it.

Over the course of week, I went to two TJ Maxx stores, Marshall’s, Gap, H&M, Forever 21, Bloomingdales, Barneys, Express, New York & Company, and a few no-namers without any luck. I messaged my friends for their opinions, called my mom wishing she was there to go around with me, and even got caught in the rain a few times, wondering where in the world my new something blue was.

Finally, today, about an hour or so ago, M and I were picking through the clearance rack at Filene’s Basement and there it was.

Stuck between something with sequins and a pasley skirt, a petite dress that fit me just right. As soon as I put it on, I felt what brides must feel when they find their wedding gown: I screamed to M: “I found it! This is it!!” I cached out of the dressing room and she smiled, beaming and probably relieved that I wouldn’t hassle her with the search anymore: “It’s perfect, Linds!”

And it is.

But the dress doesn’t make the job, just like it doesn’t make a marriage. Even so, a job and a marriage have more things in common than we think. If we’re lucky, they bring us immense joy, but require a lot of work and understanding. Like you must make a commitment to continuously get to know your partner as they change, at a job you should constantly challenge yourself to learn more, to raise the bar higher for yourself and the company. You get to practice trial and error, especially in media – seeing what stories work and what doesn’t, and how to communicate your message effectively. Doesn’t the same go with your partner? You must remain dedicated and patient with yourself as well as your mate and your career, and you should plan for the future as much as you practice diligence in today.

And if we’re lucky, the job and the marriage gives as much as it takes, and it makes some of those dreams we had as kids become a reality. I may not be the expert on falling love, but I think the two things you can fall in the love with the hardest are often the ones we think we’ll never find: the dream job and the dream guy.

I’ve found one out of two and I’m not 30 yet. I’ll accredit it to the luck of the something old, something new, something borrowed, and finally, something blue.

PS: Have a question for me? Want to know anything about my life/advice from my adventures in dating? Before September 19, I’ll publish a post answering all of your questions. Email me, Tweet me, Tumble me, or Facebook me. Or you can comment below!

You Probably Think This Post is About You

I’m overly analytic of nearly everything in my life, which is probably the reason why I’ve been able to consecutively blog for such a long time. My friends always comment on how they’re amazed how a single moment can cause me to spew a 1,000 word post in twenty minutes. I can’t explain it other than I feel like I was born to write because it comes easier to me than anything else and I’m lucky to have it as my day and night job.

So, with idle time this weekend after finally finding the perfect apartment for me (more details to come), I spent some time in the back-end of this blog, figuring out what I could about the people who visit and the readers who comment. Always interested to see what works and what doesn’t, I went through the posts to see what topped the list. As trite and overly cliché as it seems, I was under the impression that the most read and most liked daily journals would be the ones I considered empowering and demanding. The ones that slap you in the face with their boldness and their dedication to being fiercely single and satisfied. The posts that I wrote when I felt completely content being alone and celebrated the fact that any opportunity was around the corner, and if it wasn’t, I was more than okay stomping to the beat of my own Louies, while telling the man of the hour or the man of forever to hell with himself.

And as I usually am when I think I’m right about something – I was totally wrong.

Apart from the blog that made it to the homepage of WordPress (and is primarily the reason many of you are reading), “Frankly, I Do Give a Damn” – the most read posts have to do with one thing and one thing only: Mr. Possibility.

This discovery not only annoyed me but confused me: why is he the breakout star of my blog? Why do I receive more traffic when I write something about what he does or how I feel about him? Why does he matter so much in a space that’s supposed to be about declaring independence and breaking away from whatever bounds restrict us to the need to feel completed by a dude? In a blog that’s about the journey to learning to love myself, why is everyone so concerned with who I possibly could be falling for? Why does Mr. Possibility get all the attention?

Equally intrigued and irritated, I painstakingly went back through all of the top 20 posts, 13 of which mentioned, referred or described Mr. Possibility in some fashion, and re-read them. I looked for trending topics and themes, the style of writing and the language I used. I tried to pinpoint my tone or the overall conclusion I reached by the end of the topic-of-the-day. I read through comments, I checked the links I linked to, and even Gchatted a few friends to see if they would join me in my rather unimportant research.

Could it be that everyone loves a love story? I suppose if there was a “Mr. Big” of the blog, Mr. Possibility would hold that title. We did see a Broadway show starring Chris Noth, so maybe that analogy isn’t so far-fetched. Nevertheless, is it the possibility that something more could unfold, that I could find happiness in romantic love while blogging the e-pages of the endless tangled web of WordPress? Is it the ups and the downs we’ve experienced, the drama that’s unnecessarily unfolded, and the fact that the ending is undetermined as happily ever or undefined? Is it that we relate to a character who shows promise, who grows on us, who we give a second chance to, or even just a first if we’re so jaded that we often refuse to give anyone a window into our hearts? Is it from the lovers who want to see love, or the haters who would like to see me crumpled on the cold New York pavement, that so many hopefuls like myself, have found themselves, in the decades before?

Or is it the honesty? Is it the willingness to go on record (even if it is just my own) and say how I feel before a world of strangers? In front of people I’ve never met and most likely never will? Is it that while you can share your name on an online space that belongs to you, there is a sense of anonymity in blogging – real names, real emails, real anything not required to begin, comment, or share? Is it inspiring, entertaining, and comforting to read about the dating dilemmas we all have in common? Is it that we’ve all felt the same things at different points in varying towns from California and Georgia to South Africa and London? I mean, isn’t any man a Mr. Possibility until he proves to be the right guy or another in the long list of Mr. Wrongs?

Or is it me?

In re-reading through the posts, trying to take an outsider’s perspective on my own experiences, I discovered that somehow, along my path to self-love, I took a different direction. Instead of being a single gal parading about town, dismissing guys as quickly as I tempt them to buy me a drink, I found myself pretty connected to one person. And while my blog was always about finding self-love, with or without a relationship, when the prospect of being a couple doesn’t seem so scary or so far away, things change. Along with priorities and perspectives. And hype is built, along with hopes and plans of what a future could hold regardless of how likely or unlikely such a thing is. Somehow in those pursuits, I found myself swept and carried away, writing and rambling about my love life because that’s what I’ve always done. That’s the pattern. When someone new and exciting who brings me joy in a way others haven’t before, I get excited. The only difference now, is that I have a record showing the progression and the story I’m writing with Mr. Possibility merely a click away. There is no hiding from a published post, no matter how hard you try.

And so I realized again, as I tend to realize quite frequently these days, that I’m human. That when I like someone, I don’t hide it. When I’m upset, I write it. When I’m pleased, I proclaim it. When I’m tired, I damn it. When I’m hurt, I walk away. And when a Mr. Possibility is a possibility, I pour so much into the post, so much of that brutal honesty that readers seem to click.

I may have been so vain to think this post, this blog, is about me and maybe I was right. But popularity apparently is not based on the blogs that entice independence and make me look powerful in my super high heels. It is tracked, however, by the ones that get – and deserve – the most attention because they get to the heart of the matter. The heart of the person writing. The heart of the person who is dwelling in possibility or in impossibility, depending on the day or the time or the guest star.

And Mr. Possibility is currently deserving of that role, even if the length of his stardom is undetermined. My guess is though, should he lose, gain, or denounce that title, and another man takes it – the clicks will be just the same. I mean, he, just like me, can’t be as vain to think this post is about him. It’s about every Mr. Possibility who has ever been a possibility for any Lindsay or any anyone who has ever saw a glimmer of love that could make a someone into a something.