If the World Ends

Apparently, the world is going to end on Saturday. I was under the impression the apocalypse was in 2012, but apparently I haven’t been keeping up with the rapture news. I promise to be better next time, if there is one.

I didn’t believe in Y2Y when it didn’t happen and I don’t give much credit to the end of the world as we know it this go around, either. But as my group of friends discussed happily ever over, my mind wandered to thoughts of what I would do this week if I was actually promised, without reasonable doubt and based on scientific theory with a promise from the heavens that lights would be shut off in six days.

I’d like to think I live my life pretty openly, doing and enjoying the things I crave. I don’t really limit myself too awful much and definitely not as much as I used to. If I want a mini carrot cake cupcake as a snack, I walk to seventh avenue and buy one. If I don’t really feel like running because I didn’t get as much sleep as I would have preferred, I give the pavement a rest. If I’m single and he’s cute, I’ll kiss on the first date if the mood strikes me. If I’m given an opportunity I doubt I’ll find again, I take up the offer and push my savings account to make it happen. If I’m starting to fall in love with someone, if they’re getting under my skin, I may hesitate, but I breathe, gather myself, and let my heart flow in the direction it desires. If I see a chance that needs taking, I take it; and if there’s road that’s less traveled, I’ll go where there are no signs and make my own route.

I wouldn’t say I’m fearless or brave but I have confidence in myself, and especially in my capabilities to adapt to new situations and tough times. Even more so, at this time in my life, I’m growing better at listening to my own needs and following my inhibitions instead of my doubts.

But if the world really did end – what would it remember about me?

It’d have this blog, with ramblings about things that matter and things that don’t. It’d have a handful of bylines from various publications, online and elsewhere. It’d have my membership in a sorority, my degree from a university on top of a mountain, a few addresses in New York, employment at a magazine, and the efforts I’ve made as a volunteer for a decade. Relationships and people aside, my living resume of things I’ve developed, created, cultivated, and published doesn’t seem as long and extensive as I once imagined.

Sure, if the world ended, I would die at a young age and perhaps the world wouldn’t expect me to accomplish great feats or have great loves by this time in my life – but it isn’t success and men I’m concerned with. It’s more about wasting gifts.

I believe we all are blessed with a gift we can use to help improve the status quo of the world. To shake it up, if you will. We’re given a talent that others do not have or one that doesn’t come to them as easily as it comes to us. And with this special quality, we’re supposed to shed its light to the populations we can help. Those who are affected the most by us; those who need us the most.

And if we’re not using that skill to better the world, making a sincere effort for mankind, aren’t we wasting it?

I do a lot of things well and with ease, but the only true gift I’d ever claim is writing. It is as much a part of me as my own hands, without the ability to tap the keys or string together words, I’d feel lost and built up with emotions I badly needed to express. Not everything I write is public and not everything is meant for me – but how often do I truly write about issues that will help others?

Or am I being too hard on myself? Am I thinking in terms of black and white, survival or catastrophe? Do I think a New York Times byline about suffrage or abuse affects more people than a freelance post for a semi-well-known women’s e-zine? Yeah, I do and I’m accurate to think it reaches more people, but inaccurate to think I can measure its impact.

That’s the thing about writing – you put it out and you never quite know how far it got or what you did by carefully and strategically putting sentences together.  If the world ends, I may have not reached my dream job, picked up my own book at a bookstore, or been interviewed as a voice for women – but I’m making an effort. I’m giving what I have to give, regardless if one person reads or 10,000.

Because all we can do is make our own little contributions to the world and hope that as long as the globe balances on its axis someone, somewhere, somehow, is benefiting from our work. And if you’re not giving, you have time to start. Even if it may be just a few more days.

Just the Way It Is

A week from Friday, my current apartment’s lease is up. Two weeks later, my new apartment is ready for a proper move-in. In that span, I also will attend two weddings, close two months of magazines, organize two volunteer projects for children’s literacy, write around 21 blog posts, submit two revised freelancing pitches for national publications, collect two paychecks and a tax return, start to pair up a buddy system I created, and well, hopefully have drinks and adventures with those I love the most. If I’m lucky, I’ll get in at least four runs a week, too.

Oh my.

Everything I own, which is way more than I thought it was, is in piles of boxes, bags, and suitcases scattered across my studio, and all that remains unpacked is my planned attire for tomorrow, a bag of popcorn I’m counting as dinner tonight, a few dishes, and my bedding. For the next weeks, I’ll be living out of a suitcase while figuring out how to schedule a mattress delivery and deciding if I’ll buy a new dresser from Ikea or scope out Craigslist. Considering if took me nearly a month to commit to a comforter and sheets, I should probably start researching yesterday.

All of these changes and stress, both emotionally and physically, have not only caused an unexpected breakout at quite the unfortunate time, but I’ve found myself irritable and cranky, and overall, just exhausted. With a million worries circulating my mind, I haven’t been sleeping well and I wake up continuously to scribble a new task on my ever-growing to-do list by the light of my cell phone. For a few days now, I’ve been complaining to my friends, family, Mr. P, and really anyone who will listen to my so-called troubles. I don’t have enough this, too much of that, too little fun, too much work, too little help, too much going on to manage.

And in the middle of singing my woe-is-me song to a friend who’s been in the city far longer than I have , she interrupted and asked, “Linds, I love you – really. But do you really think you’re the first person to move apartments at an inconvenient time? This won’t be your last move and really, it may be your easiest.”

Touché , E, Touché .

While my blog is about me and can come off as self-absorbed, I promise I’m not. This is a space to spew and discuss, and while I’ve never considered myself the crème de la crème of New York women – in my weeks of transitions and in thinking of the ones to come, I’ve forgotten that this is just how the city is.  Just how being a 20-something is. It is, just how it is.

People unpack and then vacate their apartments – hence why they are apartments to start with. We rent until the lease ceases and then we find another place to call home (unless we stumble across rent-controlled, then we stay put forevermore). Landlords expect cash-flow to change, they raise prices and lower them, give deals to those who are good tenants, and if we’re tenacious enough, we may find a no-fee broker to help us get through the dirty work of the search. Up until we get married or decide we don’t need a ring to have a mortgage, we will continue to be in the cycle of the move: experiencing the freshness of a new space with a clean slate, and remembering fondly or in remorse of the address we used to claim.

And as fate would have it, my friend M from college will be taking over my apartment on May 1. Just as I did, she’s moving sans job but with bountiful determination. We’re in similar industries and an entry-level salary fits the price tag of this place, plus it comes with a glowing recommendation from me. Or maybe it’s appeal is that it allows her kitten to can come along on her new journey, too. While packing up my things, I continue to think of her and remember how I felt in those days before I made my big move. I felt a lot like how I do now – uncertain and a little frightened, but more ready than fearful. This change of ten blocks isn’t as huge of a leap as hundreds of miles like moving from North Carolina was, yet any scenery development can be worrisome.

And while I’m not her and I can’t speak for her feelings, I know what those shoes feel like before New York breaks them in. As every dreamer and overachiever does, she’ll find her footing and she’ll land on solid ground, while crashing-and-burning a few times along the way. If the ideal position doesn’t open up, she’ll hostess or be a temp until her career path leads her where she is moving to the city to follow. It won’t be easy and she will probably doubt herself a dozen or so times, but in the end, it will all make sense and it will all be worth it.

To remind her to take it day-by-day and to not let a tired spirit get in her way, I’ve hidden some notes here-and-there and I’m passing down a gift that was given to me that’s kept me going when my going got tough. And though I may not always listen to my own advice or the cautions of others, getting caught up thinking I’m the only Manhattan nomad –  I will pass along something else, written carefully and with love on an index card for M to see:

“It is just the way New York is. But really, you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Big Idea

As an editor at a magazine for budding entrepreneurs who are working diligently to make their business successful, I spend a lot of time researching industries and companies on the rise. I find myself engrossed in stories of people who had the courage and the determination to make everything out of absolutely nothing.

Or perhaps not nothing, but rather – one hell of a big idea.

While we may not all have the guts to invest our own money or ensure someone else our idea is worth their risk, the minute we decide to place our feelings on the line – we all become entrepreneurs. Very niche owners of the matters of our hearts in the business of prospecting, attracting, and investing in love. And while we’d all like to think the return will inevitably be high, like all zany and unpredictable game changers that never quite make sense on paper (or far too much sense) – there is never a guarantee that what we put into a relationship will be just as much or possibly more than what we get back.

But more than being players who sometimes win big and lose largely when taking a chance on a suitor who may not be suitable – the definition of a relationship is based on an idea. It’s a perspective we each create for ourselves. It’s personal. It’s the accumulation of the experiences, the people, the triangles, and the jungles we’ve weeded through to end up where we are. How you see a relationship may not look the same through my eyes, and vice versa. What constitutes as love and what it feels like to be madly, happily entangled with another person may not feel the same to me as it does to you. All relationships may be different, but so are the people who find themselves attempting (or avoiding) entering them.

Yet, there’s a thing we all have in common – our willingness and our relentless spirit to defend that big idea. That big love. That something that I can’t put into words that makes us all desire and go after this romantically inclined bliss. That yearning to meet someone who just gets us, who we can lounge with as easily as we can lay with them. That sense of comfort that also translates into passion and shared interests and a path to pursue together.

And that idea we will defend with every ounce of energy we have. We’ll go to war on its behalf. We’ll vow to stand by it, no matter how hard it tries to knock us down or take away the wind that keeps us alive. We’ll go against any advice, any warning, any red flag, any anything that attempts to steer us away from what we perceive as that big love.

However, what we forget is that what we’re putting up arms and raising our guns for isn’t actually real. We may believe in it more than we believe in ourselves, we may ache for it in places that have always seemed broken, and we may convince ourselves that this person, this man, makes the dreams we had a pleasant reality.

Really, finding the big love is actually just putting a physical form to a big idea.

But getting caught up in the search for the big love to give life to a big idea keeps us in a constant state of projecting. Regardless if we mean to do it (I doubt we do) or not, when dating or mating or both – we will continuously wonder if this dude fits into the plan. If he acts in a way, comes across in a way, looks at us in a way, makes us feel in a way, is in a way – the answer to the big idea. The funding in our hearts that takes the thought and the visualization out of our heads and onto the streets. On his knees. At the altar.

And by seeing if he fits the bill or hits the mark, we stop concentrating on what’s more important than an idea and frankly, more important than love. We lose sight of the man. The consideration isn’t if he fits into a mold we’ve created or has the bank account we dreamed of or is precisely over 6’0″. The question is – do we care?

I once had drinks with an older woman who liked my blog and wanted to give me some advice. Being the inquisitive person I am, I agreed and she, of course, said something that stuck with me. Having been happily married to her husband for over 30 years, she told me that their relationship wasn’t her idea of love. It wasn’t what she was looking for or what she thought she’d find. It went against any rule she set out and this man, wasn’t the guy she pictured herself with in the long run. They had their complications and their issues, but they picked each other. And when she fell for him, when she “just knew’ – she stopped caring about her idea of love.

Because after all the work is put in, the blueprints are constructed, the desires are marketed and tested, the industry is made well-aware of availability, and investments and bets are placed – that’s when the business has to run. Or the relationship.

And nothing can become successful or be profitable in love, without having the ability to take a step back and realizing that what matters the most isn’t the idea. It’s our ability to accept that even the best of ideas, the most well-intended of plans, sometimes take us in a completely different way. Like a business plan that is meant to be an ever-evolving piece of literature that guides a company but doesn’t dictate it – to keep that big love around, we’ve gotta be able to change our minds.

And perhaps, let us come up with an even better and bigger idea.

How To Measure the Return on Love

When I moved to New York, jobless, with my entire life packed into two suitcases – I never doubted my ability to break into publishing. Sure, I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk-in-the-park and my first job wouldn’t be my big break or my dream magazine –but something inside of me said: “Just go, it’ll all work out.”

Fast forward three weeks after my plane touched ground and I find myself jumping-up-and-down frantically while accepting my first Editorial Assistant position at a… business magazine.

My first day on the job, my wonderful editor, D (whom I admire so much!) assigned me a few articles and told me to get started. As I sat down and started to read the results from a survey I would be writing about – I realized: I have no idea what any of this means.

My background is in women’s interest which has included everything from women’s rights and fashion to sex and beauty. I never took one business class in college and truth-be-told, hardly read any business articles until I accepted this job.

When my first article came back, bleeding in red markups, my editor asked questions like: “How much was the investment?” and “Where did they focus their marketing efforts and how did they reel in the ideal customer in their industry?” and finally, “Well, what is their ROI?” ROI is one of the many ways to measure the success of a business.

Although it may make me look like a total idiot, I quickly Googled “ROI” and figured out it meant “Return on Investment” which is usually expressed in a percentage based on total costs balanced with revenues. Basically, it’s asking: I pumped all of this money into this idea or this business or this marketing strategy, and I got what in return?

But what about return in love? We invest so much of our thoughts, our time, our hearts, our minds, and our bodies into a relationship or almostrelationship, risking the possibility of being totally let down or heart broken, and what do we get in exchange?

How do you measure ROL (Return on Love)?

Though relationships should be pretty evenly balanced, unavoidably, there tends to be someone who gives more than they take. The same is true in platonic friendships, in the working environment, and when it’s all in the family. My role, both as the giver and the taker, has changed in every relationship I’ve been in – but if I’m honest with myself about what role I play most of the time –it’s the giver. While Mr. Faithful put way more into the relationship than I ever did, with Mr. Curls, Mr. Fire, Mr. Fling, Mr. Buddy, Mr. Rebound, and Mr. Idea – I was the one left upset or burned by the ending of the relationship.

So really, the older I’ve become, the more I’ve given – which has resulted in more hardship. Does this mean my ROL has been low? Have I placed much more of my heart and my time into relationships, than I’ve received in return?

I can’t say that choosing the role between the lender or the borrower can predict what someone’s return will be when they take the chance at falling in love. But what you can measure is how you handle yourself when it’s time to calculate the risk you took.

Sure we get disappointed and we feel that awful sting of resentment and of heartache when a relationship comes to a close that’s not on our terms. And yes, we reserve the right to mourn the loss of the end of a chapter, a dent in our hearts (and pride), and the sadness that comes with realizing what we thought would be, will not.

We’re meant to fall in love and fall out of it. We’re meant to be bruised and broken down at times – that is part of life, and that is human nature. Those personal sized Ben & Jerry’s cartons, Nicholas Sparks books and movies, and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” are successful for a reason. We all feel those rushes of ups and downs, highs and lows, and beliefs and denials – it’s how we process and how we cope.

But it’s after those days of exhaustion and of crying, of hating and of chasing “what-ifs” away – that we learn how much we truly learned. And if we can take some piece of clarity about what we want and how we’ve grown from the investment we put into a relationship, then I believe our ROL is quite high. If we can see the conclusion of a relationship as not the end-all-be-all, but instead the first day of the rest of our lives – then anything we’ve invested or planned for or put into love, goes straight back to us. In that way, we take back our control and our power, instead of giving it away to the person who left us broken.

Every person that has filtered through our hearts, lives, and legs has been there to show us something. I’m under the belief that fate has a magic hand in everything and when a relationship ends, it opens the door to something more incredible, more powerful, and more everlasting: the opportunity to redefine yourself. To fall in love with yourself again and remember who you are, outside of the icky relationship residue you’ve been swimming in. To pick up the pieces, collect your debts, count your losses, and figure out how you’re going to boost up the return in the next quarter. Just like you have to pump some sort of funds into a business to make it grow, to become a better-you, and more lovingly-profitable in a relationship, you have to go through several good and bad quarters before you find your traction.

Because single women (and men) are much like the entrepreneurs I write about – when they fail or hit a rough spot or lose their hope, they bounce back with a fierce diligence…that ultimately, that hope and passion – leads to their success.