Someone is Being Raped Right Now

A seven-year-old girl in the Congo, with braids and bright eyes who knows about the harshness of her land but has yet to experience it until now. A child bride who wears henna down her arm and color on her eyes but refuses sex with her 40-something husband because she doesn’t understand it and in result, is beaten. A woman, to pay off her family’s debt in Iran, is sold to another family and is abused every single day by her in-laws, sexually, physically, emotionally. A teenager who is sold into the sex trade in Cambodia and forced to please more than 10 men a day, often without any sort of protection, and will ultimately contract AIDS. On her way to school, just like any other 13-year-old, a girl in India is gang raped by men repeatedly until she nearly dies…and will never be able to have children. And a girl you may know, of any age in any state in the United States, is raped, sexually abused or prostituted. Usually by someone she knows. Usually by a romantic partner.

This may be a little much for your morning coffee but this is life for an incredible amount of women worldwide.

In the Congo, a woman is victimized every minute. Cambodia’s illegal sex trade generates $500 million a year. More than 55,000 women and children are sex slaves in Cambodia, 35 percent of which are younger than 18 years of age. If you go to Thailand or India — you can purchase a girl and essentially free her from slavery for as little as $100.

And yet, less than 1 percent of U.S. foreign aid is specifically targeted to women and girls. (Though the Violence Against Women Act did pass Congress and President Obama signed it yesterday, which is amazing.)

As a rape survivor myself, when I read alarming reports and statistics about violence against women, I’m completely flabbergasted. It often seems like a problem so big and so vast and so incomprehensible that its easy to turn away. To close out this blog window and play on Pinterest or Facebook instead.

And you’re right, that’s easier.

But there are things you can do, every single day with little effort, with little money that can dramatically change the life of a woman you’ve never met. And probably never will. Today is International Women’s Day and in honor of the day, I challenge you to do something to help. Every year, I pick a local charity in a place that’s extremely dangerous for women and I give a portion of my salary to help their efforts. It’s not a lot but I hope that somewhere, some wonderful girl who never had a chance — has one.

Below are some great organizations that are really working in a grassroots, hands-on way to make big changes. I hope you’ll celebrate every woman you know by contributing — or at the very least, read more about violence toward women across the globe. (Half the Sky is a great, eye-opening place to start.)

American Assistance for Cambodia
They fight trafficking and work to keep girls in school and out of the rings.

Apne Aap
They battle sex trafficking in India. They also welcome volunteers, anytime, to help and become teachers.

Averting Maternal Death & Disability 
Helping expecting moms get the care and consideration they deserve.

ECPAT
Network of groups fighting child prostitution in Southeast Asia.

Global Fund for Women
This organization provides capital for poor women around the world to start their own ventures.

Global Giving
Find a project — from disaster recovery education — that you’re passionate about.

Global Grassroots
Helps poor and trafficked women in Sudan.

Kiva
Microlending helps women in abusive marriages and relationships find a way to start their own trade business, make a living and change their husband’s culturally-accepted perception of a woman. Oftentimes when a wife starts earning an income, she has more power and balance.

New Light
This organization helps women and children prostitutes in India. They also welcome volunteers.

Pennies for Peace
Greg Mortenson’s organization that provides education for girls in Pakistan & Afghanistan.

Somaly Mam Foundation
A sex trafficking survivor herself, Somaly Mam started this organization and it fights sex slavery in Cambodia.

Women’s Dignity Project
Facilitates the repair of obstetric fistulas in Tanzania.

Worldwide Fistula Fund
They work to help moms in Niger.

So Very Worth It

In a few weeks, I’ll celebrate the third anniversary with the city I love.

It’s seen me through for better and for worst. It’s pushed me out of a love I hoped would last and into days I never wanted to end. I’ve seen it transform itself and me with it’s ever-changing, ever-beautiful ways. It’s still like living in a dream, but it’s more like living in an interesting world I created. That I achieved. That against the odds, I found and made for myself. The streets don’t scare me anymore but they do entice me. I don’t feel like I’ve finished all the things I came here to do but I know I’ve done quite a lot in not a lot of time.

I flow better with the rhythm and the speed of the people and with buildings that surround and challenge me. I’ve given into wearing black, yet I still let my colorful intentions radiate. I understand and have experienced the harshness of the land and the field I’ve decided to pursue. It hasn’t always been easy, not at all, but it has always been a journey, with every step and certainly every stumble. Not matter if there was something — or someone — to break my fall or… nothing at all.

I’ve dated and fallen in love with the natives here — men I used to refer to as businessmen, but now adequately equate as investment bankers or financial traders, even though it all seems like all business (and all cold-hearted) to me. I’ve fished on all the dating sites that I can and I’ve met a few good ones among the constant crash of terrible matches. I’ve tried my hand at the bars on the east and those on the west, but I’ve settled into neighborhoods that fit me better than the rest.

I’ve learned to judge in ways I’m not proud of, but I’ve also developed opinions that I now stand firmly beside. I’ve left the island only to feel in my bones that I would never feel as much at home as I do in this strange place. I’ve missed trains and opportunities, passed by strangers who could have used my help and given too much of myself to someone who didn’t really need it. Or want it. I’ve been embarrassed of ignorance in a city so full of brilliance, and I’ve savored my Southern roots for all that they’re worth and all that they’ve made me. I’ve missed people I’ve yet to meet and hungered for days I have never lived but I’ve also finally learned to settle into the skin and the place I’m in.

I never knew for certain that I would make it here in New York, an urban jungle that determines making it anywhere else in the big old world with all it’s big old cities. I didn’t doubt my abilities or my talents or my humble, caring attitude that I still believe gets me further than anything else. It’s even more powerful than the sound of my heels clicking miles before I appear. I wondered if I would become anther listless writer, another hopeless dreamer who lost her way somewhere between New Jersey and Queens. I didn’t know if I could convince someone to give me a chance or if I could even survive on the minimal salary that I knew would come with my very first big girl job.

But I did believe I should try.

Even if failed to a disappointing demise and had to tuck my Tigar tail and catch a flight to the bittersweet Carolina, I knew I had to give it a go. Remorse I could live with, regret I could not.

It all worked out– as I imagined it possibly would. And I worked myself out in the process. It’s easy and probably sensible to argue that these changes and these growths were mainly due to my age — so much happens in the years between when you’re old enough to buy a beer and when you face the big three zero. But I have to give credit to the city that made me brave. That made me a fighter. That knocked me down and encouraged me to never stay sitting for too long.

I often wonder if I’ll stay here in this island forever– if New York is where I’ll want to raise my children, should I be lucky enough to have them. I think about the days when I’ll move in with a man into a (nicer!) apartment and when I make more money to do more things, and yes, give me more responsibility and accountability. Though I feel like so much has happened on these avenues and in those changing wintry or steamy seasons, if I’m really honest, it’s really just begun.

And the beauty of not knowing my fate with my sweet and seductive city is just like not knowing my fate with anything else: it’s a little scary. But it makes me hopeful more than it makes me anxious. If so much good has happened and I’ve been able to move past the bad to find the parts that I can learn from — surely what’s ahead of me is even better than what’s behind me. Perhaps the heartaches and headaches and growing pains are far from over — but I do think that a love, an apartment, a moment with my wonderful Manhattan are silver linings I’ll one day be able to experience.

No, moving to New York has never been completely, totally perfect. Not my life here, not the dating adventures I always blog about. But you know what? That’s what makes it so amazing. That’s what makes it — and will always make it — so very worth it.

The Money Rule

Once upon a time, I went on a date with someone we’ll lovingly refer to as Mr. Jekyll. I met him while indoor rock climbing and somehow, I was mystified by his charm. After a few Facebook messages and some inappropriate sexting (though we never took it to the Weiner level), we met up for our first date.

It was casual and cool with semi-decent conversation and though I didn’t feel the “click” – I felt the need to see him again, if for anything but companionship. He however was so intrigued (or wanted to turn sexting into real-time, in-person sex) that he planned an elaborate dinner over candlelight at a semi-expensive Italian restaurant. He picked me up in his Jeep Cherokee circa-early 1990s, and even held my hand to help me step out in my tall heels.

After we shared an appetizer, an entrée a piece, and a bottle of wine, the server left the bill on the table. Going by the rule I have in the beginning of dating that “whoever asks who on the date should pay” – I left the check unattended and continued our conversation. After twenty minutes passed and he glanced at the bill and me a few times, I finally said, “Well, we should go if we’re going to catch that movie!” He groaned something inaudible under his breath and stammered, “I guess I’m paying,” and brought out a credit card. I thanked him and excused myself to the ladies room.

While pretending to relieve myself, I texted about six of my friends, asking if I was in the wrong by not offering to pay. They all excused me of financial responsibility for the date and I returned to the table to find Mr. Jekyll already in his coat, standing up, waiting to go. Mind you – he was doing this impatiently in a nice restaurant. Embarrassed, I hurried and he started walking before I had a chance to put my coat on.

On the way back to my apartment, he needed to stop for some beer but told me to stay in the car; he’d just be a second. When he returned (after not leaving the heat on for me in 20-degree weather), he literally threw a six pack (not bagged) in my lap and said, “Will you hold this?” Shocked he would so rudely throw something in my general direction, I gave him a hissing look and stared out the window, speechless. “Sure you want to go back to your apartment? We could have some free fun,” he coldly offered. I declined and he took me home.

Before I could step out, he asked, “Do you like rocks?” Confused, I asked him to clarify. He wouldn’t, just insisted I answer him. I replied with something along the lines of “Well, I like fossils and gemstones, but my favorite kind of rock is the one you can wear.”

I giggled. He wrinkled his forehead in disapproval and wishes me good night. I never heard from him again.

I hadn’t really thought of this dating story – maybe it was so awful I blocked it from my memory. Or because I never kissed the guy, he became quite unimportant on my roster of dates. It wasn’t until this weekend, as Mr. Possibility and I were walking around the Brooklyn Food Fair that the memory of that cold night returned to me.

Though Mr. Possibility brings in quite a bit more dough than I do, I always make an effort to offer to pay for things we do. When he joined me in North Carolina, I paid for our kayaking trip and for each visit to Dairy Queen that he insisted on. I’ll pay for lunch and he’ll pay for dinner if we go out. I usually take the inexpensive route, while he’ll cover the fancy things we do, and while it’s completely half and half, I think it’s important. He agrees – he claims he’s never (and would never) date a girl who didn’t at least go for her wallet.

So was I wrong with Mr. Jekyll? Should I have offered to pay, since he paid for our first date? Which, for the record, was at a little café and we split a pastry and two cups of coffee. Several years and boyfriends later, I still think I was in the right. My dollar rule is still true: if you intend to pay, you get to pick; if you don’t, you let them pick.

The reason I didn’t reach and the reason I didn’t pay with Mr. Jekyll was because not only did it catch me off guard, but he wanted a romantic meal, he wanted a bottle of wine, he wanted an appetizer – none of those items were my suggestions. I didn’t even pick the place! When I know I’ll be paying for two people instead of one or when it’s my event or my hometown, I’m in control of my finances. I’m in control of the bill and have the time to prepare and/or save for the occasion.

It’s not really a matter of who should pay or what’s acceptable or what’s supporting feminism – it’s about respect. Maybe with a little wisdom, I would have paid for half –but at that point in my life, that would have even been out of my budget. Mr. Jekyll may have been so annoyed at me that he never wanted to take me out again – or maybe he was doing what the majority of women do when they’re submerged in the dating circles: trying to get a free meal and a free ride.

Too bad his intentions were never met – at the table or in the bedroom. Let’s hope he’s found some rocks, wherever he is. In the meantime, I’m sporting a little one around my neck from Mr. Possibility and a littler one on my finger that I bought myself – now, that’s going dutch.

Daily gratitude: Today I’m thankful for the full-time job I have that allows me to have a fancy meal here and there, without running up a credit card.

Baby, Talk is(n’t) Cheap

Some become uncomfortable when others talk religion. Or politics. Or the birds-and-the-bees. These conversations rarely make me lose my train of thought and though others may not agree, I don’t sway my opinion to match what’s considered acceptable by whoever’s standards I’m discussing such topics with.

However, while money talks louder than sex, I’d much rather review every sexual encounter I’ve ever had than talk about cash flow.

For whatever reason, finances freak me the [insert foul word] the out. I come from a family that never struggled to make ends meet and my parents managed our assets smartly and strategically, giving me mostly anything I wanted – minus the pony in the backyard when I was six, but who remembers that? I’ve always been taught to value the dollar and that it is something that comes with hard work. Applying that mentality from the get-go, I started my own baby-sitting “business” at 13, after taking classes at the Red Cross for CPR and childcare, and my dad printed business cards for me, un-cleverly titled, “Lindsay’s Baby-Sitting.”

At 15, off the books and under the table, I earned an hourly wage at a privately owned hotel as a maid. My first day on the job, the head maid escorted me around the premises and I shadowed her cleaning skills and how to tuck the corners of the bedspread carefully. However, when we pulled off the sheets in the first room to discover whipped cream and strawberries, my virginal-self was a bit distracted during the rest of her lessons. Come to find out, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing I discovered at that job.

During high school and college, I worked at grocery and retail stores, restaurants, and daycares. On the side, I freelanced articles for next-to-nothing pay and for eight months, I wrote a weekly column for $10 a pop about worldly issues affecting local teens. I started a non-profit and I became a marketing machine of what I considered my greatest potential – my words. I was using MySpace to network before social networking was ever a topic of discussion. And through all of these odd jobs and while I developed an entrepreneurial spirit, I never stopped worrying about my mini un-wealth. It wasn’t – and maybe still isn’t – something I feel at ease talking about and while I believe in the freedom of speech, for me, that’s a talk that isn’t cheap.

To combat my woes, I’ve always been a saver and never one to really accept financial favors from anyone. After a certain age, it would churn my stomach to ask my parents for cash and I felt a sense of guilt that they were supporting me during school, while so many of my friends were already independent of their families. Men have often paid for my dinners and I almost always allow them to, but once I’m in a relationship, I feel more of a need to go 50/50. Mr. Possibility‘s bonus is more than my annual salary and while he can afford to cover me for every outing we take, I always make an effort to add in my literal two cents frequently. Because I’ve placed my savings where I can keep track of them, I know where I can spend money and where I can’t.

Even so, for years and even at points to this day, I’ve lost sleep stressing if I was making the right decisions with my income. Am I saving enough? Should I start investing? Am I getting the best deal? Do I really need that or can it wait? Have I gone out for drinks too often this week? Should I not get coffee this morning? Should I book that ticket or can I afford it?

And who the hell thought I was capable of maintaining my own financial stability when my idea of managing my money is logging onto BankofAmerica.com?

It took until I was truly on my own, without any financial support from mom and dad, paying my own bills and student loans, having only my name on a lease, and depending only on myself to eat, drink, and be merrily-with-money, that I started to relax. Within the first three weeks of moving many moons ago, I bought a plane ticket, transitioned myself into a new apartment where I had to fork over $1,600 for a deposit and first month’s rent, plus fed myself, and bought an unlimited Metro. I watched the stockpile of money I had been building for over six years quickly disassemble and realized that money was meant to be spent, not continuously counted and admired. I had not gone into banking because I couldn’t stand the thought of it – I had picked a career that no one pursues for the monetary pay-off, but almost all are satisfied with the print-out.

If the last few years attest to anything, it is that much of what we consider permanent is not as sturdy as we view it. Stocks and companies crash, bailouts aren’t always the best choice, and the lap of luxury we’d all like to lay in may never be an actual option. Their is no secret remedy to dismissing the fear of losing it all because no matter how much we make, how much we spend, or how much we save – there is no guarantee that what have today will be there tomorrow. Though I find myself mature with my finances and for the most part, I always make smart decisions – I’ve discovered the key to managing money is learning that to get, you have to give. Not just in charitable donations (as you should) but by enjoying your life instead of preparing for what could come or what may be inevitable.

I’m not to the point of frivilous spending or unplanned trips to exotic places, but if I want that Kate Spade bag or a pair of shoes half-off at Bloomingdales, I remember I’ve worked this hard and treating myself won’t destroy my accounts. Even so, if you ask me about it, I’ll won’t reveal my purchase. I’m just not one to spend and tell.

Breaking the Golden JAM Rule

A common recommendation from New York natives or those who have officially claimed the coveted “New Yorker” title after residing (and surviving) here long enough, is to never look for three things at the same time:

An apartment, a job, and a man.

I broke this Northern rule the moment I turned my back on the South. In fact, in the one diary I’ve kept my whole life that I lovingly call my “Dream Book” that documents everything from my first dollar made to my bucket list, I wrote the following on the plane ride to this restless city:

J (Job)– At a magazine geared toward women; fulfilling, full-time, benefits; at least $35K; gives me room to grow; in NYC or a borough; find it within a month.

A (Apartment)– Under $1,000/mo with utilities; one bedroom; in Manhattan; if I have a roommate, must have my own room; find it within three months.

M (Man)– Sincere, funny, successful, charming, romantic; tall; has great relationship with his family and lots of friends; doesn’t live at home; we have a quick engagement and a long marriage; meet within one year.

Not even six months past my 21st birthday – you could say I was a little unrealistic. But I was damned and determined to find exactly what I had come to this city to find and do what I wanted to and love who I knew I was meant to love. For me, catching that flight wasn’t an option, it was the next undeniable step I wanted to take to create the future I knew I was destined to have. I may have had some lofty expectations but I sincerely had the best of intentions. I was taught to instruct the universe on what I wanted and if I believed and was willing to put the elbow grease in, I would surely be worthy of my desires. I may have not been the first, but I was surely a lady who had faith in the American dream, no matter how far away from the States I often wish I could getaway to.

And maybe because I’m lucky or blessed or understand to thrive in Manhattan, you must never lose your spirit – I did find that job. And that apartment. And many, many men. I did manage to meet my minimum income requirement at a job that allows me to write  and is located in the heart of Chelsea, steps away from the Empire State. I did find my preferred location with a low-rent, no-fee, and cozy, yet homey apartment. And the guys I dated, from the Millionaire to the dozen-or-so who ultimately were incredibly unavailable, were (and are, presumably) successful. They were charming and funny. And Mr. Possibility, the man of the hour, doesn’t live at home and fits all of the specifications I laid out long before I stumbled easily into his life on a bus back to the city from JFK.

My high ambition to make New York jam for me was not unreachable, come to find out. I wanted to find a job in a month – I found one in three weeks. I wanted to find an apartment in three months – I found one in two weeks. I wanted to find the man I would marry – well, I grew up and realized I was (and still am) far too young to make such a huge commitment. Nor would I want to put a time limit or a deadline on something that will be one of the greatest and most important decisions I’ll ever make.

At the time, I handled the stress of moving, the fears of never succeeding, and the unrealistic notion that love would complete me fairly well. Maybe because I knew it was a make-it or break-it situation or because I had yet to be jaded by anything or anyone, but nevertheless, I set my mind to it and went after those three things diligently.

A handful of awful dates along with a few who blew it out of the romantic park, one cockroach by my sink, one giant hole placed in my 20th-century floor by literally earth-shattering sex, hundreds of blog posts, countless bylines in various publications, a partner with possibility, and the best group of friends (and gay hubbies) a gal could ever ask for – I find myself here. Settled just enough to feel stable, but still with the desire to explore. Happy with where I am, but knowing there are better things before me. Dreaming of what could be, remembering what was, and enjoying what is. And not only satisfied but thankful I was able to break the Golden JAM rule.

But now, that JAM is not so jammin‘. Or at least one part of it, anyways.

The search for an apartment couldn’t be more stressful. Not only is everything completely last-minute but it is like most of the good men in the city – the best apartments are taken before they can sincerely be considered available. Apart from finding a location that is not only free of a tiny disaster called bed begs but doesn’t cost an arm, a leg, and my first-born child, there is also often income requirements or the option to have someone sign who makes 40-80 times your rent. This is standard practice and understandable, but who wants to sign away such money on a dotted line – just in case my roommate and I are not able to fork over the dough one month? It is something I’d prefer to never request of someone, but I may have no choice. No-fee brokers are reachable night and day and willingly show apartments at the drop of a dime, after work hours and on the weekends.

And yet, I’m completely stressed out. As I write this post, I consider the time I’m losing scouring Craigslist while formulating my thoughts for this blog’s 200th post. The Golden JAM rule may always be applicable and it is something I’d now suggest to New York newcomers because maybe I’m older and more tired. Or just overly busy with a full-time job, a blog, and well, a life – but apartment searching on its own – no mind resumes and dinner dates – extinguishes my energy. .

Perhaps it took some familiarity with the city I love, instead of just seeing it on a shiny pedestal for a dozen years, for me to fully internalize the Golden JAM rule. It’s an important one to follow because all three of the components deserve all of your attention. If one is given more dedication than the other, if you’re looking for all of them at the same time, and if you’re under the impression they will all look as you thought they would – you will end up sorely disappointed. While there is no need for a man to make a happy home, there is a need for an income. While there is no need for an apartment if you’re living with a boyfriend, you need a job to escape from him. While there is no need for a job if you depend on a man to provide for you, you will still need a place to call haven. They may not all go hand-in-hand, but what would life be like without all three?

Well, at least without two, anyways – we know by now a relationship is optional until it is an option we can’t deny. And in this city, the men, the apartments, and the jobs are limitless. It’s just a matter of finding the right one at the right time in the right place.

The Bravery of a Fool

There are not many late-night, frantic, and ridiculous phone calls between women discussing the unpredictability of the typically predictable male that don’t involve questions concerning being a fool.

The adages are plentiful – only fools fall in love and everybody plays the fool without an exception to the rule. And the negativity behind this term is not just in a noun, but also a verb – fool me once, shame on you – but fool me twice, shame on me. While women may want to be beautiful and irreplaceable, a vixen, and maybe an officially official girlfriend – one phrase they never like to adopt is being the fool of a man.

Maybe I’m being too cliche in my perspective of this definition. But to me, a fool is someone who knows there is a chance for destruction with a man who has a reputation or has warned you of his troubles, and yet, against any recommendation or any red flag waving in the vast unknown – they willingly pursue and maybe even commit to such a character. Perhaps it is a lack of judgement or an inability to be prudent with those they date or open their legs for – either way, I think it’s a title we’ve all claimed at some point. Most of us, probably well knowing the role we were accepting before we took the stage.

But why would anyone want to be a fool for anyone? Wouldn’t we rather stay logical and collected, calm, and in control of the love we decide to share with only a someone who is willing to offer us the same? Isn’t being in a relationship only worth the wager if you know that while the stakes are high, there are two players playing on an even-playing field?

Call me crazy – but I agree to be in love, you must be a little foolish. It is not an easy task to openly offer up your heart, your emotions, and your hope to a person who may or may not handle such precious things with care. With a simple slip of the mouth, slip of the pants, or slip into a stranger’s bed – a man who you once trusted with your most intimate self could leave you waiting in the wings, covered in not just the dust of his speedy exit, but the residue of his countless lies. Sure,  all of these things are possible and no, they don’t always happen. But they could and they do. If such pain is plausible, we’d have to be irrational to rationalize love. Right?

Or is it that the thinnest line isn’t between faith and fortune. Or between flattery and fumbling.  Or loving and lusting. Or what we want and where we are. Or the beginning and the ending. Or  making love and making the dirty. Or exclusive and free.

But rather – the most blurred connection is between being a fool and being brave.

And if I follow the absurdity of fairytales or the blatant reality of my parent’s example of a relationship that can endure the test of time and health – being brave is the quality that made the dues payable. But to be courageous, one must always be a little asinine, or we wouldn’t realize what we were risking. And really, the largest investment we make in a relationship isn’t even in the person – however dreamy he may be – but the liability is in ourselves.

We must be brave enough to fall in love and absurd enough to trust someone other than ourselves with our most valuable assets. Because once they are out in the open, in front of the court to see and ridicule, there is not always a guarantee that a prince charming will ride our way. More often than not in times that are Millennial instead of Medieval – the knight’s armor is less than shining and more shunning. After all, the fool is not the princess or the lady in waiting or even a maiden of the most prestigious court. This character is rather the one who entertains, the one who hides their own face in an effort to bring joy to the lips of others. But the fool is no fool to her antics or her charm, to her words, or to the price she could pay for being honest or sarcastic. She knows the chance she takes, she knows the pieces that could shatter – but she does it anyways.

Because what we forget about being a fool is that to be one, you must realize your own value. And you have to know that if the crowd doesn’t take to what you present, you know there is safety and shelter in your own care. And in that power comes the ability to accept being a fool and knowing that though we get a wild card to play a prank on a friend on this day each year, there is never a holiday for deceiving ourselves.

Rather – it is something we do constantly, time after time, man after man. We convince ourselves he will be different. That it will be easy and just as we imagined. He will do those things we always wanted him to do. He will surprise us. He will love us unconditionally, if such a love is reasonable. We fool ourselves into falling in love again. And again. We accept the burden it carries when it doesn’t work out as anticipated and we bow to our audience, to the fates who tricked us again, and we go backstage to prepare for the next show.

For the next brave attempt at the foolish ways of love.

Following the Penny Lane

Once upon a time,  living in my sleepy North Carolina college town, a devastating emotional tornado swept the land, and left me in ruins in a place that was far from The Land of Oz.

It was more of a destination of isolation – where I could see the life I dreamed of, the streets I was meant to walk, and yet, I just couldn’t capture it. I just couldn’t get there. I didn’t have a miniature dog or miniature people to guide my way, nor a scarecrow, a tinman, or a lion. And though I hoped for the Good Witch of North to guide me to the direction of her name, I was stuck on Southern ground, worrying endlessly about my unwell father, mending the end of a love, and preparing for a summer in the city I had yet to determine if I could afford.

And yet, I found the courage, the heart, and the smarts to find the Wonderful Wizard that lives in a building with many windows on 57th and 8th. But not by following a yellow brick road, but rather by following the penny lane.

As if sent from a power beyond myself, during my sophomore year in college, right before my first internships in New York, I started finding pennies. Now, of course, I had stumbled across a penny before, and though it goes against tradition, my mother always made me retrieve them- heads or tails up. She claimed it was wasteful to discriminate against money because of the way Lincoln was laying. But unlike those times in grocery store parking lots where discovering a penny was a rare occurence, I started seeing them exactly when I needed them. No three clicks of my heel needed.

When I would start to stress over my lack of sleep and dedication to classes while working nearly 60 hours (or more) at the camps paper, I’d kick a penny across the tiled floor while grabbing lunch. When I went to the interview for the internship I’d be offered, I moved my stiletto to find a penny resting below it in the seat of the cab. As I pushed open the door to the building I would live in for the summer, I noticed a penny in the doorway. And when I returned to finish out my college tenure as quickly as possible so I could return to the Apple of Opportunities, the pennies didn’t stop falling in all the right places, at all the right times.

If I was upset over a someone who didn’t turn into a something, when I felt like I was never measuring up to what I convinced myself I needed to be, or when my insecurities outweighed my sense of intimate beauty – a penny would find its way to me. Most literally, at one point, when I threw up the sheets to make my bed after a romp I instantly regretted, a pesky coin flew its way to the center of my forehead, as if to say: It’s okay! You’re human, Linds.

And though it has been many moons since that Spring when I noticed the Penny Lane I unintentionally follow, these copper culprits still find a way to reassure me.

When I arrived at the doorway of my current job, a tiny triangle of three pennies pointed me inside the office. An hour after I signed my lease on April 2 the year I moved, I opened the giant bay window (the only perk of a completely sad studio) and knocked over a pile of pennies that were resting in the corner. The day I started this blog in a little cafe a few blows from my apartment on the Upper West, I went to unplug my laptop and someone walked by me and dropped a penny at my feet. They turned back to see what they misplaced, laughed, and said: “Well, I guess it is your lucky night, huh?”

And these one-cent wonders don’t stop at my career or my residence – they follow me in dating, too. When Mr. Idea and I decided to go bungee jumping together – at the point where we were diving right into love as well – on the platform, before I stepped 60 feet off into air, I reached into my short pockets and found a forgotten penny. When I met Mr. Unavailable for coffee in Bryant Park, the table we sat on had a few pennies laying casually in the middle. And when I met Mr. Possibility on that bus and we walked to Grand Central Station to catch the same uptown train, I picked up a penny crossing the avenue.

I had been putting off writing about pennies because my belief in their power that’s personal to me may sound a tad crazy to the outside world. People find pennies all day and we’ve all been taught they bring you luck – but that’s not what they give me. Well, perhaps luck is part of it, but mostly, pennies remind me that I’m always where I’m meant to be. That even if the road is jagged and it forks in places I’d rather it spoon, I know I’ll find my way to the top. And if not, I’m reminded I’m strong enough to pave a path where there is no road and create my own happiness. A penny may be just a penny to many, but to me, it’s a symbol that gives me strength. So yesterday when I found myself strangely plagued by pennies, I knew it was a sign to finally give them space on something they encouraged 193-posts ago.

Not feeling like my usual bubbly and energetic self, I spent the majority of work exhausted and pushing myself to prioritize and finish simple tasks. For weeks, I’ve felt a change-a-comin’ and unable to determine which wind will blow in a different direction, I haven’t just had a queasy stomach, but my mind has been sweating in anticipation, too. Knowing fresh air was the best cure for my daze, I took a break to soak up the energy I’m lucky enough to call my home. As I walked street-to-street, I looked down and saw a trail of three pennies pointing downtown, and so, excited by my copper angel’s appearance, I continued. Before my hour excursion was over, I found a total of five little friends. Reassured and humbled by the signs I felt were sent from fate, I returned to the magazine refreshed and ready to work.

And then, well-aware of my penny-obsession, Mr. Possibility who is currently overseas, sent me a picture with a caption that read: “Guess it is a day for finding pennies.”

Because I find them so frequently, which may be a testament to how much I waste time worrying, I’ve stopped picking them up. I figure, maybe someone else will find happiness in something so simple. Even if most of what we deem special in our lives is based on when it crossed our path. For me, pennies have become what clicking heels was to Dorothy – a way to feel comforted. To be transported into a place of peace.

I mean, when you’re not looking into Lincoln’s eye and turn the copper coin around, it says to trust in something higher than yourself. So when I come across them, as I do when I least expect it and never when I try to find them, I remember that while I may not know the rhyme or the riddle, or how long a season will last – I know there must be a reason. And if I doubt – I’m sure a penny will put me in my place and back on its lane that’s led me to right here, right now, right where I’m supposed to be.