Miles Behind Me

Both transitioning between one part of our life into another, my good friend M and I spent a recent afternoon going to the gym for several hours (no exaggeration, actually), sunning ourselves slightly (we’re embarrassingly pale for July), and talking about our futures. What’s coming seems to be a popular topic of interest among the majority of my 20-something friends, as we’re all continuously waiting for a grand gesture from the universe that somehow never seems like it’s coming.

(Until it does, that is. And it always does, eventually…probably, maybe, hopefully…right???)

As we’re walking back to my apartment in desperate need for a shower, we are faced with toddler traffic. Three strollers with happy, bouncy, adorable babies are coming toward us, their nannies leading the way. Reminded I live on the Upper West Kiddie Side, we moved aside to let them pass before crossing Amsterdam. Getting closer to my place, I casually say to M, still thinking of the cute blue-eyed, dimpled two year old, I say, “Isn’t it strange to think that we’ll probably have a baby of our own in ten years?” Not one who is keen on commitment and breaks out in hives at the thought of trying on a wedding gown, M said: “Yeah, it’s odd but think of all that’s happened in the last ten years!”

Hmm, let’s think about it.

In the past ten years, I’ve graduated from high school, started, and finished college. I’ve moved from my first home to a second home, from that second home to a lakehouse, from that lakehouse to a third home. I’ve packed up my all of my things to move to college, then a year later, packed up more things to move into an apartment, put those things in a storage unit, only to take them out a week later to move into another apartment. And then again to move to New York, my family mailing a box a week for six weeks. I’ve had several New York addresses. I’ve interned and transplanted myself in the city. I’ve bought furniture twice, paid utility and credit card bills, taken out students loans and started to pay them back, with a lovely thing called interest. I’ve saved up my money, only to spend it, and then save it up again, and again…and again.

I lost my virginity and then proceeded to sleep with x-number of people I’ll never reveal to this blog. I’ve fallen in love three times, learned how to orgasm, how to break up with someone, and how to nurse a heartbreak with puppies, alcohol, and cupcakes. I’ve shattered spirits and hearts, made friends and lost them. Joined groups and made them better, left them and started new ones on my own. I’ve experienced the annoying curse of Mother Nature for being female 120 times. I started getting acne and never stopped. I learned the difference between a push-up and a regular bra, miraculously in front of the mirror at Victoria’s Secret with the saleslady encouraging me to purchase a dozen outside the door: “Don’t they look great, pretty thing?”

I’ve gained ten pounds, only to lose 15. I’ve gone through clothes and through men, trying different ones on for size, only to find they just didn’t fit quite right. I learned how wear makeup, how to straighten my hair, and how to just accept my natural little, uncontrollable waves as they are. I passed the driver’s test in North Carolina, only to crash my car a month later, and have my parents say a prayer of thanksgiving when I moved to New York and was off the road, off their insurance. I became a runner and slacked on my schedule when things heated up with Mr. Idea and again, when things became official and steady with Mr. Possibility. I learned to play tennis and then took almost every guy I could to play a match with me as a great second date (and to see them run a bit).  I’ve traveled across the states, but not abroad, though my piggy bank will soon allow me to go overseas. I’ve seen my first byline appear in a tiny publication in a tiny town in North Carolina, and then on Cosmo’s website in bold, beautiful pink letters I’ll never forget. I’ve had two four-page spreads in national publications and started this blog, that you, whoever you are, wherever you are, are reading, right now. (Thank you!)

I’ve figured out I like it on top more than I like it from the side and while charming and handsome is great, dependable and cute is better. I’ve fallen for the wrong guy and passed up someone who may have been the right guy if he was just a few inches taller (or larger). I’ve been kissed in Grand Central Station and the Lincoln Center, as I always dreamed, and figured out that sometimes dreams are more vivid in your head than they will ever be in reality. I’ve landed my first job, paid my dues as a hostess (with the most-ess), a maid (seriously), a freelancer (always), retail sales clerk (folding clothes, yay!), and a babysitter (girls are better than boys).

And now, I’m here. A 20-something with a lot of highs and lows, ups and downs, trails and successes, loves and losses, hopes and failures, miles and travels behind her. But you know – it’s only been two decades. I can’t even begin to list what I hope (and know) is ahead of me.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for huge coffees and the company of a new best friend :)

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Our Greatest Fear: Mr. Disappear

Once upon a summer mid-morning, I met a guy at the retail store I was working at in between freshman and sophomore year of college. He wasn’t outlandishly beautiful – more like the Southern-traditional type with light-hair and light-eyes, and a little twang to make him a tad-bit sexy.

Being the go-getter gal I am, I approached him, and as he watched me casually drop subtle hints of my attraction – he responded by flirting in return. Within ten minutes, he had my name and my number, and a date was soon to follow. Let a few weeks pass by and Mr. Disappear and I became an item that was syndicated by Facebook and everything.

While we lived two hours away from one another, the fireworks bursting between us were too intense for us to ignore, so we vowed to just make it work. I made the first trek to his town and we enjoyed a weekend of snuggling, kissing, and going on mini-adventures to restaurants and amusement parks. All the while, he showered me with compliments and long lists of reasons why he adored me. In the weeks that followed, we spent countless hours on the phone, constantly exchanged text messages, and he did what he said he would do when he said he would do it.

I was a little afraid (alright, maybe a lot) of falling for him, but I allowed myself to because he gave me no other indication that I should do anything else. I accounted my fear of crashing to old emotional wrecks I’d barely lived through – and deemed that he deserved a fair chance.

So, we moved forward with the relationship – easily, forgivingly, and ever so openly. We never had sex and never took it too far, but I could feel the walls around my heart crumbling, and though my barricade was faltering – I felt protected by the promise he made to me in our intimate moments.

One weekend, he was supposed to come to my college town to spend a few days with me. My roommate was kind enough to go home Friday through Sunday so we could have the whole room to ourselves (remember dorm living?). Unknown to Mr. Disappear, I had planned on finally doing-the-deed with him because I felt comfortable enough to trust him and knew that giving that side of me to him, would feel right and feel wonderful with my newfound confidence in our union.

On the Friday he was to arrive, I had a class until 12:30 in the afternoon and we had planned on him being outside my residence hall around 1 p.m. As soon as my professor let us out, I sprinted towards my room, while my friends in the same lecture called out after me “Have fun!” I opened the door, automatically changed into sexy lingerie and put on a tight wrap sweater dress that showed off my every curve. I added some extra curl to my already-wavy hair, touched up my makeup, and dabbed a splash of my expensive, luxury perfume in selective places. A friend of mine who was over 21 at the time had supplied me with a six-pack of Mr. Disappear’s favorite beer, which I had stashed in my mini-fridge to surprise him with – so I checked on those to make sure they were getting cold.

I finally got around to looking at my phone and realized I hadn’t heard from Mr. Disappear yet – so I sent him a text making sure he was alright, while silently saying a prayer for his safety traveling up the mountain. Then, I sat down at my computer, checked my email, and then my Facebook. I noticed I had a new message, and never one to let any inbox get cluttered, I automatically opened it.

When I noticed it was from Mr. Disappear, I swear I could physically feel my heart break. I read through the message quickly, which was easy because it was simple and short, and read: “I’m not coming this weekend. I’m sorry, I can’t. Don’t hate me.

My first reaction, of course, was to call him. Shaking and my heart running away from me, I dialed him and his phone was shut off. I called him again, and it went straight to voicemail. Then, I started to panic and my stomach turned into deeply embedded knots –and I called my mom. When I heard her voice on the other end, I completely fell apart and any sentence I tried to make was indiscernible. The only thing she managed to say other than “Breathe” and “Calm down” was “Come home.” In haste, I threw a random assortment of clothes, my cosmetic bag, and one pair of shoes together, and rushed out to my car, tears violently splashing down my cheeks.

I’m not sure how I made it home without crashing, but the minute I reached my driveway, I ran into my mother’s arms, felt my body collapse, and then headed to my room to sleep. And sleep is what I did all weekend. I also called him several times in the day and night throughout the weekend, and his phone never returned on. He also didn’t respond to a text or to any Facebook messages. When it was time for me to head back to school for a newspaper meeting on Sunday, I blocked him from my account before I drove, and with a sullen-stance and sweatpants on, I made it through deadline without crying.

That night, he called and gave me a range of excuses that included “I just wasn’t ready for a relationship” and “Things were moving too quickly” and “You’re just too wonderful for me” – all of which did nothing but make me more depressed and angrier. I replied by calling him a coward and to be honest, we haven’t spoken much since.

I wouldn’t include him on a list of men I’ve loved or men who have meant the world to me. But he did have an everlasting effect and it is one that this journey is attempting to rid of. I’m sure this issue is rooted from more than Mr. Disappear – but in my book, he’s the one who intensified it.

I’m afraid of being left. Of being abandoned. Of letting myself love without boundaries, without hesitation, and with the fruit of hope – and then having this person I trusted with so much…just walk away. And even worse than breaking up with me is completely disappearing to the point where it feels like I don’t matter, like anything we shared, or anything that was special and unique…was really just an illusion. Just a dream that turned into a cruel nightmare.

Ever since Mr. Disappear, I’ve had this irrational (but maybe rational?) fear every time I start liking someone new that they will just get-up-and-leave. That for whatever reason – that I will become not “good enough” or things are will be “just not right” or “I’m not worth staying around for” – and then, any investment I made into the relationship would become obsolete. The men who followed Mr. Disappear did everything in their power to reassure me that they would stick around through the thick-and-the-thin, the good and the bad – but to no avail, I haven’t been fully comfortable with a man ever since. Even if Mr. Disappear wasn’t a man who I loved, he was a man who left – and as great as love feels, when someone decides to leave, it hurts to the same degree.

Going through this journey, I’ve discovered how many people, men and women alike, have this fear of abandonment and I believe it’s due to the fact that to be in love, to feel magic, to explore relationship-territory, you have to be vulnerable. You have to let yourself take a risk and you have to trust in the unknown. But just like a child learns not to touch a hot stove after they’ve felt the initial sting – once you’ve been burned once, you’re hesitant to extend your hand out again.

I’ve also realized that no man, no blog, no woman – can make taking that dive any smoother. I’m still going to hold my breath, bite my tongue, and take a while to let someone in. I’m still going to have an alarm that goes off in the back of my head that begs, “Well what if you never hear from him again?

However, this step process to gain self-love has taught me something about listening to my rational side instead of my emotional one. And when that fear of being left enters my mind, I think: “Alright, Lindsay – so what if you never hear from him again? Would your world come to an end? Would you go home crying to your parents? Would you put your life on hold?

And now, at my age and in my city, the answer to all of those questions is no. Because I’m no longer that 19-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to be loved by a guy who she was smitten over. I no longer make a man the center of my world. I no longer depend on a guy to bring me fulfillment and happiness. While I would be upset if certain dudes disappeared – I know myself better and I surely know what I deserve in terms of love, and thus, while I may crack, I won’t be broken.

Because no matter what – even with a ring, even with a title, even with saying those damned three little words we all desire – nothing is guaranteed. A person can always leave. But if you’re lucky, and if you’re smart – you know that regardless of who comes and goes, who breaks promises and who keeps them, at the end of the day, at the end of the path, there is always one person who will never leave you. And that’s yourself. So, if you can depend on that constant, on that relentless love, then you can go forward to the next partner, the next fling or even The One – and know that if they do decide to disappear, you’re still never alone.