The Brown Slingback Heels

Tossing another abandoned sweater onto a pile nearly as tall as my desk, I admired my new-found ability to just let go of things. I’m bad about spring cleaning, mainly because I’m a little messy by heart and in my space space, and for my knack of attaching sentimental value to every knick-knack I own.

But this year is different — I couldn’t wait to clean out my suitcases and closet to switch from those bitter winter days to the bright summery ones, so I spent Saturday night in doing just that. With a race Sunday at 8:30 a.m., I gave myself permission to be boring and have a date with Mr.Windex and his friend the handsome broom instead of eyeing the crowd downtown.

As I went through my red suitcases — the ones that have been with me from day one in NYC — I found dresses I haven’t worn since I moved, bags so tattered they barely had straps and shoes without heels at all. Thinking of all the things I could buy if I just had more space (and um, money), I folded up what I didn’t want and hung up what I did, trying hard not to imagine dream scenarios in dream outfits during the process.

But then, in the middle of my clean up, in the middle of N’Sync playing on my 90s pop hits Pandora radio station (not ashamed), I came across those heels.

The heels that I didn’t wear at all last year since I couldn’t: the clasp is broken, the heel is unsteady and the shoe, admittedly highly uncomfortable. The heels that I once considered my own version of Cinderella slippers, bringing a love affair into my life with one simple stumble. The shoes that I thought I would keep no matter what, since they were the reason I met Mr. Possibility in the first place.

Right before I made the leap to Manhattan, I exchanged an incredibly ugly necklace (from yes, an ex) in for some cold hard store credit. Since the place doesn’t exist above the Mason-Dixon, I had to use it before my flight. Shopping around the aisles of things I didn’t want, I found one thing that I did: a brown pair of four-inch Jessica Simpson slingbacks that made my legs look killer. I instantly fell in love and easily used that gift card for them, determined to stomp the sparkly pavements, making my impression.

I was right– they eventually would make quite the first impression eight months later on that bus where I tripped in them, right in front of Mr. Unavailable, who as we all know, would ultimately become the impossible Mr. Possibility.

I walked those heels to death with any opportunity to any event or any short skirt that begged attention. Mr. P would comment on them before we went out: “Are those the shoes? Are you going to be able to stand?” He would tease me and I would promise to wear them with grace, and threaten to wear them on our wedding day, where I’d purposefully fall at the alter, making a scene just for us.

I don’t remember packing them up and tucking them away under my bed last fall — there is never enough room in any NYC closet for more than one season. But I did, even though they are entirely unwearable. Maybe then I still held onto the hope that they’d mean something more to me than Mr. P or that we would eventually get back together and I’d be sad if I didn’t have them.

But looking at them on Saturday night, thinking about the memories that come with them, that follow my step, I didn’t feel like I needed them anymore. Nothing left to hang onto, nothing more I wanted with them. Just a pair of shoes that are taking up highly-valued space in a closet that needs to be decluttered. The cost of fixing them would outweigh what they are worth, and the cost of holding onto what they represent, even more emotionally expensive.

And so, away they went to charity. To a place where maybe, someone else will find some piece of something in them, just like I did.

The truth is, they never really gave me a solid footing here. There were always a little too high to walk up and down subway (or apparently, bus) steps, and too skinny to support constant commuting. Perhaps I wasn’t confident enough to own them in the way that a woman who knows herself can — marching along without thinking, without worrying about that crease in the road ahead or the water puddle you see on a clear day. Those shoes didn’t give me my grounding here, and as much as I like to give him credit, Mr. Possibility didn’t either. He helped guide me for a while by showing me the city I love and giving me a glimpse into the love I dream of — but just like those slingbacks that playfully taunted our relationship, something was never quite right. Never quite as strong as I’d like. Never quite as stable as I needed. The support just wasn’t quite there.

The next day post-race, I stopped by TJ Maxx to pick up some running shorts and somehow found myself in the shoe aisle, eyeing a new pair of my beloved brown slingbacks. But unlike the other, these have a thicker heel. They’re a little lower, and yes more practical. They fit me better and can endure the two-avenue walk from the train to my job — no change of flats required. I don’t trip over my own feet and I can move to my own beat, without worrying about what’s ahead or who I’ll come across.

And I like them better. The next time I sway and bend, it won’t be because of the heels, it’ll be because I’m finally sturdy enough to let myself fall.

The (Wo)man in the Mirror

It’s because of my Moon in Scorpio, according to my mother. It’s because I don’t see how truly beautiful I really am, according to my father. It’s because I don’t pay attention to men who walk past me on the street, according to my friends. It’s because, maybe, I’m just not attractive, according to my self-defeating mentality.

Regardless of whom is right (if at all) – I’m admittedly a very jealous person. And I always compare myself to every single woman I see.

I don’t think it matters where you are – New York City or North Carolina – there will always be pretty girls. There are the girls who have the best fashion sense you could ever dream of and always seem to know what to wear now, and anticipate what to wear next. There are the girls who have kick-ass bodies and yet still eat greasy cheeseburgers and Snickers, and never go above a size 2. There are the girls who have beautiful, flawless skin with rosy cheeks that just naturally radiate without any makeup whatsoever. There are the girls who have sleek long hair that’s super soft and looks great even when it’s pouring. There are the girls who have perfectly sculpted and long, lean legs that look amazing in everything.

Now, I always think: I’m not any of these girls.

I think: I’m a petite, just-about 5’4” 20-something who still looks like a teen-something. I work out five days a week to maintain a curvy (and hopefully thin) figure. My skin is very far from flawless and I hate wearing makeup, but feel the need to do it anyways. I wish I could dress more New Yorkish, but I don’t have the money or the attitude (and I can’t give up my Southern roots). My hair isn’t frizzy, but it also doesn’t grow, and when it rains, I might as well bury myself under a hat (which I don’t own). And as for my legs, well – I do love my heels.

Now, I’m not complaining and I sincerely don’t think I’m unattractive – but I also know that I’m not perfect (and I also know those girls are not perfect either) I am an all-American girl who has flaws and things that make her lovely, too. I know my qualities and my pitfalls, and for the most part I accept them.

But, there is always this nagging little thought in the back of my head when I do walk by a girl I’m jealous of:

Why would a guy ever pick me when he can have her?

Now, with my new found confidence and overcoming love-addiction mission, I have shifted my thinking to be a little more rational. I do remind myself that looks aren’t everything, that while all humans are a tad superficial (c’mon, you know it), a pretty face or smokin’ body won’t keep someone interested forever. I do remind myself that I don’t even know these women and they could be a not-so-great-catch and just have been blessed with looks. I do remind myself that guys also look at me – and regardless if they do or if they don’t, I still know what I have to offer, and that’s all that should matter.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

It is so difficult not to compare yourself to other girls. It is so hard to not turn my head down when a more attractive woman gets on the train. It is so hard to go out with friends who you know are ten times more beautiful than you are – and if I’m being honest, it’s hard to friends with super-model-look-alikes in the first place.

Does that make me petty and ridiculous? Absolutely. Does it make me human and a typical girl who judges herself? Of course.

Certainly, I should never tell myself I’m not worthy of someone’s attention or affection. They may be able to have the other girl walking by and she may turn their head longer – but I have something that no one will ever have. And that’s me.

It is only when we officially accept who we – imperfections, beauty, and all that’s in between – that we are even close to being ready to share it with someone else.

So you, whoever you are reading this, go right now, and look in the mirror (I’m not joking), and tell yourself (out loud!) that you’re beautiful.

Because you are. Without a doubt.

These Streets Will Make You Feel Brand New

A not-so-long time ago, a brown haired, blue-eyed little girl saw New York City for the first time. She came out of the tunnel that brought her from Pennsylvania to this new land, stepped out onto the glittering pavement and stopped.

First, she told her mom how much it smelled and then with a two-front-teeth missing smile, spun around in the streets, and said “I’m going to live here one day!

And so she did.

Now, 15 years later, that same starry-eyed young woman still feels the urge to dance in the streets and thank her lucky stars that they aligned so she can have a New York, NY address.

There are moments when I’m doing everyday, ordinary things, and I feel such an immense amount of love and thankfulness in my soul that I literally swell.

My New York story is one that’s like many other hopeful artists who grace the streets with only high-heeled bootstraps and raw ambition to be their guide. I’m not alone –there are endless writers, musicians, models, actresses, dancers, and performers who move to Gotham knowing that all they ever wanted will reveal itself before their eyes. The universe, surely, will move and shift to make fate play its magic cards.

This city has been a large portion of my focus, who I am (and who I will be), and what gives me encouragement for so long. I sincerely cannot imagine my life without it –especially now that I’ve had a taste of how much it feels like home.

And if this blog, this experience, this journey and multi-step program is about being honest with myself –I’ve got to be open about everything that New York means to me.

I didn’t move here in a relationship. I didn’t move here tied down to anyone or anything or any flame. I didn’t move here with hesitation or thoughts of failure. I didn’t move here thinking returning to NC was an option.

But I did move here to build my career. To work for a magazine. To be a voice for women everywhere. To learn the street personally. To meet friends I will have for the rest of my life. To explore everything that the city embodies.

And to fall magically, perfectly, idealistically, and incredibly in love.

Not a big surprise, I know – but I’ve been trying to tell myself that I moved here only for my career. But that’s a lie. And this journey is teaching me to stop lying to myself. To stop ignoring how I feel or how I react or the thoughts and language I use to speak to myself.

I’ve dreamt of working for a magazine since I got my first column job at 15 with The Clay County Progress (titled ‘TLC: Thoughts, Lessons, and Creations from a Teen”). And of course, I’ve known I wanted to live in New York. Thus, I knew that if Manhattan was my place, my very first one true love – my very last love must be here. Right?

As I’ve admitted earlier, I thought I would move to NYC and instantly find Mr. Right. I never listened to anyone when they said dating would be hard (or rather impossible in this city) or that it would take time. I just believed it would be simple and right there just waiting for 5’3”-me to step on solid ground.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened and I’m not losing hope of it. But I’m also not focusing on it. I’m trying so hard not to make “finding love” or “meeting the right man” at the top of my priority list or the greatest source of my disappointment or sadness. I’m believing in myself (and in my higher power) and surrendering away the thoughts that hold me back.

And I think telling myself that part of New York’s draw is the fact that I hope to find love (it’s by far, not the biggest attraction for me), and the NYC-happiness recipe wouldn’t taste correctly without that desire.

I still have moments when I cry. I still have moments when I’m down or get discouraged or feel ugly or not worthy. I still have moments where I’m jealous or I reach out and seek attention for the sake of the flattery. I still have moments where things that should be inspiring, are painful.

Like when my friend R, full of excitement for seeing the city for the first time (as I remember all too fondly) showed me a picture from The Wish Tree at the MoMA. It’s a place where you can place your most coveted wish on a tree with hundreds of other wishes of people who pass by. The wishes make the tree grow and give it the nourishment it needs to keep spreading its limbs. It’s truly a beautiful idea.

R had taken a picture of a wish that said:


“I wish I could fall in love like I moved to New York to do.

Maybe that should have made me feel less alone or supported or that there are other people who feel the same way I do. Maybe it should have given me some hope. But, it made my heart sink. It sunk so hardly and so deeply that I about lost my breath. It reminded me of part of the reason I moved to New York – a reason I had been avoiding admitting. It reminded me of the dozens of images and dreams I have stored away in my head (and clipped out of magazines stored under my bed) of what romance I want to experience on this island.

It is hard. It’s not always funny or empowering or hopeful. There are these moments where even the city who always make you feel brand new – can’t take away the longing. Or even a blog that I love to write so much.

But, if I can move to a New York and find a job and an apartment in three weeks, and still maintain a constant glow for the city – I bet I’m capable of just about anything.

And one day, I’ll make the shoe fit on my single self (without someone’s help), and I’ll have that contentment I keep wishing to find. But sorry, Prince Charming – I’m won’t lose a shoe at some enchanted castle tucked away behind Fifth Avenue –so you’ll have to find me in another way.

Naked, Nosy, and Never Been Happier

I’ll admit I’m a jealous person.

Obviously, since I admitted to stalking Facebook profiles for wedding, engagement, and baby pictures, I have a little bit of envy in me. I can’t even being to estimate how many times in a day I desire something I don’t have –when I see a trendy couple walking, leaning on each other in the subway, a man kissing his pregnant wife’s forehead in the rain.

Most of the time, especially now, I’m able to deal with these resentful feelings –soothe myself, close my eyes, and say a little prayer for things I hope will come.

Imagine my delight yesterday when I found myself not jealous, not envious, not sickened, not insanely mad –but happy about being single.

Tonight my company is hosting the NYC Small Business Awards and because I’m a procrastinator (not usually, but lately), I waited until yesterday to buy my cocktail dress for it. With a lovely birthday card from my friend A, I set out to Forever 21 on my lunch hour yesterday to find something stunning. I figure, it’s a great excuse to buy a new dress considering I’ll be around 500 business owners –right?

I scour the three floors of wonder that is Forever 21 and with an armful of dresses and make my way to the fitting room. As I’m struggling to figure out what my size is because my new workout regimen has made me somewhere between a small and medium –I overhear a conversation.

Its two girls in the rooms next to me laughing, chit-chatting, and they seem to be catching each other up on their lives. At this point, I’m struggling to get a belted blue dress over my head that’s in two pieces and incredibly difficult to maneuver, and sighing because I’m a tad bit bloated, and PMS is breaking me out something fierce. As I’m starting to get frustrated, I hear one of the girls say, “Oh my God! I loooooveee this dress. Do you love this dress?” to which the other replies, “Oh girl, you look so sexy. Chris is totally going to love that. He’ll rip it off of you.”

I giggle to myself and think about my friends who would say that to me (practically all of them) and I take it that Chris is this gal’s boyfriend. She laughs and then her ringtone “California Girls” by Katy Perry goes off and she says, “Oh my God! He must have read our minds, he’s calling!” I’m still weeding through my outfits as she greets Chris with “Hey baby!” and continues with her conversation.

I stop listening for a while until I hear “Baby, I thought we talked about this…*sigh*….but I said this weekend that…well, I know….but we talked about this…Chris!…will you just let me talk?…you’re being ridiculous….I told you she was going to be in town.

Of course, because I’m being incredibly nosy, I stop trying on clothes, stand there in my panties and bra and over-the-knee boots and just listen.

Chris, she’s in town this week only. We can hang out this weekend, can’t we?…Why do you  need to see me?…I thought we had this conversation…No! I’m not breaking my plans…No, I’m not…what was that? Say that again….Really?…You’re doing that? For me?…Okay. Aw, Chris. Let me talk to her…yeah…I love you too…I know baby…yeah, I know baby…I’m sure she won’t mind…No she won’t mind…Yes, I’m sure…I love you too. Bye baby.”

Now, I’ve decided that she gave into his pleas to see him, even though, I’m guessing, her friend is visiting from out of town.

“Hey, do you mind if I see Chris a little bit tonight? I mean, I’ll just go over to his apartment and you can stay in my apartment and check your email or watch TV or whatever. He just really needs to see me. You know how he is –just needs me. It’s like that when you’re in love.

I couldn’t see her friend’s expression, but if it were me, I would have rolled my eyes, dropped my jaw, and called her out on giving-in even though I was visiting and was promised girl’s-only time.

“Yeah, I mean I guess that’s alright. But weren’t we going to go to the village tonight? I’ve never been there before, ya know,” her friend replied.

“God, I know. The village isn’t that great anyways. He’s just so persistent. You’ll understand one day when you meet The One.”

Now, I’m fully dressed and fully pissed at this girl for being so rude to her friend. It took every fiber in my being to not talk to the other friend and say, “It’s okay to be single! It’s empowering to be single! You’d rather be single than have a lame boyfriend who begs you to break plans with your friends because they ‘need’ you! How pathetic is that? You want to go get coffee with me in the village tonight and we’ll bitch?”

Not everyone who is in a relationship becomes obsessed with and powerless to their boyfriends. I’ve definitely been in relationships that have taken over my entire life and I know how easy it is to get wrapped up when you’re head over Jimmy Choos. I get it, I really do. But regardless –it’s never right to do that to a friend. Especially an out-of-town friend.

The best part of this story, though? I wasn’t jealous of her relationship and I wasn’t envious of any relationships the rest of the day. From the outside –on the train, streets, and cafes –all relationships look beautiful and loving. But when you get down to it –they are messy and uneven and sometimes involve pleading annoying men.

As I walked out of Forever 21, I thought: “Thank God I’m not in a relationship like that. If I was with a clingy guy I’d have to cut him lose. Already did that. Been there, done that. Wow, I’m so glad I’m single. I can do literally anything I want today, this week or this weekend. I think I’m going to buy some shoes. Or maybe that rain jacket…ohhh he was cute! Who is that? Maybe he’ll be at the Small Business Awards!”

The City of Love

Manhattan is coined as a pretty dirty place -full of grime and crime, thugs and lugs –and everything in between. The streets are aligned with trash, and the city changes with the wind –one block can be completely high-rise and luxurious, while the next will make you hold your bag a little closer.

I’ve been asked (mainly by my Southern relatives) why “on God’s green Earth would you ever move to New York City?” In fact, why did I decide to move away from North Carolina in the first place –away from the back winding roads, the calm nights with fireflies, and miles away from my alma mater, making it impossible for me to come to homecoming?

Why didn’t I, like all of the other girls in my family, settle down, find a good country boy, and get married? Why did I decide to go to this huge, scary, and dangerous place…alone?

To them, I reply, “I love New York.” They will smile, tell me they are praying for me, and then whisper amongst themselves about my absurdity.

Eh –maybe I’m a little crazy. I think to willingly choose to move to NYC, you’d have to be a tad out of your mind. But, the city draws in the crazies, the out-of-the-boxers, the strange-and-the-beautiful, the very-talented and the overly ambitious.

But if you look closely, slow down, pay attention, and examine everything going on around you –you’ll find the city is full of love. It’s not just that I adore the city –it’s that the city itself provokes kindness.

 

Written on the street outside my office :)

 

When you cross the street –you’re never alone. There’s always someone on one side of you, if not on both. When you sit down on a subway car, leave it, or enter it –there are always people near you. When you go grocery shopping, buy new shoes, pay for deodorant, or even just wipe your nose -you’re always surrounded by someone else. Even riding home in the taxi after a night of drinking –the cab driver sits right in front of you.

And while it’s not typical to speak to strangers (unless you’re from NC, like me) –you will catch yourself leaning up against the person on the subway, or find them lingering on you a while longer after the initial jolt of a stop. Or when you cross the street, sometimes, you’ll notice someone step with you –a little cautious of the cars that may forget to stop. Or when you’re sitting alone reading a book, it’s not uncommon to notice someone looking at you, caught in their own world of thoughts –only using you as a focus point.

You’ll find people helping each other by carrying heavy bags up stairs or opening doors or waiting for you to pass by. You’ll find an old woman bring her husband lunch to his office on the same block they’ve lived and worked for 50 years. You’ll find children kissing their parents and running through the streets like it’s their playground. You’ll find a couple you just know are on their first date –completely awkward, but somewhat enthralled, drinking a few beers, and wondering what’s next.

Sometimes you’ll pass friends comforting  each other on the side of the street, as one cries, and one remains strong –looking around to make sure no one messes with them. You’ll find yourself sharing glances with someone else who is responding the same way you are to a strange occurrence, a sudden sound, or a funny conversation.

The city makes you interact with other people –regardless if you want to or not. It forces you to come out of your shell and see what’s going on around you. It shows you that even in the most ordinary and most random of places –there is friendlessness and love all around.

I’ve been worrying that this process would somehow make me stop believing in love. It would make me cool and confident, but not warm and loving. However –as I wondered the streets today, both with a friend, and then alone –I realized that New York would never let that happen.

Gaining faith in myself and relaxing about being single doesn’t mean that my faith in love goes away. It doesn’t mean I have to stop enjoying seeing examples of love in everyday life or be inspired by seeing real love exist. Being okay single doesn’t mean I have to stop dreaming.

It simply means that the constant quest for love, the constant search, and longing for a relationship needs to fall later in my list of priorities. It means that I just let go of pushing and pulling for happily ever after, and allow something bigger than me take care of things for me. For now, watching love in the city fills my heart up with so much hope and peace –I can’t even put it into words.

I always knew I loved you New York, but I didn’t know you loved me this much, too.