There is SO Much Love in the World

On Thanksgiving – and always – I feel so incredibly blessed for this little life of mine. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be living in one of my favorite parts of New York, working at a job that I really love, writing for a dozen or so magazines and have an incredible group of friends, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Sometimes I want to pinch myself that nearly everything I’ve wanted has worked itself out… beautifully. Surprisingly.

Perfectly how it was supposed to.

Now of course, there are things I’d like and things I dream of. There are Thanksgivings I imagine with my one-day man, and there are certain visions and luxuries I’d like to be my reality one day, but in this moment, sitting in my PJs with Christmas music playing, my pup at my feet and my roommate cooking in the kitchen, I’d say life is pretty damn good right now.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me just how much love there is in this world. There is SO much, I can’t ever explain.

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A Little Thanksgiving Hope

Thanksgiving has always been an odd holiday for me. I’m not sure my quaint family-of-three ever knew how to handle it — my mother’s siblings always did their own thing with their respective mates and we never traveled up North to share the feast with my dad’s side. Most of the Thanksgivings I remember centered around my mom, my dad and me — maybe my grandmother would join, but more often than not, it was just us.

We’ve always had the same things: mushy mashed potatoes that I love so much I ever-so-elegantly scoop with my fingers when no one is looking, baked mac n’ cheese, brocoli & cheese casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce from the can, rolls from another can and green beans (not the casserole, but the frozen kind). We never dressed up for it, though I insisted a few years to be a tad fancy when I was a teenager out of vanity. I never helped cook until I took up baking in high school and then I was determined to bake a mean apple pie every year. To this day, my dad requests one to be sent to him.

It’s a little too pricey to fly to North Carolina twice in a six-week period, so I spend Thanksgiving with my friend E, who hosts a pot-luck type dinner for all of the out-of-staters who stay in-city for the holiday. Sometimes we call it Tanksgiving (ahem, a lot of wine is served) or I’ve heard it called Friendsgiving, where we try to recreate those fabulous dishes our parents or aunts seemed so good at fixin’ up. It’s always a good time and usually a night that ends early, offering a mandatory sleep-a-thon until early Friday morning.

This year isn’t really different, but it sure does feel that way to me.

After getting off work early, I rushed home to turn on some Frank Sinatra and enjoy having my five-person apartment all to myself. I completely destroyed the kitchen making a mac n ‘cheese and an apple pie (of course!), then I cleaned it before going to bed, frankly just out of fear that if something happened to me, I couldn’t have anyone finding the apartment a total disaster. Everything was fine and fine was my attitude, but Ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t get me in the festive mood as he usually does. My dishes turned out great (I always take a little nibble) and I tweeted and Facebooked about looking forward to stuffing myself way past the point of being able to wear a sweater dress, but something was off.

With my hair done-up in a high bun, a glass of orange juice to keep me company and an iPhone on 20 percent battery, I sat down to write Christmas cards. After a few, I put down the pen and sighed, annoyed at my disposition and wondering what was bothering me. Do I miss my family? Do I think I should be spending it with them? Is it that I thought I’d be spending it with Mr. P and his family? Do I feel bloated from the miniature dish of macaroni I made myself? What’s wrong with me?

 Too frustrated to write sweet sentiments or to even sit down, I got up and paced my apartment, trailing my hand along the hallway, gawking at my room like it was the first time I saw it. And that’s when it hit me: nothing’s wrong, I’m not sad or upset really — I just long for a home.

The city itself feels like home, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I’ve somehow gathered an incredible group of friends that feel like my family-away-from-family. I’m so incredibly thankful that I’m one of the lucky ones who landed a job she loves and looks forward to going to everyday. I’m healthy and fit, attractive and intelligent, and mostly I’m surrounded by the positive energy of all that I’m involved in and all who love me. But it’s a funny thing living in an apartment complex with strangers you met on Craigslist that somehow turned into friends — as much as you try, it’s not like having a family or building a home.

I’m far too young to think about such things, I’m told. I shouldn’t worry about the future or the husband I’ve yet to meet, the kids I’ve yet to procreate. I have so much living and learning, exploring and traveling ahead of me, I shouldn’t want to settle my roots for years to come. I have the freedom of coming and going as I please, doing as I wish and being totally selfish with my choices, my money and my actions.

And for once, I do actually enjoy the single life — but as much as my career, New York and my fabulous friends are important to me, I sometimes wonder what my future would look like sans marriage or children. Would I finally buy a house somewhere outside of the city all on my own? Or maybe an apartment that I could decorate as I desire? Would I freeze my eggs and revisit them at a time when I was ready, even without a man? Where would I spend Thanksgiving? With my friends and their husbands, or back home with my parents? What would my life look like?

A year ago when I was writing this blog, those thoughts would have angered me. I would have convinced myself that those were negative, love-addicted notions that have no place on this space. I would have been upset that I wasn’t stronger, or even worse, I would have let those fears dominate my thinking and cried myself to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve. But this year, they’re just thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less — just ideas of what my future could or couldn’t be.

Because you know what? Being a strong woman who’s happy (and totally thankful) for her life doesn’t mean that she doesn’t crave happily ever after with a man. (Even if she’s unsure of what the “after” refers to, really.) It doesn’t mean that romantic fantasies are far-fetched or detrimental, they are just part of what we hope tomorrow brings. It doesn’t make us weak or less together or successful, it just makes aware of what we want while knowing that should that not come, we’d be fine otherwise. It doesn’t make us silly because we dream of sharing memories with a man who wants to make memories and have anniversaries, holidays with us.

The Thanksgiving memory I wish to recreate is a memory that was never mine — but something I watched on home videos of my parents. It was my second Thanksgiving and I was strapped into a booster seat, nibbling on baby corn and wearing an adorable brown and red dress (thanks Mom!), with the camera set up to get the whole dinner scene. The tape rolled for nearly an hour-and-a-half, my parents just had to capture the first Thanksgiving they thought I’d remember. I sat and watched the whole segment once, and my favorite part had nothing to do with how I giggled at my dad impersonating a turkey or my icky-face at cranberry sauce (I still make it) — but at an intimate moment not meant to be captured:

My father reached across the table and grabbed my mother’s hand as he said: “You’re so beautiful. You’ve given me the best life and a beautiful daughter. You’re the love of my life.”

So today, I’m thankful for so many things, but one of those happens to be that I have the courage to believe that one day, those words could be spoken to me.

A Little Piece of My Heart

Barely a month after I got my license at 16, I hydroplaned on a rainy Wednesday morning, lost control of my shiny red 1996 Chevy Cavalier (with a spoiler!), and flipped into a ditch. When I realized in a split second I wouldn’t be able to get my car back on track, I removed my hands from the wheel, covered my face, and prayed: “Dear Lord, Please don’t let me die.”

The next thing I remember, I’m sitting on the ceiling of my car in the passenger seat, purse on my shoulder, and feeling the urge to get out as fast as I could. All of the windows were smashed in, except for the driver’s side windshield and side window. I crawled out, taking a jagged piece of glass in my wrist on the way, stood before my car, the rain pouring, and put my hands on top of my head. I saw blood leaking down my arm, thought it was my head bleeding and furiously started searching for the wound. I couldn’t find one, and as I watched my tires still spinning, heard Michelle Branch still playing, I wondered if the new tank of gas I just put in would cause my car to explode. I then thought I may want to run away. My high school was less than a mile away, I could just go to class.

Unable to cry, dial my phone, or have a conscious, collected thought, I felt alone on the country road and unsure of what to do. It was then that a woman approached me. I don’t know her name – I’m not convinced she actually exists – but she came up behind me, put her hands on my shoulders and asked me if I was okay. I told her what happened and she started making phone calls to 911, and helped me dial my parents, thinking they’d rather hear my voice than a stranger’s concerning the circumstance.

She then covered my head in her jacket, walked me to her parked car where it was warm, and started asking me questions. She inquired about the career I was interested in pursuing, the university I would be attending, what sports I played, what my plans were for Thanksgiving since it was the next day, and made me apply pressure to my wrist. It seemed like I talked to her for hours, listening to soothing music, and hearing her chat about her life, though I couldn’t tell you anything she said. Soon, my best friend happened to drive by (it was the road to school, after all), and I ran to meet her and we cried together – remembering all of the times we whipped around curvy road without hesitation. The ambulance showed up, the firefighters, and the police. My parents greeted me with watering eyes and smiles bigger than the State because I had survived, though my car would never be driven again.

By the time I calmed down enough to understand the kindness the woman showed me, I turned back to find her car and she was gone. No one remembers her there and my phone had “911” dialed from it when I looked in my history. But I can see her face. I can hear her voice. I remember the smell of her car and the sound of raindrops hitting the pavement below as someone directed traffic outside the window. My mother calls her my guardian angel, but I’m not exactly sure what she is or was.

The only thing I’m certain of is that whoever she is, she changed my life.

I took a tiny piece of my car with me that day. I still have it. It reminds me that our time here is limited. It could change, it could end, it could be over without notice. And it keeps me motivated to volunteer consistently. Since that day, November 23 to be exact, I created a community service club at my high school called SOUL: Serving Other Under Love, that’s still active today. I joined my campus’ community service center, serving as a peer counselor and as part of the leadership and service residential living community. When I moved to New York, I joined New York Cares within a few months, and now lead the Young Authors Club in Chelsea. I also participated in charity events through my sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi, and I run 5Ks and participate in other events when I can.

It wasn’t that she volunteered her time that morning to help a scared teenager, but that she gave a little piece of her heart. And really, I think that’s what volunteering is all about. It’s being generous enough with yourself to give a bit of yourself to someone who needs it. To someone who, regardless if they know it or not, craves compassion. I was lucky enough to survive crashing my car into a ditch and if I’m able to walk, to speak, to live my life fully – I should be living it to help someone else.

Perhaps she wasn’t a real person and maybe she really is sent from the heavens. I don’t know and it doesn’t quite matter because I still think of her often, especially on nights like tonight, when the group of volunteers, parents, and children celebrated a successful year of writing with story sharing and pot lucking. The smiles on the children’s faces, the pride the volunteers felt, and the love that circulated the room – that’s why I will forever aim to be a humanitarian, and one day if I can afford it, a philanthropist. Because no matter how insignificant the contribution,it  is a contribution in itself, even if it just shelter from the rain and smooth jazz tunes at 8 a.m., it’s enough to shape the life of a stranger…forever. And, for the better.

Thankful for A New Kind of Love

When I started this blog months ago, I really had no expectations.

I had reached this point where I realized how much the yearning and the desire for love and for a man to validate me was tearing away little pieces of my heart each day. The pressure I was putting on myself to find “The One” and to finally stop searching and stop dating and stop fretting was immeasurable. I was exhausted, I was down on myself, and any ounce of positivity and hope I had ever had…was long gone from any recent memory.

And so, on a whim, I signed up for a WordPress blog and my friend M and I came up with the 12-steps. I never intended to write every day and I never thought anyone other then my best friends would read what I wrote. I never anticipated any sort of reaction at all and if anything, the blogs would be something I could hold onto for years to remember my 20’s and all of their madness. And of course, I had no idea if doing a self-proscribed and created 12-step process to gain back confidence and let go of chasing after “Happily Ever After’ would work. In many ways, I doubted I’d see any change at all.

But here I am, on Step 4, and seeing the progress I’m making each and every single day. I feel more relaxed and more confident than I’ve been in a very long time. I’ve transformed my thinking-processes (sometimes they get the best of me, but still) and the attitude I have towards love, relationships, and men. I’ve started taking away what I’ve learned instead of what I resent, and by not ruling out any man who is unavailable in any sense – I’ve gained a true, wonderful, friend (who just happens to be a dude, too).

I compliment myself and encourage myself to not only go above and beyond what I’m capable of doing but to rest and to cherish the quiet and the times of immobility. The hope that I thought would always be extinguished has started to weather a new flame, and something, down deep in the most profound parts of my soul – I feel like I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do.

And yet, there are days when I don’t want to write a blog. When the only thing I want to do is hide from the world, call in sick, turn off my cell phone, curse every man who ever chopped away my pride and my purity, and scream at the universe for making me so miserable and alone. There are questions that live unanswered in my heart and people I think of every day, but never call. There are memories that burn painfully inside and nights where even the city in its everlasting wonder can’t take away the pang of loneliness.

But it is in those moments, those down-low-and-dirty seconds where I start to lose momentum or the passion to continue on this journey and on this blog – that I think of you. And yes, that means you – whoever it is reading this blog right now.

When I made the decision to put it all out there – on my personal Facebook, on a Facebook fan page, on Tumblr, on Twitter, and on the winding web of WordPress (not to mention 20-Something Bloggers and BlogHer) – I did it because I knew I wasn’t the only single girl feeling the way I did (and still do at times). I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt things in the pit of her stomach that she couldn’t swallow, dare say them out loud. I knew I wasn’t the only one who longed for a Prince Charming or just a man who sticks around through everything, no matter what. I knew I wasn’t the only one who dreamed a little dream as a little girl, and in some little apartment in a great big city is making a little life for herself on a little budget.

Because that’s the thing about being a 20-something or being a single woman (or man for the matter) – sure, we’re all unattached, but in some cosmic, magical way – we’re all attached. We’re all connected in those same feelings and in those ridiculous fleeting thoughts and ideas that we get consumed by. We may be in different places all over the world, at a variety of ages, and with different men who represent Mr. Fling or Mr. Unavailable or Mr. Fire or Mr. Rebound – but together we stand single and dealing with it. And hopefully in time, celebrating our independence and freedom, while still having hope that when the time and the rhyme is ideal- we’ll meet that right person.

So on Thanksgiving Day and always – thank you. For proving to me there are so many other people in the world who share my struggles and my thoughts. For supporting me by commenting and promoting my blog to other people. For Tweeting about the blog and Tumbling away the posts. For emailing me such wonderful thank you letters and for sending loving Facebook messages. For laughing with me and sharing in my sadness. For giving words of kindness and of criticism to help me see things in a different way.

Thank you for making me thankful to be a single woman at this stage in my life so I can have the ability to help others and for the first time, realize how special and temporary this portion is. And instead of being depressed to be without a boyfriend at Thanksgiving dinner, I can think of nothing more promising and exciting then finishing the 12-steps and gaining that strength I so badly desire and need. Now, I’m thankful for a new kind of love – blog love.

And again (and again and again!) thank you for your continuous support and for encouraging me, no matter what, under any circumstance, to ever miss a day of blogging. Because now, instead of this journey just being about me and what I’m going through – it is about all of you and the path you’re going down, too.

And for as long as you wish, you’re more than welcome to walk by this single girl. We’ll even stop and get margaritas somewhere along the way.