In Search of Me

I have a strategy for making strangers become instant, hold-nothing-back, bear-all best friends: have unlimited drinks of any kind outside in beautiful weather. Such strategy yielded great results in the form of fabulous conversations with a group of volunteers and staff at New York Cares’ happy hour.

As it inevitably does, my blog became a topic of discussion. And with all of us buzzing on Wednesday evening, watching the sun set over the Hudson, everyone was forthcoming and open. Someone – my memory doesn’t serve me well enough to decide who exactly – brought up the mantra that advises “Love will find you when you’re not looking.”

One woman, drink in hand, sunglasses on her forehead, and a sweet smile argued: “But when are we not looking? Do we ever not look? I mean, seriously. I can say I’m not looking all I want, but I’m always looking. I see a guy and I wonder, ‘is that him?’ or I do certain jobs, like checking people in, just in case it’ll be a chance to meet someone.”

If she would have asked me a year ago if it was possible to actually not look for a relationship, I would have firmly said “Absolutely not!” At that point, I felt just as she did – constantly on the watch for anyone who could become a someone, anything that could turn into something. Each guy that glanced my way, sat near me on the train, bought me a drink, bumped into me on the street had the potential to be a possibility, to become Mr. Possibility.

But when I made the commitment to myself to write this blog, to overcome the title of “love addiction” I gave myself, something inside me changed. Honestly, it changed from blog post #1, many, many days ago. I had reached a point where I wasn’t so much fed up with men, but I was fed up with myself. And I was exhausted of the person I became when I didn’t get what I wanted with a dude or how I felt about myself if I was single or if one of those somethings or someones suddenly wasn’t interested.

I knew I had to stop looking for love and I had to start looking for myself.

Somewhere in my endless pursuit of Mr. Right, in all of my dating dilemmas, sexual encounters, breakups, makeups, and hookups – I lost who I was. I was so damned-and-determined to have someone be in love with me, to fulfill those parts of me that were insecure and seemingly empty, that I damned myself into a needy, emotional version of who I really am. I wanted the ball back in my court and more than anything, I wanted to love the person I am, be proud of what I offer, and sincerely let everything else fall into place.

And so I really, truly, sincerely, stopped looking for love. I lowered my love antenna, I shut down any online dating profile I had, I removed guys from Gchat and from Facebook, I deleted phone numbers, and I stopped reaching out to males. If they contacted me, sure. If they wanted to ask me out, okay. If they felt the need to pursue anything more, I obliged. But instead of focusing on the Great Male Search, I searched for the pieces of myself I had been neglecting. I called off the search team for The One, and went in search of me.

I hate to type this because it confirms all those people who told me that love would come into my life when I didn’t want it or expect it – but it did. Soon after I started the blog, I met Mr. Possibility, and while there’s no telling if he’s the last possibility I’ll entertain, he’s pretty entertaining for now. And when I met him – I didn’t want to date him. I was so focused on this journey, on becoming the best me that I could be, that developing a relationship with him wasn’t a priority. It took time and lots of patience on both of our parts to grow into what we are now. So I didn’t look for him and I found him.

But more importantly, I found me. I found a strength inside of myself that takes a chance on falling in love, but knows that if it all shatters, I’ll be fine. I found peace knowing that one of the most beautiful things about love is that it can happen at any moment, anywhere, at any stage, without notice – and it can happen over and over again, no matter how impossible that may seem. I found the bravery to believe in myself above all things, above all men, above all romantic ideals that filled my head with insecurities and nonsense.

I found that with or without someone, I can still be me. And that me is worthy of the many wondrous things that make a beautiful life ripe with possibility.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for my wonderful new friends and for M, who run through fountains with me in the middle of the night. 

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Happily For Now

For the volunteer group I’m part of, we recently had the group of young, budding writers create their own fairytales. As expected, the boys’ stories were ripe with fights between worlds and superheroes rescuing the day, while the girls wrote about princesses, friendships, celebrities, and falling in love.

As I’m going around to the kids, supervising and encouraging them to keep going when they get stuck, a sweet little girl in pigtails and polka-dots looked up at me and said, “Lindsay, I’m done! Look!” She had almost filled a full page in her composition notebook and because we usually encourage them to write a few pages, I told her I wanted to read it when it was finished. She replied by saying, “But, I ended it with ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ There isn’t anything else! That’s the end!

Out of reflex and without hesitation, I bent down to her level and asked: “But what happens after they get married?” She blushed and answered: “They are happy! They have babies! That’s it!” Not willing to let another one be fooled by the delusions of forever-and-ever marital bliss, I sweetly challenged the 10 year old: “But don’t you think it is more like a beginning, not an ending? They just got married! Think of all the things they have left to do now.”

She looked at me funny and then smiled, “Well, I guess they have a party after they get married and then they have children and then those have children.” Hoping I made a little progress, I told her she should write at least five more sentences before it was time to read to the class. Looking like something was brewing upstairs, she nodded excitedly and continued to scribble. I walked around to the different tables, reading over stories, and answering questions, as all the volunteers and I attempted to keep control of 15 children who had far more energy than we do on a Friday afternoon. As I was supervising, the girl would come up and show me her progress, sentence-by-sentence. Each time I’d push her to write a little more and off she would go to squeeze in some more lines. When it was finally time to share their fairytales, she volunteered to go third and her story sounded like every other Disney-designed plot line, except for her last sentence:

“…and they all lived happily ever after, for now.”

Clapping for her and sharing unspoken sentiments, the other female volunteers and I exchanged knowing looks – this gal had it right: in today’s time, forever seems a tad suffocating and far-fetched. Doesn’t it?

But forever-and-ever-and-always as a child isn’t that scary; it is more comforting. After all, the stories we hear and the make believe we play all end when the prince drops to one knee, lovingly begs us to spend the rest of our life with him, and we say “I do.” We conclude happily ever after when we make a vow to another person, tying us to them in what we think (and hope) will be an everlasting partnership. But if we think about it – the wedding is just the start of the next segment of our lives, a chapter (or maybe the rest of the story) we’ll share with someone else. It isn’t a conclusion, it is an introductory sentence.

So why aren’t there fairytales about marriage?

About the reality of promising our loyalty and life to another person forever more? It is indeed a vast commitment that carries more weight than we understand until (or if) we get there. Why don’t we teach our children and our teenagers about what it really means to be an active, giving, and loving participant in a relationship? What it means to be a partner and what we should expect out of man? I have yet needed to be rescued from my “awful single existence” by a man in a tight-white getup, giddy-upping his way toward me – but I’ve dated some pretty incredible men. They aren’t always dreamy and they don’t come with a fortune or titles, but it has been the reality of who they are that’s turned me on the most.

I’m no expert in relationships – if I was, would I be writing this blog? – but I’ve learned a valuable lesson in the last few years that’s made me want to be less of a princess-in-waiting and more of a lady in transition: stop thinking in terms of forever and take people, especially men, as they are. Not all women but quite a few, never lose the rose-colored glasses we were handed as little girls playing house and wearing plastic sparkly crowns.

But the truth is, no man will be perfect and unless you’re Kate Middleton, he won’t be a prince either. Even when we wear the lace wedding gown and sport a diamond on our left hand, there is no promise that they will be standing next to us all of our dying days. We aren’t princesses and guys don’t hold a magical solution or power to free us from our unhappiness or our lonely nights. They are added additions that if we’re lucky, will develop our character and add a few interesting plots in our own story. They don’t make us and they aren’t the only part of our existence, and our lives don’t end if we decide to marry a special one.

They come and go, and one will come and stay, maybe forever, maybe for several years, and maybe just for a night. Regardless, the advice to take is from little Miss Polka Dot: enjoy what you have and be happy that he makes you happily ever after…

…for now.

Just the Way It Is

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

Oh my.

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

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

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

Touché , E, Touché .

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

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

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

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

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

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