Everyone gets perks of a kind at their job, whether it’s a free lunch on Fridays, a break on your data plan or the promise of an annual bonus. In New York City, those perks exist, of course, but every once in a while you get an opportunity for something amazing, like the chance to see a Tony-nominated Broadway musical with as many people as you’d like for free. This is how my lovely friend M, my fashionista C, my dearest K and I found ourselves right outside the hellhole that is Times Square on Tuesday night, smiles on faces and orchestra tickets in hand for If/Then, a wonderful show I highly recommend. For anyone unfamiliar, the general plot is about how a single decision can shape your life, but it doesn’t necessarily change your path. The show is hilarious and poignant, somewhat predictable yet surprising at the same time, and the constant comments about bad decisions and wrong decisions had us all rolling in our seats with laughter, miming “Preach” when the main character stares at herself in a mirror and just belts “What the fuck?!” M turned to me in a particular funny song and commented “This show is like reading your blog!” which prompted another round of silent laughter, because honestly, the thought may have crossed my mind once (or twice) as well.
Now, unfortunately for me, I don’t actually have that much in common with the main character. She’s got a PhD, works for city development, dates a hot soldier (who can SANG) and takes a really wild journey on both paths she forged for herself. I, on the other hand, almost left my apartment without a shirt on this morning, recently determined that going on a fourth date with someone who really likes me isn’t worth giving up a weekday plan of sweatpants and leftover pizza, and I don’t know if I’m forging any paths for myself, save for the clean line in my living room amid laundry and shoes leading from the couch to the fridge. She’s also a pragmatist, making decisions based on facts and stats, to my idealism, with the constant wonder of what might be, if only everyone else could see inside my head. Yet the biggest thing that stuck out to me, is that through both her paths, she never allows her self-worth to be defined by a man, regardless of whether he’s her boss, her best friend, or her really, really hot soldier (who can SANG).
I probably wouldn’t have been watching for her to melt into a puddle of man-related mush had I not been on the receiving end of a stinging comment recently from an old friend, after I mentioned I was going on the first of the aforementioned dates a few weeks back. “You’ve got a new guy every time I see you!” he told me, shaking his head theatrically. “I don’t want you to keep putting self-worth in someone else.” I tried to argue with him that none of that was true, and followed up by complaining to M, trying desperately to insist I’m not that person. She let me talk for a little while, venting out my frustrations, and then hit me with a truth bomb, like she always does: my greatest virtue is my greatest flaw. I don’t give up on people unless absolutely forced to. So even as things are clearly falling apart, I’ll cling desperately to the idea that I can fix it, that I can make it all better, and I’ll lose myself in the idea of someone else rather than facing the reality of the situation. She cited a day last year that I haven’t forgotten either, where a short phone call from her bedroom with my then-boyfriend ended with me hanging up the phone, dropping to my knees with my hands on my face and starting to cry. Shaking, jagged-breath, ugly crying, asking why he couldn’t just meet me halfway, why I just couldn’t have a day with my girlfriends without drama, and why, why couldn’t I fix it. “You looked so broken,” she told me, as I realized she had a point. “It was like watching you finally give up. And it was so, so hard to watch.”
I was so frustrated after the initial comment from my old friend, while convincing myself to go on that first date, because he kind of had a point. I have met a lot of people in the past year from all over the city, allowing myself and self-worth to get lost in the colorful high of meeting someone new and clicking instantly. The frustration here came from the fact that despite an actual date with someone cute and sweet, someone else kept showing up, uninvited, into my mind, every time I started daydreaming of possibilities; it felt like drowning in my own thoughts, gasping for breath as I tried to push down the memory of his smile, using the distance and bad timing as reminders that life isn’t a series of What Ifs. I think I’ve had too much experience with fireworks now, people bursting into my life with a flash, mesmerizing me with the colors and the light, before abruptly disappearing, leaving me with a memory of something beautiful and a scar from getting burned. M made a great point above, that giving up is something I don’t do quickly and I don’t do it well, and it’s probably what prompts me to fall into a low kind of love with the fireworks, despite knowing the scars are ugly, twisted and tough to crack. It’s the part of my personality that resonates with a song where the main character smacks herself in the mirror and just says “What the fuck?!”
I’d like to say that the show last night inspired me to get my head out of the clouds for a little while, stop dreaming in these grand scenarios where someone takes my breath away and holds on to it, rather than blowing it like chimney smoke back in my face. It was just a Broadway show, though, and I’m just a girl who puts her head in the clouds, come hell, high water or another fireworks display. The show did, however, made a great point that things happen sometimes, and it doesn’t matter if you dreamed them, expected them, or planned for them, because they’re going to happen no matter what. It’s a lesson I’m hoping to remember the next time I’m feared up about returning to reality after dreaming about someone impossible with a wistful sadness of the What Ifs. And if I start to tie my happiness or self-worth into someone else again, it’s a great reminder to look at the person I don’t want to become straight in the mirror, smack her in the forehead and tell her loudly “What the fuck?!”