Just a little, oh, little

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?!”

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Tough Love

“No! That’s so selfish. You need to stand up for yourself, this is getting ridiculous.”
“I don’t even think that you should say anything to that”
“At the end of the day, you just have to ask yourself whether that would improve your life or not. And you’re the only one who knows that.”

I’m generally not one for being coddled. As much as I like to hear that I’m always right and obviously perfect, if someone disagrees with me or needs to give me cold dose of reality, I’d prefer they do so, rather than sit on something about which they feel strongly, or stay quiet when they think I’m walking into fire. Be it my work performance, my wardrobe choices, or my indecision related to retrieving missing accessories, I’m usually okay with someone eschewing the “everything is going to be okay” or “you’re always right” in lieu of the truth.

My Nickname Posse, my people, are the best at handing out reality face-palms when I get that dreamy look in my eyes, playing Chicken with the “what ifs” and “why nots.” My lovely friend M in particular is described by mama B (and herself) as a hyper-protective mama bear, having watched me go through so much in the past few years. She let it fly at me earlier this week while I was entangled in a sticky situation, reminding me again and again that I need to look out for myself and I can’t backtrack when I’ve come such a long distance in such a short period of time. To be honest, her words stung for a minute, so I ran to my partner-in-crime R and my fashionista C for different advice, hoping they would tell me that I was right and everything was okay. Instead, they echoed M almost exactly, giving me reality instead of fantasy when it comes to handling my own health and sanity. Stung slightly, my first instinct was to pull away from them, stop sharing my over-analytical thoughts as they unfold in the next few weeks, but the more I tried to convince myself that I know best, the more I realized I don’t.

Exactly a year ago at this moment, I was in the middle of the first break-up with my then-boyfriend, a decision that felt so impossible at the time, pushing me out of a comfort zone into unfamiliar territory of unplanned weekends and nights alone. I remember the first week felt like an eternity; I spent most of those nights buoyed by one of my friends and a lot of alcohol, sometimes crying, mostly trying to figure out what was going to happen, if we would be okay or if this was the forever end. I’ll never forget a night where M came over after a late work shift, nearly 11 p.m. on a weeknight, and held me as I rocked back and forth, wrapped in his tattered grey sweatshirt, sobbing that I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to do, I just didn’t know what to do. She let me cry until I couldn’t, listened to my “What Ifs” and “But Maybes” patiently, and when I finally lifted my head, she looked me square in the eye and said “You know I love you and will support any decision you make. But you were doing this when you guys were together, too. Shouldn’t that tell you what you need to do?”

Sometimes I wish I’d listened to her then, instead of spending the next three months trying to salvage something that was broken beyond repair. But I wasn’t ready for tough love at that point, at least not from her. I was holding on to the life I’d spent three years building in the city instead of looking forward to possibilities. And looking back, it’s okay that I wasn’t ready to give up that life when given that opportunity, but sometimes I look back again and I wish, I wish, I wish I had. So it’s strange now, a year later, to be in a very different place receiving very similar advice. I’m dancing around the same edge, holding on to the same idea that there’s something I can fix on my own, without taking the other parts of the equation into consideration; namely: I can’t daydream my way into a happy ending.

Tough love stings, it burns, and it wants you to pull away furiously from the person holding your hand, gently trying to lead you into an obvious realization that you can choose to be happy above all things. Tough love is like ripping a bandaid off what used to be a bad wound, so nervous that it’s too soon and then so relieved when it’s over.  I’m not saying I agree with the Nickname Posse all the time, or that they will always understand every aspect of the decisions that I make – after all, they may see me in the bad times, hysterically sobbing on my couch, but they don’t see me in the best times, enjoying sushi after a major score on $1 records, nestled in strong arms on my couch at 2 a.m. after the first I-maybe-love-you. In the end, decisions about my life will always be mine. But it will always be nice to know that the people that love me, love me enough to tell me “no” when I don’t want to hear it, tell me to “snap out of it” when I start to daydream about perfect, and tell me “I’ll always be there for you” when I need to hear it the most.