This letter is to all of the men who never manned up or wanted to man up. It’s recognition of those that have hurt me. Through my twenties, I have learned to not only appreciate the memories, but also appreciate the hurt. I wouldn’t be where I am today without what I went through yesterday.

I wanted to take a minute and truly thank you.

Granted, at the time when my heart was bleeding, I couldn’t grasp the beauty or lessons in the grief and pain. Looking back now, I can say without sarcasm or anger that I do not regret.

Like many women today, I am an independent and driven woman. I have career goals and “to do” lists of things I want to do before I settle down fully. I may seem tough on the outside and sometimes even ruthless, but I’m still soft on the inside. Those that know me know that I wear my heart on my sleeve, fearlessly jump when live deems worth it, and I’ve gotten hurt more often than I’d like to admit.

I’m thankful for those that jumped on the roller coaster journey, even if it was for only a moment in the grand scheme of things. Those that embraced the journey and encouraged it taught me how to be spontaneous, to live, and to seek more.

As fast as it started, it burned down in flames, and for that I thank you too. It would have been too exhausting in my journey to constantly keep up with the excitement and look for the next great adventure. I learned through being engulfed with the wild child lifestyle that it’s okay to appreciate something as dull as grocery shopping because it can be a great adventure as long as you are with the right person.

Thank you, to all the assholes that disappeared or “ghosted”. I’m not going to sugar coat it…it was a dick move. I like to think you felt even an ounce of remorse or guilt for man up. However, through your thoughtlessness I learned to lean on my girls and saw who mattered most in my life. I learned to stop beating myself up for why you didn’t call or why you weren’t interested and learned to love myself no matter what. That realization of self-love is invaluable.

Thank you to those that searched for better. Through your own selfishness, I can respect that you not only saved me time, but you taught me to look for more. I know now that whomever I choose to settle down with, I won’t just settle. I’ve learned the value in appreciating not only who I am and what I have accomplished, but I now seek those who have likeminded traits. My friendships and relationships have become more fulfilling because through the hurt I have realized what is important and what can be cast aside. Life is too short.

Thank you to the one I’ve had the drunken, early quintessential twenties screaming fights in the bar. I’ve learned not to confuse drama with love. I’m thankful for those bawling your eyes out moments, because with any level of pain, you experience growth. The emotions that were triggered were not only lessons of what I didn’t want, but also lessons of who I wanted to become. When my insecurities were exposed, and I learned to control the effect others have on me.

Thank you for cheating on me. It wasn’t about what I did or didn’t do to you. I wasn’t there coaching you and forcing you to take the actions or say the words you did. Knowing that I am not at fault has been a weight off of my shoulders and easier to walk away from a toxic relationship that much easier.

Thank you for those that let me drown in my sorrows. I found strength in my loneliness and learned to appreciate my own independency again. It’s easy to confuse reliance with love in any relationship. Through that significant change, I was able to come back to who I truly was.

Thank you for being insecure of my drive and life goals. It showed me not only that we weren’t compatible in what we wanted out of life, but also it showed me that the right one would see my passions and want to challenge and encourage. You would have only resented me in the long run, and that dead weight isn’t healthy for anyone.

Thank you for each being a blip in my life experiences. I believe each of you taught me something about myself and about how to love. Despite all of this, you taught me to recognize who I really was and love myself more than anyone could ever love me. I learned the importance of keeping my identity and the value of my friendships. More importantly, I learned what I wanted and didn’t want with each one that hurt me.

You taught me that just because I saw the “white picket fence” and was cloud 9 in love with you, there are certain things I, without a doubt, cannot settle for.

You taught me to forgive and truly forget.

You taught me that someday, someone worthy will claim my heart. Furthermore, they’ll man up and know how to take care of it. They won’t hesitate because they are scared. They’ll know that being scared is a great risk worth taking.

I don’t regret my experiences with any of you. I don’t regret the pain because with each crack in my heart, I know that I have learned to expand its capacity. You were the best and worst for me, and I’m grateful that I will remember the sweet and the bitter.

For all of this, I will forever be grateful, but I don’t have to keep you in my life to move on. I forgive and wish you a lifetime of happiness, but the gifts stop there. Just because I have forgiven you, doesn’t mean that I want to open that door. Moving on is my own gift to myself.

Three weeks ago my world was turned upside down. The worst part of a breakup is not only the death of a relationship, but the fact that friends and family feel like they have to take a side. Sometimes it’s required to take a side, and sometimes it’s voluntary. Or, sometimes it can get ugly because your ex-half feels the need to make sides by posting it to the global world through Facebook.

Friends reached out and travelled from all over the United States to be by my side, both physically and mentally. I have found strengths in a sea of tight knit women and men, who have come to my side through checking in or offering to just let me cry and eat candy. Their wisdom and strength still keeps me in disbelief of their kindness. My grandmother always told me that it said a lot about a person by seeing the kind of company they kept. I’m so lucky to be in good company. In person and in text message sent encouragement telling me to put the phone down, not be so nice to my unwanted tenants, drink more wine, etc. The past 21 days have been an emotional roller coaster.

Someone doesn’t just ask you to leave their house nor do they break up with someone for no reason. Someone doesn’t dream of a future and a family and larger steps and just cut through them one day. The most frustrating thing about this shit show of a break up is that my side will never matter. I’m not even sure why I want it to matter. But taking away emotional level of what I wanted or loved in him, the end of the story is I was sleeping with a lion in sheep’s clothing.

When I finally realized that he loved the idea of me rather than me, I knew it was time to cut loose. Knowing that someone didn’t love you for who you were or appreciated you for what you did can be suffocating. After the initial shock comes the grief, and then comes the anger. By ending the relationship, I pulled the lion out from under his camouflage. As if a child without mommy’s credit card, he rebelled by breaking, stealing, and name-calling. By seeing his true colors, my own rose colored glasses were off, and I needed him to just move out.

After looking at all of the half finished projects around my house, I realized one night while sitting in sweatpants that I too was another one of his unfinished projects. At first, I was shiny and new and exciting. The idea of me was intriguing and limitless. I had offered him an adventure, new ideas, and a chance to start fresh.

But like the half of a lawn seeded with grass or the piles of wood he left behind, once he realized that it took a little work and some love put into it, he was checked out.

I was devastated. Frankly, I still am. I did everything I could, and it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have control of my house or my unwanted guests, and they took pride in making it as uncomfortable for me as they could. I didn’t have control over what they stole, what came out of his or his best friend’s mouth, or what women he wanted to sleep with. The only thing I had control over was how it made me feel.

And the weeds that were growing around my house.

Sometimes you just have to break something or pull weeds.

So I did.

I find it funny to think back on the emotional fit of the night that they finally moved out. After drinking a few glasses of wine, I decided that at 9pm in a transitional neighborhood on a Sunday, its completely normal to go outside in your pajamas, high rubber Hunter boots, and pull weeds in the front lawn. I channeled the anger, the fear, and disappointment into each of their little tiny green stemmed necks and I uprooted them as fast has my life has been uprooted in the past three weeks. I concentrated from one patch to the other, as my emotions flooded out of me and my sweat poured from the humid Carolina heat onto the half unfinished yard work he always gave me excuses for.

So, dear neighbors of Plaza Midwood, I apologize for the sobbing woman in pajama pants yanking weeds out on that Sunday night. I’ll be sure to have her locked up going forward. Or, at least the wine cabinet locked..because that stuff is crying juice.

But in the meantime, I will think back on that night, as the night that I had entirely too many mosquito bites, too many glasses of wine, and too little control in a nasty situation. It was a cathartic kind of night that I will remember when my life not only restarted, but it was the night I took the control back. I crossed off two of his unfinished projects from his list: the weeds and myself. I was no longer a trophy collecting dust, but one muddy, sweaty, and boss ass bitch.

Don’t judge. Someday, you might find yourself pulling weeds.

The drought was the very worst
When the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst
It was months, and months of back and forth
You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore
Hung my head as I lost the war, and the sky turned black like a perfect storm

-Taylor Swift

Everyone thinks that if you ended a relationship on your terms, you are 100% fine with the situation. I can’t tell you how many people have told me before “well if you ended it, then what’s the problem?”

Relationships are not always black and white. They aren’t even grey. Sometimes there’s other shades. In this situation, there was a lot of blues added to the mix.

As for being “fine” with a life changing decision, I would seriously wonder why you were even in it to being with if you were just “fine”. Why waste that person’s time or yours if your opinion of losing them is being “fine”? Ending a relationship that you don’t want to end is gut wrenching. It’s even worse when that person lives with you.  Not only are you droping your comfort zone or someone from life, you’re losing a best friend, a roommate, and someone you once thought you would marry. In some sense, it’s like a death.

Only it’s even more of a mind fuck because you have the option to talk to them, but know that it won’t make a difference, and their receptiveness to what you have to say might not be as equal to yours. You have to stop talking to the one person that was your world.

I’ve cried enough tears in the last 48 hours to not give a shit about the games they tell you to play. People tell you to stand tall, act indifferent, and not be a mess. You may look like a bitch, but it’s better to keep your dignity then let them see your tears.

If I’m the first to admit it, I don’t care. I am a mess. I’m sad. I’m angry. More so than any other feeling, I’m disappointed. I gave everything I could to something and it didn’t work out. I loved wholeheartedly and I wanted the seeds we had planted together to grow. When our relationship started to die, it was like staring at soil waiting for the seeds to sprout. I threw fertilizer on it, watered it, changed the direction. In the end, I was as exhausted as the seeds and overwelmed with grief.

When we grow up, we imagine that we would meet someone, fall in love with them, and live our happily ever after. At 26 I’m old enough to realize that’s not only an extremely rare case, it’s next to impossible. People change and they grow in different ways. By the midtwenties, you have to face the fact that you are either going to grow tall, grow sideways, or stay If someone doesn’t want to grow in the same direction than you, it’s very hard to find your happily ever after.

There comes a time in your life when you realize that a relationship that’s going to grow has to have goals and limits. As you make your goals with eachother to grow together, you also have to make limits to what you are okay with. If someone hits those limits, you have to love yourself enough to get out. I stopped writing. I started to believe all of the things he said about me. I changed myself and tried to be better to what he said. Don’t get confused that I am a victim or was the perfect angel. I had said my share and have dug my own holes. I was just the first to wave the white flag and say “Enough”.

The difference between “passion” and “emotional abuse” is a fine line. You’ve seen the stereotypical movies to where the Italian couple is screaming one moment and then making out the next. You’re told that that’s a relationship and taught that that’s the embodiment passion. No, he never lifted a finger to me, but his words cut me as deep. But when you’re told “you’re unattractive”, “almost got that ring” or someone would rather use their hand then be with you, where’s the passion in that? I found myself passionately drinking a bottle of wine rather than feeling passionate.

The word “Bitch” has been thrown around casually at me the past few days. Why are women who stand up for their limits always a “bitch”, but a guy that stands up for his limits in a relationship “dodged a bullet”? Why can’t we change this stereotype of the word “bitch” to “strong”? I’m strong enough to admit that I loved him wholeheartedly, but our love wasn’t healing the word wounds. We were just applying another bandaid on top of another one on top of another one, and letting the bandaid fester and rot the skin underneath. It wasn’t healing, it was only covering.

Sometimes walking away is the only option.

Not because you want someone to miss you, realize what they took for granted, or change for the better to be your happily ever after.

Sometimes walking away is the only option because you finally respect yourself to know your limits and you’re taking pride in sticking to them. Ripping the bandaid off is the only way to heal. It’s scary, you’ve lost control of the situation, and you have lost something that once was special.

But once you rip that bandaid off and let the wound air out, that’s when you can finally breathe.

I grew up attending a small Catholic elementary school in town of Endicott, NY, knowing the same 15 other girls and 8 boys since kindergarten. Because our school was so small, we only had CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports leagues and then a Modified league in which it joined up with the other 3 local Catholic schools to combine to one team under the local Catholic high school, Seton Catholic Central. In 8th grade, the idea of meeting other kids from the local Catholic schools was exciting and yet terrifying. I was an awkward individual. I had started to lose some of my baby fat, my braces that had been on F-O-R-E-V-E-R were finally coming off, and I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. When you see the same people every single year for 9 years, the idea of meeting new friends is extremely appealing. Although small, my school had cliques and social classes like any other public school.

Under the thought process that “sports gave you structure” imbedded into me by my father, I decided to join the Modified Track team. Not being the star athlete like my brother, I decided to pick a sport where I didn’t feel the pressures of not being in the sport since I was in diapers. Track seemed like a simple sport…or so I had thought.

The new coach at the time (let’s call her Coach M.) expected a lot out of us.  Already a veteran marathon runner who knew the ins and outs of running, she wanted champions. I had wanted fun. It was soon apparent that those who didn’t win her approval or had the immediate talents would soon lose favor and fall into the sidelines.
As a 13 year old on the brink of puberty, I was that awkward, slightly chubby girl who wanted to find something I was good at. It was clear I was not a fast runner, but Coach M. didn’t take the time to figure out why. Parents, I can’t tell you how significant that spring season sticks with me to this day. I remember being told that I wasn’t fast because I wasn’t trying enough. I remember running up and down the dreaded Denton Hill, told to run until I puked in order to win her praise and try harder. I remember crying to my mom because Coach M. would congratulate and rave about her “prized athletes”, but would ignore the trials of the misfits who tried their hardest but didn’t earn a medal. With a cool ease after one track meet, she looked at me and said “Some people aren’t runners.”

With history of exaggeration, my parents would ask me if I was being to hard on myself, or if I had oversaw Coach M’s praises. I had started to doubt myself, thus becoming insecure with my gut instinct, feelings, and my own athleticism. I stopped trying, and with that track stopped being fun. Losing the favor of the Coach also meant losing the favor of the star athletes. Those that won races were perceived as cool, while those that didn’t were not doing their part with the team.
When I write this article, it’s not to whine about not being good enough or to get past inner demons. It wasn’t about the cliques or about losing potential friendships because I couldn’t run fast enough. The experience was traumatizing because one adult had our high school fates in her hands, and she chose to reward the talented and forget the misfits. She set up our high school class hierarchy before we even had a chance to choose. As an impressionable 13 year old, being told I wasn’t good enough by an adult who we were taught to respect and listen to their authority was defeating.
I remember standing at the rewards banquet after the season, where everyone received rewards. Usually, I am a believer that not everyone should get an award. However, in our politically correct Catholic league, everyone received a certificate, with the exception of yours truly. Coach M had forgotten to print one off for me. I remember the embarrassment of standing there in front of our parents listening to Coach M. highlight everyone’s talents but my own. I remember the look on my mom’s face when she realized I not only was the only one who didn’t receive a certificate on a team of thirty plus students, but that maybe my insecurities were true. I remember holding back tears and turning red as I stood there stupidly as my name was overlooked. Most of all, I remember Coach M’s casual shrug and quick apology after the ceremony upon my mom’s request due to the fact that the reward was forgotten.

I carried those insecurities with me throughout high school. Not believing I was good enough to try a sport, I stuck to education and sports I had previously tried. I had accepted being average or “good enough” to participate. My running shoes were put away with those memories mentally tucked away instead of reliving my failures.

Eight years later, a new friend in New York City asked me if I wanted to run a 5K with her. Starting a new life in a new city, I had thought “Why not?” My running shoes had been put up long enough. With each step of running with a new friend, I began to gain my running confidence back. The baggage of the past was becoming lighter with every mile.

One 5K turned into a 10K, which turned into a half-marathon, then several half-marathons, and finally training for the New York City Marathon. My internal revenge is knowing that what Coach M. had said to me didn’t stick forever. Running soon became my own therapy, and I was fastly addicted to a sport that I had given up long ago. She didn’t defeat me. If she had taken the time to invest in me as a runner and suggest long distance running, maybe I would have been one of those “star athletes”. Or, maybe I wouldn’t have been. What matters most is that she didn’t try.

Coaches, take the time to invest in each and every kid you come into contact with. You never know who can be a diamond in the rough. Whether a smile, a good job, or forgetting their certificate at a ceremony, your actions and your words have weight and do not go forgotten. Because of you, they could hang up their running shoes for years because of a single sentence or push to become something they’re proud of. You decide.

After exchanging a few emails on an early Monday Morning with a good friend of mine, we chatted about our beliefs growing up and how society has changed. She was chatting about relationships and drama (as most females do). We started to talk deeper about the beliefs we’ve been taught, and I found myself wondering if they were the same beliefs that we actually put weight into?
During this conversation, we talked about the similarities of our mothers, and their beliefs that you can never have “too many clothes or too many degrees”. Our mothers raised us to be independent and strong women, so that we never had to rely on anyone. They understood that times were changing, and if we wanted to survive in this new world that focused on less family and more career, we would have to have goals and dreams of our own. When it came to men, they taught us that you should find someone who met your match intellectually, humorously, and in faith.
For an early twenty year old, that belief was a literal thought. I skipped two years of college and felt entitled in a way to meet a man of the same aggressive career moves and goals. I looked for the typical “finance boy” or those with or in process of achieving higher degrees, because they were on “my level”. All of this thinking got me with a broken heart, tears over champagne, and waiting like an idiot for a Greyhound bus that would never come.
Through our life experiences, we have lessons. Like our strapping student debt, lessons don’t come without some form of payment. In life, this payment comes in the form of a lot of emotional baggage. Everyone has it. For me, life lessons challenged me to think outside the box of traditional beliefs. Times were changing, and relationships (friendships or more) are not always black and white. In my literal traditional beliefs, I believed if they were motivated in their careers, they were good people. When I started dating a PreMed student, I instantly trusted him because of our common beliefs and good-natured conversations. I instantly trusted him and was enchanted to have found someone who was as motivated as I was. This trust ended with a life lesson that took the form of crying hysterically next to your roommate on the stoop of your Brownstone apartment in New York City after learning that not only this “good-natured” boy cheated on you, but also gave you an STD.
Growing up, I was always the “good girl”. I chose the right paths, wasn’t afraid to say “no”, and kept my goals in front of me. An STD was something I was raised to believe was dirty and something “bad girls” got. Receiving the news that I had not only contracted the STD HPV, but it evolved into cancerous cells, felt like a baseball bat to the head. Everything I believed and stood for were wrong. Every rule I followed had a loophole. Crying on that stoop as a 22 year old I can now realize was a moment of tragic beauty. It was early spring and bright pink cherry blossoms blooming on the streets of the Upper East Side surrounded me. I remember the mascara-stained tears running freely, the smell of my roommate’s sweet “Stella” perfume, and my numbness made everything go in slow motion. It was the moment I had lost my innocence to the world around me.
After a few painful surgeries and emotional fits throughout it, I understood that the material aspect of “degrees and money” were shallow pieces of the puzzle. What truly matters in a relationship has nothing to do with how many zeroes are at the end of their paycheck. I had been hung up on this warped belief for so long, that I imagine I had shut potential real relationship opportunities out.
Life lessons are a moment of fragmented or tragic beauty because you remove those rose colored glasses off your eyes. You look around and appreciate what you do have, instead of what you want to have. When you have these life experiences in your early twenties, you feel like your heart is going to explode. It’s an earth shattering feeling, and you feel like you will die.
While sitting in a Long Island City restaurant with two of my favorite people at the end of October, we talked about our early twenties. When talking about life lessons, my wise friend John talked about learning the simple mantra “No Matter What Happens…it’s going to be okay”.
You will fall in love.
You will have the occasional break up.
People you love will leave you or they will die.
You might lose your job or become disappointed that a life.
But no matter what happens, you will be okay.
Once you learn that, all the other suitcases of baggage will feel a lot lighter and emotional heartbreaks become trivial.

At the beginning of March, I had been accepted to write for Elite Daily as an “anti-hero” of relationships. The writers had liked my cynical, New Yorker standpoint that become apparent through my Advice in the AM column. Starting out writing this blog, I had moved to the “city of lights” as a hopeless romantic. I had fallen in love with the bright lights, busy streets, and was enchanted by idea that my soulmate could be walking the very same streets that I was.

Soon, I realized that New York City wasn’t my “city of love”. When you date in New York City, dating becomes a low level priority in comparison to your career, drinking life, and shoes budget. I felt very much in tune with Carrie Bradshaw. I worked in fashion, freelance wrote, obsessed over the next brunch/oyster bar that my friends would visit, and had a credit card bill large enough to match my wardrobe obesssion. My years in New York were the quinessential self-involved twentysomething years that I will hold dear to, but would never wish upon myself again.

When you’re single in your twenties in your small town, you constantly hold over your head that you aren’t married yet. In New York City, you add 5-10 years to your “marriage age”, due to the low priority you give love. My parents were married at 25 and had me at 26. According to their life path, I was way off track. Being the hopeless romantic that I was, I searched for Mr. Right. From internet dating to blind dating to group dating, my roommate and I tried them all. I enjoyed the post date gossip over the late night hashbrowns & hot dogs with my roommate in our tiny Upper East Side apartment more than the actual dates. Soon, every date had become the same, and the “finance boy shine” had dulled in my eyes.

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to love, you have to look. I’m a big believer of signs. However, my growing cynical side was starting to believe that I saw signs…because I wanted to. I wanted to find the right guy, and I wanted an epic love story. Although when you think about it…who doesn’t?

Those that I fell for, I fell hard…and I fell out of it hard too. Sometimes being a hopeless romantic is a double edged sword because you leap before you look…and most of the time you leap into thorns. Sure, I had my days of crying over wine and wanting to eat tubs of ice cream. But really, how badly was my heart broke if I wasn’t able to tell any of them that I loved them either?

By the time I moved to Charlotte, I was over 2013 and I was over falling for the wrong person. I had realized I had been more in love with the idea of being in love, than actually the person themselves. It’s amazing how you can become stuck inside your own thoughts, and believe your perception is truth. They weren’t for me, and I wasn’t for them.

So when March came rolling around, I saw things less filled with color and the pastels of romance, and more black and white. My cynicism fueled my writing. My “anit-hero” romance posts were fueled by frustration over the male gender. My “going out” moments were more about dancing with my ladies and getting the frustrations out over being in a dead end job.

One day my work bestie and I decided we had enough of the mental abuse at our dead end job. Previously, day by day we were each other’s support team; struggling to make it hour by hour even through this job. Finally, a straw broke the corporate camel’s back, and we decided to end the chapter of our lives. In previous jobs, I have never been able to fully quit and tell them why. The frustrations over the past year had fueled my strength. Before I had known it, I was spilling out all of the illegal and harrassment that had taken place over the past few months. I stood for my word, and I stood ground.

When I walked out of those doors, something had changed within me.

After a long night of celebrating leaving the “hell hole” with mimosas and Common Market, I traveled to Upstate New York with my new puppy in tow. It’s amazing how healing your hometown can be, and I needed some rest and repair after not being home for over 5 months. My trip was filled with family and friends. I was able to get back to my roots and reevaulate the important things in life. I was ready to take Charlotte by storm with a more positive set mind.

I’m convinced the universe has humor. As I’ve said before in all of my posts, the minute you set your mind in one direction and have a plan, the universe tends to knock you off your high horse and remind you kindly that you aren’t the one in control.

On a late Sunday night, after spending time with close family friends and family, I met out one of my best friends for a drink. If we had originally planned to go somewhere besides her work, my universal change wouldn’t have happened. If a freak snow storm didn’t pass through that night, making the roads to slippery to travel home, I wouldn’t have stayed for one more drink.

And if the familiar brown eyed boy sitting at the end of the bar hadn’t recognized me or came over to say hello, my world wouldn’t have turned upside down.

The universe is humorous. Instead of my quiet night out, it made all of those things happen. One casual Sunday drink had turned to another bar, a shot of fireball, and catching up with someone who had caught my eye the prior year. The prior year we weren’t in the same mindset, and we had both been throught the same loss that had severely affected us.  9 months later, all of a sudden, our paths had recrossed and aligned.

So the next morning, when I looked and realized I had a slumber party of two, I shook my head in disbelief.

And the following morning, when I had went on my family’s annual Trout Fishing trip, and looked over to see him there fishing with my family and chatting, I gave up on trying to find reason.

And when three months later, he texted me that he was on his way, moving from Upstate New York to take on Charlotte with me, my heart grew two sizes and I just went along with it.

Life is funny. You can’t plan “taking on Charlotte” or making a plan in its own, because you don’t have the control. Just go along with the ride. The minute you do, you might have a copilot that wants to come along to.

 

 

 

 

The human heart is a magnificent thing.

One minute you can feel absolutely lost, breathless, and feeling like your heart is about so split in two over heartbreak. You don’t know how you’re going to move on, or even make it through the day.

But somehow, someway, you make it through the day. Soon enough, a week has passed. Then the next minute you don’t even know how you fit them in your heart.

When I look back over the past year, I’ve had enough changes to give me whiplash. I can give the cliché advice and agree that yes, everything that I have done or the paths I have chosen have led me to where I am right now.

People make a big fuss about your “firsts” when growing up: your first walk, your first word, your first loss tooth.

When we reach puberty and start to realize the opposite sex exists, our life is all about a set of new firsts: first kiss, first dance, first time you held hands, and your “first time”.

One of the most beautiful and tragic experiences that defines your life is your first love. It’s beautiful because it’s a set of everything new. You’re experiencing a new kind of love, a new set of emotions, and trust in someone not in your family. First love is great.

But first love also leads to that cry your heart out until you can’t breathe/eat a gallon of ice cream/aching breakup and loss that you’ve also never experienced. No, a breakup is never a party. However, the first breakup to your first love, might be one of the most painful experiences that any human has to go through. Some of us don’t ever get over it. Our lives are filled with watching movies and tv that show “idealic love”, but never show the real thing. With our rose-colored glasses on, we believe our first love is the “end all, be all”. When it ends, it’s absolutely gut wrenching.

We carry that baggage from one relationship to the next in hopes of someone “curing us” from our pass ailments.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that first love does work out. These rare exceptions to this rule is a beautiful thing. However, you can argue that you fall in and out of love with this person. By the time you grow from adolescent to adult…twenty years old to thiry…you are not the same person. If you still love your first love, you know it required work and communication…not unlike anything that those that serial date also face.

By the second and third person that you date, you may or may not love them, but they will be someone you let into your life. They will teach you things about yourself and about dating that you didn’t know with the other person. They will make you smile, make you laugh again, and will dull the baggage of the once requited love. Your insecurities that were turned on after your first love slowly start to diminish, and you start to feel like yourself again.

Everything happens for a reason. Every person that you encounter, every person you date, you were meant to learn a lesson. Your first love is called just that because it is your series of “firsts”. I have cooked many dishes in my life, and the first time wasn’t always pretty. It was an experience, but I’m not going to stop eating steak because the first time I cooked it too well done. When your first love doesn’t work, it’s because it’s generally your first, and not your last.

Your last love is someone who you should truly cherish. Everyone always talks about the “one that got away” or the “first love”. I say that’s bullshit.

I was so romanced by the idea of a first love, that I started dating my first love 10 years later. I fell in love with the story of “us”, and believed that he was my “end all be all”. Yet after a year and a half of trying to make it work, we both realized we didn’t love each other, we weren’t who we wanted to be with, and we had very different goals. He had tried to change me to make me more of the “Mad Men-esque 60s Housewife”, and I was too busy reminding him that women were allowed “crazy things” like goals and opportunities.

So yeah, I’m not all about idea of the “first love”.

It was only until my second love came along that I started to realize how much better love is when you truly know yourself. Everyone has their own baggage. In fact, I believe our baggage makes us interesting. When my second love came around, I had given up on relationships. I had decided that I would be faithful to my dreams and careers, and that I would be too busy to find a guy. In fact, to prove that I was too busy, I got a dog.

So when this one came around, I wasn’t expecting it. But, it’s not to say I wasn’t prepared. Your first love gives you insight into relationships. It provides you caution and stablity to not be knocked off kilter.

The second time around, you know what to expect. You know what to look for in someone you want to be with. You have the confidence to know what you want, and know what you deserve. It also proves to yourself that you can open up again, and you can find something truly amazing. It won’t exhaust you, be filled with drama, and unsettle you. Because you’ve already been through the ringer, you know the warning signs.

And soon your heart will slowly heal from the baggage and the bruising of your first love. It’ll be bursting with happiness, and all your past caution will flee.

And like with any recipe that you try, practice only leads to perfection. My old well done steak will never happen again, and now I can enjoy my medium rare perfection.

Forget about firsts. Learn from them, don’t let them engulf your future decisions.

The human heart is a magnificent thing. 

 

Ever since a little girl, my mother has always told me that when I argue, I go for the “goiter”. In other words, if someone hurts me, I find their most obvious flaw or weakness, and shove it right back in their face. It’s the winning kill; the icing on a cake. It’s the ultimate defense mechanism, and truthfully my own very weakness. As I grew, I was able to put a wall around my emotions by pushing away others with insulting comments. Those that stuck around understood that I may have said something spiteful, but it was because I didn’t know how to explain my emotions without looking vulnerable.

Unfortunately, there becomes a time in your twenties when you can’t just “give the blunt truth” to others without thinking of the possible repercussions. In high school, we’re taught that every action has an equal or opposite reaction. This law of science doesn’t just relate to physics, but to relationships as well. I like to think of tolerance and age symbolized as a rubber band. The older you get, the colder that rubber band is, and you have less flexibility. The older you get and the more spiteful of a comment, the less likely people tolerate what you say.

In my early twenties, I was cautious of what I said or whom I said it too. After a tumultuous highschool career, I appreciated each friend I had, no matter how much they walked on me. When my tolerance “rubber band” finally snapped one day in New York City, I was able to trim the fat of those that didn’t value my friendship, and keep those that mattered most close to me. I was able to keep my caustic tongue quiet, with only a few more friendship casualties down the way.

The funny thing about letting your guard down, is sometimes your own self defenses fall down too. By early May, I was falling in a way that left me off kilter and unpredictable. They always show the girls and guys in romantic comedies becoming dreamy or turning into a total klutz…because those are cute things to do. What they forget to show you is that when you start to fall, because you put someone high on a pedestal, they become your own personal kryptonite.

By letting someone in, you fall prey to not only their charms, but also to your weaknesses. Things they say that wouldn’t usually bother you do, because you care about their opinion.

So on one early May, when a conversation topic took a hard turn down south, the normal mid twenties me would have bit the bullet, smiled, and called them out on being rude. However, because I had let my guard down, those comments took an extra hard hit, and the tomboy 8th grader tongue slipped out a caustic curve ball.

I knew it was bad, but I was more concerned of making the inning even.

And when the phone went dead, I knew I had swung it out of the park.

Although this time, the victory didn’t taste sweet.

“My Stupid Mouth, has got me in trouble. I’ve said too much again.”-John Mayer

I had a recent conversation with someone about the differences between calling yourself a “man” or “woman”. In his perspective, even at 25, he considered himself a kid. He referred to his friends as “kids”, and when talking about a female interest, he called her his “girl”. At first, I was a little offended. After moving multiple times, changing careers, and having my own professional life together, I was no where near still being a “kid”.

However, a simple slip of the tongue can ruin your credibility and everything you built up. Words can have a powerful reaction. I’m not young enough to get away with saying anything, and I’m not old enough to have learned this lesson. If I did, I wouldn’t be thinking about eating crow at 4am.

With my little “victory”, I stripped myself of being more than just a “kid”.

Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can also hurt. They tend to hurt more, since there aren’t any bruises or scratch marks. So next time you feel like taking your own victory lap, think really if it’s that important. I’m all for standing up for yourself, but it has to be said with poise and grace. You can’t fight fire with fire.

Otherwise, you’ll be left on the receiving end of a static phone.

Some victories aren’t as sweet.

As I’ve often said before, our generation focuses more on being happy with our current life. Our parents and grandparents believed in the “American dream”, the 401k package, and the belief to travel after you retire and the kids are grown.

Our generation chooses simplicity.

We want to live out our dreams without regret.

We make millions of mistakes in our twenties, and promise to have our shit together in our thirties. Let’s be honest…I bet our parents did the same, but they had the society based plan and the picket fence to guard their insecurities. Our generation says “screw it, I’m scared and proud”.

My goal for 2014 has been simple: be happy. In March when I found myself in a mentally abusive job, I quit it. When I found myself wanting more out of life, I started a company with a best friend. I found myself frustrated that the career aspect of my life was taking off, but the romance aspect was a dead lull. My usual hopeless romantic self had lost the “hope”, and I had enough of empty promises. So, like any sane person, I swore off dating, dropped my hopeless romanticism attitude, and got myself a puppy.

Again, like any sane person.

So after all of these series of changes in a week time frame, I needed a little family time. I hadn’t spent a lot of time since moving from New York, and decided to spend the beginning of April with family and friends. Within 24 hours in late March I had quit my job, sworn off dating for 6 months, we landed our companies’ first client, and Andrea & I partied like rock stars with a day drinking celebration because of all of the above.  

10 Hours later with baby ZuZu in tow and a massive hangover to boot (god bless Gatorade), we headed up north for a little R&R. I spent the next few days eating local comfort foods and spending time with my family and one of my favorite gal pals.

I expected a quiet weekend retreat with family.

I expected a quiet catch up with one of my favorite gal pals on a Sunday night, at a new trendy restaurant in my hometown enjoying draft beers and barbecue with Lana.

I expected to be home by 10pm, resting for a camping trip with my family the next night.

I expected to go home to North Carolina rested with a business mindset, and my heart in lockdown.

But why would the universe ever give me something vanilla when I planned to settle for it?

What I didn’t expect was a hand on my shoulder to say hello, and a catch up with my brother’s friend.

I didn’t expect that one bar would lead to two, a fireball shot, and a dancing on a bar.

I didn’t expect waking up to a brown eyed boy, taking him on my family’s camping trip, and waking up to him the next morning.

And I sure as hell didn’t expect to leave my heart back in my hometown.

The universe doesn’t like when you plan things. I should have learned by now that no matter how many times I decide to take control, there’s always a greater plan. You just have to buckle up and enjoy the ride. Our generation was right to enjoy simplicity.

I’m just going to continue the one resolution I’ve kept in 2014: Be Happy.

 

One of my favorite Parks and Recreation Episodes is where Ann Perkins goes on a date with Chris because Leslie asks her to. She ends up having a great time with Chris, but Leslie foils the date by giving away the initial ulterior motive. In a way to get back Chris, and apologize for her mistake, she mans up and apologizes by saying “I’m here to eat crow”. Since then, that statement has stuck in my back pocket, with the wisdom and lesson that sometimes even “the beautiful musk ox” character of Ann Perkins has to man up when she’s wrong. The only way to grow is to recognize your faults. The only way to learn is to face your faults and try to resolve them.

Like every February, the Winter cold had beaten down my family and I, and we decided to take a vacation together. After the “Hell Year” (as I so aptly call it) of 2013, my moving (twice), and my brother starting his upcoming Police Academy training, we decided to spend a little R&R together to recollect. The plan was simple: My family would fly down to Charlotte, we would drive the next day to Charleston and board the ship. On the way back, reverse the order and repeat. Being the travel expert, I have been the one in more recent years to plan the trip from the airlines for my family to the cruise itself. My obsessive compulsion of “To Do” lists also included calling my family the day before, ensuring they carried all of their essential items…like passports.

Being the one in charge and the “go to” for Travel Advice, I felt frustrated when people asked me questions. Instead of seeing it from their perspective as I was someone they wanted to  learn from, I became resentful and saw it as being “used and abused”. I didn’t understand why people couldn’t follow the same methods I did, became short and irritable towards those that asked repeated questions, and felt impatient. Being the responsible one, I arrived at the airport to pick up my family 40 minutes early, and realized the flight would be delayed another hour on top of that. I was tired of being the reliable one, the responsible one, and the one who had all the answers. I was letting the “woe is me” attitude suck the positivity of going on a vacation out, and was focusing more on wondering why my family couldn’t just take care of themselves, or me even.

I was wound like a freaking top.

So as the universe would have it, my lesson came a mere 12 hours later as we entered the Carnival ship parking gates…when I realized after 3 hours of driving that I had left  my passport in my kitchen. It was made known through the guards at the gate, that without a passport I was S.O.L.

For the next 2 hours, panic ensued. I had both gut wrenching and calm feelings that I was not going to make it on the cruise ship. I went from crying one moment, to thinking hard at my options. From doctor’s offices, to old high school guidance counselors, to even Ancestry.com, I searched high and low to find a copy of my birth certificate.

..Speaking of, do you know how HARD it is to get a copy of your own birth certificate?

Finally, 40+ phone calls, multiple faxes, and a very close family friend driving all around my hometown just because they’re an amazing person, my family was the last four people to get on the cruise. We had used every any any angle we could use to get that birth certificate-from family friends to calling the New York State DMV. Our resources had been tapped, and it wasn’t until the last 5 minutes did we know I was able to make the trip. Our nerves were raw, my mother and my faces were puffy, and yet we made it.

I am a huge believer that we are given obstacles to face our fears and strengthen our weaknesses. I believe that we entered the beginning of the trip arguing, resenting, and not appreciating the time we had with each other.

We left that experience and boarded the cruise ship a united family. Like Ann Perkins, I realized it was my time to accept I had royally learned my lesson. I had learned that although a world traveler, I was going to make mistakes. Although I had been the one in charge the past few trips, my family were fully grown and capable adults. I learned that if somehow they could raise me, then they must be able to help me out every once in a while. Don’t let pride come in your way.

And when you make a mistake, own up to it, man up, and be sure to buy your family a few rounds of Bahama Mama drinks to take the edge off.

My name is Ashley Massis, and I ate crow.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 876 other followers