2016 was an exceptionally happy year for me (and I’m not afraid to admit it)

We’ve all been saying it all damn year, haven’t we? 2016 IS THE WORST.

I know that I’ve definitely been guilty of this sentiment, and it wasn’t really just because of the election (although that contributed to my year-end complaints). But in the past few days, I realized just how much we’ve all been doing it lately…

Look, I get it. This year has kicked us all (figuratively) in the balls. Between the celebs that died throughout the year and especially around Christmas/Hanukkah, it’s been tough. The election was, well, pretty awful for those of us who care about other people and maintaining our rights. And that’s not even to mention Aleppo and Brexit and… ugh, I can’t go on. This year has been the WORST, right?

Or has it?

The truth is that 2016 is not killing people, but people die because of complicated things like a history of drug and alcohol abuse. That’s not the only reason why so many of our fave celebs passed away this year, but that’s certainly a theory that makes sense too.

Then there’s just the general thinking that… Hey, if we call 2016 the worst, then what about all of the bad years that came before it or the bad years that are still to come? (Ya know, with President Trump actually possibly accomplishing some of the vile things he said he planned to do during his campaign.)

Here’s an idea: Let’s all stop calling 2016 “the worst” ASAP.

The truth is that a lot of bad things happened this year. I’m not going to deny that. But a lot of bad things happen every year. When we put all of our blame on a year for doing bad things to us, then we’re taking away our choice – our choice to do something about it, our choice to see the positives, our choice to move on with something more than just feelings of anger.

So I’m done. I know it’s the last day of the year, but I am not going to look back at this year and talk about how it was “the worst” because, especially for me personally, it simply wasn’t.

In a nutshell, two major things happened to me this year that have actually made 2016 my happiest year yet:

1. After 12 years, I moved out of New York City and started a full-time freelance writing career that’s actually been going really well.

2. I met Adam, who turned out to not only be the most generous and loving person I’ve ever met but also an incredibly supportive life partner.

In fact, the first decision actually led to the second. I had been dealing with some recovery issues in NYC and simply no longer felt all that happy there. Plus I was turning 30 and needed to do something different in my life. By circumstance (not all under my control), the best thing for me was to move back home to Florida for a while.

I decided that I would do this for six months to a year, and that this would be my time to figure out what my next steps were and what I wanted to do for my career. It turned out that going all-in on my freelance writing was the right move, and I love where that part of my life is now.

Of course, when I moved to FL, I didn’t think that my personal life would go anywhere. I had been single for many, many years… And although I was sick of that life, I also thought: Who the F am I gonna meet down here?

Well, you know what they say: Life is what happens when you’re making other plans. In comes Adam…

Here’s the story that I tell friends when they ask how we met:

I moved out of NYC after 12 years on a Friday and, needing to find something to do and feeling like I was ready to “get back out there” after a 5-month dating break, turned my favorite dating apps back on the following Tuesday (meaning OKCupid, Tinder and Bumble).

Meanwhile, Adam had finally signed up for online dating after an even longer break when his last relationship ended… And so there we were, both finally “ready” for something real. We started talking on Bumble that Wednesday morning. By the next Saturday (exactly a week and a day after I moved to Florida), we had our first date. It lasted four hours, and only ended because I had a family obligation.

The next week, I cancelled another date in order to have a second date with Adam… and the rest is history. I never went on a date with anybody else. Neither did he. And we moved in a month and a half later.

Not only has my career and my new relationship made me really happy this year, but I learned a lot about myself throughout 2016 too. I’ve also met some great new people (mainly, my boyfriend’s family, and also many other writers who I now call friends) and I learned how to accept love.

Before this year, I never truly knew how to be kind to myself (my NYC therapist’s parting words to me). I still have trouble with that, to be honest. But Adam reminds me every day that I am worthy of love.

Although I’ve had a few relationships, even a two-year one where my ex lived with me, I never truly knew that I was worthy of love. In fact, I had never heard anyone say the words “I love you” to me. Sure, I mean, family and friends… but never anyone who truly loved me in every way that a person deserves to be loved. Until Adam.

He taught me how to accept love and that I deserve it. He continues to teach me that every day and, the more I am with him, the more that I realize that he is truly the love of my life.

I know how cliche that sounds. I know that it’s a funny and kind of ridiculous statement to be saying at 30 years of age. And yet… I’ve had boyfriends and I’ve had countless dates in the past 14 years of my life. But I’ve never had love. And now I do.

So when I look back at 2016, I can still recognize all of the bad things that happened this year. This year, though, is about more than that. This is the year that I fell in love for the first real time of my life. This is the year that I truly found what I want to do with the rest of my life. And this is the year that I learned what it takes to be my best self (even if I’m not totally there yet).

To be honest, I don’t know what 2017 will bring. But I have plans! Plans for my career and plans with my love. If 2016 taught me anything, it’s that a year isn’t to blame for bad things and it’s not really to blame for the good things either.

My year was great because I made it great. Because I learned what I wanted and went after it and accepted the things that came to me unexpectedly too. 2017 will hopefully be more of the same.

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Why is it so hard for us to accept true generosity when we date?

I wrote this piece in a bout of excitement, elation, love, wonder, guilt and generally feeling both really happy and a little down on myself. It’s been a month and a half since that moment, but this still rings true. Enjoy!

Tonight, as I lay in his arms, I asked my boyfriend if it was okay for me to get out of bed because I was inspired to write – inspired by the love that we share, the special gift that he shared with me that evening and the constant flow of kindness I experience from him.

“Of course,” he immediately replied, and my heart fluttered with happiness even further. He’s the most loving, supportive and generous man I have ever met, and I knew he would practically kick me out of bed to ignite the creative spark that suddenly rose in me.

But behind the happiness that I so adore lies one very troubling question: Why is this man’s constant generosity something that I value so highly? Why is it that this is the first relationship where I value myself enough to accept it so willingly? And why did I not demand the same kind of treatment of former lovers?

It’s possible that I never before knew what true generosity meant.

Previous boyfriends treated me well enough. I’ve never been abused or neglected – much – and they were nice enough, sure. But there was always something missing, always some sort of withholding. And I was very much used to that.

My first love was a sweet buffoon and he was kind enough, but I wouldn’t call him generous.

At first, he withheld his time from me. He would show up constantly late for dates, avoid calling me his girlfriend and was perpetually afraid to introduce me to his friends and family. Even worse, he held back the one thing I really needed from him – verbal confirmation that he loved me. He was generous in his physical strength, in helping to take care of the house mostly, but his generosity was somehow never fully realized. And so it didn’t last.

My second serious relationship – with the person who I credit for helping me learn to be assertive about my needs – didn’t go much better. Although he taught me how to stand up for myself and demand what I want in a relationship (“After all,” he always reasoned, “I can’t read your mind”), he wasn’t truly generous either. A huge part of him was always holding back emotionally, and I knew it from day one. We weren’t going to last either, and I told myself it was all going to be okay somehow.

Up until I met this wonderful man who I know is going to be my husband one day, I never expected dates to be generous to me. Sure, they would be nice with flirty texts, taking me out for drinks, treating me generally well. But generosity wasn’t a word that I really ever thought about in the dating world. I expected men to devote their time or money to me, but I never felt overwhelmed by either – and certainly not the two of them together.

And now I find myself in a completely unpredictable situation.

Here I am, with a man who is generous in every way I could have imagined – and plenty of ways that never would have occurred to me. His time, his money (not that this is a good measure of anything), his love, his devotion, his empathy, his understanding, his support. All of it pours out of him as if it was nothing. And it’s unending.

It comes easily to him. He doesn’t even think of it. It’s just there for my taking, and my taking feels odd to me.

All kinds of weird thoughts creep into my mind. Why is he so generous to me? What have I actually done to deserve this? How can he keep this up when I am SO not worthy of all of this? When is he going to realize that I am not all that? And then, the worst: What is wrong with me that it’s so hard for me to understand this man’s generosity? Why is it so hard for me to accept that he loves me and would do anything for me? How is it that I’ve been so messed up about men in the past that I obsess over how generous Adam is and how great/guilty that makes me feel?

Ultimately, the question of generosity comes down to me: I’m the one who has trouble accepting it. And it’s because I am the one who allowed myself to be trained by former boyfriends to not expect it much.

Having so much of it makes me nervous. And what’s even worse, what now also makes me nervous is that someday it will go away. His generosity is quickly becoming something that I am getting used to and (even worse!) addicted to. I still don’t understand how he’s so generous, but every minute of it makes me love him even more, makes me crave it, makes me want to burst with the excitement of (finally) having it.

I never allowed myself to accept generosity before.

I never allowed myself to expect it or demand it or even think it’s okay for me to have it. But now that I do, I understand how difficult it is to date today. We have a serious generosity problem, and it begins when we settle for less than we are worth.

We allow men (and women) to ghost on us. We allow them to go on multiple dates with multiple other people. We allow them to never call us, to take forever to ask us on a second date, to keep us guessing about their affections. It’s never enough and both parties are left frustrated and unsatisfied. I know this because I’ve spoken to friends on both sides of the aisle – male and female, gay and straight.

And I think I understand why now. It’s because we have closed ourselves off from believing that true, honest generosity is something to want in another person. We spend our lives browsing through apps hoping to find the perfect mate, whether for the night or for a lifetime, but we never allow ourselves to be generous with our hearts.

It’s much easier to swipe right on a dozen people, strike up conversations with half that, and maybe get a coffee with a few of them, than to truly open up to a single person. Just as I trained myself not to expect my former boyfriends to be generous, I trained myself to not be generous with with my dates either. The truth is that I was part of the problem too.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t see a lot of generosity growing up. Or maybe it’s because I had a fondness for dating emotionally unavailable $&@!%!@&$@^$ (and not just those that I was in serious relationships with, but those fleeting, short ones as well). Or maybe it’s just that online dating makes it really easy to be closed off in many ways. But now that I have what feels like a real, genuinely generous partner in life, I simply can’t get enough – and I try to be just as generous with my love.

Still, I can’t help but to keep asking myself over and over and over again: Why was it SO EFFING HARD for me to accept this man’s generosity? And why did I never learn to demand it for myself before?

After all, don’t we *all* deserve someone who’s going to be incredibly kind and loving and GENEROUS to us? I’d like to think so…

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How early is it TOO EARLY to travel in a (fairly new) relationship?

After dating for just over two months, Adam and I made a pretty monumental decision: we sent in our applications to get our passports renewed.

You see, mine was due to expire and his had already been expired. I can’t quire remember exactly when in our relationship we had initially talked about it, but by the time we got there it seemed like the most natural thing. So one Saturday a couple of weeks ago, we went to the local CVS to take our passport photos. I had already filled out both applications, we signed them and away they went!

I cheered today as I realized that the government had cashed my check – it means that the passports are on their way to being processed and soon we will be able to travel internationally together.

When talking with some friends about it all, I realized that this might be deemed as “too soon” by some people’s standards.

Inevitably, the question comes up: how early is simply TOO EARLY to travel with a significant other?

How long should two people be dating before they can take a trip together? How serious do they need to be before spending a significant amount of time together somewhere new, possibly somewhere that they simply can’t escape from each other?

For Adam and I, it didn’t take very long.

While we’re about to get our passports and are planning an out-of-the-country trip, the truth of the matter is that we took our first mini-vacation about two and a half weeks into our relationship. It was a mid-week trip that was about the equivalent of spending the weekend together. We drove to a new city, rented a hotel and spent a couple days exploring before ultimately going home.

It might sound like an incredible leap of faith to go somewhere new with someone I barely knew, but I had no doubts that I was making the right decision at the time. In fact, it was on that trip that we decided to officially commit to each other (“Are we boyfriend and girlfriend now?”) and it was a HUGE step in us falling in love.

That trip holds a really special place in both of our hearts, but I know that some people said “WHAT?!” in their heads when they heard that I was going away with the boy I was dating less than a month.

I’m sure those same people would also be shocked to know that we’re soon taking a week off with my parents, spending a week in New York City with all of my friends in two months and then another week in Chicago meeting all of his family and friends for Christmas. You know, NBD – NOT!

But the biggest shocker of it all might be that international trip we’re planning at the end of November. A trip that comes in just under 7 months of dating and includes a wedding in an exotic location.

To be honest, I probably would have been one of those people right now, judging my relationship and wondering if it was moving “too fast” and whether committing to travel plans well beyond how long we’ve been together is a bad idea. In fact, I can remember not even a few months ago telling a friend that the general consensus of advice seems to be that you should never plan a trip further ahead than the months you’ve been together.

Yet here I am, not even at the three month mark, and already planning how we’re going to spend our seventh, eighth and maybe tenth month anniversary. In fact, we might even have half-seriously joked about where we’re going on our one year anniversary.

Yes, I know this might sound crazy. But the more and more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s just exactly our kind of crazy.

Ultimately, nobody can tell me what’s right in my relationship except me and my partner.

As they say, nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It may be a cliche, but it’s been said over and over for a reason. And to be honest, I’ve never been a huge believer in normalcy anyway.

While the slightly more rational person in the back of my mind might be cautioning me a little right now, I know that in my relationship, we are far past the “is this too soon?” stage. Every step we have taken has been miles ahead of what someone else might expect. But that doesn’t make it wrong or weird or speedy. It makes it part of what makes me and Adam an “us.”

As I look at the leftover passport photos and giggle about what kind of new bathing suit I’ll be buying for our November trip, I sure as heck know one thing: it’s not too early for us.

In fact, it feels like we’ve been waiting for this for a LONG time.

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My life turned into a rom-com cliché and I’m okay with it

I have a confession to make.

Just over two months ago, I was single AF.

Like seriously… I haven’t been in a serious relationship since 2011. Not for a lack of trying, necessarily, but it just hasn’t been in the cards for me lately. I’ve dated – a LOT, in fact – but with a few notable exceptions, I haven’t really found anyone that I wanted to spend more than a couple of evenings with.

The guys were always pleasant enough. Unlike most of my fellow single females in New York City, I never had any insane dating stories. I always joked that it was because I had an amazing screening system (mainly my ability get a good sense of people from an online conversation, I guess?) and am the luckiest girl on the planet.

No, seriously. Really, really lucky that I haven’t run into anyone that made me pay on the first date, suggested something totally disgusting or who just was horribly awkward or boring AF. Instead, my dating life was pretty average.

The journalist in me could always keep a first date going for hours. In fact, I half suspect that several of the guys I’ve gone out with in the past were fairly disappointed when I declined their invitation for a second or third date. But I liked learning about people, and always had a pleasant time – perhaps something that ultimately gave some people the wrong impression of my true interest in them.

But anyway. Dating was fine. Nothing special, and frequently frustrating, but ultimately just fine.

And then I moved back to Southwest Florida, where I grew up, at the end of April. It was a little bit of an unexpected move at the time, but something that I needed after 12 years of living in NYC and five years of being single and kinda hating it more every year.

In fact, I had taken a dating hiatus through a large part of 2015 and, after “getting back out there” in October and November, decided to take another one in December. So when I packed my bags into the back of a van and drove the 1,250 miles back home, I didn’t exactly have very high expectations for a social life.

My plan in coming here was to take a year “off” to find myself again, to focus on some personal writing projects and to just figure out exactly what my next steps in life would be. And, because I only have a couple of friends here and no other semblance of the kind of life I was used to leading, I decided to get back out there on the dating scene after my five month break.

I had pretty low expectations, to be honest. Dating in NYC was its own very special kind of crazy, but I was used to it. I was used to the endless texting before setting up a date, I was used to the “let’s get drinks” question and then taking a week to coordinate our schedules, I was used to meeting emotionally unavailable men (my specialty) and I was used to coming out of a date feeling like the guy was “too nice” but just not for me.

It was frustrating, but it was familiar.

And then I met Adam.

When I say that I “went back out there” upon moving back to Florida, I mean that it really didn’t take very long. I officially arrived back on a Friday and, by the next Tuesday, I had reactivated all of my online dating profiles: OKCupid, Tinder and Bumble. After all, how else do young people meet other young people these days?

Adam was one of the first people that I swiped right with on Bumble (cause Tinder sucks, just as it did in NYC, and OKC took too much time). Immediately, I liked him. He was cute, a little nerdy and just my type – even had an adorable photo of his dog as part of his profile. So I started a conversation asking about Moose (what I learned his pup’s name was), and from there it went.

We switched to texting not long after, and on Saturday, I was meeting him for an afternoon coffee. Just a week after moving down here, I was going on my first date in Florida and my first date in months.

The date lasted four hours, followed by just as great of a second date and then a third date that lasted another seven hours and ended (finally!) in a kiss.

I. was. HOOKED.

Flash forward to two months later, and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world more than ever. Adam turned out to be absolutely everything that I had ever been looking for in another human being, in a boyfriend, in a partner-in-crime for life.

He is generous when I don’t feel I deserve it, he is kind when I feel like I am being needy and he is sweet on a daily basis.

The love and support he has shown me in these last couple of months has been far beyond my wildest dreams. Really.

When I dreamed of the kind of relationship that I wanted, I couldn’t have dreamed that it would EVER be this amazingly wonderful. When I saw friends enter into happy unions and wanted the same for myself, I never thought that I would get it in spades and then some. When I thought about what I hoped my future love would have in terms of physical, mental and emotional qualities, I never ever imagined that I would find exactly what I always wanted. And more than that, I could have never planned to meet the literal man of my dreams in freaking SOUTHWEST FLORIDA.

I say that with incredulous shock primarily because neither of us fits in very well down here. First of all, we’re not old or Republicans (hah! quite the opposite, in fact). Secondly, neither of us enjoys the various outdoor (and indoor) activities that are popular down here. And with the exception of him loving the weather down here and me preferring the four seasons, we seem to have more in common than is probably realistically possible.

And that’s how I realized that I ended up in what must be some sort of rom-com cliché movie: the girl that moves back in with her parents to “find herself” only to find the love of her life instead.

But that’s exactly what happened.

So here I am, a mere two months into a relationship, and already planning far ahead into the future. I find myself almost rolling my eyes as I think “you find it when you least expect it” and “when you know, you know.” Yet that’s how my story went, and I couldn’t possibly be happier that it did.

The best part? My new love feels just like I do. For the first time in my entire LIFE, in fact, I don’t have to guess if he cares for me. I don’t have to fight for him to devote time for me over his friends (thank you, boyfriend #1 for that trauma) because he prioritizes the “us” as much as I do. I don’t have to live with the knowledge that he’s going to eventually leave me to move somewhere else or isn’t ready for something long lasting (oh, boyfriend #2, you messed up fool) because we talk about our future all the damn time.

And I mean that. It’s our future. It’s my future, and his future, and what we both want – and what we want together on top of it all.

It feels wonderful.

It’s nice waking up with him and knowing that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully never, if I have any kind of say in it (and I do). It’s nice feeling comforted and loved and supported in everything that I do. In fact, as I write this, he’s just made me tea and given me some breakfast. Now he’s patiently keeping himself busy until I finish my daily writing for the day so that we can get lunch and go on with all the other things we had planned to do today.

Because, for the first time ever, I realize that a great relationship isn’t about second guessing myself or wondering if he loves me as much as I love him. I know that he loves me just as much as I crazy love him. And with his love and support, I feel stronger.

So much for my “finding myself” year, huh?

When I set out to figure out my next steps in life, I never thought that my next steps would involve building a life with the amazing person I was meant to meet in the unlikeliest of places.

But let me tell you… It’s much more fun this way.

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