Category Archives: growing up

Swapping Prince Charming For The Boy Next Door

Today’s guest post is by Emily, my best friend of ten years and a girl who taught me that love is risky and terrifying, but oh so worth it. She taught me to make time for the people I love, no matter the miles, and to give love to strangers on street corners. She does nothing with only half her heart. Today is her and her boyfriend’s five-year anniversary.

We’ve all heard it.

Love is Patient. Love is Kind. It does not Envy. It Does Not Boast. It is Never Rude.”

And on and on it goes, painting a picture of love for us, a sweet and quiet, cookie cutter picture of love. It teaches us from the time we are little girls twirling around in ballerina tutus with plastic tiaras on our heads that happily-ever-after and prince charming are out there. Belle and Jasmine and their princess friends make that idea of love tangible, as if you merely need to reach out and grab onto it.

Fairy tale love is not something we stop believing in when we get too old for playground weddings with the boy who twisted his oreo in two and handed you the half with the cream. It is crooned to us through our car radio as we drive to school in the morning. It stares us in the face during Friday movie nights in our best friend’s basement.

We do not outgrow it; we just replace Prince Charming with the boy next door.

So, at 17 years old I believed in fairy tale love. And once upon a time in a diner not too far from here, on Valentine’s Day, a boy bought me a bouquet of deep red roses scattered with Queen Ann’s Lace. That boy walked me to my car, in true gentleman style hugged me goodnight and turned to leave.

I didn’t know very much about life at all but there was one fact I was sure of: that boy was all wrong for me.

That boy put too much sugar in his coffee. He talked too much and he wore a trench coat. That boy was everything I was not, yet something stirred inside of me when he turned to leave that night.

So instead of letting him slip away, my hand reached out for his hand and I pulled him to me. Without a thought or hesitation, I kissed him.

I never would have guessed the impact on my life that that kiss would have. It led to five years of kisses, and laughter and lessons of love with a boy who was all wrong for me.  A boy who taught me that the love we grow up dreaming about is not realistic. Because fairytale love is just not good enough.

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I wanted to share what I’ve learned.

Love is Silly.

A realization that came to me when slipping his too-big shirt over my head and shimmying into his navy fleece pajama pants. Knotting them twice. All the while singing a spur of the moment song entitled “Pajama Time.” A song he joined in with. Love is tickling and playing and lying tangled with each other on the couch, whispering secret nicknames and jokes only the two of you will laugh at.

Love is loud.

It does not sit quietly and let you ignore it. It plays like a catchy song in all of your thoughts and runs like adrenaline through your body. It wants to be screamed from the rooftops and whispered again and again to the boy you cannot satisfy your craving of.

Love is made of small things.

I barely remember our one year anniversary. I cannot list off every Christmas and birthday gift. But what I can tell you about the boy I fell in love with is that he holds open doors for me. When it is down-pouring he pulls me outside because I confessed once that I always wanted to be kissed in the rain. One drink too many and he’ll text me the lyrics to my favorite Taylor Swift songs, even though he denies knowing them.

It is Always Changing.

I cannot tell you how it feels to be in love with someone because every time I think I have it all figured out something else in my heart stirs and I find the feeling once again indescribable.

It is not easy.

A thought playing on repeat in my head when I said words that stung my heart: “I’m moving. And you’re staying still. And I don’t know how to hold on.”

It punched me in the face as I lay sobbing into my best friends couch cushions about the cracks he carved in my heart. It was a bystander when we were screaming in a parking lot about jealousy and broken rearview mirrors.

But It is Always Worth Fighting For.

A realization made after every time I could have turned and walked away from him. But there is a reason I pulled him back to me that night five years. A reason even I cannot understand and still want to find out. A reason that I feel every time our hands find each other without realization or each time I catch him watching me with his green eyes.  

If there is one thing to carry with you and pull out on a rainy day it is that you shouldn’t keep looking for patient, kind old love. While it is a wonderful picture, it shields us from the idea that love can be loud and crazy and not want to wait until the timing is perfect.

It doesn’t have to be fairy tale because it can be better.

And Prince Charming? Well he is out there, don’t you worry. But if you’re only looking for the white horse and shining armor you might glance right over him.

In fact he might be the guy right in front of you, who pours too much sugar in his coffee and talks too much and wears a trench coat. Silly, I know. But that’s what love is.

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19 Things I Learned In College (Among Many Others)

For most of this blog’s existence, I’ve learned things because I was in college. And it was hard. And it was painful. And it was stretching me more and more for real life.

Thankfully, I documented those lessons and typed them on web pages and pressed publish so no matter how much I would like to journal by hand, at least I have a record of what eye-opening moments showed up on my doorstep for three years.

Something told me you all might love some of that insight – especially if you’re in college or sinking waist deep into life.

1)    Work hard when you’re young and don’t ask for much in return.

2)    When you decide you want to change the world, make friends with TED.

3)    More stuff changes than stays the same. Be OK with that.

4)    Good books can (and should) be read in a weekend.

5)    Don’t forget, you’re worth loving.

6)    So is your body.

7)    From humility comes greatness.

8)    Celebrities, the good ones, are driven by love.

9)    Your children need guidance; beautiful, no-holds-barred guidance.

10) Everybody is bound to be a character in another writer’s novel someday, just as we are bound to be accidental extras in a tourist’s photograph.

11) Sometimes, all the food bloggers of the world get together and bake with more than flour + sugar in mind.

12) Fear stops us from being alive.

13) Being a nerd is freaking awesome.

14) You’re going on one really long, terribly winding, probably zigzagging journey. And your car salesman just wants you to know that.

15) You’ve got to hold some words like they’re currency in this broken life.

16) Love your friends really ridiculously hard.

17) Take the cupcake.

18) Use your voice.

19) And then do me a favor? Meet this girl. Her ratio of body mass to ounces of love is downright not mathematical.

We’re Just Plain Lucky

I remember how she smiled. It never quite reached her eyes. She’d stand back, arms folded across her crew neck sweatshirt. She’d watch the joy escaping through a little girl’s butterfly knees as they bounced up and down on Christmas morning.

And we couldn’t be mad at her for dying. We couldn’t be mad at her for dying.

Those moments when she held us close without ever holding us at all, those were the ones we had to keep. Most of our lives will be built not on holding her tight but dwelling on the faith she had in us.

It’s what happens when you lose someone young.

It’s what happens when you sit in the hearse and explain the folds and the sequins of the turquoise dress they buried her in. And why the flashers are on. And why the kids standing outside for a fire drill are staring and pointing at the limo passing by.

It’s what happens when you’ve got to be the biggest kid in a silent black car.

And you’ve got to stand in front of a couple hundred strangers, tell ‘em all that, “you never met that woman, but darling didn’t she already love you like that girl on Christmas morning? Darling, wouldn’t she have squeezed you in your candy cane pajamas?”

She would have.

I can’t be sure what happens when people pass away too soon. I can’t be confident whether we would’ve met this other side of them where they weren’t so caring, but I’d like to pretend that wasn’t true. I’d like to pretend, because the truth is, we get to imagine it.

We get to carry their words, their lessons, their photographs, in our pockets.

We get to hold onto them when we need strength. When getting up in the morning feels heavier. When pushing through the day seems unbearable. We get to hold onto those words and those lessons when we’re lost and we’re just plain lucky.

That’s what I wanted those strangers to know. They were just plain lucky to have her words in their back pockets.

One Question, 10 Answers: What’s The MOST Important Lesson You Learned In 2012?

I’m a big believer in life-long learning and, at times, a bit anxious about that statement. The truth is, these years we’re in right now are some pretty wild and tough ones. But we’re experiencing them on this vast spectrum and none of us can capture all the lessons ourselves. We’ve GOT to learn from others, too.

So I sent an email to people all over the country and in different places in their lives, some in school, some ready to find a job, some firmly rooted in a career and others feeling timid about how miserable they feel.

I asked them one question: What’s the MOST important lesson you learned in 2012? Here’s what they had to say.

1. Convention is overrated.

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“I will have a TABLE of people at my some-day wedding that I met through Twitter, Facebook or email chains. I have met so many people who I consider to be important pieces of my life that I NEVER would have met if I were too skeptical to look outside of the ‘box’.

Also, that hard work will always, ALWAYS pay off. Always.” – @dmdgiants, senior at Marist College, intern with the New Jersey Devils

2. I am enough.

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“On a particularly self-loathing day in 2012, I decided to do some research on positive mantras when I came across this one. For much of my life, my perfectionist self had struggled to be “the best” (whatever that means) and often compared my successes, and shortcomings, to others.

I work a nine-to-five at a software company only to come home after a yoga class, maybe a run and an hour commute to write away for whichever assignment I was lucky enough to receive. These days are trying; these days are long. I go to bed exhausted and hope to awake with renewed energy and strength.

I spent much of 2012 hoping for a better future – a better job (full of writing), a better outlook on life, a better me.

Then one day it hit me. I’m missing the best of today looking for a better tomorrow. I am missing the beautiful imperfections of the now in hopes for an impossibly flawless future.

I need nothing more than to be the ‘me’ I am today.

I am enough. And so are you.” – @taylornunez, Software specialist, freelance journalist for Worcester Magazine and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, yoga enthusiast

3. Make yourself happy.

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“I learned last year that you have to make yourself happy, no one else will do that for you. Take time to do the small things that make you enjoy life, like reading a book or baking your favorite cookies. Take care of yourself because you can’t be the good in the world if you feel like crap.” – @cerogers0, graduate student at James Madison University, student teacher

4. Go four for four.

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“1. You can and will make the same mistakes twice if you’re not careful. But you can also rebuild your life a thousand times over. Thankfully, there’s no limit on that.

2. Every single person has his or her own idea of what happiness, success and failure would look like in his/her life. Define yours and don’t compare yours to anyone else’s version.

3. Leave when you need to leave.

4. Twitter is a really excellent place to meet wonderful people.” – @clairembiggs, freelance writer for MTV Act

5. Find a hobby.

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“Don’t be ashamed to live your college life on the couch, not going to class, eating bonbons and watching the Kardashians because that couch is the perfect training grounds for the soul-deadening desk job — in which you will spend 35 out of 40 hours of your working week alternately staring off into space and compulsively checking every manner of social media site and/or food blog — that awaits us all. But perhaps it’s important to find a hobby just to enliven your soul or alleviate boredom or some shit; mine is moonlighting as an ESL teacher.” – @samanthascotti, proofreader, ESL teacher

5. The Internet is a web.

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“I’ve learned not to underestimate the power of a single connection to a person or organization because it can lead to even more connections and more opportunities for development.  The three online communities that I write for (HUGstronger, So Worth Loving, and The Write Teacher) are all things I found through The World Needs More Love Letters, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of them.

Related to that, I’ve also learned that making connections over the Internet is okay.  I think a lot of people are worried about the internet somehow making us less social or ruining our lives, but there’s a wealth of information, opportunity, and cool people out there on the World Wide Web.  It’s not a black hole of distraction if you use it right.” – @erind90, senior at Clarke University, blogger

6. Let love in.

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“2012 taught me that it’s okay to let people love you. It’s okay to trust that you are lovable and intriguing and close to perfection for someone else. Don’t be scared to smile at a stranger- they could have a story you need to hear. Take the risk and email the girl whose blog you read – she could surprise you and reply (Thanks, Kaleigh for replying to my own email!). Let a boy ask you about the scars on your heart and tell him the truth- he could teach you what it’s like to feel a little bit closer to whole. And most of all, it’s okay to love yourself. Look in the mirror, smile and realize you are beautifully made. Love makes life, life.” – @lab54, photographer

7. Trust yourself.

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“I think we have this tendency to second guess ourselves. Because of our age or where we are in life or because we’re just unsure of what will happen next. Trust that initial gut feeling though; it happens for a reason. Know that being young does not mean sacrificing confidence. Be bold, be curious, and be open to learning. Just trust yourself along the way as well – you’re capable of doing great things.

My P.S. lesson is that you should always invest time, love, and energy in people.” – @fiestaga, Outreach Coordinator for Reading Partners – Baltimore

8. You’ll survive the sting.

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“One day, you’re going to have to leave behind all the magnificant-things-happening-at-this-moment-in-time for something even more wondrous. It’ll sting for a bit, but without moving forward, how will you bloom?” – @lovemesomebags, student at James Madison University, Chief Designer at Gardy Loo

9. Honesty is terrifyingly necessary.

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“Honesty is an essential part of bravery. Be honest firstly with yourself. Don’t be afraid of who you are, what you want, and how you are feeling. After you can learn to be honest with yourself, you can be honest with those around you. Honesty can lead to some of the most terrifying moments for your soul, but they are moments that grow your soul and your relationships. Do not fear honesty. It is your companion and your victor.” – @livfierce, student and photographer

10. Love yourself first.

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“I think that the most important lesson that people not only our age but every age can learn to is to love themselves. Our world can be cruel and cold (I know this too well) and too often do people let that affect the way they think about themselves, judging too harshly and beating themselves up. We spend so much time trying to be like other people we forget to be who we are but once you embrace who you are fully, it is beautiful and liberating and fearless. And yes everyone has insecurities, I will always think I have man shoulders, I don’t wear many hats because I think my head is too big, I think I am a little too messy and I wish I didn’t procrastinate so much. But when it comes down to it, none of that stuff matters because the truth is, I had to sit and think for 10 minutes to come up with those four things because instead I kept thinking that I like, no, LOVE that my eyes change different hues of blue and my hair is kind of out of control curly sometimes, that I speak my mind too often. I LOVE that I laugh too loud, and smile too big and I eat too much sugar. All things that could be listed as flaws but I just can’t see them that way.

So here’s the secret to being happy, to loving others and to success. Except it’s not so secret. Everyone from Maya Angelou to Albert Einstein to Lady Gaga can be quoted saying how important it is to love yourself. Because once you start those positive thoughts will consume you and radiate out of you. So you will be willing to risk, and change and take chances (which is my second most important piece of advice) because once you know how wonderful you are, others can’t help but see it too.” – Emily, student at Temple University, aspiring actress

It’s Warmer In The Future

It was only a year ago that I was feeling antsy about this real world lifestyle, knowing that working hard was a not a skill people put on resumes. I knew I would work tirelessly, that I would do anything I could to learn and grow and be someone worth putting faith into, but did the human resources professionals of the Eastern seaboard know that? Well, I wasn’t sure.

Yesterday, a friend of mine admitted to a fear quite similar. And as they say, it’s easier to look objectively from the outside in. I knew, deep down, she was golden. Just brimming with energy and passion and experience. Her resume, in the right hands, will be understood and appreciated.

This post I wrote nearly two years ago, for all the worriers and anxiety-ridden recent and future college graduates who have no idea what will become of their lives in these coming months.

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The future is 34 pushpins pressed into a map of the United States.

It doesn’t matter how precisely we press each pin into that cork backing. The future is shy and unforgiving and anticipatory and utterly unknowable.

My roommate stood next to her map, cupped her forearms around a cluster of pins along the West coast.

“Probability says California,” she said to me.

I nodded, trying to imagine her in the sunny state, me in New York City and our other roommate in Washington, DC.

I couldn’t.

It’s funny how one home transitions into another. In five years, I have found myself in Pennsylvania and Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. Looking back, it’s seamless. But when I was at the edge of each cliff, eager and nervous to jump, it was like the first time I realized the world was in constant motion.

For all those moments leading up to a big, shifting change, we’re too busy preparing and pushing onward to think about what happens when our parents unload the trunk and cart our luggage up stairs and shut the door, leaving us alone for the first time.

For three years and eight months, the idea of graduating college is just that – an idea. And then, someone pulls out the big G word and it’s everything again.

We feel it rising up from the pit in our stomachs like a wave of nausea forcing you to sit down and center yourself on that pushpin-invested map. Begging you to regain balance and stability for just a while longer.

“Where will I be in the future?” we wonder.

“You’ll live on the lake,” I told her then. “I can picture it.”

And I could, then. The forests rising up on three sides. A vast expanse of murky water in front of her. The laughter of children in the background.

I saw her stretch out on the shoreline, digging her toes into the grass and dirt. I saw her put down her book to crane her neck, motioning her daughter to come to her.

“Do you want to go for a swim?” she asked.

The girl, her hair as white-blonde as her mother’s, nodded vehemently and tugged her t-shirt over her head.

She reached the line where the water meets land, lifted one foot, and frowned.

“What’s wrong?” her mother asked.

The girl shook her head and started back toward the spot on the grass where her mom stretched out.

“It’s too cold,” she said.

Her mom sets her book down. “How do you know?”

She shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t know.

“Come on.”

The two of them walked to the edge. Holding hands, they took a deep breath and waded, gently, into the murky water. A fish swam past and the little girl squealed, latching onto her mother’s leg.

After a moment, she released her grasp. She waded out farther and, without warning, dove under the water. When she emerged, she brushed her hair back and giggled.

“Brrr,” she said. “It’s warmer in the water.”

It’s the first moment that will string together a couple thousand others. The initial shock of icy water filling her lungs grew into a comfort. It’s warmer in the water. What once was cold and terrifying and new became familiar and wanted.

Only one of those pushpins became home for my roommate. She did not, contrary to probability, end up anywhere near California. But where she lives now, there is a lake with icy water. And try as she might, she won’t be able to emerge without shivering. She’ll learn, in these few years, it’s warmer in the water.