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Today, I am 33 years old. WOOF, am I right? There’s no denying it: I’m a real adult. I have four weddings this year (and that’s just the ones I know of already!). People I know are starting to have babies. I’ve been in an apartment I own for over 2 years.

In other words, shit isn’t just getting real. It is real. I always feel reflective (and if I’m being honest, a bit emotional) around my birthday. I mean, can a girl get a boyfriend and can he send flowers to her office on her birthday FOR CRYING OUT LOUD?! Just kidding. Except not. What I would give for a man to send flowers to my office.

ANYWAY, my point is this: every year when my birthday rolls around, I start thinking about where I am in life. And inevitably, it’s not exactly where I want to be, or, perhaps more accurately, “where I thought I’d be.” Because it never is, is it? We hold ourselves to these crazy standards: This is the year I’ll fall in love! This is the year I’ll get married! This is the year I’ll get a new job! This is the year I’ll…

But what if this year, I tried to think differently? What if this year, my goal was simple: to live, and love, well. To stop waiting around to do the things I want to do, or say the things I want to say. To take the trips, and write the stories, and let the people I love know that I really love them.

Maybe, if I start there, I might just end up where I want to be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll get through my birthday without some healthy reflection. So, let’s do it, shall we? Here are 32 things I learned in my 32nd year (alternate title: 32 things I know to be true at the dawn of 33).

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  1. Life is short. Over the past few months and weeks, I’ve watched multiple friends grapple with the worst of things: illness. Death. I’ve watched them rise, strong and mighty, vulnerable but powerful, to the occasion again and again. And I’ve thought to myself, nothing is forever. No day is guaranteed. Is it a cliché? Yes. But it’s also true: life is short. And it deserves to be lived. With gusto.

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my mamas paying a visit to the grand apartment

  1. Your parents will not live forever. I’ve officially hit the age where it’s not unusual to lose a parent. God, I hate typing that sentence. I wish my parents would live forever, I really do. I hate that there are all these milestones I’ve yet to check off (see: wedding, kids) that they may not live to see. My mommy experienced some health issues this year and it threw me for a loop. Every time she called, my paranoia kicked in: was it cancer? Was she dying? I compulsively say “I love you” every time I get off the phone with my moms, just in case it’s the last time we speak. It’s insane, I know. But I know they won’t live forever, and so in addition to spending all the time I can with them, I want to be sure they know: they’re the best damn moms in the world.

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my work team (a bunch of badass ladies)

  1. You cannot do it all (even though you want to). This past December, I hit rock bottom at work. Not to toot my own horn, but it takes quite a bit for me to hit that point. I am nothing if not insanely efficient. But between juggling multiple direct reports, a workload better fit for 3 people than one (yours truly), and a difficult coworker I just couldn’t seem to click with, I broke. And it wasn’t pretty. I cried not just at my desk, but in front of a very senior boss. I started to dread coming to work—a feeling that affected me more than the workload did. My boss saw it happening, and in the New Year, she intervened. She took me off one of my three accounts, a move that I’m at once thankful for, and one that makes me feel like a failure. Who am I if I can’t do it all? Um, a regular person, Sarah. Because NO ONE CAN DO IT ALL. Okay, I guess I’m still learning this one.

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  1. There’s nothing wrong with a rest day. When I first got into working out a few years ago, I wondered: what was up with those crazy people who did 2 a days and who got up at the crack of dawn to run along the East River? And then, glory be, I became one of those people. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but for the last few years, I’ve consistently worked out 6-7 times a week, sometimes doubling up on my workouts in a single day. For a while, I got on a schedule where I’d go weeks without a single rest day. I convinced myself that sleeping in and missing a workout was tantamount to undoing all the progress of the last 7 or so years. I mean, that’s ridiculous. After my two week trip in Europe this summer, I came back to New York and my classes and thought, oh my god, I’m going to have to start all over. But guess what? I didn’t! My body bounced back. It wasn’t 0-100, but it was pretty close to it. And I realized that maybe I could take a break every now and then. That I could release my grip just a bit. Now, I take a rest day on Friday or Saturday. And if I’m tired, I don’t beat myself up for sleeping in. I listen not to my crazy brain, but to my body. And so far, so good.

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me, after nearly two weeks in europe

  1. A 2-week vacation is the best kind of vacation. I know: a 2-week trip (any trip, really!) is a luxury. But man, was my 2-week trip to Europe this summer magical. Sure, I was in a beautiful place eating beautiful food. Sure, I was with beautiful people (my friends). But more than that, I was away for long enough that my body, my brain, and my heart truly let go. Week 1 was fun, but I still felt myself caught up on the hamster wheel of the go go go mentality. It wasn’t until week 2 rolled around that I felt myself exhale. My smiles got bigger. My breathing got deeper. My mind rolled around in its cage for a bit, and then it settled. By the time I got back to New York, I felt something I haven’t felt in years: really, truly rested.

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sipping coffee in mexico city

  1. The world is so much bigger than you can even imagine. I think I learn this more and more each year, and more and more each trip. Every time I travel, I seek out the smaller hotels. I look for the local haunts. I find the coffee shops and the hole in the wall restaurants, I jog along the water and shop in the local markets. It’s so easy, especially in New York City, to settle inside my bubble and never leave. But each time I do, I feel it: I feel my world expand. Sights, sounds, feelings, moments. The world is big, and I am but a speck atop it.

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my new insta friends turned IRL friends, tiina (left) and bev (right)

  1. Strangers on the internet can actually be quite nice. This was the year I made friends on Instgram—and met a few of them in real life. I know you’re nothing ‘til you have a few haters, but I’m thrilled (and perhaps flattered) to say that the tiny community I’ve built on Instagram over the past year or so has been nothing short of wonderful. I feel like I’ve found my people, and it feels really good. PS: If that’s you, thank you. I’m so glad you’re here.

 

  1. It’s okay to feel like you’re behind everyone else. Because the truth is, you’re on no one’s timeline but your own. Earlier this year, I had my AMH levels tested (one of the indicators of fertility). Rounding the corner to my mid-thirties, I know the facts: after 35, your chances of having a baby naturally drop drastically. In other words, TICK TOCK. But as it turns out, my AMH levels are pretty darn high. Which means that even though the stats show time is a wastin’, I might just have a shot—even though I’m eons behind everyone else. This knowledge meant more to me than you’ll know (and I wrote more about it here, if you’re curious).

 

  1. You have no need for energy vampires. Last year, I read a passage about energy vampires: people who suck the energy out of you when you’re around them. We all have those friends, right? Who leave you feeling glass half empty, rather than half full? I know a few of those people, and in my 32nd year, I vowed to stay away from them. Life is too short to spend with people who make you feel like shit. Full stop.
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a slow morning at home

  1. If you’re sick, it’s your body’s way of telling you to slow down. Without fail, every single time I drank too much/worked too hard/stayed out too late/got too little sleep this year, my body threw up the middle finger. I learned to keep the colds at bay with natural remedies like elderberry syrup and oil of oregano, but those babies can only do much. The lesson? Don’t overdo it. And when your body says no, LISTEN.

 

  1. You don’t like running, and that’s okay. I tried, for years, to “learn how to be a runner.” I’d gone from an overweight couch potato to a still overweight (but very active!) fitness freak, and running was the one mountain I hadn’t conquered. For the last few years, I tried, in vain, to find that runner’s high everyone talks about. Spoiler alert: I never found it. And in my 32nd year, I let that shit go. Not everyone is meant to be a runner. And by that I mean: I think I am not meant to be a runner. It’s fine, though, because I’ve got SoulCycle.

 

  1. A good book is almost as good as a good friend. 8-year-old Sarah could have told me this—books were often better friends to her than actual humans were (especially because books didn’t get confused when you talked about feelings)—but books do something that sometimes, not even your very best friend can do. They lift you up, transporting you out of your body, into another story entirely. And then when you’re ready, they bring you back home again. And that’s quite a magical thing.

Side note: if books were friends, I’d be so goddamn popular.

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my weekend MO: baking and a podcast

  1. Same with a good podcast. Living alone in a funny thing. I quite like it most of the time, and then there are those stretches where I don’t see or talk to another human being for a few days (unless you count the barista who makes my coffee or the people who check me into my workout class) and I start to feel like I’m floating in the ether. Like maybe I’m a total loner who has no friends and who might never talk to another soul again. When I don’t have someone to call, and I’m tired of talking to Penny, I turn on my favorite podcasts. And suddenly, it’s as though I’m surrounded by friends; their voices of choir around me, assuring me it’ll all be okay.

 

  1. It’s okay to cry at work. Okay, in all honesty, I’m still working on this one. But it’s a big goal of mine: to feel my feelings (within reason, of course) and NOT beat myself up about it. I cried at work twice this year. Okay, three times. And each time, that tiny little voice in my head was shout-whispering, “DON’T CRY. DON’T DO IT. DO NOT CRY. NOT HERE! NOT NOW!” And each time, I CRIED. Because crying is a NATURAL HUMAN REACTION to feeling things, and as you’ve all probably gathered by now, I feel ALL THE THINGS almost all the time. Goal for 33: keep crying, and don’t hate myself when it happens.

 

  1. Your greatest hurt can become your superpower. A decade ago, I went through something that turned my life upside down. Something that threw me into a deep depression. Something that made me question my sanity, my worth, my life. And in my 32nd year, all these years later, I started to feel like I had things under control. Like maybe all of that pain had been worth something. That maybe, just maybe, life had torn me down and built me back up again for a reason: so that I could be someone better, someone stronger. I’ll carry that little piece of hurt in my soul for the rest of my days—but I’m starting to think that same hurt might just be what makes my heart so big.

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i didn’t get married, but i did do this. 

  1. Things won’t be the way you thought they’d be. I’ve officially reached the age where most of my friends are married, and a few are even starting to have kids. And it’s obvious: I’m in my early thirties and I am not where I thought I’d be. In my 32nd year, I worked hard to make peace with that fact: to let go of the expectations of what should be, in hopes that it’ll open doors to what could be.
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hannah, my partner at work, and a damn good friend

  1. New friends can be found in the darkest of places. If you’re a regular reader around these parts, you’re well aware that the last few months at my job were, in not so many words, ROUGH. But out of the darkness, I found a spark of light—in a woman named Hannah. Hannah was hired as my art partner, but over the past few months of late nights and weekend work, has become so much more than that: we’ve become great friends. It’s one thing to be drinking wine in a dark conference room at 8pm on a Monday. It’s a whole other thing to be drinking wine in a dark conference room whilst cry-laughing about the ridiculousness of your situation, and knowing you’re not in it alone.

 

  1. A good mascara can be life-changing. It’s true. Mine is Glossier Lash Slick, and I may never go back to drugstore mascara again.

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  1. Sweat will ALWAYS help. Unless you’re so hungover you can’t get out of bed. Then it’s better to stay home. Because no one wants to be the one dry heaving on a spin bike.

 

  1. It’s okay to cry, period. One of my most favorite things about New York City is the way you can cry in public without anyone batting an eye. New Yorkers often get a bad rap: We’re rude. We’re pushy. We’re unfriendly. Say what you will about our attitude, but I will tell you this: a New Yorker will never ever judge you for crying on a stoop outside a Duane Reade. They may stop and offer you a tissue, or a sympathetic glance, but never ever will they look at you like it’s insane to be crying in public. I cried in public multiple times this year, and MAN IT FELT GOOD.

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my family, otherwise known as the people who keep me sane

  1. And you’re never too old to call your mom (see also: #2). I should know – I have two of them. And I try to call them a few times a week. Because as I said above, I know they won’t live forever.

 

  1. Your dream man probably isn’t on Tinder. I got screwed (and screwed over) enough this year to know: Tinder is NOT the place to meet your dream man. It’s a great place for unsolicited advice (actual message I received: “Sit-ups. Do some.”), and an even better place for unsolicited dick pics (actual photo I received: not pictured, but it was Parisian, and would have been greatly improved if it were wearing a tiny beret!). It is not a good place for actual dating, or meeting the man of your dreams. I hope 33-year-old Sarah remembers this next time she’s drunkenly swiping in an Uber at 1am.

 

  1. But he might be on Hinge. The two good dates I’ve been on this past year both came from Hinge. Granted, two isn’t much, but it’s too good against MANY bad on the Tinder front.

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my team of wonderful women

  1. It’s hard to be a good boss. But it’s worth it. Managing people, I have learned, is less about the work, and more about the people skills. I like people (I minored in sociology and psych), and I think my skills are relatively good. But sometimes, management feels like babysitting a bunch of toddlers who all want different things for dinner, and I’ve forgotten how to cook. Those are the hard days. Then there are the days when you watch the people on your team soar high above your wildest expectations, and you just want to yell, “THAT’S MY BABY! AIN’T SHE THE CUTEST/SMARTEST/MOST WONDERFUL CHILD EVER!?” On those days, all the bullshit is worth it, ten times over.

 

  1. People can only meet you where they are. Emotional intelligence is a thing, and it varies. I learned this time and time again this year, both in friendships and at the office. I cannot expect people to react the way I want them to react. I cannot expect them to react the way I would react. I can only expect them to react the way they react—to their best of their emotional capability. Asking (or hoping) for more than that is asking to be let down. We’re all just doing the best we can.

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  1. You’ll never regret a workout. It’s hard to workout early in the morning. It’s even harder once winter rolls around, and it’s pitch black outside even at 7am. Here is what I’ve learned: if you can just get yourself out of bed, and brush your teeth, you’ll make it. Turning off your alarm (and not going back to sleep) is the worst part. Master that, and the rest is gravy. And you will never, ever, regret sweating it out.

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a last minute long weekend in paris with my friend sara

  1. Or a last minute trip. My trip to Paris this year couldn’t have come at a better time. I was tearing my hair out at work, considering walking out of the office and never coming back. It was 72 hours, maybe even a little less, two 6 hour flights (plus airport delays) and not quite enough sleep. But it was also 3 days in PARIS—3 days of sightseeing and wine, of covering miles of the city with hot coffee cups in hand, of heart to hearts and catch ups and more giggles than I could count. I came home exhausted, but I came home full. When I left, my cup was empty, when I returned, it runneth over.

 

  1. Time is a powerful healer. At the beginning of last year, I was ghosted by a guy I’d put a lot of emotional effort into for the past few months. He didn’t live here, it was an entirely phone-based relationship, and still, there was a teeny tiny part of me that thought, maybe this is it. I opened a little door in my heart, and in it, I told myself a story: that maybe I’d move to England. Maybe he’d move here. Maybe fate would find a way to bring us together. Fate had other things in mind (as did he), and the romance, whatever there was of it, really and truly, fizzled. And it hurt. BAD. But each day, it hurt a little less. By spring, I’d almost entirely recovered; by May, when I met up with him in London (ahead of a two week trip I was taking with friends), I felt strong enough to spend 24 hours with him and NOT have my heart break all over again.

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  1. Very little will make you happier than a Taylor Swift concert. And you should definitely splurge on the $200 tickets, because when she plays the side stage and she’s so close you can ACTUALLY SEE HER EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE IN A GIANT FOOTBALL STADIUM, you’ll experience a moment of bliss unlike any other.

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  1. Except maybe your cat. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing will comfort you like Penny will. There is unconditional love, and then there’s the unconditional love of an animal. There is truly nothing like it.

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  1. There’s a big difference between being alone, and being lonely. And though you might often be physically alone, you’ll come to realize you don’t mind that—in fact, you might just like it.

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me and my two oldest friends (31 years!) over the holidays

  1. And even when you feel alone, you’re not. Not really, at least. Because even though you might not have a husband, you do have your friends—a select few of which might as well be family, because you know they’d see you through just about anything (and you’d do the same for them).

this morning, after a tough morning workout class, i treated myself to a latte at the coffee shop across from my apartment. it was a cloudy, quiet morning, and as i handed over my reusable mug to the owner, i surveyed the small shop.

“it’s quiet in here today,” i said.

“yeah,” he replied. “not a lot of tourists saying to themselves, ‘god, i really to check out the corner of east broadway and grand street!'”

as he prepped my drink, i snapped a photo of the empty space–the wooden tables and chairs, the painted tin ceilings; the floral wallpaper and the antique mirror.

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and i had a flashback to the first time i’d set foot in ost. it was the second time i went to see my future home (though i didn’t know it was my future home quite yet). the first time had been one night after work; the second was in daylight–a time when i could see that all the flaws i’d seen by darkness were not flaws, but potential. eric, my broker, toured me around the small space, pointing out where i could knock down walls and open things up, where i could rip out closets and create them anew.

afterwards, we walked over to ost and grabbed a drink, and i remember surveying the neighborhood–what would maybe become my neighborhood–in the sunshine and thinking, this would be my neighborhood. and this would be my neighborhood coffee shop. i knew ost, because for as long as i’d lived in the east village/gramercy area, they’d had an outpost on 12th street and avenue A. i’d had 2 very bad and one particularly spectacular first date there. i’d sipped red wine at a tiny marble topped table on their little piece of sidewalk, and eaten their muffins for breakfast.

i knew very little about the lower lower east side. the two bridges neighborhood, as some call it. i’d never walked down east broadway; in fact, i’m not even sure i knew that east broadway existed. but seeing ost–a spot i knew and loved–felt familiar. it felt like coming home.

after eric and i parted ways, i called my parents, and said i thought i wanted to put in an offer.

“it has a grocery store and a dry cleaner,” i said. “and it has an ost cafe.”

“a what?”

“a coffee shop i know,” i replied. “there’s one on 12th and A in the east village.”

“ah,” they said knowingly. “that’s good.”

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recently, i did an AMA on my instagram account (@_thegrandapt for those unaware), and one person asked me, “how did you become so confident?” this question shook me to my core, because i simply don’t think of myself that way, at least, not most of the time. but answering the question–and really thinking about it before i did–made me realize that in some ways, i AM quite confident, and it’s my apartment renovation that made me that way.

there’s something about moving to a new neighborhood where you know not a soul, about dealing with contractors and architects and coop boards and city officials, about building a home from scratch that you know to be yours and yours alone that instills in you a sense of “i can do this.”

there was something about the moment that i walked into ost with eric, and ordered an iced chai at the coffee shop that would soon be “the one” that made me believe i was enough on my own, worthy of a big and great renovation adventure.

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it’s been nearly two years since i moved into my apartment, and it’s almost 2 years to the day that i started demolition and construction on my little piece of the big apple. in some ways, it feels like a literal lifetime ago. like the sarah who came before this one was another person entirely (perhaps she was!). i recently had dinner at my favorite sushi spot in my old neighborhood, a place i used to frequent on a weekly basis, and i said to my friend maddie, i feel like i lived here a million years ago.

but it wasn’t a million years ago. of course it wasn’t. it was less than two. but in so many ways, my apartment and the neighborhood in which it sits feel so much more like home than anywhere else ever has. it’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? searching for an apartment in new york city (especially with a relatively small budget) means you have to be open to making a variety of different areas your home. in the scheme of things, my search wasn’t exactly extensive, but i looked at many a place in brooklyn before putting in an offer on the place i now live. and while i saw many a nice apartment, i never set foot in a single one that felt like home.

but somehow, this one did. even with its atrocious “before” state, i feel like i just kind of knew it was the one.

the same could be said of setting foot in ost. i didn’t know the neighborhood (my original goal was to find a place in alphabet city, but the inventory was limited, tiny, and dark). i didn’t know the F train, or how i’d get to work, or how i’d get anywhere, really. but somehow, when i set foot on the corner of east broadway and grand–that place no tourist ever deigns to go!–it felt like home.

and that, my friends, is a miraculous thing.

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the first time i went to london, it was 2006. i was 20 years old, a junior in college, there for four months thanks to a study abroad program in english literature at kings college. i’d never lived in a city before, and everything excited (and terrified) me.

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a blurry big ben, snapped on my digital camera in fall 2006

kings was in central london, right in the heart of it, but i’d stupidly (or perhaps rightly) picked a dorm 20 minutes by tube from the hustle and bustle. situated atop a grassy knoll of sorts, the hampstead dorm had looked quaint and entirely british. i was sold from the moment i saw photos.

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the hampstead campus at kings college london

2006 was nearly pre-social media. instagram had yet to exist, and facebook had barely activated the photos feature, so i captured my stories in pages upon pages of emails (many of which my parents kindly printed out and saved for posterity). i had no internet in my dorm room, so when i wanted to check or send email, i walked next door to the student center, a brightly lit, harry potter-esque building with chesterfield couches and large wooden tables. i’d find a spot at a table or, if all the tables were taken, on the floor against the wall, and cue up my skidmore.edu email client.

from there, i’d sit for hours, tapping away on my keyboard, capturing my life abroad in a blue and white message box. i wrote about how crowded the tube was, how the trains were simply too small for the number of people who had to ride on them, and how, thanks to a lack of air conditioning, i’d ended up with my head up against someone’s stinky armpit more than once. i wrote about my classes in literature, how i’d walked by the home of dickens on a seemingly average street, how i’d discovered a new drink called a snakebite (1/2 cider + 1/2 beer + a shot of blackberry liqueur).

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my hampstead dorm room, fall 2006

i wrote about my dorm room, which was large and sun-drenched and came stocked not just with a large armoire, but with a small sink, at which i could wash my face and brush my teeth in the privacy of my own space (showers were shared). i wrote about the view from my window, how i could see the red shingled rooftops of the rich and the possibly famous at morning, noon and night.

 

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enough stuff to give marie kondo a heart attack

my time in london was, in so many ways, my first true adult experience. sure, college had meant leaving home, but it was london that truly took me away from what i knew. at skidmore, i lived in a small, liberal arts bubble, surrounded by people much like myself, in a town much like the one i grew up in. london was the opposite of saratoga springs: it was loud. it was dirty. it was beautiful. it was filled with people speaking english in accents so thick i could barely understand them–and also with people speaking languages i’d never even heard before.

it sizzled with energy, it vibrated with life. the streets of london were old, older than anything i’d encountered anywhere i’d ever been in the states. the students who shared my classes barely paid attention in class, but somehow managed to ace their exams come reading week. every afternoon, they’d head to the university bar (yes, the bar run by the college. this blew my mind.) for a couple of beers before heading back home for the evening. the british were polite and austere, but come evening, they tumbled out of lively pubs, smelling slightly of fish and chips, their cheeks pinked by alcohol.

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golden hour in london, fall 2006

in london, my friends and i strolled along the thames with an open bottle of grocery store white wine. “drunk birds,” an old man shouted at us as we passed, “the birds are drunk!” (birds means women, over there). we ate cheap indian food along brick lane, consumed bowl upon bowl of edamame at wagamama. on saturdays, we took the tube to notting hill and perused the rows of antiques along portobello road. once, i purchased 2 faux fur coats for 10 pounds (a steal!). i still have them; they sit in my coat closet, untouched. i can’t bear to get rid of them.

 

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my friend martha and i , out at a bar, smooching random brits

on weekends, we’d drink too much and steal away in the night to the gardening club in covent garden, or walkabout, an australian club where i once let a british soldier stick his hand down my pants in the women’s bathroom until the security guard rapped on the door and ordered us out. i often took absurdly expensive black cabs back home to hampstead at 2am, or rode the double decker bus up finchley road all on my own.

london sarah was something college sarah hadn’t yet figured out how to be: free. free to skip class every so often, because everyone else was doing it, and go exploring. free to stay out too late and drink too much and still get up the next day and do it again. free to be alone–truly alone–in a way she’d never been before. free to board a plane at 3am to a destination unknown. free to hop into the car of two unknown men along with two friends in the bermuda triangle of vienna and hope she made it back to her hostel safely. free to walk las ramblas in barcelona at 11pm. free to sing karaoke in dublin along with a crazy old man. free to get her first ever fully body massage in prague following a particularly grueling day of exploration.

 

in oh so many ways, my time in london is what led me to new york. london taught me how to live abroad, sure, but more than that, it taught me how to live, period–both alone and with the humans around me. it taught me that it was okay to be scared, and even more okay to do it anyway. it taught me that i didn’t need to go to the supermarket with friends; i could go alone. it taught me that i didn’t always need to speak the language, i could go anyway. it taught me that seeing the world–the world outside my own, the one that is so very big where i am small–was a magical, beautiful, heart-wrenching thing, and that i was lucky to be able to do so.

that’s not to say i didn’t get homesick. that i didn’t miss the comforts of america, and my own bed, and my family and my friends. that’s not to say i didn’t wish things were easier, that i didn’t sometimes cry alone in my dorm room, wishing i’d never gone so far from home.

but god, was it worth it.

and so was going back, 12 years later. in so many ways, i am vastly different from the sarah who saw london for the first time. for one thing, i’m a grown woman, not a college kid trying to figure herself out. i’ve lived in new york for ten years, and have traveled extensively since leaving college a decade ago. but i’m still me, and good lord, did the same old me feel ALL THE THINGS walking the streets i walked all those years ago, this time with a smartphone that did oh so much more than send texts tapped out on a tiny keyboard.

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in a cab from heathrow to hampstead | tuesday morning

i arrived in london on tuesday morning, may 22nd, and had approximately 3 days there before i took off for italy. i did my very best to make the most of it, spending time with family (my mom’s cousin lives in hampstead, and kindly offered to let me stay there during my visit), strolling as many streets as i possibly could, eating all of the good indian food (this was my fave), splurging on tea at sketch, going to platform 9 3/4 (obviously, had to), catching up with my old coworker, and more.

so, let’s have a look, shall we? there are a lot of photos here, so be warned. think of it as my visual diary.

 

TGA_Finchley Road Hampstead London

walking to the tube at finchley road, a walk i did every morning during my time abroad back in 2006

TGA_Black and White Building London

black and white magic

TGA_Hampstead Finchley Road

a tiny doorway on my walk to the tube

TGA_Hampstead London

beautiful hampstead

TGA_Hampstead House

this garden in hampstead took my breath away

TGA_Hampstead Houses Wallpaper

the guest room at my mom’s cousins’ home | where i spent my time in london

TGA_Floral Building Arch London

a doorway adorned with flowers

TGA_London Brick Homes

magical brick buildings of london

TGA_Pink Flowers Hampstead London

matching my surrounding during golden hour | hampstead london

TGA_Yellow House Notting Hill London

an afternoon in notting hill

TGA_Notting Hill London

adorned in ivy | notting hill

TGA_Colorful Houses Notting Hill London

bright red doors | notting hill

TGA_Artist Residence Pimlico London Hotel

a night at artist residence hotel | pimlico london

TGA_Artist Residence London Pimlico

cambridge street kitchen | artist residence hotel | pimlico london

TGA_Artist Residence Cambridge Street Breakfast

textile dreams | cambridge street kitchen | pimlico london

TGA_Pretty Red Restaurant Mayfair London

bright red in the sunshine | marylebone lane london

TGA_Pimlico Sunset London

sunset in pimlico

TGA_Platform 9 3:4 Kings Cross Harry Potter

paid $10 for this photo op and i’m not even the least bit ashamed

TGA_Sketch London High Tea

the pink room | high tea at sketch | london

TGA_Sketch London Florals

decked out in florals |sketch london

TGA_Sketch London High Tea Food

high tea tower of sweets (and some savory) | sketch london

TGA_SKetch London Bathrooms

trippy bathroom selfies | sketch london

TGA_Sketch London Trippy Bathrooms

crazy pod toilets | sketch london

TGA_Sketch High Tea London

welcome to paradise | sketch london

TGA_West Hampstead Park London

afternoon coffee | west hampstead london

TGA_Dinner with Friends London

3 americans, 1 brit, 1 italian |dinner ahead of our weekend in italy| shoreditch london

at the tail end of my trip, following a long weekend in italy and nearly a week in nice, i boarded a plane back to london, and spent one last afternoon/evening in the city before flying back home to new york. the following photos are the ones i snapped during my last evening abroad, back at artist residence (but in a different room!) and exploring the pimlico neighborhood once more.

TGA_Exploring Pimlico London Neighborhood

tan, tired, and happy | exploring the streets of pimlico london

TGA_Pimlico London Floral Installation

decked in flowers | the streets of pimlico

TGA_Peggy Porschen Raspberry Cake

seeing what all the fuss is about | peggy porschen cakes

TGA_London Streets Pimlico

i think i could live here | pimlico london

TGA_Pimlico London Sunset

dusk falls on pimlico

TGA_Pimlico London Sunny Day

why yes, i’m certain i could live here

TGA_Pimlico London Mews

mews | pimlico london

TGA_Pimlico London Mews Houses

side by side | pimlico london

TGA_Pimlico London Lime Green Door

lime green | pimlico london

TGA_Ivy Covered Home Pimlico London

number 21 | pimlico london

TGA_Kings Cross London Tube Stop

travel | kings cross st pancras london

TGA_Home of Charles Dickens London

dickens | pimlico london

TGA_Artists Residence Loft Hotel London

what dreams are made of | artist residence hotel | pimlico london

TGA_Artists Residence Loft Hotel Bathroom

i ended my last night in europe here

 

 

 

i’m oh so thankful to have the means to travel–to go back to cities i loved in my twenties and see them through the lens of my thirties. london, you were a dream, and as always, i just can’t quit you.

 

 

TGA_Board Meeting Agenda

last night, i attended my first ever shareholders meeting. for those who don’t know, i live in a coop here in NYC, which means that technically, i own shares of my building, rather than truly owning a piece of property (like i would if i had purchased a condo). coop buildings come with coop boards, and every so often, those boards hold meetings where the shareholders (aka, everyone who lives in the building) can come and discuss proposed updates for the coming year.

having never been to one of these shindigs before, i figured it would be a relatively simple affair: people would sit in the community room, the board would give us some updates, and boom! we’d be done, and head back up to our respective apartments to cook late dinners (me) or tuck our kids into bed (other people).

BOY WAS I WRONG. you guys, the meeting was insanity. it wasn’t even a meeting, really, but rather, a multi-hour time block set aside for people to air their many grievances about the building. as it turns out, despite us living in a not really that fancy building, let’s be real, people feel strongly about us having certain things. like a fancy laundry room–one that doesn’t vent dryer air out into the courtyard. like fountains that only shoot to certain heights, lest they be interpreted as lewd (more to come on this. PUN INTENDED).

i walked into the meeting a little bit late, having just gotten home from work (and honestly, having forgotten the meeting was even happening). i sat in the back, careful not to crowd any families or couples or people who seemed to know other people. for the first ten minutes, i scrolled through my emails on my phone, pretending to be busy so that i didn’t have to acknowledge that i was there all by myself. having been in the grand apartment for a year and a half, i’ve mostly gotten past the whole “i’m here alone” thing, but every so often, the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness creep in, and let me tell you: there is NOTHING more lonely than sitting on a plastic folding chair in a busy common room where you’re talking to exactly NO ONE. being surrounded by groups–either neighbors who’d been in the building forever and knew all their floormates, or young families who huddled together, showcasing the latest ‘cute kid’ photos on their phone–was sobering. when i’m up in my apartment by myself, i could care less that i’m there alone. but being alone in a crowded room…WOOF.

but that, friends, is a story for a different day. you’ve heard me wax poetic about my loneliness before, and that’s not why we’re here today. today, we’re here to reenact the ridiculousness that was my first board meeting.

so, let’s set the scene, shall we?

picture about nine rows of plastic folding chairs. they’re white, but dingy, old. people are scattered amongst the rows, some on cell phones, others engaged in conversation. towards the front of the room sit about 5 older men (all men, always all men–the women who interviewed me when i applied to live in the building were nowhere to be found) at a series of folding tables. in front of the tables is a small podium.

7:15 comes and goes. 7:30 arrives. the board president, an elderly man with tufts of white hair and large glasses, makes his way to the podium and clears his throat. he informs us that we haven’t met quorum, but that we can go through the agenda items, and schedule the voting portion of the meeting for another time.

agenda items include very important things like new laundry machines, fountain enhancements, and self-inspections for leaky faucets (yes, that was an actual agenda item; see my photo above).

abe, the president (ha!), calls the meeting to order. he introduces the folks at the long tables, apologizes for/explains an incorrect abatement warning letter we all received from the city, and then launches into the good stuff: let’s talk about the fountain.

editor’s note: we have a fountain in our courtyard. when it’s nice out, the fountain runs, pumping water up and out into a small pool. it’s a lovely feature, one that drew me to the building when i first came to look at the grand apartment. apparently, it’s also one of great contention.

see, earlier this year, the fountain got a little refresh. the previously sad spurt of water was now high and mighty, and one night, i walked by to see it was lit. IN A RAINBOW OF COLORS. i texted our super immediately: what was this ugly, tacky ass shiz?! but beyond that, i didn’t think much of it. 

back to scene. abe tells us he knows that some of the shareholders have had “issues” with the fountain restoration, and assures us that they’re still working out the kinks. at this point, all hell breaks loose.

a woman stands up in the third row, and tells abe she’s got a little something to say on that front. as it turns out, she has more than a few issues with the fountain restoration. she finds the “ejaculatory nature” of the water levels to be lewd, she finds the bright rainbow lights offensive (especially in a building that should have landmark status!). at the words “ejaculatory nature” the crowd gasps. there’s silence, but just for a second.

undeterred, she soldiers on. she’s a designer, she tells us. she’s lived in this building for 15 years (15 years, people!) and she cannot imagine what the board was thinking. a kind soul passes her a microphone, all the better with which to broadcast her rant.

two rows in front of me, an older man straight out of the shtetl mutters to himself in a thick eastern european accent, but makes no attempt to reach for the microphone. the peanut gallery begins to converse. people agree–the rainbow lights are entirely too tacky for our lovely pre-war building.

abe tries to calm the crowd, and tells us that the rainbow lights are only temporary. even the empire state building is doing it! he says above the din. the empire state building is an art deco building! it’s fun! it’s modern! people like to take pictures of the fountain at night.

at this, the woman with the microphone explodes. THIS ISN’T ABOUT TAKING PHOTOS! THIS IS OUR HOME! i hear her hatred of the instagram generation simmering below the surface, and duck my head instinctively, lest she single me out.

HEAR HEAR! the crowd chants. shtetl man nods to himself in front of me. eez tacky, yes, i picture him saying.

next up on the agenda is the laundry room. we’re getting new machines (this is a good thing!). people fail to see past this; instead, they choose to focus on the fact that our ventilation system is busted–the smell of dryer sheets permeates the courtyard air. a man in the row next to me stands up, and requests the microphone. he tells us he lives above the laundry room, and while new machines are great, he’d rather spend our money where it counts: on venting the dryer air elsewhere. like, out onto grand street.

abe pushes back on this. this type of job would require a mechanical engineer, this type of job would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

he motions to issac, our building manager, a man who i’ve previously only spoken to on the phone and whom i’m overjoyed to learn is an adorable, diminutive, soft spoken soul in a kippah. he’s like every average jewish guy i went to summer camp with, but smaller! i want to put him in my pocket and carry him around to fight my battles in his lovely, soothing voice.

issac, abe asks. how many people do we have living in this building?

issac estimates the number to be around 240, not counting spouses.

almost 400then. abe says, loudly. he futzes with his sweater, and stares pointedly at the laundry complainer. and how many complaints have we had about the smell of dryer sheets in the courtyard?

issac stares at his shoes. about 4, maybe 5.

FOUR! abe roars. FOUR OR FIVE COMPLAINTS. IN A BUILDING THIS LARGE. 

shtetl man gets up from his seat. he’s had enough of this.

laundry man shakes his head. he’s frustrated. if the board would only consult a professional, he says. he’s an architect, and he’s seen these things done, even in old buildings like ours.

a voice emerges from the front row. a woman who’s also lived here for many, many years has a solution. she’d like to tell us about it. may she have the microphone?

the microphone is passed to the front.

the issue with the ventilation, she tells us, is the scent. dryer sheets are toxic, and people should knowmaybe, she thinks, the board could tell people to stop using dryer sheets. then we wouldn’t have this problem. 

my ears perk up. i love dryer sheets! i love how they make my clothes smell! i am clearly the enemy here. i wonder if i’ll ever come across this woman in the laundry room, and if she’ll scold me when i take out my bounce sheets and put them into the dryer.

abe shakes his head. we cannot possibly control who uses dryer sheets, he says. and if we were to speak ill of them, we could be sued by the companies.

the peanut gallery goes wild. who on earth would sue our dinky little lower east side coop?!

abe persists. we will not ban dryer sheets. when the new dryers are installed, he tells us, he’ll look into fixing the ventilation issue.

we’re now more than an hour into the meeting and only halfway through the agenda. my stomach is growling. it’s 8:45 and i haven’t yet eaten, and i look around me, wildly, for an escape route.

after a few more minutes of uninspired fighting about the laundry room–will prices be raised? will strangers still be able to walk in and use the machines?!–abe puts a moratorium on the conversation. issac, kind soul that he is, offers to schedule an appointment with laundry man to talk to him about his issues living above the dryers, and strategize about ways to fix it. laundry man is unsatisfied, but seems to understand he’s lost the battle for now.

sensing a lull in the meeting, i duck out into the aisle, busy myself with grabbing my packages (they store them at security whilst we’re at work), and head out the side door.

but not before i whisper to my favorite security guard, with the most exaggerated eye roll in the world, THIS. SHIT. WAS. INSANE.

he grins, and shrugs his shoulders. it’s just another day in the life, i suppose.

 

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this morning, around 10am, a text message lit up my phone. it read, “happy valentine’s day (the worst holiday ever).” my phone suggested it was from “maybe: andrew” — a guy from tinder that i’d texted a bit with a few weeks ago.

i’d swiped right on andrew because he was cute, because he was older (and presumably wiser) than me. i’d given him my number because he was witty, and when his opening text read, “hi sarah. let the sexting begin! jk jk” i’d thought him funny and self aware. i told him i’d gotten quite a few unsolicited dick pics in the past, and that i appreciated the jk.

we chatted throughout the evening. andrew seemed like someone i could have a drink with, maybe even dinner. but after that night, i never heard from him again.

until today—valentine’s day—of all days.

my immediate response to his text (after taking a few minutes to scroll through our previous text exchange and orient myself to who exactly “maybe: andrew” was) was that it was indeed the worst holiday ever.

i then asked how many tinder ladies he’d sent that text to.

“oh only about 10 lol.”

first of all: i can’t imagine marrying a man who uses lol un-ironically. second of all: ten. ten! like it was nothing. such is the world we live in. a world where single men can drink from the fountain of youthful women all day ever day, whilst those same women pluck and tone and bleach and pray that they’ll someday be deemed a mate acceptable enough to leave the fray behind.

did i mention that valentine’s day makes me a wee bit bitter?

here’s the thing: i don’t give two shits about andrew. like, not even a little bit, not at all. but he was a reminder of another guy–one who i would’ve loved a valentine’s day text from.

we’ll call him d. d and i met back in october. he was visiting new york from england. we spent multiple nights in a row together following our first date. the second night, i invited him to come home with me after dinner. i figured i had nothing to lose. he was nice. he was normal. he liked me. i liked him. i told myself i was the type who could do a casual thing and be okay with it. sometimes i am that girl! (sometimes i’m not)

the next morning, he got up for his flight back to england, and told me i’d hear from him soon.

i wrote it off – i’d recently been burned and figured this was just another guy who planned to get his kicks in and then disappear. imagine my surprise when d texted at 11am saying he’d made it safely to the airport and that he’d had a great time.

from october to december, we texted daily (note: texted, never spoke on the phone – this should have been a warning sign to me). and then in early december, when i got up the guts to tell him how i felt (spoiler: i had feelings, as one tends to catch after months of constant contact), he disappeared.

a week or so later, i went to lunch with a few of my coworkers. ben, the only man in the group, was talking us through our troubles, and when i began to fill him in on the latest with d, he stopped me mid-sentence.

“you know what this is, right?”

i looked at my tuna melt. yes, deep down, i knew what it was. it was nothing. i was someone to flirt with, a fun fling to be played out via whats app—anything but the real thing. i knew all of this. but i sure as hell didn’t want to hear it said aloud.

why, i asked ben, had he wasted time telling me that what he remembered about me wasn’t the time we spent in my bed, but that my smile lit up a room? that my laugh was contagious? that a two hour cab ride from bristol to london was nothing if he was talking to me all the way home? if he wanted a cheap fuck (pardon my french), he could have gotten across the pond.

ben shrugged. a loose translation of his explanation: it was an easy in. i was an easy in. guys know girls fall for shit like that, so they say it. i was a distraction from life at home—nothing less, nothing more.

that hurt. for the next few weeks, i busied myself with holiday preparation. i went home to my parents over christmas. i went away to vermont with friends for new years. i told myself that life was amazing, that it was nothing. i gave myself the types of pep talks you give your best friends: he wasn’t worth it. you deserve better. you are wonderful and he would be lucky to date you.

by early january, it hurt a bit less.

and then, last sunday evening, my phone lit up. it was d. he was in LA, and wanted me to know that in a contest between the two cities, he’d decided new york won out. we resumed our usual banter. rather than calling him out for ghosting me just two months prior, i played along. we talked about the trip i was booking to europe for a friends’ wedding over the summer. he offered to play tour guide in london and sent me a screenshot of his calendar: a bright blue rectangle reading “sarah visits” appeared on may 27th.

he asked me when the wedding was, then said he’d love to come—he’d never been to nice. i pointed out that coming to the wedding meant he’d be my date. that he’d have to meet my friends.

his response?

“i’ll meet your friends and tell them how amazing i think you are.”

that one line was enough for me to think that maybe the second time around, it would be different.

it wasn’t, of course. it never is.

within a week, he’d fallen off again, texting short, curt replies to my questions about how he was enjoying mardi gras in new orleans (his second stop), offering only what was polite—no more, no less.

this, from the same guy who’d told me only 7 days prior he’d rent a hotel room for us to stay in during my time in london, who contemplated an airbnb so that he could cook me indian food from scratch.

as soon as i engaged, as soon as i texted first, he pulled away. a game. the game.

of course, it’s my own fault, partially. having previously closed off my heart to him, i opened it back up again without a second thought. i allowed myself to think this was different. that his reaching out to me meant he missed me (doubtful). i dared to think that maybe, just maybe, i would be enough this time. enough to convince him i was more than a three night stand.

i wasn’t. i’m not. not to him, at least. and while i know that this particular hurt shall pass—advice i gave to a good friend going through a somewhat similar situation just today—it seems to hurt just a bit more today of all days. the holiday meant to celebrate love. the love i don’t have. the holiday that brings “maybe: andrew” out of the woodwork, looking for a drinking buddy and maybe a fuck buddy too.

“maybe: andrew” isn’t the one for me. and d isn’t either. but just once, just once, i wish one of them would be, you know?

i got an instagram message from a fellow single lady today. in it, she said, “i am very happy with my life, but sometimes the doubting voices do creep in.”

and that’s all it is, isn’t it? the doubting voices that tell us that because we’re not enough right now–in this moment, with this particular person–we’ll never be so.

but that isn’t the truth. it’s not. these are things i tell myself, over and over again. and also, this: that one can be enough without needing a partner to complete them, or tell them they are so. i do not need d to tell me that my life is worthy of living, that my contribution to this planet is singular and magical and that i am oh so lucky to have all that i have. and i sure as hell don’t need to hear it from “maybe: andrew.”

here is my wish for myself, and for you, too: that today, but also ALL DAYS, we remember that we are enough. and that nobody gets to tell us (or make us feel) otherwise.

say it with me now: i am enough.

because you are. and i am too.

 

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{preface: i haven’t been writing much on here because this blog is meant to be one about my home and my renovation projects, and there hasn’t been much to talk about over the past few months. but this morning i felt like writing something else, so i did. for those of you that read for the pretty, well, today isn’t that. but i hope you’ll stick around anyway.}

you know those days where you wake up and you just don’t feel like yourself? i had one of those days yesterday. blaaaame it on the rain, blame it on the fact that i slept in and skipped my usual bar method class, blame it on drinking 3 glasses of wine the night before. either way, i just felt off. it happens sometimes, right? (tell me i’m not alone here)

i remember a time about a year ago where i felt REALLY off for a good week or so. it got to the point where i freaked out a bit. there was no trigger to my bad mood, just a lingering sadness and a halo of anxiety that i couldn’t seem to shake. i called my parents around day 4 (they’re both doctors, and have seen me through my share of ups and downs), and tearfully asked if i needed to check myself in somewhere. THIS IS WEIRD, i said. I’M NOT MYSELF. HELP.

with the kind of calming assurance that only a mother can offer, they gave me a bit of advice, and it’s advice i follow to this day when i’m feeling off. “go distract yourself. go take a soul cycle class, take a bath, go get your nails done, go out to eat.” in short: get up and get out. out of your head, out in the world. go do the things you know make you happy. and do them again, and again, and again. and guess what? generally, when i do that, in a few days time, i wake up feeling like myself again. the fog passes, or rather, i pass through it.

i don’t dare indicate that my mental health stuff is anywhere near “bad” – lord knows it could be much worse. but i do believe in talking about it, because i don’t think we do that nearly enough (for inspirational people that do this well, see @jengotch), especially not on social media, where perfect and pretty is the name of the game.

so, here it is: i had a bad day yesterday. a bad day where i still had to go to work, and see all the people and do all the things. and guess what, guys? people do that EVERY DAY. we get up and we get out and we interact and we move forward, even when we feel like shit. it’s a good reminder to be kind to everyone you meet, because you never can tell who’s having a moment (most of us are pretty good at hiding it).

i handled it by getting my ass to an evening bar method class even though i wanted to cancel. and then to a tiny ethiopian restaurant where i ate curried lentils with my bare hands alongside my dear friend martha (who, as it turned out, was also having a bit of a shit day). and then this morning, i rose with the sun, and i biked my butt over the williamsburg bridge to a 7am soul cycle class where i REALLY sweat my shit out. i headbanged to the chainsmokers and sprinted my face off, then biked back over the bridge (bless you, citi bike). by the time i put my key into my front door at 8:15, i felt like a new woman.

in other words: i got up. i got out. and i got the F out of my own head. and damn, did it feel good.

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“you just wait. once you buy this apartment, the men will come knocking. you won’t be able to turn them away fast enough.”

it was a sunny day in early summer, and my friend sarah and i were taking a stroll around the neighborhood near our office. i was complaining about dating, or the lack of dates i was currently going on. it was the absolute worst, i fumed. the apps were a veritable minefield of crazies, dick pics (sorry, mama), and assholes who’d sleep with you and then never call you again.

there wasn’t a good man left to be found in the city of new york, i was sure of it. no, i hadn’t dated them all, but over the past year, i’d gone on enough online dates to know that it wasn’t for me, and that i was likely destined to be single forever, and definitely destined to be single when i signed on the dotted line for the grand apartment.

i was sick of it, of all of it–of getting dressed and getting my hopes up, of braving the smoky air of yet another dimly lit bar only to realize i was stuck with yet another hour of boredom, of the MOST un-stimulating conversation i’d ever encountered. i felt like charlotte york: i’ve been dating since i was 16! i’m exhausted! WHERE IS HE?! and also, MY HAIR HURTS. {kudos if you get these references, if you don’t, you need to get thee to an HBO Go account, pronto}

“come on,” sarah said. “it’s not that bad.” and maybe it wasn’t. or maybe, soon, it wouldn’t be. after all, sarah had reconnected with an old boyfriend soon after purchasing her own apartment (on her own, just like me). it was proof that one could do a big thing alone, and very soon after, be one half of a whole.

~

last august, around the time i broke ground on the grand apartment, i started seeing a guy i met off tinder. we hit it off immediately. he was too good looking for me, i knew it from the start, but that didn’t stop me from falling for him over cheap beers at some weird NYU-esque bar on west 4th street. in the span of a few weeks, we saw each other as many times. i slept with him too quickly, because, well, i think with my heart and not my head. and then i went away for 2 weeks, and i never heard from him again. i tried texting him once, during my trip, and his response was so cagey that i backed off. the guy who’d literally pushed me up against a wall within 2 minutes of my walking through his door wanted nothing to do with me. i couldn’t figure it out, so i tried not to ruminate on it (and what it said about me) too much.

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come september, construction work and design choices and the stress of a renovation caught up to me, and i stopped dating all together. as i’ve written about before, the purchasing and renovation process was an isolating one. it was as though i was reminded of my aloneness around every corner. there was a sense that i’d never wake up next to another person in the queen size bed i purchased, that i’d never flip pancakes on my brand new griddle alongside someone else’s bare feet on a sunday morning, that i’d be alone, really and truly alone, forever.

this sense of aloneness was juxtaposed, however, by an underlying current of pride. pride that this thing i was doing, it was big and it was scary, and i was doing it all by myself. on some days, my aloneness took on an almost sacred quality. it was rare. it was beautiful. it was magical. and it was just me.

~

i moved in on halloween, october 31st, and i started to dip my toes back into the pool of dating shortly after the new year. for months, it was a series of failed tinder chats, strange apps named after breakfast pairings, and nothing happy to report. every time my mother would call, she would ask me, “what’s new?” and i could hear in her voice that maybe, just maybe, today would be the day when i would tell her not about work, not about spin class, not about the latest crazy person i’d seen on the street, but about a romantic interest. i could spin the tale out from there without her even saying a thing. romance leads to love leads to marriage leads to babies leads to grandchildren. it’s a simple equation, really, once you find the one.

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but i couldn’t, it seemed, find the one. hell, i could barely find anyone at all. i felt the pressure of the clock ticking. i turned 31 in january, an age i never thought i’d reach, and all of a sudden, i was staring down the barrel of 35, and then 40, and then sudden death with no babies in sight.

all around me, people walked hand in hand. they stood on tippy toes to kiss on subway platforms. they shared cheesy engagement videos on facebook. the romances swirled around me, everywhere but just out of reach.

and as jealous as i was, as much as i, too, wanted that, i started to grow comfortable in my aloneness. i was alone, but i wasn’t necessarily lonely. i was doing just fine, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

and in that comfort, something odd happened: i went from having zero prospects to having 3 very nice, perfectly normal (at least, on the surface) men interested in me. there’d been a drought, and all of a sudden, i was trying not to schedule two guys on the same night. sarah was right: the men had come knocking.

i tell you this not to be like, oooh look at me, i’m hot shit, but because ultimately, i couldn’t do it.  i had what i wanted: i had people who wanted to be with me. hell, one of them even spent our second date months ahead of himself in the future, talking about the antiquing we’d do upstate, and asking me how i felt about hiking (spoiler alert: i hate it). but i didn’t, i couldn’t, want them.

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and it made me wonder: had i gotten so used to being alone that i couldn’t bear the thought of another person breaking through that aloneness? was it them, or was it me? i thought about it some more:

the first guy was a dud, through and through. he said he wanted to be a comedian, but he could barely carry on a conversation. i sat through one awkward date, and granted him a second, thinking maybe his nerves had rendered him mute the first time. of course, it wasn’t nerves. it was just his lack of personality that had turned me off. i swear to god, the man was so freaking vanilla. not even vanilla! he was CARDBOARD.

the second guy was, over text, innately charming, and funny as hell. he even threw in a bieber pun here and there. i was shaking in my boots nervous to meet him, hoping desperately his real life self would live up to his online self. i was sorely disappointed. he was so nervous that he could barely lift his drink up to his mouth. he kept wanting to know more about me: what did i like to do? who were my friends? what did i do every day after work? what did i think about work? what were my hobbies? how long had i been doing them? it was like he was playing 20 questions, a detective trying to get me to crack. it was exhausting! i felt like yelling, ASKING ME EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN THING ABOUT MYSELF ISN’T GOING TO ENDEAR ME TO YOU. IT’S JUST GOING TO FREAK ME OUT.

and that was just the beginning. texting me after our second date, he mentioned he lived far out in brooklyn, but when we dated, we’d obviously spend most of our time at my place, you know, since the lower east side was way cooler than his neighborhood.

i shit you not. my fists clenched almost automatically. i felt my heart seize up. how DARE he think he could come into this home–my home, the one that i had literally sacrificed blood, sweat and WAY TOO MANY tears for over the past 9 months–without an invitation? how dare he assume that he was welcome in my sanctuary, the place i had created all by my damn self?

and then i caught myself. this was what i wanted, wasn’t it? someone who wanted to go upstate and go antiquing on the weekends? someone who wanted to eat toast and runny eggs at my breakfast bar on the weekends? someone who would appreciate it when i told them i sealed that entire wall of exposed brick without a professional, that i’d picked out every last piece of the grand apartment, right down to the toilet paper roll he used to wipe his ass in the morning?

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i had it, right in front of me, a perfectly nice (albeit a little overeager) man who wanted to take me out for watermelon margaritas on a wednesday and walk me home afterwards, and who had already, by the second date, started picturing our life together in the future.

and i couldn’t do it.

i broke it off a few days later, telling myself i had a third guy waiting in the wings.

and guess what? he, too, was perfectly nice. he was a swede who worked for spotify, and who had transferred 6 months ago to their new york office. like me, he was a foodie who liked indie music. like me, he owned an apartment (in stockholm). he lived in williamsburg, and he ordered a scotch egg on our first date.

i should’ve been all in. he was cute, he was cool, he was interesting. our conversation, over the span of 3 dates, had very few lulls.

and still, i couldn’t do it.

suitors 1 and 2, sure, i could write them off. they were awkward, they were immature, they were overeager, they were bad conversationalists. but suitor #3 had not a flaw in sight. and still, i didn’t feel it. on paper, it was all there, but in real life, standing outside his apartment at midnight on a saturday, i didn’t feel the need to pull closer, i didn’t want to be invited upstairs.

i just wanted to go home. to my home, that i built all on my own. and i wanted to go there alone.

~

i’m not sure what the point of writing this all out was. most likely, it just proves that i have some serious baggage and that my twice-weekly soulcycle classes are no longer cutting it as therapy. but i’ve always used writing as a way to work my shit out, and i suppose i hope that putting my thoughts down on virtual paper might help me sort my way through them.

because here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with being alone, if that’s what you want. i’m not sure i really believe this sentiment, but i want to, very badly. i want to believe that a person in today’s world can be self-sufficient, that they can be alone, and that they can be happy in that aloneness.

i also want to believe that my turning down these three guys wasn’t just me running scared. it was my gut telling me, these people aren’t yours. they’re not right for you.

and i want to believe that the person who is mine is still out there. and that when i meet him, i’ll invite him in–to both my home and my heart–without hesitation.