As much as I love New York City and as grateful as I am to live, work, thrive and explore here, in one very big way, it has disappointed me. It was a pollyanna way of looking at love, but that bright-eyed and full of ridiculous, rosy hope 21-year-old who moved here in 2010 was confident she’d find love in New York.
But every year when I travel the 800 miles from the bustling, bold streets of New York to the quiet, gentle rolling hills of Western North Carolina, I’m reminded of the place I called home for 21 years before high-tailing it to the big city. And how much I've changed in the years I've been gone.
Don’t get me wrong — I’ve never looked back. Though I miss my family somethin’ mighty, the truth is, New York has been my favorite place on Earth since I was seven, and well, the state I've filed taxes in the past six years. It’s terrible and wonderful, dirty and delicious, often all within the same three hours.
But when I’m back in my childhood home in North Carolina, I often pull out of my old journals, with their tattered pages and scribbled jumbles, reading about how I dreamed of landing on Northern soil — and boom! Just like that, I’d meet my husband.
It hasn’t exactly happened that way.
Apart from one toxic relationship that ultimately ended much later than it should have, I’ve spent my years in Manhattan on my own. For the most part, I’ve been OK with that — and often times, taken advantage of being single: traveling when I please, going out when I want, dating all types of people, making love, and having silly affairs in other countries. There’s something pretty spectacular— and eye-opening — about being single for many years —you learn so much about yourself, about what you want and about what you absolutely couldn’t live with day-in and day-out for the rest of your life.
But even though my attitude is usually optimistic, I always make the same wish every year.
You see, my family — a loving retired fire captain father and an eccentric astrologer mother— are big believers in the universe. So when I’m home for the holidays, we write down our wishes on Chinese wish lanterns and let them float off our back porch, over the lake, where somehow, magically, they create our deepest desires.
And for most of my life, or at least as much as I can remember, I’ve written down the same damn thing on that lantern: “I wish to find love this year.” I’m a writer, so it’s usually more involved than that, but the sentiment is the same: I have the career I’ve always wanted. I love my apartment. I’m financially stable. I’m emotionally fulfilled with the best friends and family. I’m in killer health. I have the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet.
But I still haven’t found love. Or at least, that’s what I used to think.
It was this past year as I sat down with my third glass of red wine, watching my parents write their own notes on their lanterns that I realized I couldn’t wish to ‘find love’ anymore. Not because I didn’t want to find love but because it occurred to me that I already had: they were sitting next to me. And texting me from New York that they missed me and wanted me to come back. And tagging me on photos in Instagram. And meeting me for a yoga class or a drink after a stressful day at work. Or begging me to rub their belly before drifting to sleep.
All this time wishing to find love and it was always right there in front of me. My family, friends and pet never quite get the credit they deserve when I talk about my life feeling incomplete without a partner. They hear the brunt of my frustrations, they are the keepers of my hope and my daily reminders of happiness — from words they say to things they do, simply because they are incredible. I’ve surrounded myself with so much love, so much goodness that I’ve come to take it for granted as I wish, plead, pray, and cross all of my fingers and toes to find a mystery partner that, apparently, will bring me the greatest love of all.
Perhaps he will. But I’m not wishing to ‘find love’ anymore, and instead, I’m wishing to change my own mind about love. It’s not something to be earned or conquered. It’s not something I can just date and date and date, and finally get married and that’s-that. Love is ever evolving and always around us, if we can just see it in the faces that aren’t our boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses. Instead of thinking about love in some negative capacity and filed under ‘things I don’t have’ — it’s at the top of the list of the things I’m lucky to already have an abundance of.
I have found — and fostered — so much love. I don’t need to wish for it. I need to cherish it. Because the beautiful thing about love is that when you keep creating it, in whatever way you see fit, it only keeps growing. You don’t need a Chinese wish lantern to carry the message, the universe takes care of that for you. And maybe, just maybe, brings it back to you in a way that will surprise you beyond belief.
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Image: Lindsay Tigar