If you only get one great love, New York might just be mine.
It’s no surprise that as a twenty-something dreamer meandering the streets of Manhattan, one of my spirit animals is Carrie Bradshaw. Her seemingly fictitious world accurately mirrors the reality we face as New Yorkers and confronts questions we didn’t know we had until we graduated from our adolescence and moved to the Big Apple.
The women she spends her life commiserating with represent many of our own friends we get to navigate through love, loss, and the pressure to fulfill societal standards with. Yet despite the fact that they didn’t survive their dating days during the digital age of Tinder, Instagram and the social media garbage we begrudgingly swipe though today; these women still managed to experience many of the timeless struggles we inevitably face today.
As I recently re-binged the series (it’s available to stream on Amazon Prime — you’re welcome), I found Carrie’s words, lessons, and struggles hitting me differently than they have before. Maybe because I’m getting older? Wiser? More cynical? Regardless, I began writing down her questions, conclusions, and witty quips to share with the rest of my world; because I feel like the seemingly benign and “melodramatic” internal questioning we’re all afraid to own deserves to be met with a little reassurance that we’re not always alone in our thoughts. Here are some of my favorite take-away moments, questions, and lessons penned by Carrie Bradshaw to get you through your week, your year, or your life when you’re in need of a little guidance, commiseration, or perspective.
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Carrie repeatedly revisits self-love throughout the series, specifically within relationships; on a constant quest for a healthy life balanced with love for herself, her friends, her partner…and her addiction to shoes. But how do we ever truly know if and when we’re balanced? As we bravely tiptoe along the tightrope of life, carrying our relationships in one arm, and our self-love in the other, will putting too much weight on one end throw us off balance and eventually be our downfall? To that effect, if leaning too much into our self-love starts to evolve into something unhealthy, is that just as detrimental to our balance as leaning on others to serve as the needle in our barometer for happiness?
I got to thinking about Narcissus – a man so consumed with his own image, he drowned in it. Did he have no best friends to mirror back a healthy review of himself? And why is it that we can see our friends perfectly, but when it comes to ourselves, no matter how hard we look, do we ever see ourselves clearly?
I often wonder what Carrie would have to say about the modern-day selfie; healthy or harmful? Brave or vain?
Is it possible to draw a clear line between confidence and narcissism on our own? Or will we ever be able to impartially evaluate ourselves without the guidance and insight from those around us? And what about those who can’t seem to muster up any bit of self-confidence at all? Can they only see themselves in the reviews that others give them? At the end of the day, is the ability to accumulate compliments for ourselves and owning the best parts of us a blessing or a curse?
To that end, Carrie also weighs-in heavily on our inevitable self-reflection through the eyes of those around us. We can feel so great about ourselves one moment, then defeated the next when someone else doesn’t see exactly what we do; which can quickly generate a laundry list of reasons to doubt our self-love.
Why is it that we only seem to believe the negative things people say about us? No matter how much evidence there is to the contrary — a neighbor, a face, an ex-boyfriend can cancel out everything we thought was once true. Odd, but when it comes to life and love, why do we believe our worst reviews?
Is it that innate fear of becoming narcissistic? Are we trying so desperately to keep ourselves in check that we would rather focus on the qualities we must improve than the ones we should savor? And who’s to say we should change at all when someone else’s perspective on us doesn’t quite mesh well with our own?
I realized that the critic I was most afraid of was me. The truth is, at any given moment, someone, somewhere could be making a face about you. But it’s the reviews you give yourself that matter.
While conquering the separation between our own opinions and others’ is easier said than done, the phrase “you are your own worst critic” holds more truth than we may want to admit. At some point, even if our reflection gets blurred, the best we can do for our own clarity is to carry ourselves through each day with a little bit of grace and, in turn, remind those around us to love themselves and eliminate the idea that self-love must always translate to being self-absorbed. For how we love ourselves will inevitably set the tone for how we love those around us.
I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic. Those that are old and familiar. Those that bring up lots of questions. The that bring you somewhere unexpected. Those that bring you far from where you started. And those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.
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Because our self-love informs so much of the love we give to others, it inevitably becomes the precursor to a healthy relationship with, not only romantic partners (more on that later), but our friends.
Friendships don’t magically last 40 years. You have to invest in them. It’s like your savings: You don’t expect to wake up one day when you’re old and find a big bucket of money waiting there.
I recently had a long conversation with my mother about this generation of millennials and their tendencies towards friendships. We’re all walking around in the modern world of social media, where everything is at our fingertips. Subsequently, we’re always looking for the next best thing because it’s at our fingertips. When the world is immediately at our disposal, we start to become flaky — waiting until the day-of to make plans in case something better comes along, pulling out our phone in the middle of a face-to-face conversation, or simply not responding to a message and pretending we didn’t get it in the first place.
Is it possible to minimize the investments we make on our social media pages and start devoting more of the same into our friendships? Though investing in ourselves is equally as important, if we put half the energy we throw at our smartphones into our relationships, at the end of the day, isn’ that a better bang for your buck? Give a call instead of a text. Better yet, use the twenty-first century to your advantage and FaceTime your long-distance friends. Write a card instead of sending a text. A little more intimate communication can go a much longer way.
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In a town where everyone’s dying to couple up, sometimes there’s nothing better than being out of a relationship. You have time to do your laundry, freedom to play your favorite bad music really loudly. But the best part about being out of a relationship; plenty of time to catch up with your friends.
So let’s talk about being single, because it’s just as important as the open discussion about our relationships with others and obviously goes hand-in-hand with self-love.
Is single life in New York such a constant flurry of fun and friends that settling down immediately fills us with the urge to shake things up again? And why does becoming part of a couple imply settling down?
To be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf?
I think we can all admit to adapting to certain tendencies when we’re in a relationship that we wouldn’t have otherwise; I know I certainly have. So let’s say you’ve finally taken your self-love off the shelf and you’ve ended a relationship with someone because it wasn’t right for you anymore. The relief that accompanies coming back into your single self can feel so massively exhilarating that you wonder how you lasted so long without that feeling. But when the relief starts to fade, how do you separate your self-worth from a relationship where your self-love started to become non-existent?
Relationships, no matter how good, are inevitably a series of compromises. But how much of ourselves should we be willing to sacrifice for the other person before we stop being ourselves? In a relationship, when does the art of compromise becoming compromising?
Do we chalk it up to experience? Is it better to view the loss of a relationship as a blessing rather than a curse? Or have we put such a premium on companionship that the pain of a break up clouds our ability to prioritize self-love, leaving us feeling like less of who we are as we walk away?
People say everything happens for a reason. These people are usually women. And these women are usually sorting through a break up. It seems that men can get out a relationships without even a goodbye. But apparently women either have to get married or learn something. Why are we in such a rush to move from confused to Confucius? Do we search for lessons to lessen the pain?
Abso-fuckin-lutely. If you’re anything like me, you’re always putting your trust into the universe through the good, the bad, the uncomfortable, and the joyous. Every move we make is a stone in the road towards our future. So at some point, we have to trust that when the moment and person are right, we won’t be adjusting who we are at our core to accommodate the relationship . And so much of knowing what is right comes from being secure enough with ourselves to say “hell yes” or “hello no” to certain people and what they have to offer us. That all starts and ends with the love we have for ourselves.
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I realized I had just entered an interesting chapter of my life. I had outgrown the boys of my past and not quite grown into the men of my future.
Can you get to a future if your past is present?
I spent most of this past year reflecting on this concept a lot. Especially when you move to a city as wild and wondrous as New York, you find yourself caught between letting go of certain parts of your life and hanging onto what you think should remain. It’s a balancing act, much like that of our self-love and relationships — we find ourselves constantly torn between what we know and what we don’t. Moving to New York will not only change your life, it will change everything you thought you knew about yourself before you arrived.
Every day you’re met with new faces. Those you pass on the street, the cashier who rings you out at the grocery store, or even a new co-worker. The connections you make in New York will be boundless and serendipitous. Subsequently, they’ll sometimes lead you to outgrow the relationships of your past or present. Isn’t that a major part of growing up? Looking back on what you thought was right for you at the time and, in retrospect, realizing why it wasn’t?
Some love stories aren’t epic novels – some are short stories.
But that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.
Again, New York will change everything you thought you knew about yourself before you arrived and, without even realizing it, you will outgrow your past as you patiently grow into those who belong in your future. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just one of the most exhilaratingly terrifying and uncomfortable concepts of, not only living in New York, but growing out of our adolescence.
One of the great things about living in New York City is that you don’t have to sugar-coat your feelings. But, have New York women settled for a sugar-free existence as well? We accept Tasty-D-Lite instead of real ice cream, emails instead of love songs, jokes instead of poetry. It’s no wonder that when faced with the real thing, we can’t stomach it. Is it something we can learn to digest, or have we become romance-intolerant?
Ever since Woody Allen described waving to Mia Farrow across the park, single men in Manhattan yearn for that kind of separate togetherness. I felt like the last dinosaur. Was I the one that needed to adapt? Was my view of a relationship extinct? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This is a city where gay men are so out, they’re in. Where women are so chronically single, ovaries may be the next vestigial organ. We can have anything delivered at any hour, we can have our dogs walked, our clothes cleaned, our food cooked. Who needs a husband when you have a doorman?
Are New Yorkers evolving past relationships?
Ironically, despite the hundreds of people you come into contact with every day, it can be really difficult to cultivate special connections with people in New York. When the pool is bigger, finding your “people” becomes harder. Furthermore, when it comes to romantic relationships, especially in the digital age of dating apps, settling down in this city is starting to become obscure. Our generation wants the best of both worlds — we want our freedom, but we still want someone waiting for us when we come home each night. But what happens when our accessibility to anything, at any hour, any day of the week starts interfering with our ability to spy the rarities?
Since birth, modern women have been told we can be anything we want; be an astronaut, the head of an internet company, a stay-at-home mom. There aren’t any rules anymore the choices are endless, and apparently they can all be delivered right to your door. But is it possible that we’ve gotten so spoiled by choices that we’ve become unable to make one? That a part of us knows that once you choose something – one man, one great apartment, one amazing job – another option goes away. Are we a generation of women who can’t choose just one from column A? Can we have it all?
The millennial generation especially has morphed into a sea of individuals hesitant to commit. Is Carrie right? Can we really have it all, and, if we seemingly do, will we ever be satisfied? Or are we really so commitment-phobic that we’re passing up and passing by opportunities, jobs, or people who would otherwise bring us joy if we weren’t so scared that we would be missing out on something or someone else?
In a city of great expectations, is it time to settle for what you can get?
So, along with sifting through what is meant for us or not, comes the tricky reality of settling — all the way from mediocre love to unfulfilling jobs to crappy cups of coffee. They say “when you know, you know,” right? Trust me, when it’s a crappy cup of coffee, you know. But what about matters of the heart? How do we know when something is right for the moment or right for a lifetime? Sometimes, even when every neon sign is pointing to why something is wrong, we look for reasons to make it right; inadvertently settling under the fear that we won’t find anything else. We get so caught up in waiting for another person to put a smile on our face that we grasp at any attention, lust, or affection we can get if it makes us feel good…enough.
In matters of love, how do you know when it’s right? Sometimes the question is, how do you know when it’s not right?
I couldn’t help but wonder, has fear of being alone suddenly raised the bar on faking? Are we faking more than orgasms? Are we faking entire relationships?
Is it better to fake it, than be alone?
The answer to her rhetorical question is an obvious and resounding “no,” but what’s worse is that not everyone shares the same sentiment. Too often are we witness to relationships that only exist to ease the fear of being alone. But why is being single deemed worse than being in a dead-end relationship? Sure, we all love companionship, but what kind of damage is that doing to our individuality by being with someone who’s totally wrong for us?
In New York, they say you’re always looking for a job, a boyfriend, or an apartment. So let’s say you have two out of three, and they’re fabulous. Why do we let the one thing we don’t have affect all the other things we do have? Why does one minus a plus one feel like it adds up to zero?
I wondered if “should” was another disease plaguing women. Did we want babies and perfect honeymoons? Or did we think we should have babies and perfect honeymoons. How do we separate what we could do, from what we should do? And here’s an alarming thought – it’s not just peer pressure. It seems to be coming from within. Why are we should-ing all over ourselves?
Societal standards have undoubtedly shaped the reality of what we think we want out of life. I can wholeheartedly admit to getting caught up in the minimization of what I do have in comparison to what I think I should have. Especially as we cross into our mid-to-late twenties and beyond, does the check-list of what we “should” have at a certain age begin to stifle not only our self-love but our accomplishments?
Our own joy truly becomes stricken by the comparison we face with social media serving as an all-access pass to what others in our age bracket have. But we must remember that those pictures of their lives are only painted with the colors they want us to see. We have complete control over what we put out on the internet; most of it being the “sunshine and rainbows” parts of our lives.
There is going to be rain — all the way from sun showers to thunderstorms to hail falling from our skies. So it’s pointless to compare ourselves to the masses; for we may never see their sadness or their turmoil even if it inevitably exists behind the selfies. But if we stop dampening our successes to accommodate what we think we should have, we’ll be too distracted by our own joy to seize it by “should-ing” all over ourselves.
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Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course, we would never fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are.
Eventually all the pieces fall into place…until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason.
There is no rule book for navigating through life and love in New York. I just wrote an entire blog post about lessons I think I’ve learned and still feel lost in this city most days. I’ve lived in Manhattan for just over four years and I still expect to be piecing together life lessons and watching re-runs of Sex and the City when I’ve lived here for ten or twelve or forty years.
Even the wisest of the wise can’t tell us what to do or what’s right for us, but they can sure as hell share their knowledge, their stories, and their hearts with us so we can only hope to turn out half as cultured and kind as they are.
Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens.
So just love, make mistakes, and have wonderful times. But never second-guess who you are, where you have been, and, most importantly, where it is you are going.