Finding Your Family-Friends

There’s a part in the new Mindy Kaling book where she writes about the changes that happen in friendships. 

Specifically, she writes about the period in her late twenties when all of her friends began to move apart, and the difficulty that comes not right away when friends start to move apart, but later when you realize how permanent the moves were, and how much they change the course of the relationships.

This big moving period happened around the same time for me and my friends. In my mid-late twenties, I decided to move away as several of my friends had before me. We'd all left home and gone to college, then left college and gone to New York, or maybe moved around New York and in some cases, left the city and returned. No big deal, right? 

But in the book, Mindy writes about the experience she had later upon realizing what these moves really meant:

"...I realized [that] this long expanse of free time to rekindle friendships is not real. We will never come home to each other again and we will never again have each other's undivided attention. That version of our friendship is over forever."

Stings, doesn't it?

Like many other ladies of a certain age, I completely relate to this and the pain I felt after moving from my girlfriends in New York. See, I had a strong, serious girl squad going in Brooklyn. We were roommates and neighbors and friends, and it was great. Me and D were doing the long distance thing at the time, and since he was in London I somehow had the best (and worst) of both worlds: endless time with my girlfriends, with the comfort of knowing my serious, steady boyfriend was a sleepy Skype call or an exotic plane ride away. Pretty great, right?

But of course it wasn't.

It got to a point where long distance wasn't a realistic option for us and besides, managing it all was difficult. And so I moved to London, thinking that what happened to me when I moved to New York was the same thing that would happen each time I moved for the rest of my life. I'd show up and within months join a group of friends that would truly and deeply 'get' me. Family-friends, as I like to call them.

Of course that's not true either. Each move, and the community you encounter on the other end of that move, will be different.

I've written a lot about my time in London, that's for sure, but one of the biggest shocks I had when I left my New York life was suddenly finding myself without a strong group of those family-friend girlfriends. I built amazing one-on-one friendships in London, and I now miss those women dearly every single day. But in those early London days, when I'd just moved from my family-friends in New York, it felt like overnight I had abandoned one part of my life and woken up, jet lagged and wearing yesterday's clothes, in another.

A couple of months after my move, I was visited by a best friend who was living somewhere between New York and L.A. Because I was still such a newbie to the world of post-female live-in friendships, I was overjoyed at her visit because it made me realize how much I missed her and my other family-friends.

Though I was thrilled with my new life in London, though I loved the decision I had made, though I (and I hope this goes without saying) was beyond happy to have left behind the late night sleepy Skype calls that long distance relationships are made of and instead have the person I loved right next to me, it was still hard to not have my family-friends there with me. Ultimately, the realization that my New York life and my new life in London couldn't and wouldn't exist together because of countries and visas and jobs and all the rest was the hardest thing to accept.

It was all too raw. For a few years I couldn't watch Girls because it reminded me too much of my former Greenpoint life. And when I returned to New York last month for the first time since I left, that feeling of rawness came over me again and for a few days, it felt like the wound had reopened.

Now that I'm in a new city and building female friendships one by one (thank you, Instagram, for introducing me to kindred spirits I never would've met otherwise) I've come to terms with the fact that this will probably be my world of friends going forward. We all have our groups of friends that exist in our hometowns or former home cities, and now we all take on new friends one by one. But rebuilding that old group of family-friends? It won't happen again. That period in your life where your friends were your everyday family? It looks different now than it did before.

These days, I focus on finding ways to stay in touch with my family-friends, mainly by incorporating them in every aspect of my day – through texts and talks of plans for visits. Now, it's a case of quality over quantity. We don't sit around quite as much in our pajamas on Tuesday nights, so instead we talk more and plot and plan for future celebrations.

It is hard, though. Staying in touch with friends lies somewhere between the world of the constant marathon phone calls of a long distance relationship and the scheduled Sunday Skypes used with far away family. More often than not, in that between world, the plans have a tendency to fall apart.

And so you work harder at it because family-friends are worth it. They're rare, hard to find, and must be clung to regardless of distance and time and change in circumstance.

And you know what? We may never come home to each other again, as Mindy said, but seeing each other on weekend visits brings me back to myself in a way that only family-friends can, and that's more than I could ask for. 

I think Mindy would agree.


A Forever Homesickness

Sometimes I feel like I've been crying since I was 19.

Out of love, fullness, gratitude, and mainly the woes of location, location, location.

19 was the age I began semi-living in New York. I went to school in Atlanta, near family, but thanks to my college's quarter system scheduling, I was able to spend small chunks of the year interning in New York.

It was then that I got my first taste of homesickness, which could be muffled by my love for the city. This carried on for years. I'd miss my family more and more each time I left them at the airport, but I'd then arrive in the city and get straight back into the groove. Have some wine with my roommate, see our cats, and all would be well.

Then I met my would-be husband in New York and, as luck would have it, he lived in London. We spent three years in an international long distance relationship, and each month and year got harder than the one before.

Eventually I moved to London. My husband and I were (finally!) together and Europe was at our fingertips, but friends and family were far for both of us. We were, and still are, spread over three continents and many more cities. During that time, the tears seemed to flow endlessly.

And now, we're in Durham. I'm closer to my entire family than I've ever been before, and after a long immigration process I've got my husband here with me. I'm happy as a clam, and feel at "home" being back in the South.

But after a weekend in New York, my heart is crying out for my friends and the big piece of my identity that's tied to that clingy ex-boyfriend of a city. New York also feels like home, and the older I get, the more I realize my friends are home to me as well.

This was the first time I'd been back in New York since I moved to London over three years ago. I was nervous to return because I knew it would hit me hard, but it was still a harder, more solid hit than I expected. While I was there, I saw some of those same friends, my cats, and ate the same dinner at the same table with the people who know me so well it almost aches. And when I left, that ache set in.

This is the heartbreak of having those you love scattered across cities and countries. I feel incredibly grateful and lucky knowing that we have so many loved ones all over the world, but it's hard to live with the sting of knowing that everyone won't be in the same place, ever.

So it's out of the incredible joy and appreciation and fullness and the forever homesickness that I've cried over these years. The confusion and cruelty of knowing that, in some way, the ones you love are both with you and forever elsewhere. That's why I cry.


100 First Dates

A few years ago, my friend Lisa started a project about dating.

After all, Lisa was a super successful New York gal in her thirties (cue every rom com trailer ever) and after a failed relationship, she was ready to put the whole dating thing to the test. 

Lisa's project was called 100 First Dates. The idea was that she would go on first dates with 100 men, but if anything worked out along the way she would stop the project and just date the guy.

It never did. Lisa went on all 100 first dates, and if that doesn't tell you something about the New York dating scene then I don't know what will. It's a cliché but it's also true – had I not met D, who was visiting town from another country – I think I'd still be single today.

Lisa finished the 100 First Dates project last year, and is now turning it from its original form of a blog to a comedy show and podcast, amongst other things. 

Because Lisa is awesome and my friend, and because I genuinely think there are some crazy things going on with modern dating, I asked Lisa some questions about 100 First Dates. 

Here, girlfriend spills on her experiences with dating and relationships – 

How do you describe 100FD? What's your bite-size, cocktail party definition for the project?

You know how most women between the ages of 32 and 36 get married and have babies? I went on100 First Dates instead.

After my ex-almost-fiancé broke up with me unexpectedly, I “got back out there” and acquired some really great, ridiculous dating stories. Writing them down became a creative and cathartic outlet. My goal was always to find love, but I haven’t yet so here I am 100 and counting…

At the start of 100FD you were anonymous. Now, your name is everywhere. Why did you decide to "come clean" about the project?

For a long time I thought I could – and should – keep my blogger self separate from the “real” me. I felt fearful that guys would be scared off and wouldn’t want to date me.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve come to realize (and be proud of) this project because it's a huge part of who I am. I’m a writer, a comedian, and a very open person. If a man is frightened by all of that, then he isn’t the right guy for me.
 

When you were on dates did you have trouble separating Lisa, blog writer and project creator, from the "real" Lisa?

When I could feel a date take a turn for the worse, the only thing that helped me cope was the knowledge that I could write about it. I took my bad experiences, made light of them, and basically threw them up in a post.
 

You've gone on dates with 100 men in New York. Are you any closer to answering the question of why dating is so hard in the city?

The “Next Best Thing” syndrome is definitely a factor. There is always someone else to go out with if the date you’re on isn’t great, and with dating apps like Tinder that next someone else is easy to find.

People in New York are ambitious. They’re hustling in this city for a reason, but that reason is never to find a life-long partner. As a result, people are distracted during the prime mating years because they’ve got careers to find and dreams to fulfill. They tend to settle down when they’re older, which is dandy for men because they don’t have biology banging down their doors. For women, it’s different.

Biggest lessons learned during your experience?

Take risks! Meet people online AND offline. You may not find the right person right away, but you will learn about yourself and meet interesting, smart, funny (and weird) people that may surprise you. It’s all about getting outside your comfort zone.

Other key lessons:

  • Text to make plans not to make conversation – that’s where the weirdness happens.

  • Plan for a first date drink, not dinner. Dinner is harder to escape.

  • Find a sexy, comfortable first date outfit and wear it on every first date.

  • If the date isn’t going well, be respectful and honest, and get out of there!

 

You've gone on your 100th date. What would you like to happen next with this project?

I would love to write a book about my experiences and lessons learned.

After that? I’ve been so touched by blog readers from all over the world who’ve reached out to me that I’ve learned that love and heartbreak are truly universal. My dream project is to travel around the globe to talk to men and women about what dating, love, and relationships mean to them, and to document it in a book or on film. If anyone has any other ideas, send ‘em my way! 

Thank you, Lisa! 

Learn more about 100 First Dates here

Contact Lisa here

Follow Lisa here and here


What Happens to New Yorkers When They Leave?

My link to New York Elsewhere on a Good Reads a few weeks ago sparked a convo between me and a fellow misplaced-New Yorker who now finds herself living it up, as they say, in old' Cali.

If you read this blog at all, you may know that I've had trouble leaving my beloved city of New York after having moved to London last summer (side note: it's almost been a year since I've arrived here, which is cray.) I won't bore you with a list of the things that I slowly...noticed...don't...exist in London that do in New York in the same way that I won't bore you with a list of the lovely things in London that NY just doesn't have.

All of that being said, for anyone leaving New York there is no better advice I can give aside from this: don't try to find New York in other places because it doesn't exist. 

This being said, there are neighborhoods with similarities and it's weird/fun to try to find and point them out. So without further ado, here's our list of New York 'hoods in LDN.

Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square: Times Square

Farringdon/Clerkenwell: Tribeca

Angel: Murray Hill

Marylebone/Fitzrovia: West Village

Notting Hill: Greenwich Village

Camden: East Village

Brick Lane: Little Italy

Oxford Circus: Broadway SoHo

Old Bond Street: West Broadway SoHo

Soho Square: Tompkins Square Park

Primrose Hill: Park Slope

Shoreditch: Lower East Side

So, all you ex-New Yorkers, what say you? Does our list measure up?

Designer Bio: Mansur Gavriel

Once in a while, a brand comes along that stops you in your tracks. Mansur Gavriel (not Monsieur Gavrel, or Manser Gavril or any of the 10 other things I revert to when I try to spell the name properly) is a handbag line designed out of beloved New York, had that effect.

Just look at that smooth leather, perfect coloring, perfect contrast, clear photography, and A+ branding. Man alive, we're in trouble.

The leathers used in the bags, satchels, wallets, and cases are all produced by a company in Tuscany, and Mansur Gavriel works with another Italian company to craft the crazy great and colorful interiors.

Another bonus about these bags? There's a great story behind them.

Designers Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel met at a concert in 2010 and quickly learned they shared the same dream of designing their own line. From there, the gals travelled back and forth between Rachel's home in LA and Floriana's home in Berlin, eventually meeting halfway in New York where Mansur Gavriel was born. Just two gals following their dreams, designing the Best Bag Ever.

If for some reason you need more convincing, check out their other gorg styles and color combos here. Lawd help me.

Photography

Another day, another photo blog. This time around, it's one I'm pretty proud of considering it contains the work of a guy I happen to be legally bound to.

Take a looksie for photos of our excursions over the past few years. Featuring New York, London, Edinburgh, Santa Fe, and South Africa.

It's all right, if you're into cool photography, quality art, colors, and that sort of thing.

 

Do Blogs Make You Feel Bad?

Because I'm a completely rational and normal person, Saturday morning I woke up in a warm, snuggly bed with my husband while the snow came down outside, and decided to pick a fight and have a mini-breakdown.

Like most breakdowns, this one had been brewing. You see, I've had bouts of creative frustration since moving to London. I have a large network in New York, full of friends in creative industries. The other thing about New York is that it's like a small town  - everyone seems to know each other. In London? Not as much. My network is smaller, the city is more spread out, and thus everything is harder which is frustrating.

That feeling, combined with my morning routing of scrolling through Bloglovin' overwhelmed me with anxiety. Blog after blog of perfectly designed layouts and editorialized stories about other people's lives that are picture-perfect in the way that life can only be on a blog has the potential to leave a gal at her wits' end.

The thing is, what's great about blogs is the same thing that can leave you feeling crappy about yourself. Blogs are inspiring - they provide endless visual inspiration, suggestions on what to read, watch, and wear, and make you feel like there's a whole group of like-minded people out there in the universe who are just like you, and even share the same taste in Pins. 

When you get down to it, aside from being comforting, it's also pretty amazing that it's now so easy to connect with a group of strangers - people you may have never met otherwise - and find out you like the same things. But the downside is this: sometimes after going through my Bloglovin' feed, I find myself feeling less inspired and more "not good enough".  My blog will never be that good, I need more customized photo shoots, does she design her layouts or does she have a designer and in that case how can she afford to pay them and herself, and worst of all - I'll never get to that level.

This all seems like an unnecessary panic, right? Why not just stop looking at blogs? Because of all of the reasons I listed in the first place: endless inspiration and a community of like-minded friends, right at your fingertips.

So I don't know about you guys but I'm learning as I go, and finding that the RSS flood of visual stimuli needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It's amazing, I love it more than anything and someday hope to turn blogging into a career of my own, but in the meantime, I like my blog and my life, thankyouverymuch.