Lesson 38: Listen to your momma

“Momma said there’d be days like this,
there’ll be days like this, my momma said.
(Momma said, momma said.)”


I’m really struggling today. I have been since the weekend, actually – though I’m not exactly sure why. It could be that my discomfort at work has grown to a burning forest fire – no matter what exit plan I attempt to devise. Or maybe it’s the lukewarm date I had with the FDNY fireman Friday night (ironic I know), reminding me that it takes more than all the right “pieces” to create chemistry, and how rare that is to find. But the icing on the cake most definitely has to be finding a piece I wrote 10 years ago about my struggles with the same issues of my singledom and less-than inspiring job.

From “Trust the Process”:

“I’m 34 years old, so single it sometimes hurts, making a decent salary and still can’t afford to live in a Manhattan apartment bigger than a cruise ship cabin. And since I’m not busy taking care of my dream home or raising some fabulous kids of my own, I feel like I should have the time and energy to be doing something fantastic and worthwhile. Like curing cancer or eradicating eating disorders. But I’m not – not even close.”

I thought about all I’ve done, in an attempt to move my life forward, since writing that: pursuing Latin dancing with abandon, starting an amazing weekly after work salsa party, nearly opening NYC’s only modern-day supper club, falling madly in love, courageously walking away from it when it became toxic, getting my personal essay writing career started on HuffPost – all while working at three top advertising agencies. I’ve done a lot actually. Yet I could have written that piece yesterday. Which gives me great pause and makes me wonder how far I’ve really come. If at all.

The friends I had back then – some have moved away, some have walked away, some I had to walk away from. But nearly all of them have moved forward in very visible ways. As I write this today, I wonder if they’d say the same of me. I’ve worked so hard, both personally and professionally. Yet sometimes I feel that I’m standing still.

I know the trick to happiness is to not look at how far you want to go, but instead at how far you’ve come. And I have. But what do you do when looking back makes you feel worse?

A good friend recently suggested that I stop trying so hard and let the universe drive for a while. While I love that idea, I’ve never been good at being unhappy without working to fix it. But maybe that’s the point. I have been working on it. When you’re stuck, it’s often better to just stop – at least for a bit.

Back in college, I found myself confused and emotionally frozen from a truly psycho roommate. I was in no position to make any good decisions about what to do next, and luckily I didn’t have to. My very wise (and brave) mother suggested that I take a semester off college to figure it out, which was the smartest thing I could have ever done. I used that valuable time to heal, but I also: paid off my car with tips from my waitressing job, gained a valuable skill, lost 15 pounds, and made many lifelong friends. Not only have I never regretted those months “off,” but am eternally glad I had them. They were some of my best months ever.

The other great piece of advice she gave me was to find a hotel whenever you need a bathroom or warm place to sit and read.  I actually wrote this post at a 5th Ave hotel bar while sipping green tea, sitting by the window, surrounded by business men and groovy lounge music. So much better than a Starbucks. Thank you, momma.

Maybe it’s time to take my mom’s advice again, and give myself a self-imposed “semester” to stop “trying” to make anything happen. Just “be” where I am, and make the best of it. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like in your 40s, with rent and bills to pay – but I’m more than willing to try to find out.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, especially to mine. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her love and friendship.


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