baked sweet potatoes & those four little letters

My roommate, Hannah, is obsessed with Game of Thrones. So as a result, we now have a subscription to HBO Now, and I have been spending too much time watching Lena Dunham's GIRLS. Which is so real and relatable and gritty and well-written.

I don't know if it's because I binge-watched seven consecutive episodes of GIRLS today (on to number eight as we speak), or if it's because my family all left at lunchtime for the mountains and Sullivan has been my only pal for the afternoon, but I have been thinking a lot about love today.

I'll just come right out and say it, I have never been in love. Nope. I thought one time that I might have been, back then I was certain of the goofy, crooked grin. Or another time, not so long ago, I thought I could be again, if we decided to give it a shot. And I still think I would choose him. Yep, I would. But, as the story has went, neither of those chances panned out.

It's not fair to say that I've just been thinking about love this afternoon because, truthfully, I wonder about it an inordinate amount of time. About why it has eluded me for 24 years. If I will ever find it. If it will ever find me.

My little Hannie sent me the greatest Cheryl Strayed (that woman just GETS it, ya know?) quote the other day:

I can't say when you'll get love, or how you'll find it, or even promise that you will. I can only say that you are worthy of it and that its never too much to ask for it and that it's not crazy to fear you'll never have it again, even if your fears are probably wrong."

I hope Cheryl is right, and that my fears are wrong – but in case they aren't, I'm just going to keep on looking, and living. And by looking, I don't mean giving into the siren's call of Tinder, or Bumble, or any of those other dating apps that thrill us with the fleeting high of being liked and found attractive. Because other than an unlikely friend, and some unwarrented sexual advances (not on my part, you can be sure) that resulted in a cancelled first date, I haven't had much luck in that arena. Actually, I don't think I'll keep looking. I will definitely keep checking out the hotties (booties and left ring fingers) at the grocery store, and flashing a smile when somebody catches my eye, and retweeting and Insta-stalking the fellas that I think are cute. But beyond that, I'm content to just get on with the living until love decides to show up for me.

Why am I perfectly content just to get on with the living? Because I hate the notion that a young 20-something woman's life is considered by many “not to have truly began” until she has a ring on her pretty little finger. And that is plainly absurd. Would I like someone to come home to at the end of the day who will hug me and kiss me and pet my hair? And who is totally a-okay with the fact that I'm a total weirdo? Hell yes I want that.

But just because I don't have that, doesn't mean that this isn't a life I am wholeheartedly going after. I'm obsessed with my cat, okay? I am trying to keep up relationships with long-distance friends. I am enjoying every single day that I wake up in the most beautiful city known to mankind. I am writing a lot more these days, jotting down book ideas & dreaming about TED talks, and becoming more and more confident that I've got things to say that people might want to read and hear them. I am thinking about giving modeling another shot. I'm plotting my next move, and researching grad programs, and thinking if I move back to North Carolina that I might want to run for state senate at the next available opportunity. I'm realizing that I should take more chances. I'm eating cleaner, and stepping on a scale less, and trying to remember to stretch the ole' muscles and to floss. I am making the cognizant choice right now to eat two baked sweet potatoes for dinner, instead of a bowl of French Toast Crunch.

What I'm learning is that life doesn't have a timestamp on it. Even though with every engagement announcement or wedding album that is scrolled past on Facebook, the ugly comparison and insecurity come creeping in, you aren't (read, I'm not) “not enough” or “less than” if you're unmarried, single, working a less than stellar job, and not writing books or speaking or being a boss ass bitch by the time you turn 24. It's okay that I'm not Lena "the voice of generation" Dunham yet, or ever (Lena, I love you!). I am trying not to doubt every decision that I've ever made (oh, the wonders of adulthood), and wondering how to get there and working on it.

In short, am I whole. I am trying my hardest to be content, and I am happy with this little life.

And maybe, just maybe, it's that I am already loved. By a beautiful momma, and a blue-eyed daddy, and a sister, and three of the best grandparents to have ever lived, and a bunch of Baldridges, and oh, you know, just 100 or so of my closest family members. I am already loved by Rachael, and Jake, and Drew, and all the friends who chose to love me when I was five and chewed on my hair, and when I was sixteen and my favorite piece of clothing was a t-shirt that said “pick flowers not fights” in giant gold letters.

I am loved by college friends who I miss with my whole being, who I plan trips to visit, and who still loved me even in spite of the fact that my greatest life's ambition was to be President of the United States. Who walked beside me though the lazy days and late nights, who helped mold me into the woman I am, who I FaceTime, call, and Skype at all hours just so I can hear the voices that sound like home.

I am loved by a powerhouse group of women mentors – Leca, Meredith, Lisa, Hannah, and Nancy, who know to expect a phone call from me when I am faced with the most major (and the most minor) of decisions. And who have shown me, through who they are, exactly the kind of woman that I want to be. I am loved by my sweet effervescent Mary Scott, and by “momma” Katelyn, and Heather, and Anna (thanks for always driving), and Cambren – all soul sisters who have sweetened these Charleston days and helped make this big city into a home.

Yes, I want a love story. But these people are my love story. They are all the great loves of my life. And maybe someday soon a steady, handsome man will show up and want to join in and be his own part of the story.

I refuse to believe that we only get one person to love. It's more likely that we get a lot of different kindred souls during this lifetime, some that we've already met, some for different seasons, and some for a lifetime. If we're lucky, one will choose us. And we will choose them. We will choose each other every day for as long as we can. I don't know a lot about love, but I do know this - It's a choice. Single ladies (and fellas) hear me say this: Life? You've already got a kick-ass one. Don't be embarrassed of your singleness, embrace it. Don't be afraid to go to a wedding alone. Love isn't a magic cure-all, so don't treat it like one. You are worthy of love, and it's always worth asking for. I hope you find it too. But until then? Be okay with yourself. Don't forget about the thrill of just living. 

My Grandma Lillian is 98 years old (but not for another 12 days – so she'll get sassy with you and tell you she is still 97, thank you very much) and she is the wisest person I know. The other Sunday I was at her house, and we were talking about life, and boys, as usual. She said, “Sugar. The right one will come along for you one of these days. I know he will. And don't get in a hurry about it, because when he gets here, you'll know. And he will be worth it.” And she held my hand and said, “But until then, you keep going. You're doing just fine. You're doing just fine.”