I'd never been in a rush to get married, settle down, and have kids. I enjoyed my easy freedom and independence, and though I was a totally great auntie, I'd never felt the overwhelming desire to procreate. Until one day when it dawned on me: Am I running out of time? My biological/matrimonial clock was suddenly ticking so loudly I thought my head might explode.
Playing a pregnant character on a television show being filmed in Las Vegas certainly didn't help matters. There I was, sitting in a lonely trailer on set, staring down at my prosthetic baby bump, nowhere near that place in my own real life. I didn’t have a meltdown exactly, but I did start to think more seriously about where my life was going. Getting unceremoniously dumped around this time, when I was 36, was pretty much the icing on the cupcake. I was alone and not getting any younger, and it was terrifying. Furthermore, as someone who was in the public eye, I didn't feel like I had many options.
Up until that point, my goals had always been extremely career-oriented. I come from a hard- working family and was taught at an early age the value of a dollar. And, my parents did everything they could to make sure I had the education I needed to get into a good college. When I first started modeling, I was told I would not make it and that I would never be able to pay my agency back for the loan they gave me for a plane ticket to Germany. But, the lessons about perseverance that my parents taught me gave me the strength to stand strong and excel when others doubted my ability. The last part of my upcoming book (The Everyday Supermodel) talks all about the attitude you need to have to fulfill your dreams; I named that chapter “I Made That Sh*t Happen.”
I have no regrets about settling down when I did — in spite of that mid-thirties breakup and wondering about where my life was headed. You might even say that my time alone in my NYC apartment were my making-sh*t-happen years as a single gal. Frankly, the woman you are in your twenties is completely different than the one you are in your thirties, and if I'd walked down the aisle at 25, I'd have missed out on so much. Although marriage can be challenging at any age or stage in life, if success and longevity in a life-long relationship are what you want, you'd better know who you are before you take the plunge. How can you make a lifetime commitment to someone if you're still figuring yourself out? I didn't know who the hell I was in my twenties — at least not the way I do now.
I realize this is probably the last thing someone on the verge of marrying in their twenties wants to hear, but I believe in the power of life experience. One of my closest and most hilarious friends was giving advice to a 20-year-old who was certain she'd found the love of her life and was ready to get married. She said, “Honey, you have nowhere near enough life experience to make that decision. You need to have more sex than that! You need to rent, lease, and steal before you buy that house of marriage.”
Before buying that house of marriage, I bought an apartment. My NYC apartment was once my single-girl sanctuary. It was my Paris-flea-market zen, my version of Sex and the City, and my fortress during bad breakups. When my husband, Scott, and I first got together and stayed there, I was forced to face the fact that my impeccably decorated, magazine-spread shot, chic-as-hell apartment was actually embarrassingly feminine. From the mega-sized ballerina picture that hung in my bedroom, to the antique bed that Scott couldn’t even fit comfortably in (somewhat comically, his feet hung off the edge by nearly a foot), I started to realize that the apartment was perfect for my single self — and just my single self.
So, even though I was thrilled when Scott proposed after less than two years, I was also completely freaked out. I feared that my new life as a couple would threaten to change what I had worked so hard to build on my own. No matter how wonderful and incredible my life with Scott was — and it was — I still felt trepidation when it came time to let go of my past. How could I put my beloved ballerina picture out to pasture? She was the one who'd watched over me when I cried my eyes out over all the jackasses who broke my heart. My apartment was my sanctuary, the place that represented my single life — in all its glory and frustration.
And yet, I knew when Scott and I agreed to be serious, it was time to let go of that part of my life. I didn't need an apartment full of shoes and handbags and fancy furniture from France. I needed a home that fit my life partner and the family we intended to build. Abandoning my fears and trusting in my relationship with both Scott and myself, I took several huge steps forward. I went from single (and free) to married with a kid in 13 short months. Although I couldn’t have asked for a better partner or husband, it doesn’t mean that making the transition was easy. In fact, I'm learning how to be a part of a team on a daily basis. The fiercely independent woman I was before getting married has had to relax, because the things that served me well as a single person aren't necessarily the ones that are going to work for my marriage. I am incredibly grateful and thankful for the life we have now, but boy am I glad that I spent my twenties and most of my thirties traveling, working, and learning about myself. I'd never be the person, wife, and mother I am today if I hadn't spent those years nurturing myself and establishing a thriving career.
A few weeks ago, I saw my apartment for the first time since it had been completely renovated — the ballerina picture and fairytale bed were no longer. I walked around slowly and noted all of the changes. A soft, new feeling came over me. I had a lot of good memories living in that apartment on my own, but I was sure to make so many more with my family sharing the space with me. My apartment was finally a home, and that was the best kind of sanctuary.