An open letter to my 18-year old self: What flying in a rickety plane over The Caribbean contemplating success, yielding to the present moment, quoting Kerouac and deathbed wishes taught me about love.
Text by Francesca Cruz | May 18, 2018 | Lifestyle

I write this at 1,000 feet up in the air, while on a two-seater Cessna 182 en route to the island of Cozumel from Chetumal, Mexico. The plane squeaks and clucks and makes all kinds of unattractive noises. I’m experiencing an odd susceptibility that combines the feelings of anxiety and wallop. The plane is so tiny I can feel the pilot’s breath on my left shoulder. If I lean too far to one side or the other, the plane might flip in that direction. These are the moments that a few things cross my mind: How did I manage to get myself into this predicament? What have I accomplished in my life? And what’s lacking?
Looking down on the pockets of land embraced by teal, among other brilliant blues, I welcome the adage: “Life rewards the risk-taker.” My eyes well up with emotion, and I’m moved to the point of making a throaty sound loud enough for the pilot to hear through his headset. I’m in awe of the landscape beneath me.
I realize that my eyes have taken in some amazing views in this life. I’m grateful for that. But yet, here I sit, dangling from the heavens looking down on land with a broken heart kept in place by makeshift (of the imaginary kind) Band-Aids. This is the moment I want to scream to the Tin Man, “Don’t do it!” Don’t ask for a heart; it’ll only get you in massive heaps of trouble.
On the other end of the spectrum, success, that’s something I know all too well. It took me a minute and a lot of busting my butt to become better than just an acquaintance. I’ve arrived where I am today via sweat and shear will. I’ve remained adamant about my ethics, about my devotion to my craft. I’ve approached every opportunity with optimism, dedication and professionalism. I always keep my word, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of. In a town that feels very much of smoke and mirrors dripped in fool’s gold, I’ve opted to be the weirdo that meant what I said, and said what I meant. There’s a small tribe of us now.

Entrepreneurs, as if in chorus, have for the most part chimed in the following: “Take things slow, don’t race to the finish line. Be equally devoted to success as to love and experience.”

But my question to the universe…and one I hear often uttered by fellow successful professionals living in Miami is: What about love? You elusive little ball-buster — do you enjoy the drama? We entertained success for so long, love got jealous and left the party with someone else. How much does that suck? Beautiful sunsets are far more beautiful in the company of a lover, is my response.
I had a heart-to-heart with my ex-husband on this subject about a week ago. He and I had the most passionate, adventurous, tumultuous romance. It’s pretty hard to top, but it was one of those loves that burns so intensely, it burns everything down — including itself. No one can ever sustain that. It was a hell of a lot of fun, but it was also hell at times. We are now great friends.
I shared with him that in the past year I’ve been thoroughly disillusioned with love on 3 occasions. I’ve been busy, off on adventures and completely immersed in my writing. And yes, it’s hard to keep something going when I’m not in the same city. But the way I see it — if someone is into you, they will put forth unyielding effort. And they have, but not for months. Most men want an independent, worldly, adventurous gal but once they feel they have her, they instinctively want to lasso her in. They want that gal with them, by their side. All the time. Not off to Machu Picchu on a spur-of-the-moment escapade.
Back to my ex-husband, his advice was as follows: “You need to keep writing, traveling and doing your volunteer work. Don’t talk to guys. They just want to sleep with you. Even the gay guys…don’t talk to them, either; they want to sleep with you, too.” Wow. OMG. I was stunned.
This all may sound quite humorous, but he means it. I adore that man. He will always see me as an 18-year-old girl. In his mind, I just need to focus on my work. Because anything heart-related could open me up to pain, so best not to engage. He knows I’m a prickly pear and snobbish to a fault, but once in love, I’m blindly devoted.
That vision he has of me as still a kid got me thinking. When I interview successful entrepreneurs, I always ask the same question at the end of the interview: “If you could bring to present-day your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give that version of you?” I’d never thought to ask myself that. Although expressed in different forms, the responses have been the same. Entrepreneurs, as if in chorus, have for the most part chimed in the following: “Take things slow, don’t race to the finish line. Be equally devoted to success as to love and experience.”
This is all reminiscent of scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn’s comment of how our society is taught to be successdul and to consume but not taught how to be. Or, as philosopher Noam Chomsky explains: “All over the place, from popular culture to the propaganda system, there’s constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” Our society is about achieving and consuming. We have so many forms of communication today — yet somehow we communicate less.
Walk into any bar or restaurant, any social setting on any given day, and 80% of the patrons will be looking down at their phones. Not much engagement going on. The experiencing of the present moment, via a device, robs you of the present moment. Eros likes to be caressed. Love doesn’t know anything about technology, only the human touch; and the thrill of a kiss and the intoxicating excitement of falling in love.
I can’t blame my most recent disenchantments in the love department solely on the other person. I’ve been business- and adventure-focused for a very long time now. It reminds me of the Jack Kerouac quote: “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.” Success is extraordinary, but it’s bittersweet if at the end of the day you are left alone to watch a movie by yourself, or after an adventure you return to a lonely hotel room and an empty bed. I now choose to lean in closer to the Persian poet Hafiz’s proclamation: “One regret, dear world, that I am determined not to have when I am lying on my deathbed, is that I did not kiss you enough.” And so with that I will continue on this strange, complex and love-filled journey called life.