Sometimes a girl just needs a break. A chance to step away for a bit—from the office, the city that greets her every morning, the people she rarely gets the chance to miss—to see her life for what it truly is.

Sometimes, a girl just needs to go to New York City.

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I'm smack-dab in the middle of planning a wedding for early fall. (Late summer, technically. But that makes it seem scary close.) Three months from now, the incessant planning will finally come to an end and the daunting to-do lists will expire. My name will change, and I will become a we.

Ninety-six days left. Of doing, making, arranging, preparing. What they don't tell you is that getting married, while exciting, is a lot of work. And halfway through, the idea of eloping starts to sound really appealing. (Kidding, Mom!) Truth be told, I've actually had a pretty smooth engagement, all things considered. Thanks in large part to a supportive fiancĂ© and a small team of helpful loved ones who are so much better at this than I am. My poor mother is getting the brunt of the design decisions—as I've never had an eye for details—and she handles it like a champ. I, on the other hand, wasn't meant to plan parties of such large proportions. Get-togethers with old friends, sure. A movie night or a weekend getaway, perhaps. But this? This is out of my league.

Either way, it's still happening. I'm marrying the love of my life, a sobering truth that brings peace when I'm losing my mind in the happily ever after of invitation addressing and shoe shopping and cake tasting. I don't think the reality of the situation has hit me quite yet, even now, and it probably won't until the minute before or the morning after. (Nothing ever does.) Still, just saying the words out loud sends a small jolt of adrenaline through my blood, reminding me of the gravity of what's coming.

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At the height of the craze, somewhere between picking out the right-colored tie and scheduling bridal portraits, I took a trip. 

The plane landed after 10pm on a Thursday night. We hurried through the vaguely familiar airport, buzzing with tired travelers. En route to baggage claim, I received a phone call from an unknown number: our car was waiting. Within minutes, we were flying down the freeway, headed towards a dark oasis of tall buildings and glittering lights. The city that never sleeps. We had four whole days ahead of us, with hardly any plans at all. No arrangements to make or to-do lists to check off. Just the anticipation of tomorrow and the particular freedom that a foreign place can provide.

The freedom to roam busy streets. To lay on your back in the park, bloody knees exposed, in a sea of nameless strangers. People-watching at its finest. To wander bookstores for hours and drink coffee as the sun's going down, because sleep won over until noon and it only now feels like morning. To eat pizza in your pajamas on the floor of your friend's bedroom, laughter drowning out the voices of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks on the television. To dance wildly with your eyes closed, a gin and tonic in one hand and your best friend's in another. The subtle taste of lime and cigarette smoke settling on your tongue. To lose your phone in the chaos of the crowd and not care, because life is too short and the show must go on.

I could see the possibilities played out in front of me as we drove into Manhattan, Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York" blaring on the radio (or maybe just in our heads). Stopped in traffic on a bridge crossing the East River, I fell in love with the starless night and the shimmering skyscrapers reflected in the water below.

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There's nothing quite like being on the outside looking in. The distance separating you and the scene makes the world seem surreal for a moment or two. Peaceful. It can clear your mind and open your eyes, providing perspective at a glance. But distance also distorts. Takes away the ugliness, softens the hard edges, and bathes the old surroundings in a shiny new light. Romanticized images of people, places, memories.

The big picture is always glazed over, idealized, glamorous. Somewhere between dream and reality. And every once in a while, we need to see it. We need to witness the beauty, the wonder, the glory of a scene from far away in order to appreciate the fragments of a life up close. And to feel, for just a few minutes, how small we are in comparison.
So that when we step back into ourselves, into our tiny lives, we remember where we truly belong.
An escape here and there is necessary, almost vital for a change of thinking and a renewal of self. A reminder of what you have, and what you'd hate to lose. It brings meaning back to the daily struggle, encourages you to appreciate the parts of the whole. To know, without a doubt, that your own little corner is beautiful, too. Beautiful, blessed, and solely yours.