Some sounds can immediately spark happiness: soft barks from a puppy, the music from an approaching ice cream truck during the summer, or the final class dismissal bell on the last day of school. For me, hearing the tinkly theme song from Sex and the City always prompts a smile. 

Since I’m approximately the same age as the show’s characters, I felt an immediate kinship with them. (Fun fact: Kristen Davis, the actress who played Charlotte, was a grade ahead of me at a rival high school in Columbia, S.C.) The snappy dialogue and memorable plot lines never failed to delight me, like an episode called “The One” where Miranda realizes Steve is the guy for her, just as Samantha frets over finding a single gray hair… down there. While I’ve never owned a pair of $700 shoes, that never stopped me from salivating over our favorite columnist’s latest pair of Christian Louboutins. My friends and I gasped over Carrie’s betrayal of Aiden, cheered when Charlotte adopted a baby girl, and teared up when Samantha let herself become vulnerable while dealing with breast cancer. It was like a heightened, more dramatic version of our own lives. Hey, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution even recognized me and three friends as Atlanta’s own version of the characters when the first movie came out in 2008.

The sustaining power of friendships was always a key theme of the show. I loved the positive message of friends being the family you picked. An episode about “frenemies” helped me realize that some friendships aren’t good for you at different phases in life, and that it’s okay to let those go. During the run of the show, I experienced several life milestones that comprised key plot lines: divorce, learning how to date again, the loss of a parent, and career ups and downs. Like on Sex and the City, my friends helped me deal with those highs and lows. I even hosted a series finale party attended by a dozen ladies spanning a 20-year age range. SATC united us and we loved it.

But the biggest lesson I learned from this beloved show wasn’t about friendship or sex. It was the concept that the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself.

During Carrie Bradshaw’s final voiceover at the end of the series finale, her character said: “The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

The evolution of that character — and all of them, as they realized that happiness started with loving yourself first — moved me. I understood the concept intellectually, but the notion of focusing on my relationship with myself above all others never resonated deeply until I heard those words. It opened me up to a process of transformation and personal growth that taught me about true possibilities and self-worth. Everything changed when I truly embraced having a loving relationship with myself. I ended relationships that no longer worked for me. I forgave myself for failures, and learned to trust my own judgment above the voices of others. A few years later, ten years ago this week to be exact, I met the man who loved the me that I loved. Today, we are happily married, and we stay that way because I continue to make loving myself a top priority.

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