At 17, I wrote the following items on my bucket list. It was sweetly cliche, but in a way you'd expect from a teenager who had just barely dipped her toe into romantic relationships.
- Find the person I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with
- Marry that person
It seemed so simple, yet I found myself in my early twenties, employing a dating approach best described as "aimless and reactive" and disappointed that it had led nowhere. I attended a girlfriend's wedding and despite the joy I felt for her, I was swept away by the undercurrent of this realization: I couldn't even imagine the "the person I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with". I was blindly searching for something I could barely define.
I was ready to reframe my mentality for a different outcome. First, I let go of the idea that fate would serve me a custom-made life partner on a silver platter. In my experience, this belief had led to circumstantial love, which, as it turns out, isn't love at all. Then, as analytical (and horribly unromantic) as it sounds, I penned a list of qualities that I wanted to be able to recognize in another before jumping into a romantic relationship. On this list were things like:
- Has ambition and dreams...and goes after it. I'd be proud of this.
- Has hobbies. Cultivates them.
- Patient, not a huge temper.
Not long after writing this list, my childhood friend, Kari, invited me to North Carolina for a New Years party. It was at this New Years party that I reconnected with her brother, Chase, someone I hadn't seen or talked to in 10 years. I don't know if it was serendipity or my recent re-focusing, but I recognized that Chase had some of the qualities on the list I had written. A shy and hopeful courtship began, one that developed into a relationship that felt at the same time natural and foreign.
It was natural in that I felt comfortable being my true self. If I was crabby, I let it show. If I was upset, I didn't hide my tears. If he did something that pissed me off, I let him know. I let him see that I wore hair extensions, and didn't act embarrassed if I took them out in front of him. In prior relationships, I had fallen into the practice of wanting to always be thought of as "the cool girl", a charade that involved avoiding conflict and suppressing my own emotional needs. It's as exhausting and unsustainable as it sounds. From Day 1 with Chase, I was 100% myself and it felt favorite-old-sweatshirt-fresh-out-of-the-dryer good!
It felt foreign in that I hadn't yet experienced a relationship with such richness. It went beyond merely recognizing qualities in Chase that were on my "life partner" list--his display of these qualities were so plentiful it was almost unbelievable. The best part? He invited me into the fold of his life, so that I could benefit from his qualities up close and personal. I couldn't believe I how lucky I was to have found someone like him.
Our relationship grew, deepened, and we approached more and more of life's challenges as a team. Chase proposed on a late summer evening at his parent's Wisconsin property and we married a short couple of months later, on January 28, 2017.
And so here we are on the eve our our first wedding anniversary, traveling back to our wedding venue, the Deer Path Inn, for a weekend of relaxation and celebration with our families. We've packed our wedding champagne flutes, the notes that our wedding guests wrote us (to be opened on our first anniversary), and some other mementos from our wedding day. We'll be staying in the same honeymoon suite, making a trip back to the church where we said our vows, and finding out if wedding cake is any good after a year in the freezer. I find it only fitting that this weekend comes with some renewed vows as well, to carry us into our second year of marriage.
To my sweet and charismatic husband,
I vow to be your partner in parenthood and teach our child to love life.
I promise to be both your student and your teacher.
I will stand by you always as your ally in conflict and your consolation in disappointment.
In my worst moments, I vow that it will be your shoulder that I lean on, your comfort that I seek.
I vow to stay curious, to keep an open mind, and to take your hand as we leap into the unknown.
Above all, I vow to love you, even the parts of yourself you'd rather no one ever see.
Happy 1 Year Anniversary! Just like we said one year ago, I'm so glad it's you.