All those years ago
During our junior year of college, both L and I spent semesters studying abroad in Spain and England, respectively. L’s semester began before mine with a two or three week mini-mester and ended with a short break that just happened to coincide with my arrival in Oxford, and so he flew up to see me and the cold, gray sights of the UK. I was already lonely in my sparse single room in the flat that I shared with five other British students. The trip over had been brutal – I hadn’t slept a wink, and no one from the school had come to meet me at the airport and help me and my two half-ton bags navigate the two-hour trip from Gatwick Airport to Oxford. It had only been a few days since I’d arrived, but when I saw L walking down the street out my common area window, I could have cried from happiness to see a familiar face.
The visit was brief and after I watched him pull away on the Tube back to Heathrow, I walked the three dreary blocks back to my flat with plodding steps. I spent the next week mostly holed in my room, listening to Guster’s Lost and Gone Forever album on repeat through my Walkman headphones. There was just enough woe and pep mixed together in that album to concoct a perfect blend for my adolescent romantic melancholia, and I wrote several letters to Spain under its influence. (Letters that L should not show to anyone. Under pain of death. Forever and ever, amen.) To this day I can’t hear one song on that album without being transported straight back to that stark 12 x 12 room with its tiny sink and chest of drawers.
That semester continued to be hard for me, for reasons that were more justifiable than the old cliche of missing my boyfriend. For the first time in my life I experienced real, aching loneliness. I didn’t make many friends, the weather was cloudy, cold and overcast for almost the entire duration of my stay, and I had to cook for myself. (Which, if you’ve read much of this blog should tell you how well I ate while I was there. My cooking + English food = instant weight loss.) I grew up a lot in those three months, and a whole lot more in the two weeks at the end of my term when I traveled solo through Europe, sharing bunk beds in hostels with the plastic-bag-laden homeless and navigating the Frankfurt police system after my wallet was stolen by a ring of Gypsies. (Ok, probably just one Gypsy. BUT YOU NEVER KNOW.)
After returning home and starting senior year the next fall, L and I began talking about what was going to come next for us – where each of us thought we might be headed after graduating, and whether that place would include the other. And when the big “M” word started to come up, I started to wonder if I was really ready to commit to such a big decision. I was only twenty-one, for Pete’s sake. Who makes life decisions like that at twenty-one?
Well as it turned out, [SPOILER ALERT] we did. We decided to get married. And one of the factors that helped me to make that decision was my experience during that desolate semester in England. Were it not for that semester, I probably would have suggested we wait, and be on our own a bit before joining forces and taking on a life together. But in a way, I felt like I had already had a taste of some pretty heavy self-reliance. And even though it wasn’t the same as finding an apartment on my own, and supporting myself with a job and paying my own bills, it was enough to make me feel as though I had taken on some particularly hairy self-examination and come out on the other side, armed with knowledge of myself I hadn’t previously had. And one part of that self knowledge was: I loved L.
So, nine years ago today, we got hitched. And a lot of people might say things here like “and it was the best decision I ever made,” or “and we haven’t looked back,” or “and I can’t imagine life any other way,” But what I want to say is simply this: all the joy we have experienced in these years of marriage has been hard-won, and continues to be something we fight for. And what I have come to realize in the last few years especially is that what we were really promising to do nine years ago was to choose each other over and over again, even when we’d rather choose almost anything else instead. And so we do. And we will.
Last night as L and I went out for our anniversary date to get frozen yogurt (Year Nine: the yogurt anniversary. Also: the economic recession anniversary) who should be on the radio but good old Guster, singing “Do You Love Me,” one of the tracks from their new, not-yet-released album Easy, Wonderful. I do believe they might have been playing it just for us.
To L, on our hard-won ninth anniversary. Take it away, Guster.