Valentines day is almost here, and I'm aware of the fact that each year it brings a variety of emotions and feelings to me and the people I know. Just like any issue in life, there are a lot of opinions regarding the "day of love," and I'm cool with that. For me, I mostly just dread trying to find my realist, practical, money minded significant other a gift, at which point I FREAK out every single year. We've finally opted for the idea that gifts are over rated and dinner sounds a lot less stressful. However, with all of that being said, it still seems appropriate to share a few thoughts on love that I've had hanging out in my head for a bit.
I don't know if you've noticed or not, but I've seen a lot of articles going around lately regarding love, life, marriage, and specifically being twenty-three.
was the first one I noticed, from The Huffington Post, before many a response came along like
one. If reading articles about 23 year olds online isn't your thing, I'll sum it up. The first article is by a girl who feels that you should never be pressured to marry and that you should live life to it's fullest before you do (although she also seems to be slightly under the impression that life ends when you get married), and the second is a response to that defending young marriage. Here's the thing, I don't really care if you get married at 18, or 80, because I don't think it's about the age at all, but it did make me think about my own story with love and the things I've learned along the way.
If you're my friend, you probably know how old I am. If not, get prepared to know me a lot better after this. I'm twenty-three, for the record. I was born on September 23rd, 1990, to be exact, in a tiny hospital in North West Georgia. I started dating the man I would marry two months after my eighteenth birthday, and I married him when I was nineteen years old. He was the only man I had every officially dated. I got pregnant nine months later (can we say little "oops!"), and gave birth to our daughter when I was 21. I'm telling you all of this because age wise, I'm "that girl" that jumped the gun and ran into adulthood without knowing what she signed up for. And because everything I'm about to say won't make sense unless you have a little context.
Guys, I'm a sucker for love. I watched "Sleepless in Seattle" about a million times as a teenager, and bawled my eyes out every, single, time. I just loved love, and really, I probably still do. Also, I over thought EVERYTHING. I was the strict little homeschooler who self imposed the idea of courtship and a 50 point check list for the guy I would date at 13 (I'm sure my parents adored me for a few years), and then promptly threw it all out the window at 17 (which was easy, since like I said, it was SELF IMPOSED...I still kind of wonder what was wrong with me), at which point I basically questioned everything in life and became a short term cynic. I hate to admit this, because I have always felt that emotional stability equals maturity, but I'm a rather...shall we say, passionate, person. A person of extremes might be more appropriate terminology, but whatever.
I met the guy I would marry when I went (begrudgingly, none the less) to a Medieval Times dinner show in Atlanta in 2008. He was a Knight in the show (yes, you heard me right), and somehow when I left the place the guy had my number. As it turns out, I was no longer a cynic within a few short weeks, and promptly decided that love was glorious all over again. We dated for a year and a half before we got married, and it was full of all sorts of beauty and mess, and immaturity and more than a few stupid mistakes that we might not have made if we had been five years older. But ultimately, I still think we were a relatively healthy couple the day we said "I Do" on June 12, 2010.
And here's where it gets fun: that is the day that my life began the slow process of falling all to pieces. And do you know why? Because deep down inside I had bought into the idea that following a list and doing things "right" will buy you a fairy tale, and thank God that's a damned lie. I made sure that this man met all of my standards. That he fit my check list (except that he doesn't have blue eyes. I kind of convinced myself that he did actually, but he doesn't. They're brown. Hazel at best. Please, laugh all you want, I certainly do.), and that he was the kind of guy who would
stay that way
. And that right there is the heart of it all: I married a human being, not a robot, and that little fact turned my world upside down. My love failed me, in all of the right ways. And you know what, adventures and bucket lists and trips to Italy would have failed me too. Because the problem was not the man I loved, but my idea of love and life its self.
I have always wanted to be brutally honest with myself about life, but when I married Dirk I realized that's not actually what I wanted. In reality, I couldn't handle the truth. I was crushed by the realization that neither he, nor I, were the people we believed ourselves to be. Our first two years together were entirely consumed by my need for him to be something better, to be the guy I
I was marrying. I believe that I didn't actually get to know my husband until my pretty little picture fell all to pieces and I was forced into seeing my protective little world for what it was. I didn't love life, or the people in it, I loved what I thought they could give me, and that's a heart wrenching realization.
I married my husband young because we both knew it was the right time. I still stand behind that decision, but I do know the cost now. I have certainly had to accept, and maybe even mourn the fact (if I'm honest) that I literally NEVER had the typical experience most adults have when it comes to dating. Come on, I was single for two whole months of adulthood. I was pregnant on my 21st birthday and I had a One year old by the time I was 22. I moved all the way across the country to try a career with my husband that he ended up leaving, as in, 180 degree turn around. We have had to figure out who the hell we are, together. On one level that's amazing. I've shared a very intimate part of my life with the person I care the most about. On the other hand it's hell. We are two VERY different people than we were three years ago and we've had to learn to love each other regardless. To accept each other for who we are becoming, not who we said we were the day we stood at an alter and tied our lived together. But at the end of the day I can give you a list of things that I have in exchange, and for MY life, I would still make the trade. I would fight harder and work more for the career I want if it means I get to see my daughters smiling face every morning.
Marriage stripped my idea of love completely bare, but it also built it back in a way that I could never imagine. I finally learned to look a person in the eyes and love them for exactly who they are, at that moment in time, and that's the most amazing feeling in the world. That's the point of all of this really. If you really truly love something you will find that you lose yourself in it. Humility is the natural outcome of true love, because there is no room for self consciousness in absolute familiarity. There is no longer a reason to hide, or to judge. I'm not saying that we're not still a mess. God, sometimes we're a wreck! But for me, love shaped my story, and the process of becoming comfortable with the reality of life has been a beautiful, if tearful one. I know that this is just a marker on the journey. Ten years from now I will no longer be the person I am today. My love will not be the same. Tides flow and time beats level, but I'm pretty sure that thats the beauty right there. I'm free to be honest, and love deeply, because what life looks like doesn't define what it's about, and that's a very freeing thought indeed.
, excluding the first one)