Cheers to 5 years!
They say you have to know yourself before you're fully able to commit in a relationship, to know someone else. And I would agree. So much so that if one of my kids entered into what seemed like a serious relationship before they had a sense of who they were or what they wanted to become, I would pass along that same age-old wisdom. I then have no idea how I won the Husband Jackpot since I had absolutely no idea who I was when I started dating Tim at age 20.
I mean, like I, really, really didn't know.
I moved out of my house when I was 17 (or 18—I can never remember), a little less than two years before I went away to college. I hadn't yet finished high school, but I was working full-time so I could fill my gas tank and therefore could fuel all my teenage dreams. (Uh-oh, indeed.) I very much lacked any sort of depth; I'd go out, laugh, have fun and lived life on this sort of wash, rinse, repeat routine. So it took a lot from a few people to get me to finish high school, accepted into a college, and off to pursue a life that had a little more...depth. But when I landed at college on the other side of the country, it kind of felt like I had been catapulted from one state to another. Here's your apartment key and your first quarter schedule! I quickly learned that just because I had gotten accepted and went to a college didn't mean I suddenly knew who I was.
But grace and luck seemed to perfectly intersect during my sophomore year when I began to become better friends with a guy named Tim. An unlikely pairing, really—he took himself so seriously, and me? I've always believed the key to success is to do precisely the opposite. I even remember turning to my roommate and saying, "who is this guy?" when Tim was up for some freshman presentation thing. But he was fun to joke around with and was so smart and had a nice smiled when he laughed.
So we started dating and we'd get coffee and he'd help me with any math that came my way. He challenged me, which at times was annoying but it was only so annoying because I never wanted to be challenged, to be better. I was a no-depth kind of gal, remember? After floating through high school on Cs, I made a promise to myself that I was going to take college seriously, and I didn't like how much effort and work it took. I really floated in high school, so my foundation was lacking when it came to my classes, and I wasn't used to the work, but Tim knew what success took. After seeing more As than I had in a very long time, I began to realize being challenged and thinking and studying and working hard are the stepping stones to achievement. Tim and I worked our way through college together. Tim landed a job—I'd drop him off and pick him up. I needed an internship, we brainstormed together. It was tough—working through college and a relationship. We were two very different people, and unbeknownst to me I still had some deeply personal wounds that needed to heal after a lifetime of avoiding them.
But somehow we made it work. He helped me to take myself more seriously. I taught him how to "laugh it off". Despite the chaos of college schedules and the uncertainty of graduate life, we had one consistency in common. We cheered each other on, a quality of our relationship that was different from previous ones.
There is a part of me that can't believe we started dating at 20 and made it to 28. That's not to say I ever doubted we would see our 5 year anniversary. It's that when looking back, I realize all that's happened that's made us into the couple we are today, barely resembling those college sweethearts. Collectively, we've had 6 different jobs, lived in 3 different states and 5 different homes. We've seen 3 different countries, traveled two and from Alaska and Michigan and California, and had a stint of a long-distance relationship. We've had mental and physical health scares, a fluctuating income, and 4 different cars. And, of course, our biggest achievements—our 2 kids (and one on the way).
I know these days it's not really the “in” thing to say, "I do" in your early 20s, have kids, and vow to make it work no matter what. But it's been the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to grow next to and with Tim. With each passing year, it simultaneously feels as though a lifetime has passed and our life is just getting started. We sit and dream about the day our student loans will be paid off and we can freely plan family trips and we reminisce and laugh about the time we spent nearly an entire year without buying cheese so we could save as much money as possible.
These years have at times not always felt the best, but they have without a shadow of a doubt been my best lived years. I've never been prouder of myself, more secure in my skin, or more sure of who I am. And I have Tim and our journey in growing a family to thank.