I’ve been having a lot of milestones lately . I think that’s how you know things are moving forward, progressing, growing.
I would not have been able to get through those milestones without recognizing a very important one today, one that has made the past 2 years so much better than I could have imagined. I’ve never mentioned the origin of the milestone on the blog, and maybe that’s because writing it down makes it seem like a story that happened instead of one that continues.
2 years ago today, The Dude and I had our second ”date.” We had known each other for a year and a half before that, in that way you know someone you see often through friends of friends. We had spent the better part of almost every major holiday event at the same party, in the same basement, with the same 10-15 people for nearly two years. But we never had more than a 5 minute conversation together in that time.
Let me start at the beginning.
The Dude and I met through fate. Through the vast connection of the Universe. Through Craigslist.
In early 2008, I was a very newly single girl looking for a new roommate. I needed a new start in a new place after ending a very serious, ”we lived together but it’s just not right” relationship. I turned to what had always provided me with roommates in the past: Craigslist. (It sounds scary, but I’ve actually had great luck with it). I read through a few posts and found one that sounded right up my alley (she loved baking, decorating, bike riding, sounded fun and responsible and had a job!). I emailed her and we met later that week. We decided to start looking at apartments in another city in Rhode Island. The first apartment we looked at, we loved. We took it. We moved in and life was going really well.
That Halloween, she invited me to a friend’s friend’s party. Her best friend’s boyfriend’s friends. Did you get that? My roommate knew these guys from their old apartment building, the one she moved out of when we moved in together. We had been to their house over the summer for barbeque and hanging out. The friends were all funny, welcoming, smart and made great food. They had all known each other since they were 15, but they were still open to new people (not always the case, I’ve found). I didn’t have any time to get a stellar costume together, so I went as a Providence hipster. I remember this, because it was The Dude who made a witty comment about my costume during a 5 minute conversation. I realized how funny he was. It stayed with me, and when we got home, I said to my roommate “If I were going to date any of those guys, it would be Dude.” Her response was “…really?!?” (I took that to mean “There is something very wrong with him, like he eats only baby food or is actually a serial killer.” Later she told me it was just because she didn’t see him that way.)
I thought he was cute and funny. I always made sure to have a cute outfit on and smell nice when I went to parties or get togethers at their house. I took notice of him when I walked in the room. But for some reason, I didn’t pursue it. And neither did he.
I was having fun being by myself. Traveling, visiting friends, starting to run, practicing yoga more seriously, teaching myself to cook, meeting new people, dating, devoting my time to work and my career and doing whatever it is that I wanted to do. In that time, I realized that I was enough. I was pretty great company. And if I was to be alone for the rest of my life, I would never be lonely. I thought about how much fun I had and how proud of myself I was. I thought about how I was tired of dating guys that didn’t call back or didn’t make an effort or didn’t “want to be in a relationship.” I wanted a guy that would pursue me and be passionate about me and want a relationship. I didn’t want to play games anymore. It sounds hokey or cliche, but I remember coming back from an amazing vacation in Oregon with one of my best friends and thinking those exact thoughts. I remember lying in my bed, looking out the window and thinking, “I think the next guy is going to be “it.” And I’m ready for that now.” But what’s also funny, is that I had big plans. I was finally submitting my grad school applications. Out of state. I was moving. I had given “notice” to my roommate and my job knew I wanted to leave. I just needed notification from the schools themselves. In Michigan and Maryland. I had plans.
That Halloween, I went to the same friend’s friend’s party. Towards the end of the night, we ended up in the kitchen. At one point, we found ourselves alone, creating words with those magnetic letters on our friend’s fridge. We turned to each other and almost simultaneously said “So what is it that you do?….” He thought I had gone to art school (I didn’t). I thought he worked in business (he doesn’t). We found ourselves interested.
We found ourselves emailing each other. It started when he invited me to a fundraiser for the non-profit he and his friends ran (yeah, I know. Swoon). We emailed every single day, multiple times a day, for the next two months. I found myself obsessively checking my mail. Refreshing my page, checking from friend’s computers, leaving Gmail open at work. I found myself smiling, several times a day, for the next two months. But I still wasn’t sure. I didn’t know if he liked me. I thought “Maybe he’s not interested, or maybe he’s dating someone else, or maybe we’re just friends?” It was my sister who reminded me, at Thanksgiving, that unless a guy was Tolstoy, he probably likes you if he’s emailing you 5 times a day.
I still wasn’t sure. So we emailed and saw each other at dinner’s with friends (both at my apartment and his apartment, where I obviously snooped in his medicine cabinet) and holiday parties and social events. It wasn’t until I somewhat invited myself over to his house for our first “date,” where he taught me to play chess and we listened to The Band’s The Last Waltz on DVD and ate sushi while sitting on the floor and watched Bull Durham and ate homemade banana bread with cream cheese frosting. But he didn’t make a move. So I still wasn’t sure.
I wasn’t completely convinced until our second “date,” two years ago today. Where we ate shrimp and linguine and delicious bread and talked for 4 hours and listened to the UConn Men’s basketball game on my computer, that I was the one to make the move. I just had to know. So I did. And then found out that he liked me for about 4 months but didn’t want to mess with our growing friendship, and was specifically told by several people that “they really liked me, so he shouldn’t screw this up with me.” So he proceeded somewhat cautiously until I showed my cards. Then all bets were off. I assumed he was going to leave, but he asked if he could stay. That’s when I knew this was going to be different – that he was going to be different.
Yet, I still had those plans. And I was accepted into not one, but both of the programs that I applied to. I even went to the welcome weekend for Maryland’s program. And I loved it. I loved the people and the campus and the program. But I found myself nitpicking little things. And I couldn’t see myself living anywhere but Providence. I celebrated my 27th birthday party with 40 of my most fabulous and closest friends. I wondered why I wanted to leave them, leave my adopted home just for a change. And did I want this program specifically or just because I was bored? I found myself giving excuses not to go. I found that I wanted to figure out what this relationship was about. I knew that if I didn’t, I would regret it.
I denied my acceptances. Both of them. I stayed in Rhode Island. I’m not going to lie and say it was a really easy decision, because I had the idea that I was going to move for a long time. I changed my path “for a guy.” The logical part of my being was furious. But my heart knew that staying and saying yes to this relationship was worth it. It was life-changing for me. He has been life-changing.
While much of it has been wonderful, the past two years have not been easy for me, or for us. Not by a long shot. There has been a huge, huge amount of change in my life. Turning down those programs. Leaving my job to go to grad school, to pursue the real passion I’ve had since I can remember. Leaving that apartment that allowed me to figure out who I was to make a home together. Gaining two more families in his. Adopting a dog. Seeing friends grow and get engaged and married and have children. Traveling. Learning. Oh yes, and cancer. All of these changes have brought growth – most happy and wonderful, some painful and frightening.
Sometimes, I forget. When his underwear is four inches from the hamper instead of IN the hamper, I forget. When he said he would take the trash out but it’s on the landing, I forget. When I’m stressed or anxious or thinking about life too much or tired, I forget. I forget how amazing it is that we found each other at all. How I could have stayed in Delaware and not moved to Rhode Island. How I could have stayed with that old boyfriend. How he could have been with someone when I was interested in him. How he could have been uninterested in dating someone at all. How I might not have found my roommate, and how she might never have lived in the same building as The Dude and how the two of them could have passed in the hall without saying hello. How I could have left for Maryland or Michigan and wondered what could have happened with us. How all of those tiny little decisions and changes and experiences in both of our lives led us to find each other.
And then I think about how much he makes me laugh, or how smart he is or how much he takes care of me – and I remember. I remember why I stayed. I remember how grateful I am for him. I remember that we had only been dating for 9 months when I found out I had cancer. I think about how many people would have bailed – “This has been fun. Thanks, but no thanks!” But he didn’t. I think about how he told me he loved me after six weeks and I said it back without hesitation. I think about all of the good things that he’s brought into my life and about how easy it is with him. Even the hard stuff is easier because of who he is and how we work together. And I can only hope and strive and work to make sure that I support and love and do the same for him.
Two years ago, while we were snuggling on the couch, he said something that I still recall exactly. It hasn’t been easy for me to find someone who can wrap me up and make me feel both small and safe at the same time. I’m a big girl, remember?
We were lying there, together, and he said “Wow. This is crazy. We’re the perfect size. We fit together perfectly.”
We do. We fit together perfectly.