This coming July Dan and I will be celebrating 9 years together. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been together just 4 years short of half my lifetime. In light of our upcoming 2 year wedding anniversary, I thought I would trace our story, from the beginning to currently, as best I can. I’ll spare you some of the details, because frankly, I can’t remember anymore. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, all relationships take a continuous amount of work and a deep-seated love that makes you always want to try. There is always going to be some type of obstacle that gets thrown in the mix, and they are not always planned. But, if the love runs deep enough, I’ve always believed that it can conquer anything.
So lets back this up to April 2004, shall we?
I was 16 years old, and I was currently in an emotionally draining relationship with my very first love. He will remain nameless, and I don’t want to get into too many details about that, but basically, our current relationship was hemorrhaging at the seams. It was nearing the very end of my junior year in high school.
It was a beautiful spring day in Melbourne Beach, Florida. I was hanging out with my then-boyfriend when he asked me if I would be interested in going to an island party. To give you a bit of context: The Banana River, Indian River and others in Florida are dotted with these little areas of land that require a boat to get to. They are great places for high school parties because you are always far enough away that the noise dissipates when it reaches a home, and they can be quite fun, with a little bit of danger, of course. I distinctly remember being avidly against going to the island party, or at least, I wasn’t really that keen on going. But, I ultimately made the decision to go–who knew that decision would change my entire life? We drove over to then-boyfriend’s friend’s house who lived conveniently next to the river and had a boat.
It was later in the evening when I finally noticed Dan. He was sitting on a log by the fire and had had a little bit to drink, so he was incredibly chatty. I sat down next to him, and we talked much of night. He was hung up on another girl during this time, and I just listened to him. There was something about him that shone brighter then anything I’d ever seen before, but that was that.
I found out at school later that his Math class was right next to my Math class during the same exact period. I had a pretty lax class so Dan would come over to my class periodically just to talk and hang out with some of his other friends. What my friends would later tell me is that it was obvious he was coming over to see me. ::blush:: At this point, I was still in a relationship with my then-boyfriend. I broke up with him shortly after the island party. I just knew it was the right thing to do even though it was quite possibly one of the hardest things I had to do as a young girl. Heart ache sucks and the mending process after that sucks. However, I had felt like an empty shell for so long that deep down I knew this was the best move.
Dan and I continued to hang out periodically–I remember going to Andretti Theme Park one night, sipping slur-pees and talking incessantly in the car. There was also a night where we hung out at my house and watched the first Spiderman.
Then, the ultimate boyfriend-girlfriend question came, and I definitely shot Dan down. We had walked out to a pier near his house to watch the sun set. It was beautiful, and it was there that Dan asked me out (“asking out” seems so silly now, doesn’t it? Man, I am old). I was fresh out of a 2-year relationship previously, and I wasn’t ready to walk into something else just yet. But Dan, knowing what he wanted (haha), asked me out again about a month later, and I said yes.
There was a problem though. Dan had been accepted to and planned to attend the University of Central Florida for Undergrad, and I still had one more year in high school. We were at my house when I brought up the topic of long-distance. Keep in mind, this didn’t really feel like “long-distance” since my small town of Palm Bay was only about an hour and a half south of where UCF was located. The issue was that we’d only be able to see each every other weekend. Dan told me years later that he always assumed we’d stay together when he went to college. I wasn’t so sure at the time that that was what he wanted. So, with that, we agreed to give this “long-distance” a chance. At the time I worked part-time, went to the local community college for a couple college classes I was taking to go toward my future undergrad degree, and I had a full load of high school classes. I had the best boss ever at work, and she was more than happy to work with me so that I could see Dan every, single weekend. That’s exactly what happened for an entire year. Dan didn’t have a car, so it was pretty infrequent when he’d be able to get to Melbourne. So, my trusty silver Dodge Spirit (my first car!) got me there in one piece every time. The usual plan was that I would leave for Orlando on Fridays after school around 4pm, and then I would leave Sunday morning around 9am to make it to work in Melbourne around 11am. Would you believe that this plan worked without a hitch the entire year? I of course fell in love with Dan over the course of this year.
I’m not going to lie: I later planned to go to UCF and a lot of the reason was so I could be with Dan. But, it turned out to be the best decision that I could have ever made. I made the best friends, and overall, my college life resembled some of the best years of my life. I had new found independence, and I really enjoyed school (as difficult as it was at certain points). Dan and I carried on pretty well for the next 2 years. And, then, it happened, after Christmas 2006 things just weren’t right. We hit a rough patch. Dan and I were pretty serious at this point. He came to my senior prom and senior homecoming, we had just been through a year of driving back and forth a couple hours to see each other on the weekends, and I was accepted to UCF’s journalism program. All seemed to be going well, right? I can’t quite put it into words what I was feeling, but I genuinely just wasn’t sure if I wanted to be with Dan for the rest of my life. I was young, we liked different things, and I felt like we were going in opposite directions. Apparently, that was enough for me to call it quits–over the phone, nevertheless!! I know, I felt completely heartless, believe me. It was pretty emotional for Dan. So with that, we were apart for the first time in about 2.5 years. It didn’t take long for me to realize what a humongous mistake I had made–a month to be exact. There were nights of horrific crying and mourning. So bad that my mom would drive from Palm Bay just to be with me. It was all compounded pretty bad because I was having a really hard time with my roommates and felt ostracized. It was a really, really awful time in my life emotionally.
But the heartache didn’t last long. I called Dan and asked if we could talk, and I moved into a new apartment with new people. To my utter surprise and begging, Dan agreed to talking. I’ll never forget that night. I walked to UCF’s campus to wait for him to be let out of his evening class. UCF was silent. I can remember sheer relief hitting me when I saw Dan walk out of his classroom to greet me. In the back of my head I thought for sure he’d stand me up. Why not? I broke his heart. I deserved the same, didn’t I? We walked to a quiet place near campus and talked. Dan was hesitant about trying out the relationship again, with good reason. But, over the course of several months we fell back in love, and it has stayed ever since.
Dan graduated from UCF in May 2008, and I still had another semester left (luckily, I earned enough college credits at my community college while I was in high school that I was able to shave off a semester at UCF). Dan was offered a great internship in Tampa, Florida (which, ultimately turned into his first full-time job), and I had to stay behind in Orlando. Again, our good friend long-distance was there to greet us with open arms. We agreed to take turns visiting each other on the weekends since we both had cars now. During this time in my life, however, I had hit a major bout of depression and low-esteem. It seemed like I was intentionally trying hard to tear our relationship apart sometimes, and I’m not sure why I felt the way I did. Looking back on it, I think it had a lot to do with my fast-approaching graduation from college without a job and uncertainty about life in general at that point. I let it compound, but Dan stood next to me despite all of it.
I eventually moved out to Tampa after my graduation from UCF and found work as a retail manager. I worked two jobs so my time in Tampa sucked a lot. To this day, there is nothing anyone could ever say to me to make me want to move back to Tampa. I made some absolutely fantastic friends, but there just was nothing there for us. Nothing.
On December 24, 2008, we drove to Melbourne for Christmas, and little did I know that on Christmas day, Dan would ask me to marry him. I won’t get into too many details about our engagement since I’ve spoken about it before, but I was completely surprised. Dan placed the ring in a box of chocolates, and it was there, right in the middle, when I opened the box. I cherish that memory to this day.
It was shortly after the engagement that I started to hit the LSAT books hardcore for law school. Law school was something I had decided on in undergrad, and I was finally putting my dream forward. Dan was completely supportive as I took the LSAT not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. He even drove me to the University of Florida from Orlando at 6 in the morning to get me there on time. I ultimately even cancelled that test score! Yikes, I drove myself nuts trying to get into law school. I applied to something like 22 schools. Dan and I knew we wanted to get out of Florida and we were open to any major city. I also knew that I needed to go to the best school I could taking scholarships and the economy into consideration. After talking, we settled on Chicago. And boy, was that another great decision! But guess what? Our old friend long-distance came back to visit us with about 3 years of doing without him. Except this time, it wouldn’t be just a couple hours away. We would be 1,100 miles away from each other for the first time in 5 years.
It was hard at first–moving to a huge city without any friends or family by my side. My mom confessed later that she was so worried about me, but I knew I could handle it. And handle it I did. It actually worked out quite well because I spent so much time on school that I didn’t have much time to miss Dan. Sure, there were nights when I really missed him, but I started to make really great friends who helped me cope with the distance.
We were engaged for 2 years before we got married on Feb. 27, 2011 in Auburndale, Florida. The two year engagement was intentional. I planned our entire wedding before leaving for Chicago, and things worked out pretty damn perfectly considering Chicago had been hit by Snowmagedden that year. All our vendors showed up, and I was surrounded by everyone that I love with all my heart.
Dan luckily was offered a job here in Chicago exactly one month after we were married. I thank God for that. That was seriously the most perfect timing ever. He moved here, and we moved into a bigger apartment that summer.
These past two years have seen their ups and downs, for sure. I have given law school my soul while Dan has sat patiently next to me while I pour my heart and soul into everything I do. Our relationship has not been all sunshine and rainbows, but the love runs deep. I’m finally graduating on May 19, and Dan will be there, just like he always has been, for the past 9 years. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I do know that I have a great man who continues to be there for me despite all of my flaws and failures.
It’s funny how things work out, huh? I’m blessed to have someone in my life who doesn’t give up on me and who loves me beyond words for every piece of who I am. We have a lot of history, and I look forward to filling in the rest of the pages of “Our Story.”
Happy Anniversary, Dan. I love you.