I remember the first time I met Trav.
He was tall, lanky, freckled and his bowl-cut-hairstyle swished in an “only in the movies” halo motion when he walked. His electric blue eyes and mischievous, lopsided grin defiantly pulled you in, holding this notion that he held secrets–the kind you suddenly found yourself pining to be in on.
The setting was youth group at our local church. For several weeks, I tagged along with a friend on Wednesday nights–probably more intent on hopefully seeing Trav, than seeking God. (Sorry, Jesus. It was the hormones.)
One evening, group was cancelled (okay, honestly…we skipped—sorry parents) and my friend and I, along with Trav, crossed the street to the convenient store adjacent the church. Trav bought us Surges and we walked back, kicked rocks in the parking lot and drank our overtly caffeinated sodas. Oh, the innocence.
To this day, I can still remember hanging on to his every word the hour we all spent together. And looking back, I think in return, I mostly giggled like an idiot and only managed to speak two and half words total the entire sixty minutes. “Um. Th-thhhank. You.”
Instead of talking, I embarrassingly stared a not-so-secret hole into him, while mentally envisioning our future wedding. Or I made “I love him” or “dibs” eyes at my friend, while Trav wasn’t looking. He had to think I was strange.
Regardless, I went home that night (and ripped down all my Justin Timberlake and Backstreet Boys posters) and, in the most eloquent, bubbly handwriting I could master, scribbled “Sarah Black” or “Sarah loves Travis” on every piece of paper I could find until my hand cramped six hours later. The next morning I awoke nearly drowning in a sea of decorated notebook paper and pledged myself the sole follower of cult Travis. My mother might have thought of committing me when I started hanging the sketches I made of our future children on my bedroom wall. **sidenote—I have never claimed to be sane.
Needless to say, I was irrevocably mesmerized by Trav.
Like. School. Girl. Crushing. Hard.
Just call me a shameless fanatic.
When I transferred schools the beginning of junior high, I nearly combusted seeing Trav walk down the hall. There he was, my idol. We “went out” for a week in 7th grade and then he broke up with me (that whole scene: have your friend call, with you on three-way, and break up for you. I cried into my pillow for weeks). It probably went south when I started naming our imaginary, future children on day 2. (I’m kidding…a little)
We were great friends (and frenemies too) through junior high. But it wasn’t until we were fifteen that it would all come together. (think I put a spell on you…)
Really, though (he totally pursued me and said I love you first)…it just clicked and the rest is history…
We were crazy in love. And when we decided to get married straight out of high school it was hard for people to accept. “Are you pregnant? You’re not pregnant? Then why are you getting married at seventeen, you crazy person?!”
The disbelief was strong and overwhelming, but nevertheless we clasped hands and jumped: said our “I do’s” and shoved our meager belongings into the smallest U-haul they made and hit the highway headed to the big City.
We arrived on the doorstep of our much too expensive apartment with sizable dreams and deflated, empty pockets. We probably held the belief as newlyweds that our love was tangible, capable of paying for the electricity and putting food in our bellies. Actually, I’m positive we did.
That very first month, when our first bills started to arrive addressed with our newly conjoined names stamped in a depressive font on the front, we found that love does not keep you cool in the summer, nor buy ramen and hot dogs (no, not even the chicken kind. Ew.)
We were so naive, silly, and broke…
Fast forward to today, three days shy of celebrating twelve years of marriage and our naiveté is mildly corrupted and we’re still eating ramen, thankfully, by choice. And I still find myself swept up in my desire for Trav; the fangirl within me is still alive and creepy, staring at him long before he wakes.
Only now, I’m caught up in the sight of this beautiful man, no longer the boy I relentlessly desired to make mine, who is the father of my daughters, the partner I’ve built a life with, a man who shares in the legacy I will leave one day.
Those teenage memories, so many years gone, are easy to recall, because desire is the easiest part of a relationship–strictly because desire only recognizes the most alluring attributes of a person.
But loving someone, truly loving them, ah…that’s the hardest part. (After a few years of marriage we learned why most are cynical, warning you of the hardship of marriage, which we completely scoffed at–with a definite eye roll for good measure–when we were seventeen.)
In the beginning, we couldn’t imagine not making it. Marriage was going to be cake—the strawberry kind with double icing and chilled to perfection.
Little did we know that we’d metaphorically shove that cake in each other’s faces during year one, two, three, four…you get the idea. And the best, most simple advice we received, a week before we got married that we totally did not take seriously either, from the very man who married us (and shares the same anniversary date as Trav and I) would come to be our marriage’s saving grace.
He said, “At some point, today, tomorrow, years from now…one or both of you are going to want to give up, but the key is that you don’t do it at the same time.”
It’s been a hard learned lesson, in maturity and pride, that loving someone demands the most noble part of you—because truly loving someone is a pure, selfless act. It’s putting them before you despite living in a world that leads with instant gratification and self-centeredness. It’s not becoming victimized by the wayward belief that if we are not “always” being made happy than we deserve better.
Some days, I really don’t want to give Trav the last piece of jerky and it might secretly pain me to watch him eat it–this is a lie. This never happens because he always gives me the last piece. On others, I want to shout from Kilimanjaro how much I love him and our life feels like a Polaroid taken from the most beautiful Insta account ever. And yes truthfully, I might have even had days where I thought about dressing him in a straight jacket and throwing him off the side of a cliff. Yep, that’s anger for you. Shit gets real.
Truth is nothing is ever all good, or all bad.
Over the course of our twelve years of marriage, we’ve been through the teenage years, college life, become parents four times over, moved nine times, continue to have over a decade career in one of the most cut-throat businesses, had family judge our marriage and us as people, dug through the lowest of our depths and the highest reaches of our triumphs, had money, lost money; we’ve failed and honored, fought and loved, and in short–walked the line for more than a mile about calling it quits.
This is our truth—it is a seamless union of all things grisly and gorgeous, because marriage is hard. It’s even harder than math for me (and we all know how hard that is…). Nobody is perfect at marriage, because being human is even harder. And loving someone in such a self-serving world is the hardest.
But at our core, being human is also the most beautiful part of life. We all are able to choose: to fight for who we love, to forgive who we love, to better ourselves for who we love and the life we live together.
To write this in honor of our twelve-year anniversary feels like an accomplishment, a victory, a testament to our love for one another; despite the struggles of life, we are still choosing together–two imperfect, flawed people fighting to protect the boy and girl who fell in love at 15, so innocently mad for one another, who signed every handwritten note with “always and forever,” and safeguarded the belief that they are meant to be together…
“Choose your love, then love your choice.” –Unknown
To my man (my best choice in life), who has evoked immeasurable happiness in my life, my most treasured and favorite person, my beloved…
Happy 12th Annie, I love you…with a love that shall not die.