January 12, 2010.
I was mindlessly driving south on I-65 just north of the exit leading to Winimac, IN. Where ever the hell that is.
No radio. No phone calls. Just driving on a sunny day in January. Given the time of year, the sun sat lower in the sky than it would in the Spring or Summer, so I was driving half-blind. I didn’t have sunglasses. I did, however, have a mind full of thoughts. I was in the midst of the three largest life changes I had experienced to that point in life.
I thought about graduating from Purdue University. Amazing, really. It took nine semesters instead of the standard eight, but I’d done it and was now standing at the gate to (actual) adulthood. No, I didn’t have a job yet, but I’d figure that out soon enough. I was proud of the accomplishment, no doubt, but I barely made it. Thankfully, the shear relief of successfully finishing was enough to quell the uneasy feelings of almost failing. A win is a win. From there, my mind drifted to what I’d just done.
The day before driving south on I-65 through ever-squinted eyes, I was in North Carolina. I was looking for a new home. Up to then, I’d only known what Indiana had to offer. Sure, I’d visited other states, but never once had I considered the possibility of actually moving to another state. I had a lot of feelings about that. Nerves. Excitement. Wonder. Man, big changes. Which led me to think about that third major life change.
I have to think the State Trooper who pulled me over was having a good day. He clocked me at 85 miles per hour and was likely preparing himself to hear some sort of lame excuse like “sir, my speedometer is broken”, or “sir, I had my cruise control set to 75, so I have no idea how you clocked me going that fast”. Instead, he watched as a young, college-aged kid rolled down his window and awaited instructions.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Yes sir, I said, I was speeding. He sort of smirked and nodded. I told him that when I saw him out of the corner of my eye, I was going 85. He smiled again and asked why I was in such a hurry.
“No real hurry,” I said. “I’m getting married on Saturday and wasn’t paying attention to my speed. I just, yeah…I was thinking.”
He laughed this time. “License and registration.”
Fifteen minutes later, he returned to my window. He was holding my license and registration, and that was it. No citation.
“Speed limit is 70, so why don’t you try to keep it closer to 77 or 78. You won’t draw as much attention from the next guy down the road.” He handed back my ID and registration and smiled one last time. “Good luck Saturday, young man. You’ll do great.”
With that, he turned and walked back to his car.
“Thanks, sir. A lot.”
January 16, 2010.
I was bawling. My face was hot and tears were involuntarily streaming down my cheeks. I’m a grown-ass man, I remember thinking to myself, pull it together! It didn’t matter. From the corner of my eye I saw my brother and my other best man trying to hold it together, too. My bride was simply too beautiful. She was walking slowly down the aisle and the joy I felt was too much to handle.
It’s a feeling I’ll never forget as long as I live. My body reacted in a way I wasn’t prepared for, but looking back, I’m thankful I was overcome with emotion. In a sense, that’s the realest I’ve ever been in a crowded room. The truest version of myself. The months leading up to that moment had been hard. And the years after that would be really hard. But that moment was nothing but bliss. That third major life change was the most important.
January 16, 2019.
So, here we are. My bride stuck with me over the past nine years. Through the most difficult moments in my life. She saw something in me over a decade ago and wanted to be with me. Over these nine years of marriage we’ve celebrated some of our greatest moments, but we’ve also been through some truly grueling trials. Things that neither of us knew we’d have to face. Some have resolved, others haven’t yet, and still others simply won’t ever completely resolve – we’ll have to fight for each other every single day.
We’ve made a habit of watching our wedding video every year on our anniversary. The first few years were fun (“oh man, do you remember when so-and-so was dating so-and-so?”, or “whoa, so that’s what I looked like before I started losing my hair?”), but then it wasn’t so much fun any more. Why? Well, we wrote our own vows to each other. It was a beautiful gesture and I’m glad we tried our best. But, we had no idea what we were committing to. On the video, our giddiness and excitement are palpable, almost to an uncomfortable level. We were truly drunk in love.
Last weekend we watched it again, this time with a little more wisdom. An earned understanding of adulthood and marriage. I still cringed quite a bit as I watched that video and heard the promises we made to each other, but only because I know things now. As uncomfortable as it sometimes was, I know we’re now smarter, healthier, capable of loving each other better. It used to be ignorant bliss. Now, it’s just bliss. Now, we’re sober in love.
That sounds hokey. Just dripping with cheese. I get it. But every part of me really believes it. All the tough times stripped away the weak or deadened parts of us, leaving us bruised and pained, but healthier. There’s plenty more of that to come because, contrary to our sometimes held beliefs, neither of us are perfect. More culling will occur. And so will growth. The love we had nine years ago was real, but it wasn’t yet mature.
Both of us have grown tremendously. That had to happen in order for us to make it through our toughest times, forging the foundation of a lasting marriage. There have been plenty of times when we simply didn’t have the strength to keep fighting, and that’s when God brought healing. The great experiences we’ve had – the laughter, traveling together, date nights, the kids – are so much sweeter because we’ve become healthier. Anything worth having is worth fighting for, right?
And our marriage has been worth it. Sober in love, like I said before. We love each other now because, despite the many flaws in each of us, we choose to love each other. Between the two of us, an incredible amount of pride has been swallowed. An inordinate level of grace has been given. And an unfathomable amount of undeserved love has been shared. It’s sobering. It’s beautiful.
I’m so thankful for Allison. Turns out, we’re very different from each other. In the way we think, the way we speak, the way we make decisions (or don’t). But those differences are things I’ve come to love. We’re perfect for each other because we’re imperfect in complimentary ways. It makes marriage really fun. A challenge, and we both like challenges. Nine years later, I know Allison more than I ever knew possible, and the same is true for her.
She’s my biggest fan. She believes in me. She calls out my blatant errors and challenges me to be better. She gracefully accepts me and all my flaws. But she doesn’t let me settle. She thinks I’m too hard on myself. And she’s probably right. Okay fine, she’s usually right. She’s the best mom. She’s the best wife. She’s my best friend.
Happy anniversary, Allison! Love you, P.I.C. ♦