The picture above is of my wife and I, taken just over 11 years ago. It was graciously given to me in a card after my recent wedding and ended up being the best present I received.
See, not only had I never seen this forgotten gem, but the innocent snapshot by a good friend’s mother at my high school graduation took me back to a time when everything between the woman I’ll spend the rest of my life with was merely hope. As an upperclassman going off to college and dating a girl over a year younger, our future was bogged down with so many seemingly insurmountable variables, anything beyond simple teenage love seemed like a stretch.
Yet, we clicked early and, for our age, something about the relationship always seemed beyond our reach. Beyond our wildest dreams, if you will. Despite numerous hang-ups along the next 10-plus years, those underage ambitions materialized not only the way we always planned, but above and beyond what we could have ever hoped for, as we got hitched along the divine Detroit River just over two weeks back.
With such deep roots, everything leading up to our big day was telling me I’d end up balling like a baby watching my gorgeous queen come down the aisle. Yet, that never happened. Instead, we both unexpectedly maintained our everyday, endearing cool and then partied until the sun came up with the people who helped make it all possible. However, when we started opening our gifts the following day before heading off on our honeymoon, that picture up top barely even crept out of the envelope before catching my eye and opening flood gates of emotions that overtook me for a good ten minutes.
Even though I was clearly overwhelmed from the longest week of my life, working off about three hours of sleep and surfing a tidal wave of emotions, this seemingly insignificant snapshot gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment unlike anything I’d ever felt before.
We all have aspirations to be great and achieve the things we deem important on an individual level. Depending who you are, some of those goals are much loftier than others, but they’re all virtuous visions for a reason. Upon seeing that picture, it made me realize for the first time in months how lucky I was – rather, we were – to have accomplished something we only hoped would happen for over a decade.
Even after living out my dreams firsthand in the days and even years prior, seeing the innocence in our faces and realizing just how far our relationship had come and how we’ve helped each other develop into the people we are today clicked maybe more than it ever had in our entire time together, leaving me straight up choked with emotion. At one point, I was eating pizza and laughing, while tears were just flowing uncontrollably down my face, while my head could only shake in disbelief. “Babe, we f*cking did it” were the words running through my head.
Of all the major goals on my plate, marriage had been one I’d been waiting to cross off the list for what seemed like forever for multiple reasons. Beyond our long road traveled, we both come from families that are far from The Cleavers and tying the proverbial knot was something we’ve always taken very seriously and never wanted to rush into.
With patience being less of a virtue than ever these days, important moments that should be properly cultivated too often end up expedited at the expense of logic. In our case, we’ve been through enough together to ensure our actions were justified. Others aren’t as fortunate. Whether people are getting married and divorced within nine months, ruining their image for fifteen minutes of weathering fame or having 22 damn kids – many folks forgo the finer things in life because they lose sight of what they already have – barely grasping a taste before gorging immediately. People want more, but don’t earn it. Actually growing into the person you achieve to be is simply not enough for some.
Personally, seeing that picture above not only reinforces how far my wife and I have come, it further reinforces how far we’ve still got to go. And, if the first 11 years were any indication of the next however-many-we’re-lucky-enough-to-share together will go…well, the rest will be far from a breeze.
Yet, that’s half the challenge. No matter what we strive to achieve, working towards a goal every day and loving what you’re capable of will alleviate the petty nuances and lead to a sense of solace like none other. Trust me, once you step back and realize how much you’ve already accomplished, it feels damn good.