Marriage is wonderful. You get to come home every day to your best friend. You have someone who deals with all your quirks and idiosyncrasies and character flaws- perhaps even finds them cute or endearing. You have someone to share your successes, your failures, even the most mundane parts of your day.
Marriage is also a lot of work. You have to learn how to navigate two separate lives into one. You have to understand how to balance the stress of work and family and life and love. You have to learn which battles to pick, when to compromise and when to put your foot down.
Maybe because it’s been almost seven years or maybe because we’ve grown up a lot in the past year or maybe because we’ve gotten much more involved in the Church – probably it’s all three – but I truly believe that this was our best year of marriage (although, I do believe that I think this every year). It seems odd, because I know that we also had some of our worst fights this year – but we also worked hard to improve our marriage, to become better spouses for another and to treat one another better and better each day.
What I really realized this year more than any other and that I don’t think people quite understand about marriage/relationships (I say as though after six years I’m an expert) is that it’s always going to take work. Even when it’s good and both of you love each other and everything is settled – it still takes work. So you don’t need to find someone who is perfect (doesn’t exist) or completely compatible (you’ll always be different people who will change as you both get older), but someone who likewise understands that it takes work and who’s always willing to do the work with you. And whether it’s luck or providence or forethought – I’ve absolutely somehow managed to find that.
You know, now that I’m at an age where friends are getting married or thinking seriously about getting married, I almost always have to take a second and laugh and think about just how damn blessed we both were when we picked each other. We got married at 21 and 24 after knowing one another for about a year and a half. That honestly seems so crazy to me now. I look at 21 year olds I know and I think about how unprepared they are for marriage. Things could’ve gone so wrong in so many different ways. But they didn’t! In fact, like I said earlier, each year of marriage has been even better than the last. And it’s a lot of things – our relationship with God, the fact that we have strong marriages in our own lives as role models, our close relationship with both sets of our in-laws – but it’s also the fact that we recognized very early on (because both sets of parents told us this) that marriage was going to take work and effort in spite of how much we loved one another. So when we needed to work on things – as all couples inevitably do – we didn’t throw our hands up and say, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be! Instead, we just got to work. And our marriage is continually remade and improved and wonderful because of it.
And now, God willing, I’m hoping that 2017 is once again our best year yet and that I’ll be writing my 2017 retrospective with a baby in arm or one on the way. 😉
Charles and I always comment (/humblebrag) about how lucky we are that we get along with not only our own families, but with one another’s families. And at no time is this thrown into sharp relief like the holiday season. Every year, I hear countless stories about how other people I know are anywhere from reluctant to straight-up dreading spending time with their families.
This is a very, very foreign feeling to me.
If anything, I find myself feeling the opposite every year. I look forward to the prospect of spending time together as a family. And even when it’s kind of a hassle – like it is for Thanksgiving every year – the problem isn’t that we have to spend time with our respective families because they both live here, the problem instead is the fact that there isn’t enough time to adequately spend with both sides of the family.
I come from a large family who has always privileged spending time together and who has almost always (with the exception of a few rough years in my late teens) enjoyed spending time together. When I got married, it was initially a transition to split the holidays, spending time with another family that I was not as used to seeing or comfortable with.
But almost nine years of being together has changed that. Now I’m excited to see relatives from another side that I don’t often get to see. It’s a joy to be able to spend time with more family, to sit and catch up, to eat really, really good food that I’m not necessarily accustomed to. This year was a difficult one for Charlie’s family, but the holidays were anything but – they were warm and filled with love and generosity and kindness. There are a lot of benefits to being married. Getting to have even more family definitely ranks up there.
- Old Friends
I don’t make friends easily. Not because I’m especially weird or off-putting or mean, but mostly due to a combination of introversion, laziness, and being really, really bad at making plans/keeping plans. But, what I like to think is that what I lack in quantity, I make up for in quality. The friends that I do make, tend to be friends that stick around forever. Or, at least, as long as I’ve been alive so far.
When I was seven, I was introduced to Sherrie and Trisha, who conveniently lived right around the block from me. Now, I might be romanticizing it all a bit, but we really had such an ideal childhood friendship. Even though there were three of us, I don’t feel like there was ever an odd man out, so to speak, like there sometimes are with three person friendships. Sherrie and Trisha had a unique bond because they had known each other since they were babies, since they lived across the street and had brothers of similar ages. Sherrie and I had a unique bond because we were both Filipino whose parents ran in the same social circles. Trisha and I had a unique bond of being in the same grade, while Sherrie was a grade ahead of us.
We were able to grow up in such a way, and in such a time, that we could still act our age. We went to waterparks every summer and California once a year where we spent time acting like silly little kids while we were silly little kids. Sherrie and I often lament (and this really dates us, I guess) that kids today grow up so fast, always with an eye of being older. That didn’t really happen with us. We didn’t really talk about boys – like, real life boys, not The Backstreet Boys – until we all hit high school. Of course, we grew apart during high school. Trisha moved to Colorado, then Utah in high school. Sherrie and I ran in different social circles. But through it all, I’ve known (and I think they feel the same) that I could always rely on them.
We’ve kept each other updated through the occasional text and social media. They both congratulated me when I got engaged. Trisha and I both flew to Costa Rica to be in Sherrie’s wedding when she got married. Then, this last summer, Sherrie, her two month old daughter, and I flew to Utah to watch Trisha get married. It was such a wonderful weekend for me. To be there with these two amazing women who I’ve known since I was seven years old, all of us married, one of them with a baby, was an almost surreal experience. Even though it had been years – probably not since Sherrie’s wedding two years prior – that we’d gotten together, we all sat in a hotel room and chatted about our lives with a comfort and an ease that made it seem like we’d gotten together every Sunday for the past ten years. There wasn’t any awkwardness or reticence – only the kind of joy and contentment that you find with people who have known you and loved you for a very, very long time.
In my adolescence, I was what the kids of today would call ‘extra’. The intensity that now manifests as a bright sort of enthusiasm for what I love and for life in general was then an irritating tendency to just be generally over the top and dramatic. Every bad grade meant I was stupid. Every setback a sign that I doomed to failure. Every fight with a boyfriend was the worst thing ever. Every breakup was the end of the world.
But somehow these two decided that I wasn’t the worst. They constantly assured me that I was smart and talented and capable. They stuck around through the late night phone calls where 18 year old me sobbed into the phone about boys that no longer even show up in my Facebook newsfeed. They made the last two years of high school more than bearable, they actually made them memorable, something worth looking back on (even though we’ve all agreed that we’d never want to revisit them). They got me through my Freshman year of college, when my life turned into a hazy drama that the CW would’ve loved to option as a show.
And even though we three are now all displaced – one in Portland, the other in Colorado, we got together for the first time in years this Thanksgiving and – again – it was like no time at all had passed. We sat in Kendra’s parents house, raiding her pantry, a ridiculous tv show on in the background, and just talked about whatever came to mind. Just like we had ten years ago. And even though 18 year old us would’ve laughed with disbelief to see how we’d all ended up, I like to think none of them would’ve been disappointed, either.
- New Friends
In the last six years, I’ve attempted to start a book club at least twice. They usually fizzled out within two or three months, mostly due to the fact that I was an unorganized mess without any sense of structure or long-term planning skills. Cut to six months ago, when Kendal suggested starting a book club with all (read: three) of my closest friends from high school. I leapt at the chance, emboldened by the fact that I’d spent three years as a teacher getting my shit together and organizing facets of my life in a way that could be deemed neurotic.
And it’s honestly been one of the best parts of my entire year. What started out as a group of five old friends getting together to discuss a book has now become a group of eleven ladies – many of whom I’ve never known before this year – whom I all adore and consider friends. It’s not hyperbole to say that this book club basically constitutes my entire friend group. It’s so amazing to look forward to discussing a novel with a variety of ladies – some I’ve known for over a decade, some I’ve only known for two months – who are all interesting and fun and engaging and funny.
- Old Job/New Job
For the most part, I’ve been very, very lucky in terms of jobs and co-workers. This year I made the very difficult decision to say goodbye to teaching and transition into a less direct service job in education. While I never really regret the decision to leave teaching at this point in my career, I have to admit that I really, really miss it quite often. I miss the kids, the I miss creating a new way to teach a concept, I miss the looks on their faces when they finally get it, and I miss getting to interact and be with my fellow teachers. The last three years of teaching would’ve been so difficult without having such amazing, committed teachers around me to support me as colleagues, mentors and friends.
When I started my new job, one of my biggest fears was about my co-workers. Not that we wouldn’t get along – getting along with different people is one of the few things I’m pretty good at – but that after spending three years with co-workers that were my friends as well as my colleagues, I’d suddenly be with a group of people that would only be co-workers. It seemed a very lonesome sort of prospect. Luckily, I needn’t have worried. I stepped into another team of like-minded, passionate, hard-working individuals who have quickly become friends as well as co-workers.