Sunday, November 9, 2014

I Love You More Than I Have Ever Found A Way To Say To You

On this day one year ago, Eric and I stood in front of some of our closest friends and family and pledged to spend the rest of our lives together.

This was truly one of the greatest days of my life.

In honor of our one year wedding anniversary, I'm going to share the story of how we first met.  (I actually wrote this for my previous blog, so I'm kind of recycling this post ... But just go with it.  I'm trying to be romantic!)

In May/June 2007, Eric and I both took a trip to China.  The trip was sponsored through ISLP (International Scholar Laureate Program), and students and recent graduates from all over the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam were invited to attend based on grades, extracurricular activities, etc.  Eric and I were both invited to their Delegation on Medicine (though, oddly enough, he was originally invited to attend a different type of program and he requested to attend this program instead).

Once we arrived, the participants were broken up into several small groups ... And Eric and I happened to be put in the same group.  I was so jet-lagged when we arrived that I honestly don't remember much from the first day.  All I know is that it was pretty much an initial introduction to the program, breaking up into small groups, and then heading back to our hotel rooms for some much needed rest.

On the second night, I ran into Eric in the hotel lobby.  We had some free time, and I was planning to go exploring with a few girls from our group.  Eric was with one of the guys from our group, and, after a bit of discussion, we all decided we'd hang out together in the beer garden at the hotel.

This is obviously not the greatest picture ever (we're not even sitting next to each other, and my face is practically covered by a beer mug), but it's the first time the two of us were ever in a picture together.  If you don't recognize us in this picture (we were obviously much younger!), I'm third from the left and Eric is second from the right in the red shirt.

Although much of that evening was a blur (and not just because we were drinking), I know that Eric and I spent quite a bit of time talking.  And after that night, we started spending most of our time together.

We took charter busses through the cities (though we flew from city to city), and always found ourselves sitting together.  Sometimes we'd literally talk for hours while we traveled to our next destination!  Time seemed to pass so quickly during those rides ... I remember finding it so easy to talk to him.

And then, suddenly, I realized I was developing feelings for him.  My heart would beat a little faster when he would sit next to me, and it felt like a jolt of electricity was surging through my entire body if our hands or legs would brush against each other as we shifted in our seats.  It was both exciting and terrifying because, to be honest, I didn't know what (if anything) would happen between us.  I just knew I was so excited about this amazing new guy in my life.

Once we made it to the second city on our trip (Xi'an), things got a little more interesting.  We'd been out together with a group of people from the trip all evening ... And then it was just the two of us, together under the stars on a beautiful night.  I don't remember what prompted us to walk over and sit down on a bench, but when we did, he moved closer ... And then we were kissing.  It felt like the whole world had slipped away in that moment.  I hadn't felt that connected to someone in a long time ... It was amazing.

Although we clearly had great chemistry, by the end of the trip I was wondering if it had just been a summer fling.  I kind of thought it had to be since we lived over 1,000 miles from one another.  I didn't want it to end, though, and I remember crying over the thought of potentially never seeing him again.  I'd been in long distance relationships in the past, and while I knew they could be extremely difficult, I knew I could handle it.  Eric, on the other hand, had never been involved in a long distance relationship, and I worried that I wouldn't seem as appealing once reality set in and he realized we'd only be able to see each other once every few months or so.

I decided to leave it up to him on our last night together.  I was going on to Lhasa, Tibet, but he was heading back to Beijing and then back to his home in Nebraska.  I still don't know how I managed to find the courage to ask him what he wanted.  I knew I'd be crushed if he didn't want to at least try to make things work between us, but I also knew it would be insanely difficult to go from spending every day and night together to only seeing each other once in a while.

I'll never forget that night.  Our conversation pretty much went like this:

Me: So ... What do you want to do?

Eric: I want to be with you.

Me: Are you saying you want to be with me but feel like you can't because we live so far apart?  Or are you saying you want to try to make this work and actually be boyfriend and girlfriend?

Eric: I'm saying that I want to try to make this work and be boyfriend and girlfriend.

Those may not have been our exact words (this was over 7 years ago, after all!), but that was essentially what was said.  While I may not remember everything word for word, I do remember how I felt: the sense of relief washing over me as I realized this guy who had become so special to me over the past couple of weeks felt the same about me, and the tingling excitement that goes along with the start of a new relationship.  Unfortunately, I also felt a tremendous sense of heartache because I knew that in a few short hours we'd be separated and I had no idea when we'd see each other again.  (Thankfully I didn't have to wait long ... He flew to West Virginia to visit me in July, just a few weeks after I returned from Tibet.)

At the time, I felt like this could be the beginning of something really special.  I had no idea that nearly 6 and a half years later we'd be getting married!  (And now, one year into our marriage, we've gone back to our roots: spending time together exploring various foreign cities.)

This is one of my favorite pictures from our reception.  We were dancing crazily to "Sexy Back" (a special request from Eric), and all of the stress we'd been feeling about the wedding just seemed to melt away.

I left out a lot of details, but I still feel like I shared a lot in this post.  I feel so lucky to have met someone who makes me so happy.  I hope that everyone has the opportunity to experience this kind of love during their lifetime.


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