Six years ago, I packed up my life in New York and moved to Providence. Some might say it was for love...
I told myself, and everyone else, it was to start my career. After applying to dozens of jobs at the tail-end of the recession, with a pen in hand and dreams of writing on my mind, I was taking a job at a small tech startup doing “SEO writing.” I had no idea, at the time, what SEO stood for.
It sure was for love alright - the love I had for chasing dreams. But of course, as all these stories go, there was a boy.
We had met in our junior year of college, and seven years later, I am happy to say we are still together. But I had to find love in other places along the way. Sometimes it was with myself. Sometimes my girlfriends, my family, my job, my dog, a bottle of wine…. Even my bathtub.
I believe that the idea that you can get everything you want in one person is a bit destructive. We’re all out there looking for “the one.” That perfect person who fulfills 100% of what we need in life. But we need to accept that the number is closer to 70 or 80-percent. And that’s OK! I believe we need to seek out and embrace love in all kinds of people, places, and things so we can be whole, happy, and fulfilled… that’s how we’re 100% fulfilled with love.
Moving my life to Providence was for me, but it left me at a crossroads. I left everything I knew in New York. And that hit me hard. As someone who suffers with often crippling anxiety, I spent more time than I choose to admit making my entire life about my significant other. I knew nothing, and no one, else. And I needed something stable to latch onto.
But that wasn’t going to work. His life was always here. I needed to find a way to build my own life, too.
So before “self-love” and “self-care” were buzzwords, I threw myself into it. What would make me happy? I started looking for love everywhere. I focused on my friends - and built traditions with some of the ladies who would become my closest girlfriends. I focused on myself - and rekindled my love affair with running. I focused on my new home - and fell in love with decorating. I focused on my alma mater - and became a mentor and leader, a love affair that never really ended. I joined organizations like The Lady Project. I found places and secret paths in my new home.
I learned that by looking for love everywhere, I was in control of my own happiness. I was more content, and I was a better partner. And I am steadfast in those beliefs. It’s not uncommon to find me seeing a movie alone, wandering the mall on a Saturday, or booking a spa day with my girlfriends.
My partner supports this completely. And he lives the same lifestyle. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship, married, or just newly dating, I truly believe that the fastest route to unhappiness is to forget that you are two individuals sharing a life together.
Accept that the perfect partner won’t give you 100% of the love you need. They’ll give you 70% and you’ll fill the other 30% with self-love, girlfriends that are soulmates, puppy snuggles, a long bubble baths. And that’s a hell of a life.
We’re obsessed with timelines. The ones set for us by the world around us. The ones our parents set for us. The ones we set for ourselves. Where does it start and how do we learn to love where we’re at, instead of focus where our timeline should be?
At some point in your childhood, you probably wrote one of those “Where I See Myself In 5 Years” stories. In 5th grade, for the yearbook, in my school we all wrote one called “When I’m 25.” I was home over the summer, going through all my childhood things in the basement looking for a photo, and I stumbled on that yearbook. Next thing I knew I found myself reading the story…
In the 5th grade, at 10-years-old or so, I was certain that at 25-years-old, I would not only be a Harvard Law School graduate, but I’d also be married with three kids. All daughters (yikes!) and I’d be living on Long Island in very close proximity to my parents. Now, logic aside - because I am unclear how it’s really all that possible to get a law degree by 25, let alone have three children at the same time, I’m reminded of something: marriage, children, a top-of-the-world career - I sure planned to have it all.
This month, I turned 28. Not exactly a milestone birthday on the timeline scale, but nonetheless, in the months and weeks leading up to my birthday, I began to panic. Normally, I mark a birthday with constant countdown reminders to everyone in my path, but this year was different.
I’ve realized that the closer I got to 30, the more I started to feel anxiety set in over "timelines," especially in love - in my relationships with my friends, family, self, and significant other.
It’s been as if any question about my “timeline,” a real timeline or perceived one, became a trigger for me, setting me off into a spiral. So what did I do?
I Focused On My Current Self
Sometimes, that was a bit obsessive and unhealthy. In fact, I became so infatuated with my skincare routine that I am pretty sure I was on a first-name basis with the girls working in Ulta. But what I realized was that the me that I am now is the only me I’ve got. So why not just love myself? And hey, if that meant changing all of my moisturizers to have retinol because it made me feel better and “upgrading” my makeup, well then I deserve it.
I changed up my gym routine (your 28-year old body and your 18-year old body don’t want the same workout) and I learned to listen to my body more. Above all, I realized that I had to focus not on the timelines of everyone else but on embracing my own life and everything that came with it - and that meant listening to me, not the timeline.
I Threw Myself Into The Present
Spoiler: I did not go to law school. But I also tend to obsess over “what’s next.” My boyfriend, ever-practical will always say to me “why change something that makes you happy?” And I have a dissertation ready about why I need a new, more important job, we need a bigger bar, etc. etc. But what’s so wrong with the present, anyway? We’re all so obsessed with timelines and milestones that we may be forgetting to enjoy the present.
I Stopped Focusing On Everyone Else
At a co-workers suggestion, I read Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, and while everything about that book was amazing I always remind myself of this one lesson: “nothing is about you”.
When applied to timelines this is so simple to recognize. We all have our own timelines and nothing anyone else does with their timeline is because of me. I had to realize that. At 28, my parents had two kids. I don’t even know if I want kids. Why follow a timeline when I can blaze my own trail? At 21, my parents were married, but they also met at 15.
In life and in love, there's no timeline but your own and that’s really why I've learned to embrace mine.
Anyone who knows me knows that my husband and I were friends for 3 years before we started dating. I tease him relentlessly to this day about him just wanting to be friends and how unaware he was that I always wanted more. But as much as I wanted to date him (I was crushing on him pretty hard back then) I’m glad that we took the years as friends and confidantes to really get to know each other.
We met freshman year of college at URI and we almost immediately had a connection. We would stay up really late either talking on the phone or IMing on AIM (yes, this was the prehistoric times before texts and Snapchat) about all kinds of things: news, politics, our classes, favorite hobbies, etc. My favorite conversations with him though were always the philosophical ones when we would talk about the personal belief systems we had. So many of these discussions would start with us asking each other questions like “does God really exist; is there really another galaxy out there just like ours with life on it; would we ever want to be born in a different time” and then we’d have a long debate on how we felt or what we would do. These are still some of my most cherished memories of the beginning of the most important relationship of my life. We found that our views on many important topics were similar, but he always (and still does!) challenged me on my strongly held beliefs. He still is the best person I know at playing devil’s advocate. And to be honest this is what has made our eventual falling in love, relationship, and marriage withstand some tough adversaries.
It was during the years of friendship that I grew to genuinely like my husband as a person. I could see that behind his stoic presence that he was gentle, kind, and capable of more than he thought. My husband is also calm and level-headed, a drastic contrast to my outgoing and over-the-top personality (I blame it on my mama!) and he is both able to bring me back down to earth while also pushing back enough to help me see things from a different perspective.
Love is an amazing thing. It has the power to bring people together, to change people’s minds and to change the world. But it’s also very complicated and sometimes it makes us do crazy things, stupid things, or even bad things. There is no doubt that I love my husband very much, but I believe our relationship has thrived because we actually like each other, because we respect each other as individuals, and we want to be partners on the journey of life together.
Over the summer my best friend got married and during my toast, I read this poem, words that struck a chord in me, in an “ah-ha!” kind of way, that I think perfectly describes how I interpret romantic love and the comfort and happiness that can come from being “in like”:
“Love is a temporary madness,
It erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,
It is not excitement,
It is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
And this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
And when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
They find that they are one tree and not two.” - Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
I hope that everyone has a chance to fall in perfect “like” with someone else and to find happiness and contentment of being with someone you admire. And Happy Valentine’s Day to my sweet husband, I like you a lot!
I remember when I first started dating my husband. Being apart from him for an hour felt like a small eternity. If a weekend came up and we were unable to do something together, it felt as if my world was crumbling down. I remember in those early days always asking "can my boyfriend come" whenever I would get invited to things. Now, I relish in the ability to go at it on my own.
Not to worry, this story has a happy ending to it. This 'boyfriend' as I affectionately called him before is now my husband. Spending time together is just as necessary now as it always was as we are always looking to learn and grow within our marriage. But a funny thing happened a few years ago; I realized that a considerable amount of growth for us within our marriage comes from us doing things apart.
One of the pillars of any stable relationship, after love, is support. Supporting your partner in whatever he or she is attempting to do whether this is better themselves, advance their education, change careers, or just trying to become a better person overall. Especially for those of us in the Military Spouse community, supporting our service members is at the crux of all we do.
But what happens when you realize that the bulk of your life has now turned into being a support system for your partner? Does this make you a horrible partner if you want more for yourself? No, it does not. It makes you self-aware, and self-awareness is the first step towards self-love.
Websters Dictionary defines 'Self-Love' as "regard for one's own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic). Did you see what it says there; a DESIREABLE characteristic, not an awful one but a desirable one. So what does this idea of self-love really mean? While I can't pinpoint this down for everyone reading, I can tell you what it means for me.
A few years ago I was strategically placed at a crossroads in my life; continue to have my marriage be all about my husband (which he did not encourage at all) or allow myself to start to put my needs and desires first? In small doses, I began to put myself first. I began saying "no" to things that I did not genuinely want to do, I sought out social organizations that had nothing to do with the Military, and I began distancing myself from people who were filling my life with unnecessary stress.
Every morning when I wake up, the first two hours of my day are entirely mine. No emails will be answered, social media will not be checked, and no one is receiving a phone call back unless it is an extreme emergency. By forcing myself to carve out my own time within the universe, I am giving myself the opportunity to put myself first.
It has become common in our household on the weekends for a part of the day I am somewhere doing something that makes me happy, and my husband is somewhere doing something that makes him happy. The fun part is linking back up with each other after the fact to talk about how our afternoon went. The ability to let your partner live their version of happiness is a true testament to love.
You see, I began to realize early on in our marriage that if my whole world revolved solely around my partner, what had happened to me? Regardless of if you are married, engaged, in a new relationship, or still trying to find your life partner, YOU still exists. YOU must still exist for you to feel like you are living your best life in your best version of yourself.
I believe with every fiber of my being, that if you truly do not love yourself and your own identity, then it is impossible to love another. With Valentine's Day on the horizon what a better time to sit and ask yourself "what have I done, or am I doing, for me?" The if you are feeling particularly feisty go a layer deeper and ask yourself "am I happy with the way I love myself?" Here's the good news, there's always tomorrow.
My name is Adriana, and I'm a military spouse with a passion for people, travel, and culture. I've lived overseas as well as in America, and I believe anything is possible with the right tribe, so I strive to bring as many on my adventure as possible. See what happens when you step out of your comfort zone!