Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Best Year of My Life and the Best Love I Can Imagine


Today marks exactly 365 days since I met the love of my life.

I'd been on OKCupid & Tinder for months, but I'd yet to go on a single date. Sure, I responded to people sometimes, considered whether it might be worth setting something up, but I always defaulted to radio silence. I like my alone time, & I wasn't interested in giving it up for dates with guys who weren't going to be the right fit for me. Risky? Probably. That's how people end up, like, alone forever.

And yet.

When Mike first messaged me, all I could think was, "Oh, God, this guy sounds so nice & normal" - so, of course, I didn't respond to him. I just panicked & ignored him entirely. I did send my friend Lindsey his picture, a copy of his message, & snippets from his profile - but I didn't send anything to him. When, a week later, she asked whether I'd written him back, I told her I hadn't & that it was too late. "Too late for what?" she hounded me. "It's not like you know him. If you respond now & he thinks it's too late, so what? Then you won't go out. No big deal."

She was right, obviously, so I responded. We sent a few messages back & forth, mostly about mutual love of writing, & then we decided on a time & a place to meet. My mom was going to be out of the country at the time, so if I was kidnapped & murdered, who would even know?

Somehow, though, my characteristic anxiety was absent from the lead-up to our first date. Mike seemed, well, nice & normal, just like I'd originally thought, & the friendly, no-pressure tone of our messages put me at ease. Needless to say, I was not kidnapped or murdered. We met at The Treehouse, a bar in Tremont, which Mike picked because he suspected that I, a recently former East Coast dweller, might like the vibe of the area. He was right.

Know what else I liked? Him. Obviously.

We texted every day after that. We went on four dates before he asked, as we sat on his front porch in the sun, whether he could call me his girlfriend. At first, I said no, not yet - until I realized I was being ridiculous because he was perfect for me & I never wanted to let him go, like, ever.

The rest, as they say, is history. Our story.

I always kind of assumed I was the sort of person who would not find love - or who wouldn't fall in love, at least. I have great friends & a wonderful family, so I know love, as a general & important concept, but I have a terrible track record with relationships, I get bored easily, & I like being by myself more than I like being with anyone else. Those aren't necessarily easy characteristics to overcome, when it comes to a romantic relationship, so I'd sort of settled into this assumption that I was meant for a non-traditional sort of life, a cat lady or everyone's favorite fake aunt.

But then there was Mike.

Everything I could say or want to say or start to say sounds too damn cliche, & this is a love that is anything but. None of it seems right, seems fair, seems big enough.

We are perfectly matched, despite the fact that we are almost entirely different: Where I am emotional & anxiety-ridden, he is logical to the point of being a little bit Asperger'sy. He reads books on theory, doesn't watch TV, wants to talk big ideas & psychology; I read YA novels & watch reality TV & write for trashy women's magazines.We clash as often as we agree, but we fit together like a key in a lock. We are one another's only fit.

He makes me laugh every day. He doesn't think it's annoying when I tell long-winded stories about people he's never even met. He does the cooking, & I do the cleaning, a perfect balance that highlights our strengths & covers for one another's weaknesses. He teaches me new concepts & inspires me to take on new challenges.

We take care of one another: He calms me down when I'm at peak panic, & I joke that he's my "boyfriend Xanax"; he teases that I'm upgrading his robot software by teaching him human emotions. We have so much fun & go on so many adventures  together, but we also both value our alone time & the fact that we can be, as I call it, "alone together," engrossed in our writing or reading or other solo activities while sitting right next to one another.

We argue, we disagree, we don't always get it right - but we always care for & respect one another, & we always, always love one another. I have never felt as loved as I do when I'm with him, nor have I ever had so much love to give. We say "I love you" every day - not because we have to, but because we mean it. My God, do I mean it.

The life we've built together, here in Cleveland, is one I never imagined I would have. I didn't think I was the kind of person who could do this, or even the kind of person who wanted to. But he has changed me for the better, introducing me to myself in a whole new way. With him, I am a better version of myself, & I know he feels that he is, too.

I cannot believe he found me. I cannot imagine being without him. And I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with him.

Happy one-year anniversary, my love. Here's to many, many more together.

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