Sunday, August 28, 2011

Said my dad: "Well, he certainly knew who he got when he married you."

Last night, I found a box in my dad's basement closet FILLED with printed emails and cards from my college years.  It was like I'd unearthed a magical time capsule of 15 years ago.  So many things that I remembered in vague generalities were suddenly in front of me in black and white.  I could fill several blog posts with the things I found...and perhaps more to come, who knows.

There were numerous important emails and letters, but this one really stood out to me.  This is the main excerpt of a letter I wrote to Steve, 2 years into our 4 years of dating, after a nearly all-night conversation about whether two such divergent spirits could be happy together.  I read this and was stunned by how much the core parts of us really do stay with us.  I am the same "me"...12 years later... as I was when I wrote this SB-Manifesto to him. 

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Opposites attract, and in the midst of all of our similarities, this is one area where we might have to balance each other.

One of my favorite authors, Waller, wrote about his wife: "I grew up dreaming of rivers and music and ancient cities and dark-haired women who sang old songs in cafes along the Seine.  You were raised to be a wife and a beauty, and you probably would have been satisfied, maybe happier, with a more conventional man."  

As much as I might have dreamed about falling for some Peace Corps hippie to traipse the world with me, truth is...I look for people in my life to complement me, and I love the practical, grounded side of you.  I can count on you, and I need that.

I'm the dreamer of far off places, and you have the gift of being happy right where you are.  I don't regret that part of you, and I hope I was clear about that last night. It would be just as unfair for me to shove off your boundaries of comfort as it would be for someone to put walls around me.  

Maybe some part of me does wish you got that glint of desire to fly off at a whim to Paris or sleep in huts in the Himalayas...but think of what a terrible couple we'd make.  We'd be reckless and too crazy for our own good if we fueled each other like that.

One thing that stood out was when you said that I was looking for something, and so I want to go places and do things.  Last night it didn't sound right to me - that isn't how I feel - but I didn't know what the reason was. I'm not running from anything, Steve, and I'm not even running TO something.  I am who I am, wherever I happen to be. 

It might not make sense to someone who hasn't experienced it, but I was so self-aware over there [in Prague]. Leaving life behind made me realize who and what was important to me. I missed you even more than I dreamed, Steve, and couldn't wait to come back and see you.  I hope you understand that wanting my adventures doesn't mean that I'm not happy unless I'm sneaking into war zones or taking a night train to Rome by myself.  I'm not going to be "running" my whole life, and I think that's how it came across last night.

Do you remember me saying last fall that I chose between "passion" and "freedom" when I got my tattoo?  That those were the words that propelled me through life?  In my book, freedom and independence don't come at the expense of relationships with people in my life -- and it isn't a one-way street where you have to cater to mine and I tread on yours.  

I don't think my independence is a bad thing for us, do you?

Maybe it is true that I try to be self-sufficient, but I don't honestly think you'd want it any other way.  I'm with you because I want to be, not because I need to be.  I'm not looking to you to build my self-esteem or convince me I'm a good person or because I have a void to be loved and accepted by a man.  My parents raised me to be an independent person, so that I could choose the people in my life based on their merits...not because I need them to fill a gap in my life.  I appreciate you for who you are as a person, not because you make me feel whole. 

That's what I mean when I talk about independence - being able to stand alone, even more so than actually standing alone.

We're not so different as we think, Steve.  We're both so tied to our families and their priorities that they constantly influence who we are.  When you play baseball, you think of your dad and how proud he is of you. When I call home from the train station and tell my dad I made it to Paris all right, I hear his pride.  "How did we get such an adventurous girl?  Was it something we did?"  And I have to tell him: Definitely.  My mom might say I'm too fearless for my own good, but then she'll tell me in the next breath that she envies my opportunities to see the world and do those things.  

And maybe partly because of my brothers' handicaps, I realize that being able to be mobile and have life chances like that is something I want to take advantage of.  I'm lucky to have that. A lot of who I am in life is determined directly and indirectly by those boys.  It makes me determined to get an education and find my dream job and build a family and make crazy life goals because I can. I can think big and dream big and do big, and I want to make that happen.  

I don't know. Maybe none of these things were what you were looking for when we talked last night.  

People have their passions, and those are totally different from even their dreams and goals.  Passions are things that are undeniable parts of ourselves -- that propel us and fuel us and motivate us -- and those elements are pretty deep-seated.  

But my passion isn't travel or seeing the world -- it's living life to the fullest, and travel is one way I'm doing that now.  Later, it will be love and kids and being the best damn PTA Chair that ever lived.  Oh, and cookies.  Baking cookies.  And finding a job that I love, so life is full even during the 9-5 period of the day. 

Are we really so different?

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