“But think about the moment when I get on that airplane,” I said, sitting on the couch, staring at Jack, by this time a bit teary. “Won’t it just be too sad?”
Then Jack laughed. “Good Lord, you’re so dramatic. We’re not dying."
Recently, Jack and I have made some choices about our future. We’ve stopped thinking so much about bouquet tosses and started wrestling with what our married life is going to look like. We’ve spent a lot of late nights talking about how to weave our dreams together into one family. It’s been hard.
A long-held, quietly-kept dream of mine has been to get my master’s degree (MFA) in creative writing. I’ve been boiling on the inside for time, for connection, and for new adventure. Last fall, I decided that this was my year to go for it. Jack and I, already knowing we wanted to get married, decided I would pick seven schools, and Jack would look for jobs around those seven. Since Jack works in student affairs, and I would be attending a university, we thought we’d have a fairly good chance of finding something new. And boy (or girl) were we right! #inclusivity
So we started applying. But as we did, it felt like we were trying to fit two camels through the eye of a needle. Most of the programs I applied to had less than a 2% acceptance rate. Jack was getting a lot of attention from schools, but not the schools I was applying to. We would make up hypotheticals. “What would happen if…?” we asked. We had no answers.
Then Jack got an email. It was the job he had been waiting for. It would be the perfect career move, work that he’s passionate about, and best of all, they reached out to him about it. But it was in Charlotte, not exactly near any of my schools. “We’ll just see what happens,” we said. Maybe I wouldn’t get into any schools at all, and then the decision would be easy.
But then I did get into schools. And Jack took the interview and loved it. With every interaction, every email, every factoid, he loved it more.
And then I got into dream school #1. About 1,000 miles away. A writer I have admired for years called me on the phone and told me one of my stories made her cry. That made me cry, and I called Jack, and we celebrated.
And then Jack was invited to a final on-campus interview at Charlotte. It went well. We started to ask, “What’s going to happen if you get it?” For me, it might mean give up dream school #1. It would be a loss. We would live somewhere in between work and school, each commuting over two hours in a day. It would be a compromise, but with good reason.
And then I got into dream school #2, a school that surprised me in ways dream school #1 had not. A school 2,000 miles away. A school which suddenly, I wanted more. Then Jack got a job in the same town. The job wasn’t as fancy as the one in Charlotte, but it would’ve been an exciting and worthwhile opportunity. And here too, we would be together! Perhaps the decision would be an easy one.
And then Jack got the Charlotte offer. Words can’t express how excited he was. And how ambivalent we both were.
It seemed the decision was either Jack takes the dream job and I go to the not-dream school, or Jack takes the not-dream job and I go to the dream school. Who would it be? Neither one of us was going to tell the other to settle.
So why should we? What if we chose to be apart? What would that mean for our marriage? Our first instinct was no. We can’t do that. Married couples don’t get married and then a month later, move 2,000 miles away from each other. That’s not what married people do.
This was the point in the story where we got a lot of advice from wise, well-meaning people. We watched a lot of TED talks on decision making. I read Buzzfeed articles about long-distance marriage.
People told us no, it will be hard, it will be too hard. Others said yes, that sounds like an adventure, it’s the right time in your lives for an adventure. More still asked questions, Why get married now? Why that job? Why that school? Can we make our relationship a priority while living so far apart? What’s the worst that could happen?
Now for brief interlude on Pro/Con lists. I was a big fan of them on Gilmore Girls. But in theory, they’re kind of awful. How can one quantitatively compare the inspiration vs. relationship strain? It just doesn’t work. Both alternatives were equally good and equally bad in different ways, which (according to the TED Talks) is what makes a hard choice hard.
Blah blah blah.
The final decision came very close to the deadline. We were on the couch yet again, going over the same details we had gone over for the past month. It was back and forth between the comfort of being together and the risk of being apart.
And then we realized something. We shouldn’t make a decision this big motivated by fear. A decision this big should come from excitement. It should come from ambition. Fear only limits those things. The great stories are never about someone who takes a sure bet. With risk comes adventure, inspiration, and even greater success.
So ***drumroll*** Jack has accepted a position as the Assistant Director of Student Conduct at UNC Charlotte, and I have accepted an offer to attend Arizona State University in Tempe. Are you shocked?
On the surface, it might look selfish. It may seem like we’re picking our passions over each other. But that’s not how we see it. Instead, it’s a sacrifice we’re glad to make for each other so we both can go after our dreams. After all, we’re in this for the long haul. Two or three years apart means very little when you’re comparing it with the rest of your natural life. We’re confident that if we put in the work now, we can look forward to a lifetime of happiness on our terms.
We still have fears, insecurities, and question marks about this new arrangement. But there are some amazing perks. We get to live in two new, super cool cities. We have plenty of long weekends and school breaks to visit one another. And of course the feeling that we’re living our lives without any regrets. We’re betting it all, knowing it’s better to fail than to always wonder What If.
That’s a good question-- what if…? What if there are lonely nights? Or frustrating miscommunications? Or open weeping? What epic journey didn’t have these things? We believe this adventure is going to be worth it.
We know what you’re thinking. It’s going to be hard. This probably isn’t the most popular thing we could do. We get that. We respect that. But let’s be real, fortune favors the brave. Settling for the convenience of proximity would have gone against everything we stand for on this blog. Jack and I have worked so hard to seek a life worth living. Now is not the time to play it safe.
So here’s what’s up. Jack landed a hip apartment in Charlotte. A month after our wedding, I’ll fly to Tempe. Skype will be our life. Travel miles will be our best friends. Love will be our glue. And you will be our support. We need that more than ever, and we hope you journey along with us. It wouldn’t be a party without ya.
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Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.