The minute after Jack and I got married, we left our town, our family, and our support system behind. Starting new jobs in new places, we felt uprooted in so many ways. But really, this was what I had always dreamed about doing.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted the adventure of moving somewhere far away. When I was in college, I spent a summer interning in the Bay Area. I traipsed around San Francisco and marveled at all things happening around me. I remember watching a one-man band performing in the street. I remember eating the best Pad Thai of my life. It was so different from home. I loved it.
I fantasized about moving there for real. There was part of me that wanted to leave my whole life in North Carolina behind and start over. It would be so exciting. I imagined myself in the future, worldly and grey, reflecting on how I started with nothing--and now look.
Last year, I got my wish. I started grad school at Arizona State--2,000 miles from home. I knew it was going to be great. Finally...the adventure I had been craving for so long. And it has been great, but it has also been really painful.
I never anticipated what would happen when my grand adventure robbed my marriage of its safety net.
Uprooting ourselves from everything we knew has been hard on our relationship. Jack and I have been living in Arizona now for the better part of a year. Looking back, I don’t know that I’d recommend it for newlyweds.
While it’s exciting to explore new horizons, not being around anything familiar can get exhausting. When we were back in North Carolina, we would get off work and know exactly what we wanted to do--go for a walk down Franklin Street, meet up with friends at The Kraken, bike down the Tobacco Trail. Here, it takes more energy to figure out what we want to do because we don’t know all the options. Somehow we’ve ended up spending more nights at home watching TV. We’re complacent this way. It’s easier for us to get bored.
It’s also easy for me to take this boredom personally. Sometimes, when Jack and I are together but have nothing to say, my thoughts will start running wild. Does Jack still find me interesting? Does our silence indicate some new incompatibility? Is this apathy the mark of a prematurely failing relationship? Those thoughts turn ugly pretty quick, and in the end, are more toxic for our marriage than the benign silence that inspired them.
Also, while we do have friends we love here and places we like, we don’t yet have a community like we did back in North Carolina. Sometimes, it still feels like we have to be our own insular support system. That’s a lot for one relationship to take on. We tell ourselves it’s temporary, but it’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re lonely and bored and missing what you had.
In Chapel Hill, we had work friends, creative friends, church friends, bar friends, college friends, and our families. We had our own, separate lives there too, before we got married. They took years to cultivate. Now, it can feel like we have to be all of those things for each other at once. We get overwhelmed. We expect too much. We fail regularly.
We have never been more aware of each other’s flaws and shortcomings.
Starting over is romantic, but what didn’t creep into my fantasies those years ago was that after you start over, you have to keep going. Starting is just the start. To build something great, we need time. While we can’t solve all these problems right away, we've adopted some practices to help us keep improving and ease our transition:
In a way, I’ve debunked two fantasies at once: marriage and wanderlust. While they both are incredibly fulfilling and worthy of the hype, they’re a lot less glamorous and require a lot more work than advertised. It takes years to build a life, so we have to be patient. Moving has pushed and stretched our relationship in new ways, it has caused new problems, but it has also caused us to understand what it means to be married in a whole new light.
It may not always feel like it when Jack and I are bickering or apathetic or exhausted, but I believe this move has helped us grow. Encountering and working through all this difficulty is making me into a better spouse, an increasingly insightful artist, and a more empathic person. We’ve barely been married a year, and the odds are, we'll have more profound things to deal with in the future. Without these struggles now, I am less. We are less. If we can get over this first hurdle, I have faith that we’ll be an even stronger team for it.
Now, I imagine myself in the future, reflecting on my life and having even better stories. Stories not about grand adventures and exciting explorations, but about what it means to love someone when it’s difficult, when it’s monotonous, and when it matters the most.
That is what this time is for. That is why our struggle is worth it. That is why we press on. No matter where we are or who we’re with, we are exactly where we need to be.
And so are you.
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Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.