I had this vision for my life. Past tense. Perhaps you will relate to it, maybe even locating yourself within its expectations and hopes. This vision was persistent. It contained traditionalism. It carried security. It promised predictability. I did not realize it possessed such things, but the very fact this sort of vision seemed natural should have been the first hint to tip me off that my anticipations were yearning for just that—traditionalism, security, and predictability.
My life was going to run according to a script, a routine dance set out long ago by the generations of men and women who went to Christian colleges before me. I did not initially anticipate going to a Christian college, but film school in California turned me down, so there I was, believing the following agenda would happen to me: I would attend this university and receive a bachelor’s degree in four years; this degree was going to help me get a job, a job that I loved; and most of all, I was going to find something else I truly loved, someone—a woman, a soul mate. (This was my thought at nineteen years of age.)
And then change occurred. Some people describe this shift differently. Some may call it an “awakening.” Most say, “Life happened.” A few say, “I grew up.” My change was a simple realization. One day you’re walking along a sidewalk riddled with weeds, and for whatever reason it hits you: “I don’t want that to be my life.” Very simple. I just realized I didn’t desire it; at least, not according to such a specific track of details. I also began to become aware that deep down I never did want that script of traditionalism, security, and predictability. There’s nothing wrong with it. For some people it’s a perfect fit. But I realized this was not the case with me.
So, I looked at women differently. The women who wanted traditionalism, security, and predictability no longer appealed to me. I lost all interest and wanted off that well-traveled bicycle.
(This is probably a good time to note that I’m not coming out of the closet.)
If you lose interest in following the seemingly prescribed script, you will also want to distance yourself from becoming romantically attached to those people who follow the same mundanity. So it was with me, and I began to realize I wanted someone who would still surprise me. You see, in college I would hear people say, “When my spouse and I get married, we’ll be so close that we’ll know everything about each other.” First off, that’s just flat-out incorrect, but secondly, and more importantly, that sounds dull.
And really weird.
Such a concept of a tedious marital existence made me want to scream (and it still does). You see, both then and now, I wanted a woman to thrill me, and not just in the sexual sense (although that would be perfectly acceptable, as well). I wanted to be surprised. I wanted to be kept guessing sometimes. I wanted to be not so sure what was coming next. Basically, I wanted an element of adventure to still lurk behind everything if I were to get married one day. And I should probably preface the word “adventure” by noting that I don’t mean it in the sense of, “I am man. Hear me roar.” I don’t beat my chest or play with swords. I wear cardigans, okay? I don’t have a television; I have books. I don’t play beer pong; I play Scrabble. Anyway, quite simply, the idea of finding myself in a marriage where the occurrence of surprises was at a minimum had no allure, and I don’t think it ever will. I think I would rather give myself a prostate examination. Right now.
Maybe my college degree is to blame for this obsession with adventure. Being a student of literature exposes me to story after story that is absolutely breathtaking to absorb, that has you eager to turn to the next page because it’s so exciting. Maybe I feel like if my life doesn’t read like a good story, I’ll probably be disappointed. Art doesn’t just imitate life; it is life. And life gives art beauty and our perception of the truth to imitate. I guess I am just extremely intent on making sure that, should someone be odd enough to set down my life on a ream of paper, any reader flipping through it would be jealous, floored, and altogether enuretic because it tickled them so to find that such a delightfully interesting life could actually happen to somebody.
Love has everything to do with an interesting life. Because when you do find a soul mate, you suddenly are sharing your life with her, and she with you, meaning that you are both giving yourselves away (or, at least, that’s the hope). But if what that woman has to add to your life is really not that enthralling, well . . . the adventuresome qualities of your own existence just took a significant nosedive.
And no, I am not saying I think a woman has to do this for me. I am not that chauvinistic. But when two people are genuinely in love, it just happens. It creates something. We call it joy. Joy revels in the discovery of things you didn’t know before you encountered them. This is why true soul mates, those people who are truly a proper fit for one another, never seem to fall out of love. Now, this is not a utopian view because that couple will still struggle (and quite mightily at times), but they will overcome it because they will come to find that, without that person, life would be lacking. And so they move on from their squabbles and shortcomings.
(Adventure, after all, doesn’t imply just the good times. It implies strife, as well. You cannot have a good story without conflict, as much as we might wish otherwise. American Beauty will always be a more interesting, enthralling story than any episode of Leave It to Beaver.)
Therefore, in college I stopped looking for the typical girl who would do the typical things to achieve the typical life with the typical guy. I like to think I’m not typical. An element of complexity lies within us all, and to try and simply follow the script of the past generations quashes that intricacy within each one of us. You don’t have to be like a Rubik’s Cube; that would be too far on the other end. Just achieve a fine balance and look for it in others.
I told myself this woman should stand out amongst everyone else. She should make me go, “Well, how about that?” She should make me think, “I would not have guessed that,” but not in the sense that I’m now saying, “Well that’s a turn off,” but, rather, the kind of curiosity where I’m left going, “Well now I wonder what else is beneath the surface.”
So I looked for women who did what wasn’t so common. Before long I found myself following around the types who were all about social justice, hardly ever wore makeup, looked good in earth tones, and sported Chacos. They smelled of rich, sweet dirt and the grass of the fields. (They really do, just like people who play video games smell like Never Grew Up.) Often I would experience heart palpitations when I heard about how the power went out to an entire dormitory, and yet, this one woman didn’t care about how it might affect her ability to “get ready” in the morning because that wasn’t what was important to her. In fact, it was so incredibly attractive to know this girl would laugh at all the other women in the dorm who freaked out at not being able to use their curling iron. In my mind, such a woman was more “in touch” with reality and the way life should be lived in a universal sense. At least, that was according to my infatuations and ideals at the time.
But things evolve. So, as a sort of related tangent, I got weak in the knees because of the woman who embraced the simplistic approach and had a minimalistic schema bathing every action she took. I had a list of what that looked like. It was a long list. It involved organic jewelry, lots of artsy stuff, and an overall disdain for materialism. But those are things of the surface.
So I soon became attracted to more emotional ideals. I came to relish the idea of finding a woman who was honest and upfront. I understood how difficult that could be for some women, and thus, would have appreciated it even more if I found its rare expression. A woman who would be able to sit across from me and truthfully say, “This is what I’m feeling right now. Take it for what it is,” was a beautiful encounter I desperately wanted. I also didn’t find it.
Then I was attracted to things of the mind. I came to treasure women who loved to read and constantly challenged themselves with new ideas.
Before long, I got idealistically romantic and yearned for a woman whose eyes and mouth were so inextricably connected that a smile and laugh would radiate throughout an entire room to where everyone around her could not help but feel uplifted when they saw and heard it. (I think I’m just trying to poetically disguise my confession that I wanted a hot girl.)
I also adored women who loved music. This is not related to any of the others. I just feel like it needs to be mentioned, too.
And I don’t know what it was that made all of this implode, but I just stopped. Probably because I realized I was still longing for things that other guys desire, too, and I didn’t want to do that because then it was still someone else’s script. (But, then again, there’s nothing new under the sun.) If I were to remove myself from an agenda written for other people, I would suddenly be turning to pages that were blank, and I’d be embarking on something ambiguous and hazy in its originality. That means I wouldn’t really be able to have any expectations period, except for those beyond me and out of my control—those of a transcendent nature. I realized I had to look for the woman who loved God more than all of those things I had previously found so attractive. I had to trade in my set list of desires for that singularity; however, I wouldn’t be able to begin to minutely understand such a woman’s heart if I didn’t also pursue the God she so ardently loved. And I couldn’t be running after this God just to get to this woman. That’s shallow. So, suddenly, I realized I was in a despicable Catch-22, the likes of which had me looking at God and asking, “Seriously?” And so almost all of the ideas had to be thrown out, primarily the one where I believed I was always destined to have a wife. There was never a guarantee of that.
I had come to the point where I realized how I had been looking for a woman to appreciate the things I appreciated. In other words, I wanted a woman to reaffirm how the things I liked were good things to like. I wanted her identity to be so similar to mine, and through this I would feel better about myself. (This is probably an appropriate time to mention I had no self-confidence—absolutely zero—during college.)
But people fail you. And when you previously clung to them with so much hope, their departure tortures your soul like an iron rake clawing valleys into your veins. It’s a hurt that goes deeper than the heart because it touches your very existence. That’s when you sit numb in a chair and ask the questions like, “What the hell was the point of that?” Well, maybe it was to wake you up. I realized my hopes were too narrow and categorized. I had to begin to be open to the fact that some other woman completely different from my previous visions could come along and change everything.
They say that cognitive maturation is fully realized and attained at the age of twenty-four, I think. When I started writing this post, I was twenty-two. I’ve edited and re-edited this piece countless times, and as I revise it one last time I am about to turn twenty-five. And in that time it became painfully apparent how my identity would have to be in Christ, and if I don’t find a woman who has the same confidence in knowing who she is by whose she is, then it will never work, for she and I would just try to find our value and worth in how we perceive each other. That is a recipe that ends in shambles.
My roommate in college and I talked about this from time to time, and his wording for it is better than any I could construct: “I desperately hope to find a woman who one day knows God is more real to her than life itself.”
I like that. I like that a lot.
And such a reality and assuredness will manifest itself in her in whatever way it needs to in accordance with the call God has placed on her life. So, if she hates Chacos and is a little miffed at the curling iron not working because the power went out, that is of little importance since those things do not reflect the essence of what it means to be God’s and solely his.
That is what I long for in a woman. It goes beyond casual interest, attraction, infatuation, and sex. It dives into the deepest folds of love because it is first and foremost steeped in the endless mystery that is a love for God. That is magnetic beyond mere words’ ability to express. Or, it is for me.
All the hippies, ladies, blunt talkers, bookworms, hotties, and singers I dated? Nothing ever worked out with them. So I gave up. College ended, and I moved to a random city because I felt like God told me to go there for a year. And about three months after graduation ascended and actual life descended, I realized I missed my best friend.
You know, the girl you always hung out with? The girl you ate ice cream with after a break-up and would sob to because you could no longer go out and eat ice cream with your girlfriend you just dumped or were dumped by? The girl you were often seen with, and it was never weird? The girl you could say whatever the hell you wanted to around her, and you knew you wouldn’t get a look of disgust, shock, or recrimination in response? The girl you could actually be yourself around, which is so simple, yet so hard to find? That girl who understood where you were coming from? That girl who was your best friend because you had the exact same sense of humor and could laugh at the same ridiculous things and people? That girl?
I missed her.
But she was hundreds of miles away. But, then again, by this point in 2010, I had stopped caring about conventions. So I drove out to her house in Georgia and told her what was on my mind. (I swear that pun wasn’t on purpose.) It’s not like I surprised her. She could see it coming anyway. Best friends have that psychic ability. And though it was annoying at the time, I’m thankful now that our post-graduation reunion didn’t end up like the typical film bit. What I mean by that is this:
No embrace of relief.
No raunchy kisses where you’re practically trying to suffocate each other.
So I went back to where I came from.
And, in turn, I stalked the girl. Called her from time to time. Tried to see if any new guys were in pictures with her (thank you, Mark Zuckerberg). Sent her packages in the mail for her birthday. For her unbirthday. But I did all of this without any hope. That sounds pessimistic. What I mean is, I purposefully didn’t get my hopes up. I did that in college too much with other women, and it crashed every time. So I just didn’t worry about it. It wasn’t like it was in my control to begin with. I’d gone to Georgia and said what I needed to. If anything was going to change, it was on my best friend’s end of things. I could either wait around or move on.
There is a simplistic sweetness in the surrendering of plans at the feet of Jesus. You just say, “Here’s what I’d like to see happen, but if it doesn’t, well . . . I guess that’s fine because you are greater than my heart.” And he is. Even if that doesn’t make sense.
I would like to sit here and say that my stalking did something, but it didn’t. That girl in Georgia and I have a saying that describes this: “He makes everything beautiful in its time.” It’s from Ecclesiastes. It can apply to myriad situations. It applies to ours. If God can work in my heart, he can in others. And he did in hers. And so in the course of the next six months, she started to miss her best friend, too. Sometimes these things happen. Sometimes they don’t. But, for us, our hearts were tied together. It’s hard to be without your best friend.
I could detail the next year and a half, but I won’t, even though that’s when the real work began. To sum it up, it was eighteen months of walking in faith—like moving out to Georgia without knowing what I was doing. I mean, I knew I was going to be in grad school, but really, what was I doing? What am I doing? I still don’t really know.
But you do know when you find something you can’t live without. Or maybe you could live without it, but you sure don’t want to try that. Everybody has a limit to their boldness, and that was mine.
You know what’s interesting? This girl in Georgia (her name is Sally, by the way)—she’s a composite mix of all those other archetypes I pursued. I don’t mean I’m attracted to all my ex-girlfriends within her. That’d be weird. Sally’s her own woman. What I mean is, all of the qualities I found attractive in those other women? Sally has every single one of them, whereas they all only had one, and she has them in her own way to where she isn’t just some awkward amalgam of something I’ve already seen.
I only mention that to say this: I’ve had to make a one-eighty turn yet again and realize that I didn’t need to abandon those desires or attractions I had. They were also of God. He puts those there for a reason. He creates your attention to be hooked by certain things, certain qualities, certain accoutrements (Sally speaks French). They’re meant to be paid attention to. And what’s interesting, though, is that Sally is nothing like any woman I’ve ever known even though she has these “familiar” characteristics. She takes every expectation I’ve had and places it on a higher plane that no one else has been able to reach. So, literally and figuratively, she towers over everyone else. And here I was trying to convince myself that the things I thought were important really weren’t important because, well, focusing on what I like is selfish.
This post, which has taken me three years to write, has been edited so many times because I keep learning new things. And so, I wonder if I will read this three years from now and shake my head again, saying, “Goodness, I was immature.” I suppose that could happen, but part of me also thinks it won’t because I told myself that I was searching for something for a long time because my life vision changed multiple times, and I just couldn’t quite find it, whatever it was. But that’s not the case anymore. I did find it.
I asked Sally to marry me on May 11. She said yes. And that’s about all that needs to be said.