The following is something I wrote in February of 2011. I was struggling with some big life decisions, and I wrote this on cocktail napkins on a plane home from France. I typed it out when I got home, so some of the tenses are a little bit strange, but aside from fixing some formatting, I am printing this exactly as it was written, by me, three years ago.
Three months after Todd and I got married I took a trip to Paris without him. My good friend, Sarah, was studying there and she invited me to come visit. I booked the trip with another girlfriend without a second thought as to whether or not Todd would join me. I had more vacation time than he did, and he would be taking a boys-only ski trip the week before my trip to Paris, so everything seemed to be in place for me to take a girls-only trip to the most romantic city in the world just in time for Valentine’s Day.
I had it in my head that this would be my last act of singledom, even though it technically took place after the wedding. It was my last opportunity to do something for myself and only for myself. My last opportunity to up-and-leave my life without care for how it might effect others. My last “selfish” act.
Whenever I told people I would be taking the trip, their immediate question was “Is this a late honeymoon?” and I said, with a laugh, “He’s not even coming with me! Girls only!” And I really convinced myself that this is what I wanted. One last act of freedom before getting “really” tied down.
Well, that’s what I had convinced myself of until we had to say goodbye at the airport.
I had booked the trip months earlier, and I had always known that he wouldn’t be coming with me, but when I had to say goodbye to my husband at the airport I felt as if I were leaving half of my body behind. I flipped through wedding photos on my iPod and cried on the plane while my friend napped next to me. What had happened to me?
I used to be fiercely independent. I loved travelling alone. In fact, when I first met Todd, I had high aspirations to travel the world solo, teaching English wherever English needed teaching. But then I got tied down, and not begrudgingly so.
Every year at Christmas I sit down to my favorite movie of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life. Every year I cry, but this year, I felt something all together different while I was watching. I felt like I was watching myself. George Bailey was going to kick the dust of that “crummy little town” off of his shoes while he traveled the world. But, life interfered, and there he was, living his life in that same crummy town.
I had all but booked my ticket to teach English abroad when Todd and I met at that fateful Halloween party. And I told him as much. I told him right off the bat that I had one foot on a plane out of town, out of this state, out of the country. Then, when the time came for me to actually book the ticket, I asked him what I should do. He said “I would never ask you to stay for me.”
And so, I stayed.
I’ve never regretted it, and I don’t now. Not even when I realized he wasn’t being romantic when he said he didn’t want to influence my decision, but rather was showing off his annoying habit of never wanting to make any decisions at all. I had plans, but they were selfish plans. There was so much else I wanted in life, like to be in love and to have a family, and I suddenly did not want to risk giving up those things in order to indulge my whims of travel. I extinguished my wanderlust in search of love.
Thankfully, it worked out. Now, I’m a married homeowner from Westchester crying on the airplane because she doesn’t want to travel without her husband.
When Angela and I arrived in Paris, we were met by Sarah and her boyfriend Miguel. There were hugs and kisses and I gave myself a pep talk aimed at convincing myself I could be a single lady about town for one more week of my life. And I really did try my best.
I ate cheese and drank wine and even spoke terrible French with an eager young Frenchman at a bar. (I made sure to wave my left hand around while we were talking, but I get the impression that wedding rings are not a terrible deterrent to Frenchmen) But, every night, at a certain time, I started to itch. I needed to call Todd. I needed to hear his voice and tell him what I’d had to eat for lunch and what beautiful things I had seen in Paris. I wilted when I went without him for too long.
I was puzzled by this development. Why did I miss him so much? What had changed in my life? Where had that fiercely independent would-be world traveler gone?
On our last night in Paris, we went out for Sushi. There were reports about a heavy storm moving into NY and I did not relish the thought of being stranded (and still separated from Todd) in a foreign air port, so I was nervous and declined to eat. As I sat watching my friends eating sushi and chatting with them excitedly about love, life and French verb conjugations, the topic of work came up. We had all become friends working at the same Language school, so it was natural for us to sit around complaining about our jobs and coworkers.
But, I was done with complaining about my job. I had gotten a great promotion, which had yeilded a small increase in pay and a large influx of new work and responsibilities. There had been lots of changes around the office, some great, some not so great, but the end result of all of it was that I was working really, really hard… and not getting much back for it.
I loved my job as an English Language teacher, but I had taken on so much administrative work that I was hardly spending any time with students anymore. I was working long hours and never saw a dime of overtime pay. I was missing out on time spent at home with my husband to finish tasks at the office and at the end of the day, hardly even heard a “thanks” or “well done” from my supervisor.
Todd and I wanted to start a family, and the thought of doing that while also working myself into the ground just… didn’t make sense.
My week away gave me the distance from my life to realize what I wanted.
I wanted to quit my job.
I wanted to spend as much time as possible with the man I married.
I wanted to have a family.
“I’m quitting when we get home.” I blurted it out.
My announcement went over like a lead balloon. Sarah was angry with me as I explained that I wanted to focus my energy on being a wife and, eventually, a mother. She was so upset with my decision that she excused herself from the table.
Sarah’s disapproval stung. There she was, living in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne, living exactly the life that I had thought I wanted for myself. She was the person that I had wanted to be, and the person I had wanted to be just stormed out on the person I had become.
I cried again on the plane ride home. But, this time it was because I felt like a failure. I felt like I had given up on myself. I never wanted to be the type of woman who gave up her identity for a man. I cried and began writing this story out on cocktail napkins.
And then I got to here… to these words I am writing right now. The pilot just announced that we are 45 minutes away from landing. The seatbelt sign is on. I will be in Todd’s arms so soon.
I have not given up anything for him. The truth is, I didn’t know who I was until I was with him… Standing next to Todd Moore I am the person that I want to be.
And that’s where I want to be.
Always. Forever. With him.