If you're a big blog reader, you've probably seen some other posts about how today is "National Take a Risk Day" (or at least so says the Nester). I don't think I'm taking any risks today, but I thought I'd share a story about one of the biggest ones I've ever taken, and the payoff I've enjoyed every day since then. (This isn't about parties or hosting or cooking or home design, so feel free to skip it. But hey, at least it's not about meatloaf! I learned my lesson about posting about giant blobs of gray-looking meat!)
I'm just telling you now... this may get a little romantic and soppy, so consider yourself forewarned!
Have you seen the movie 500 Days of Summer? (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen it, skip the next paragraph, since I give stuff away.)
I was once something of a Summer. Not in the sense of everyone staring at me and offering discounted rent (I wish!). More in that I was once in a relationship with a really nice guy, with really nothing but great qualities, but I insisted to him that I didn't want to get married because I just "wasn't the marrying type." And then as soon as I broke up with him -- a HUGE risk since the relationship was really good by just about every measure, and I had no good reason to think I'd find something better -- I very quickly fell in love with Mark, who is now my husband, and almost immediately couldn't WAIT to marry him. Watching 500 Days of Summer, and seeing what Joseph Gordon Levitt's character goes through when he finds out Summer is engaged, I'm pretty sure I did that to the nice guy. It sucks to know that, but I can't help but believe that it's better to have done that than to have continued on in a relationship that I knew in my heart wasn't quite right.
[END OF SPOILER]
This story of risk-tasking isn't about breaking up with my old boyfriend, quitting a job, moving cross-country or anything like that. Or about trying a bold paint color that didn't work out. It's about emotional risk, about allowing for the possibility that I might end up so heartbroken that I could never really love anyone again. A little dramatic? Maybe. But it ends well. :-)
Let's talk about how Mark and I came to be "Mark and Tanja." Once upon a time, after finishing college in Northern California, I lived in DC. But living in DC taught me that, even though I grew up in the Midwest, I am a West Coaster at heart. So when the chance came to move to LA with the same company, I jumped at it. And I loved LA almost immediately. But then, only a few months after leaving DC, while traveling for work, I met Mark in East Providence, Rhode Island. Mark wasn't from Rhode Island, but lived in (can you guess?)... DC. We clicked immediately (I would even call it love at first sight), but we were both in relationships with other people. Fast forward several months, until that project became active and we started corresponding again, and now neither of us was in a relationship anymore. But we still lived 2288 frequent flyer miles away from each other.
I'll spare you all the details, but after several weeks of e-flirting, we decided that a visit was in order. I have no idea what I was expecting to get out of it, other than maybe a little fling with someone I kinda really liked, since it was all SOOO very impractical, and I am practical to the max. But I booked my ticket to DC, and made sure that I had a back-up place to stay lined up in case things didn't go so well with Mark. I never needed to use that back-up option, because the weekend was perfect. Amazing. I paid the change fee to stay an extra day, because I couldn't tear myself away.
We made plans to see each other three weeks later in Las Vegas. When that weekend rolled around, Mark flew to LA, and then we drove to Vegas together. On the way, he gave me a first edition of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, one of my all-time favorite books, and it still stands as one of the most thoughtful gifts anyone has ever given me. He even gave it to me on the edge of the desert, near Barstow, though there were no drugs involved.
We took our first picture together that weekend. Look how cute and young we look! Actually, Mark looks exactly the same now.
That weekend it really hit me: I was completely head-over-heels in love
with Mark. And that sucked. It sucked because he lived so far away in a
city I already knew I didn't want to live in. And because all of his
family was there in DC, and he'd only ever lived there, so him moving to
California was really unlikely too. And because it meant that we had to
go weeks without seeing each other, and it was always expensive when we
did. It sucked because I didn't know what was going to happen, and as a textbook type A person, I have to know what is going to happen. Should I give up on us just because it was so hard and impractical? Should I stick it out in spite of all of that uncertainty, and risk the biggest eventual let-down of my life?
It's pretty easy to figure out what ended up happening since you know we're married and live in LA. Ultimately, Mark took the bigger risk in moving to California, and I admire him so much for that. But looking back on the year we spent in long-distance limbo, I know what a huge emotional risk I took, and I'm really proud of myself for that. I've schmooped about Mark before, so if you want to know all the reasons why I'm so glad I stuck it out, you can read this past post. I'll spare you otherwise. :-)
This all feels so timely because tomorrow is the six-year anniversary of my first trip to visit him in DC. That's the date we always counted as our anniversary until we got married and got a new date.
Though there were a lot of rough patches in that first long-distance year, making it tough to think back on some of the moments, I love remembering the risks we both took, and remembering how fortunate we are for the way things worked out. There were a million opportunities for it not to work, but we found the right path. Just think about how many other things in life that could be true about! I like to remind myself of that whenever I question whether it makes any sense at all to leave a city that I love with a climate I love, to move to a tiny town with a very cold climate (in Truckee, it gets below freezing at night in JULY). But without taking that leap, we'll never know!
Have you taken any big risks of the emotional variety? In the end, are you glad you took the risk, or wish you'd played it safe?
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Picture Sundays: Grape Nuts - No wonder I have steady nerves and a keen, clear brain.