When we got together, Chad was a senior in high school and I was a junior. Out of all the feeling associated with someone’s first love, I mostly remember feeling a deep regret. I kicked myself, over and over, when I figured out how great he was.
This is because Chad expressed his interest in me for years before I caved and gave him a chance. I used to think, “he’s my best friend’s cousin, come on!” A small and dark part of me wondered if it was some kind of an elaborate family plan or prank to take pity on me and finally get me a boyfriend. (It wasn’t.) (I’m sorry, Chad.)
At that time, I thought pretty low of myself. For anyone to like me, think I was cute, or pursue me, it was a conspiracy. It had to be.
There’s the underlying theme of my existence as a young woman: I was kind to just about anyone except myself.
I had impostor syndrome and wondered if I actually deserved any of the attention I received. Whether it was good grades or softball-related, I was soaking in incredible doubt.
When I wasn’t stressing out about the authenticity of my accomplishments, I focused on what hurt most. I stared at the mirror, imagining the pieces of my face I could dissect and remove and the angles of my body that I could soften or enhance. I looked at myself only to criticize. Hours were spent wondering why I couldn’t crank up the charm on-command, why I cared too damn much, why I was so soft.
This was nine years ago. I’m happy to report many, many changes from then to now.
Though I still have a few unkind words about myself every once in a while, I’ve come to embrace who I am and what I’m capable of. I shifted and transformed the conversation, many times over. I like myself, and I love the parts of me that were too resilient to dull.
The credit for this transformation belongs to me; I went from a teenager to an adult with growing pains and many lessons along the way, and I did the work. Now, I know my worth; it exceeds what I ever thought it could be.
I am strong, smart, and special. But you know what else I am? Loved.
There’s no denying the power of Chad in my evolution. He’s been there every step of the way—in my corner during these battles for confidence and self-love.
Chad came, and I let him in. I allowed him to know me and then to love me. I gave him access to all of the parts of me I buried and was determined to hide under my happy-girl, over-achieving exterior. He knew my insecurities and buffed them away, piece by piece, until you could see and feel and some at the reflection of the silver lining lurking underneath.
There’s a saying about not being able to love someone until you love yourself. It’s bullshit, of course.
Before we married at 22, we dated at 16.
These nine years have been a gift and a treat and a struggle and a journey.
Chad didn’t and hasn’t fixed me (he’s handy with tools, but not in the emotional arena), but he has given me so much. In the beginning, it looked a lot like reassurance (and maybe a little bit of resistance…he’s grown a lot too). Now, it’s the kind of partnership that’s filled with unconditional love, a known and true understanding, and an ongoing purpose to thrive.
My individual growth is impressive, and it’ll always be tied to my relationship. A lot of “I” moments sprouted from “us” and “we.”
We grew up, married, and created identities. We’re becoming who we are and chasing after the versions we want to be. In these nine years, we’ve made a family. There have been countless memories and moments; we have had our share of first-time experiences and I know down the line we’ll also be together for a lot of “lasts,” too.
Happy nine-year anniversary to the one. My only. The person who helps me to see and feel and believe in myself. Long before he was a structural engineer, Chad helped lay my foundation. He built me up to where I deserve.
I love you 5ever, Chad.