Call me a hopeless romantic, but I’m a sucker for true love. When I saw Lindsay was looking to do some guest blogging, I jumped at the chance to take her on. What emerged is, honestly, one of the most courageous, yet also sweetest, true life stories I’ve ever read. In short – follow your passion. Take risks and if it’s meant to happen, good things will always come your way. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. Be sure to check out her blog and articles on Collective Lifestyle.
If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be meeting the man of my dreams and that I would save up a ridiculous amount of money and get myself on a plane to a destination halfway across the world, get married and have a baby all within a year, I would have told you that you were completely out of your mind. That just sounds completely impossible, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t, because against all odds, it happened to me.
This story takes place in February of 2011. I was 21 years old and my life was in shambles. Literally. I was a complete mess. I still lived at home, which is totally fine. But I had no money, I flunked out of college because I was too lazy to do my homework and actually go to class, and my life was going absolutely nowhere. My step-mom had gotten me a job with her colleague babysitting her kids. But it was the most fake job I’d ever heard of in my life. But it was money, and I needed it. This woman lived about 45 minutes away from me, and she only needed me when her kids were out of school. She wanted me to be there for them, help them with their homework and take them to after school activities. I also did their laundry, made sure they did their chores, etc., blah blah blah. I got paid just enough to give me gas to get home, maybe buy a pack of cigarettes, and gas to get back there the next day. It was completely absurd, it bordered on slavery. What other choice did I have? I couldn’t find a real job at the time, I just didn’t know what to do.
Well, on Valentine’s Day that year, I got a text message from an on again, off again fling that I had fallen head over heels for. I had never really gotten over him. He was pretty clear that he didn’t want a relationship, but we always had such a great time together and I, naively, thought I could change his mind. And he really was constantly sending me mixed signals, doing sweet things that a potential boyfriend would do. He had me wrapped around his finger so tightly I’m surprised it still had circulation. I hadn’t spoken to him for months, but thought about him constantly, yearning for his attention. But I knew texting him or emailing him was just going to push him away. So I was trying, trying [highlight]SO[/highlight] hard to just move on and forget about him. But then he texts me. That fucking bastard texted me while I was on my way to this terrible job where the kids treated me like crap. I hated every second I had to be there. I hated every second of my life.
It looked much worse in person, and the piece of paper on the windshield is where the big crack was from my hard head. (No pun intended?)
He asked me what I was doing that night. So as I’m driving, I panic, trying to act cool. I start texting him back, and as I’m doing so, I crash my car right into some poor, unsuspecting guy just driving to wherever he needed to go. I totaled my car, cracked the windshield with my fat, stupid head and I sprained my wrist. I blacked out for a second, but came to almost immediately. I was wearing a seat belt, thank God. But I just sat there, and someone rushed up to my car and ripped the door open (I messed up the car so badly that the door almost didn’t open because it got all bent up from the front being smashed in). It was a woman, she was asking me if I was okay, and all I cared about was the other guy. I never shook so hard in my life. I immediately felt like a fool. I took one look at my car and knew I was in deep shit. The other man was fine, his car looked way better than mine did, and I kinda just crumpled into this woman’s arms and started to cry. “I’m sorry! Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” This woman brought me to her porch; the road I was driving on was in a quaint little town that had a very historic feel to it, and I sat there with my head in my hands feeling so miserable and ashamed, all the while thinking of this jerk, remembering I hadn’t texted him. My life was now in even more trouble. I had to call my boss, my father, the insurance company, and the police. I had officially hit rock bottom.
An ambulance came, forced me to go to the hospital to make sure my brain was okay. But I can assure you a brain scan was not needed to tell me that my brain was all sorts of messed up, and not because of a stupid car accident. I had to wear an ugly wrist brace for a few whiles. Flash forward a few weeks, my father and step mom were gracious enough to get me another car, although I was in big trouble. I hadn’t told anyone at the time I was texting and driving because, well, I already felt so ashamed and I was already in trouble. The first thing the police asked me was if I was texting and I said no, so I felt obliged to stick to my story. Anyway, I still had the babysitting job, and I was still in the same situation that I was in before. Miserable, broke, going nowhere. But that car accident made me realize that that guy was [highlight]NOT[/highlight] worth it. I seriously could have been injured, or injured someone else because I was so focused on answering him as quickly as possible. Was that what I was? Some desperate girl, craving the attention of a guy who only wanted her for one thing? Absolutely not. I was so done with men, with dating, with everything. I had sworn off men and promised myself that I would get my life together before I let some other bozo into my life.
So time goes by and it is now April. I had an account with Plentyoffish.com, and my online profile was… nasty, to say the least. I basically said I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought, that if you were stupid or ugly and couldn’t hold a conversation, you should [highlight]NOT[/highlight] waste my time. If that’s not a huge emotional wall, I really don’t know what is. But I meant it. If I [highlight]DID[/highlight] date anyone, it was out of boredom, and I was rarely even nice to any suitors that came my way. I felt like there was no way out of my situation. So one night, I had slept over my cousin’s house. We were up late, like we always were when we hung out, watching conspiracy video’s and debating about the Illuminati. Thrilling sleepover, I know. So I go get settled into bed, which was in the guest room on the couch. I check my POF account and I had a message from a guy named Kevin who said he lived in Hawaii. “Oh Jesus, here we go”, and I checked out his profile. He was really funny and sarcastic, and he made it very clear he did not want a relationship. He was a United States Marine and was leaving for a 7 month deployment for Afghanistan in a few days, and was looking for pen pals to write him while he was away. He messaged me and said “you got balls. i like balls”. And that was pretty much it, I was hooked. I can’t resist sarcasm. So we chatted for a while, no big deal, and I promised him that I would write him. It turned out that he was from the same town my grandparents lived in (which was 45 minutes south of where I lived) and the next town over from where I was at that exact moment in my cousin’s house. He was stationed in Hawaii, but was home on pre-deployment leave for a few days before going back and getting ready to leave for Afghanistan. He had about 4 days, and one night he texted me asking what I was doing. I always stayed up till about 4 am and woke up at like 2.30pm the next day, and I had no life, so I really wasn’t doing anything. So I decided to meet him. I picked him up at his house. I’m pretty sure I was in my pajamas and my hair was dirty- I didn’t care. He gets in my car and we drove around for 4 hours just talking and shootin‘ the shit. We had a lot in common, and I realized it was a real shame that he was leaving. But, such was my life. So I dropped him off, went back home, and that was that.
A few days later, I wound up back at my cousin’s house. My other cousin who was very young was sleeping over at my aunt’s, and since my older cousin had plans that night, I decided to go over and keep her company and play with her and what not. So we played dress up and put silly makeup on and took lots of selfies. Typical girl stuff. The whole night, Kevin was texting me. He was literally begging me to come over. He was leaving at 5 in the morning for the airport and he really wanted to see me. Since the first time we met, he was pretty clear that he had a little thing for me, but I really didn’t want to get involved in that. He was leaving for 7 months. [highlight]TO AFGHANISTAN. HE WAS GOING TO WAR.[/highlight] Not something I was about to get myself into. I had just answered him at one point and said, “Well, I happen to be at my cousin’s right now, but I’m not sure, it’s getting late and I think I might go home.” But he persisted, and pleaded that I come see him. I wasn’t going to answer him again. When it was time to go, around 11pm, I got in my car and headed for the highway to get back home. But I couldn’t. It was the strangest thing, I simply couldn’t leave. I don’t know what it was. But somewhere deep inside, I wanted to see him. I couldn’t deny that we had a connection. And what if this would be the last time I saw him? We had a genuine thing, and we had great conversation. So, I texted him back and said fine, I’ll come get you. I was at his house in 10 minutes, and again he got in my car, and again we drove around for 4 hours, shootin‘ the shit. At the end of the night, I pull up in front of his house. All his aunts and uncles were there to be there to see him off in the morning. Because for all they knew, it might be the last time they’d see him, too. So, we’re saying our awkward goodbyes, this time for real. And before I knew it, we were kissing. It was the most incredible kiss of my life. And here I was, covered in makeup and perfume from my play date with my little cousin, I felt ridiculous, but I knew he didn’t care. It was so perfect, so unexpected. It was incredible. Things started getting hot and heavy, but we stopped before anything happened. He kissed my hand and said “promise you’ll write me”, and I said “of course”. And off he went inside his dark house. As I drove away, I was biting my nails and had this weird tension in my body. What the [highlight]FUCK[/highlight] just happened? What was that? What was I feeling? When I got home, I texted him and all I said was “… What happened” and he knew exactly what I meant. “You felt it too, didn’t you?”, was his response. He was in Hawaii for a few days before leaving for Afghanistan. It didn’t take me long to realize that he was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And he agreed. He called his mom while he was still in Hawaii and told her he met the woman that would become his wife. She kind of laughed at him. Because honestly, it really was all a little silly. We just met. We spent a total of 8 interrupted hours together and shared one passionate kiss. Now I was going to wait for him to come back from war? We were together now? A “thing”? Crazy. I know.
Fast forward, it is now July. My babysitting gig was almost over, I was told I soon wouldn’t be needed. Kevin was an infantryman, which meant he was in charge of fighting the Taliban. He had the dangerous job, where people got killed daily and it was his duty to be on the front lines. There are other positions in the military where you aren’t in such direct danger. But he was. And I was worried sick every single day. But, like a stroke of fate, his post had a phone, and was able to call me every day. This was unheard of. Even all of my other friends who had husbands in the military told me how lucky I was. They’d go weeks and weeks without any contact from their loved one. He called me every day, and we spoke for about an hour each time. That was it. No texting, nothing. It was nice, in a way. It was different from the way everyone is dating nowadays. It felt old fashioned. So about mid July, I get my daily call around 4am, it was only the middle of the following day where he was (the time difference was something like 16 hours). I told him how I had to get my life together. I had to either go back to school or really get a job because I wanted us to be together and I wanted us to be happy, and how aside from him, I was miserable. I wasn’t breaking up with him at all, I just told him that I couldn’t be up at 4 am every night talking to him anymore. I had to put our relationship on the back burner a little bit, just so I could focus on myself and get a career started so that when he came home, things would be better in my own life. And that is when he asked me to marry him. It surely wasn’t a traditional proposal, in any way. He was so far away, he might as well have been on another planet, stuck in a disgusting desert with spiders the size of your face, and I was at home, living a comfortable life with the air conditioner blasting, TV on, cuddled into my bed. He said “let’s get married”, and I kind of laughed. “Do you mean that?”, and he responded with “Yes. Let’s do it. Let’s get married. I love you and I don’t want to be without you”. So I just said “… Ok. Okay, yes. Let’s get married.” And that was that, we were engaged. I told my family, via Facebook, which was a bad move because it shocked the shit out of everyone. But oh well, what are you gonna do? He was getting out of the Marine Corps for good the next year in August. We were going to wait until then to get married. I loved him so much I was fine with having a long distance relationship. What we had between us was something that no one on earth could understand. He was due home from Afghanistan that November, and I knew I’d see him for Christmas, but then he’d be back in Hawaii until August. But I honestly didn’t care. He was mine. He was home. I found my prince and I would have waited forever if I had to.
After the news of our engagement, a friend of Kevin’s wife had sent me a message on Facebook, congratulating me. Her husband was on the same deployment as Kevin, so she was alone. She was pregnant, and not long before had managed to break both of her ankles. She needed a little bit of help, and told me that if I could get myself out to Hawaii I was welcome to stay with her until the boys got back home. So here I am, $45 to my name. No job. Nothing. But I thought, nothing was holding me back from going, except for money. If I could just get a plane ticket out there….
So I sat on my couch with my computer in my lap, and I prayed. I was raised Catholic, but I wasn’t really a practicing one. I did believe in God, sometimes anyway. I’d always struggled with my religion and always felt myself feeling confused. But I decided to try. I closed my eyes, and I said “God, please. If this is what I’m meant to do, help me find a way. If this is meant to be, please show me. Give me a sign that this is my path”. I opened my eyes, went to Craigslist and searched the job listings. I found an opening for a pizzeria that was only open during the summer, and closed in September after the season was over. I called them right away. I kid you not, I swear on everything I am, I had a job 15 minutes after I said that prayer. I couldn’t believe it. I got paid an hourly wage plus tips. The pizzeria was in a popular beach town, and they were open until 4am after all the bars closed, so it would get packed around 2am with drunk club goers who were very generous with their money and we’d get loaded with tips. I’d walk away some nights with over $150 in tips alone. So I worked my ass off, I was exhausted. I wouldn’t get home until well after 430am sometimes. But I saved every penny I made, and my grandmother helped me buy my plane ticket. This miraculous summer job I found ended right after Labor Day, and my flight was booked for September 15. It was as if a red carpet was laid down and led to my complete happiness and success. My family protested this. Kevin’s mom was supportive, but nervous. I got to know his family very well over that summer. At least they had an idea of who their son was marrying. His little sister [highlight]LOVED[/highlight] me, and was so excited to finally have a sister. She was the youngest of three, Kevin was the oldest and their other brother was the middle. She couldn’t contain how much this meant to her, and I felt so loved. I loved my new family-to-be. Everything was falling into place. My summer job ended, I had all this money saved, and my mom and father and step-mom all helped me out and give me some money. Because I was leaving to go SO far away, they wanted to make sure I‘d be set. But I knew I would be. This whole thing was handed to me on a silver platter, it was as if I [highlight]COULDN’T[/highlight] have gone, not even if I tried. I could almost feel an angel pushing me from behind when I got scared, or had doubts about leaving home. A gentle angel pushing me, whispering in my ear that this was what I was meant to do.
September 15th comes, and I’m at the airport with my family to say goodbye. My father was probably the most nervous. He told me he couldn’t just get on a plane and come rescue me. This was my time to be an adult. I promised I wouldn’t let him down. My mom was crying, and my step mom was hard to read. She was nervous for me, maybe apprehensive, but I think she knew that I was determined and I would find my way. It must have been terrifying for them. I had never even left the East Coast, failed at pretty much everything in my life, and here I was taking this [highlight]ENORMOUS, MONUMENTAL[/highlight] risk. They’d never met Kevin. They didn’t know who I was going to live with. They knew nothing. All they knew that was one day, I said I met the man I’m going to marry and I’m moving to Hawaii to be with him. Now that I am a parent, I can only imagine the anxiety and fear they must have felt for me. But they supported me nonetheless. And that is why my parents, all three of them, are the most spectacular people in the world, for letting me leave the nest in such an extreme way, never trying for one moment to hold me back. I will thank them for the rest of my life for letting me go so gracefully. I’m sure they had doubts, and maybe even thought it wouldn’t work out, and I’d come back with my broken heart in my hands. But they let me be an adult, and let me make that choice for myself. And I knew, even if I did fail, they would all be there to help me pick up those pieces. They are my angels.
After I got to Hawaii, I was so incredibly jet-lagged I didn’t know what was going on. But it was so beautiful, it struck me to my core. I’d never seen anything like it. The mountains turned into waterfalls when it rained, and the ocean was as blue as the sky. It was the closest to heaven I’d ever been. The girl I was living with greeted me at the airport, and we hugged. I thanked her so much for letting a total stranger come live with her, and she laughed it off and said it was no big deal. I hope one day I can pay it forward in the same way. All she asked for was that I paid for my own food. She was my angel as well. Two weeks after getting there and adjusting to the 6 hour time difference, I found a job as a receptionist in a Veterinary Clinic. I bought myself a bike so I could get around. I had to ride it two miles to and from work most days. I didn’t mind. I was determined to make some kind of life for myself. I wanted Kevin to be proud of me. I updated him every day on my progress, he told me places to check out before he got back. It was all a dream, and looking back to it, it felt like I was floating the whole time. I made friends with other military wives. I wasn’t completely accepted, though, since we weren’t technically married. But they were nice, nonetheless. A month after I was there, right before Halloween, I found a cute little studio apartment that was right outside the military base, and it was less than a mile from my own job. Again, it was like fate. It was perfect. I couldn’t have found a better spot to live. The rent was expensive, as is everything out there, so Kevin transferred me the money so I could get us set up. I had money of my own, but I did need a little help; Hawaii is known to be outrageously expensive. Once I got settled into the apartment, I needed food. Another wife of one of Kevin’s friends took me to the commissary on base, which is the grocery store for the military. I wasn’t allowed to shop there since I wasn’t married to Kevin and didn’t have a military ID. So she took me, paid for the food out of her own pocket, and I wrote her a check to pay her back. She was yet another angel of mine.
Kevin was due home at the end of November. So for a little less than a month, I was living on my own for the first time in my life, on this beautiful island that honestly felt like a different country. It was nothing like it was on the mainland. Everyone was happier, freer. The weather was always beautiful, even when it rained. This was heaven on earth.
November 22 comes, and it’s homecoming day. The girl that I had lived with drove us to the hangar and waited for the plane. It felt like hours and hours and hours that we waited. But then it came. My heart sank to the bottom of my feet. I thought I would faint. I hadn’t seen him in almost 8 months. I made this incredible journey for us, I risked everything to be here, and this is what it was all about. This is what true love is, I thought. I left everything I knew and loved for this man, on that plane, and I thought I was going to explode as I waited. It was so overwhelming. Family was everywhere, all around, there were signs and banners. When the plane started to land, everyone started screaming and crying. People were jumping and clambering over each other. A path was cleared for the Marines to come through. There was an electric buzz in the air. Camera’s were out- some hired professional photographers to capture the moment. There were wives with very small babies, and it was obvious that this would be the first time that they got to meet their daddy. I was completely overwhelmed, my head was spinning and my heart was racing. They started exiting the plane, but I couldn’t identify Kevin or any of his friends. It was absolute chaos in the hangar. Everyone was screaming, women were absolutely sobbing, parents and grandparents were smiling and hugs were lasting a millennium. My friend and I just stood with each other, silent, looking, searching for our loved ones. I recognized some of his friends, and knew he’d be close behind. And finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw him.
He was dirty, he had lost a lot of weight, and he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. And without even thinking about it, I screamed and jumped up onto him. I think I scared him, he didn’t know what the hell was going on either. It was overwhelming for him, too. It was the first time he’d been on American soil in so long, he was as nervous and excited as everyone else in that hangar. And I just kissed his face and neck and hugged him tighter than I’d ever hugged anyone. And we kissed and kissed and I smiled so hard that my teeth hurt. Some people cry with joy in those situations, but I was elated. I had found my purpose. All was right in the world. This is where I was meant to be. I took him back to our cute little studio, I was so nervous with excitement that I couldn’t stop shaking. He thought it was perfect. He dropped his gear on the floor, sat on the bed, but we couldn’t relax. He called his family to let him know he was back safe and sound. We were together, at last. Two weeks later, we eloped. I bought a cute little wedding dress, one that fit me without needing to be tailored. We got married in a little justice of the peace, with a cheesy spray painted Hawaiian landscape behind us. It was so lame, but it was cute. Kevin was in his uniform, and we were married. Just like that. That same night, we rushed home, packed our bags, and headed back home to New Jersey, man and wife. It was December, so it was freezing back home. We went from paradise to shitty cold weather for our honeymoon. But that was fine with us. We were on cloud nine.
And the rest is really history. We went back to Hawaii for the remainder of his time in Hawaii. It was January now, and I’d go home in June when our lease was up, and he’d be home in August. That March, we found out we were expecting a baby. It wasn’t planned, and we weren’t ready, but we were excited. Our son was born on November 15, 2012, almost exactly a year after Kevin came home from his last deployment. We’ve been happily married for almost 3 years.
2 days after he came home, in Waikiki, Hawaii.
The best advice I can give to you, if you are in a bad place, are lonely, depressed, or just trying to find your way, [highlight]ALWAYS[/highlight] trust your gut. Go with your instincts, even if it seems completely absurd or unobtainable. You need to believe in yourself and have the confidence that you are on the right path. Sometimes it’s necessary to hit rock bottom before you can climb your way back out of the hole. If I hadn’t been in such a rut before I met Kevin, maybe it never would have happened. Maybe I’d still be on again, off again with that asshole. Or maybe I’d just continue to date Mr. Wrong and never find my purpose in life. You have to take a leap of faith. Because even if you make a mistake, you learn from it. It sounds cliche, I know. But it really is true, I am living proof of it. I think I sent half my family into cardiac arrest when I told them my plan. But I trusted myself, and trusted my instincts.
And for a more recent example, I’ve decided to take my writing more seriously and want to pursue it as a career. And once I decided that, I got a writing gig on a website, I’m gaining a small following, and all of these tiny miracles are happening, every day. I went food shopping a few days ago, and literally everything I needed was on sale. Money’s been tight for us, so it WAS a miracle. Even my son’s sippy cups were on sale! The only ones that he likes were the [highlight]ONLY[/highlight] ones on sale. Coincidence? No. Because there are no coincidences. You can call it fate, serendipity, whatever you like. But everything happens for a reason. Go for what you want. Do it. If you are passionate enough about something, it will find its way to you. When you find the path you are meant to be on, things will start to be handed to you. You just need to pay attention to them.
Believe in yourself. Go easy on yourself. You will find your way, I promise you. If it happened for me, it will happen for you if you just open up your mind and open up your heart.