When I started updating this blog on my life back in February, I really just had one thing on my mind, but I felt like I couldn't let it out until I had thoroughly caught up on everything else. So here's the last of my catching up: My first year as a teacher came and went, I met many very talented kids, several who made my life misery, and worked with very friendly and supportive colleagues and administrators. I did a lot of things right, but I also made some mistakes and learned from them. I survived teaching 7th and 8th grade band, as well as a show choir - two things I never thought I'd ever have to do when I graduated from NAU. On the whole, I ended the year on a positive note, and with excitement for my upcoming 2nd year and the opportunity to get started off on more solid footing. I could go into more detail about the year's happenings, but you always hear stories about teachers getting in trouble because they let something slip that they shouldn't have, and I mostly just don't want to take the time that would require, so this description will have to suffice!
Okay, now on to what I have been trying to say since February. . . .
It's not even really an issue anymore! Imagine a young 23-year-old college graduate and middle school teacher. Everyone tells her she's cute, talented, smart, successful, and funny, but all of this just sounds to her like empty, sycophantic reassurance. If all of this were true, then why haven't any men expressed any romantic interest in her entire life? How is it possible that she's lived this long without a single kiss or a hand to hold? "Everyone" says it will come when you least expect it, and it will be worth the wait, but that's easy for them to say.
Let me go back just a little bit further. In late 2010, I began to shift focus in my personal prayer. I don't remember actually praying for a man to come into my life before this, but I just wasn't even really praying for anything, just familiar overused phrases every night before bed because that's what you're supposed to do, right? Meanwhile I'd live my life feeling sorry for myself and feeling defective. It was then that I decided to make my prayers mean something again, and I think this is what made the biggest difference in my life: I prayed that I would be able to take the steps to become who I needed to be, and be where I needed to be, to someday meet my eternal companion. I knew that I needed to make changes in my life, because obviously what I had been doing wasn't getting me anywhere, and I wasn't happy.
I didn't realize until just recently, but about that time, little things started changing in my life in very subtle ways:
On October 5th, a hailstorm ripped through Phoenix and banged up my Saturn, and I got a new car a couple weeks later. Why does that have anything to do with this? Well, partially because I had to be a big girl and do grown-up things like file an insurance claim all by myself, and there's something very symbolic about making confidence-boosting changes in your life, like putting the 12-year-old $4,000 car that took you through the worst period in your adult life behind you, and having the freedom to start fresh and move forward with something brand new.
I remember specifically right around Halloween I began to make conscious decisions about food. I hated the idea of dieting, and I loathed the idea of exercise. I didn't want to weigh myself, because I was afraid what the numbers would tell me, but I knew that I didn't like what I saw in the mirror, and I was in the biggest-sized pants I'd been in my entire life. First thing I did? I walked past the bowl of Halloween candy in the kitchen. Ordinarily I would have picked through it over the following week until it was all gone, but I thought to myself, "I don't need that." Such a subtle little thought, but it was the first one that made all the difference. I still didn't want to exercise, but over the next couple of months I figured out what worked for me. I restricted my calorie intake, and found that I was able to do it successfully without feeling like I was starving myself, which was my biggest fear. I made sure to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, and not to eat after 8:00 PM. I also cut out all snacks. By Christmas I'd gone down a pant size, and I was even more motivated. I had started at a size 18, and made it my goal to reach 12 by my 24th birthday in June. I made it there by the end of May, and am currently sitting in a pair of size 13 (juniors) capris. The first time I actually got the nerve to weigh myself was in December or January, and I was at 195 lbs. I got all the way down to 158 purely on dieting, and I've maintained around 160 all summer. Once school starts again next month I hope to buckle down again and hopefully lose another 20-30 lbs by next summer. People tell you that "if he really loves you, he won't care about the weight," but really, how can he love you if you don't love yourself? Besides, it's not so much about the weight as the confidence that I've gained in myself that I was able to gain control of my own body, and I was able to do it without anybody else's help, and in spite of temptation.
I had been a floating unpaid member of an LDS dating website called ldsmingle.com for a couple of years, actually, but I wasn't incredibly active, and I didn't even tell anybody I was going for it. So many people have a stigma against online dating, and I was afraid of appearing desperate. In December I finally took the dive and paid for a year's membership. I figured I wasn't in school anymore, and I had a stable job in my chosen career - I'm finally ready to give it a try. Obviously the singles ward isn't getting me anywhere, and I've always been more comfortable meeting new people online than in person, so who's to say it's not the right path for me? It's all about being in the right place at the right time, and maybe, just maybe, this is both. I scanned profiles regularly, but mostly stuck to guys who lived in the Phoenix area. I talked to a few a couple times, then never heard from them again. A couple guys from out of state seemed mildly persistent, but I didn't feel like we clicked.
This was where my last entries here came in. I was making all the right decisions, figuring out who I really am, making these changes in my lifestyle, but why was everything taking so long? I was just in one of those down-in-the-dumps moods that everyone gets into now and again, and all I wanted to do was vent about how frustrated I was, but I just couldn't verbalize what I was feeling without sounding like another jaded-and-unlucky-in-love 20-something. I'm glad now that I didn't post anything about it back then, in the heat of the moment. Those times are always when I say things I regret.
Anyhow, where was I? Just living my life in my second semester of teaching, getting thinner, and staying active on ldsmingle. It was only a matter of time before I finally started making some friends on Mingle, and come April, I got my first date in about 5 or 6 years. We hit it off online and texted for a little while, but when we finally met in person he was distracted, and texted. the. whole. time. He said for about a week afterward that he wanted to "hang out" again, but things kept coming up, and that line fizzled. Another guy lives right by my school, and took me to dinner one night, and things seemed to go well, but I wasn't sure if I felt anything. I would have gone on a second date, had he asked, but for reasons I don't quite understand, that never happened and we didn't talk for a while, but there weren't any hurt feelings. Another guy took me out the very next day, but he talked the whole time and barely let me get a word in edge-wise. He said he had a good time, but I had no interest after our date, so I ended that one. There was one other guy from AZ who was about to graduate from BYU and move back to Tucson, and I feel a little bad about him, because I think I led him on a little bit longer than I should have. We talked for a while, but he was in Utah, and when he moved back to Tucson, a weekend trip to Phoenix kept getting delayed for one reason or another. I have a feeling I broke his heart when... other circumstances... caused our first meeting to never come to fruition. Oh well, life goes on.
And then there's Dustin. One day in April, a chat request popped up on Mingle. Whenever I got one of those, I first did a quick check of the guy's profile to see how old he was, where he lives, whether or not he's divorced and has kids, looked at a couple of his photos, etc. If he wasn't more than a decade older than I was, and wasn't divorced or had kids (the way I saw it, I was a 23-year-old girl, and therefore still had the luxury of time. I wasn't ready to be a stepmother) I usually gave him a shot and chatted for a little bit. 29 years old was pushing it, but Las Vegas wasn't too far away to be implausible. His picture didn't remind me of the type of guy I'm usually attracted to, but there was something in his smile. Then I read his short profile bio, which broke my heart - he had recently lost his wife, and was very lonely.
I still wasn't sure if it would go anywhere, what with living in different states, but figured at the very least, I could chat with him, and be a friend. I accepted the chat request, and we had a perfectly pleasant conversation about time zones and other silly things, and I went to bed feeling happy to be able to bring a little bit of sunshine to someone who truly needed it. It was Easter the next time he requested to chat, I wanted to, but it was already late (9:00... I wake up at 5:30 to get ready for school) and I was heading to bed. He claims I shut him down (sarcastically, of course), but I just wished him Happy Easter, but I needed to get some sleep. Over the next few weeks he'd regularly, almost daily, pop up on my screen and we'd chat until 9:00 rolled around. I began to look forward to our talks, and logged on as soon as I could when I got home from school in hopes that we could talk again. We had so much in common, understood each other's nerdy comedy references, developed inside jokes, and frequently typed the same thing at the same time. I didn't realize I was slowly falling for him, because I definitely didn't plan to. Perhaps it's better that it happened that way, because I didn't feel the pressure of evaluating him for time and all eternity, I was just making friends.
One day while we were chatting like usual, he mentioned that he would be coming out to Phoenix in a couple of weeks, but nothing more. Over those weeks Phoenix didn't really come up again, and I kept trying to muster up the courage to ask if he wanted to meet when he was in town, but I was too nervous. Finally when I was about to bring it up, HE asked if I'd like to meet for lunch that Saturday, and I knew I had to make it happen, even if that meant ditching out on my sister's birthday BBQ. This might have been my only chance to meet this guy, and Whitney will have more birthdays. :) We met at a central location in Phoenix, had a tasty lunch, walked around the same square block about a dozen times while talking, sat on a shady bench and talked, got Jamba Juice, talked some more... Before we knew it, five hours had passed and he had to get going to meet his sister-in-law and cousins for dinner. I know I had a good time, and felt perfectly comfortable in his company, and enjoyed every single nudge and side hug. It wasn't until that night that he requested to chat again that I had a feeling that this wasn't just any date. When we left that afternoon, I wasn't sure when we'd ever see each other again, but we couldn't wait to talk to each other next, and over the next few days it became obvious that we had to figure out a way to make "us" work. I still had a couple weeks left of school, so traveling was out of the question. He came down the very next weekend, we spent all of Saturday together, and church on Sunday before he had to drive back to Vegas. He was a perfect gentleman, and I finally got my first kiss. It was worth the wait. :)
Before I knew it, I was getting in touch with people from church in Vegas who I could stay with for 8 weeks during the summer, I made a short, yet memorable, trip up with Hannah and Zak the first week of June, and the next week I was up to stay. I'm now five days away from leaving for the school year, and it's been a bittersweet week so far. This summer has been the best time of my life and the long-distance relationship is going to suck, but it's the best decision in the long run - I still have one more school year to teach in Arizona before my teaching certificate is fully valid and accepted by Nevada, and if I were him, I wouldn't want to think about having to take the Arizona Bar just to practice law in Phoenix. The singles' ward bishopric and my host parents think we're not being as romantic as they were in their day, that I should just move out here and substitute teach, throw caution to the wind, etc... While I wish that this wasn't a decision we had to make, ten months isn't going to seem like such a long time in the grand scheme of things, if everything works out like we believe it will.
Life has a way of working things out, as I've noticed. Why did I have to wait almost 24 years to find someone? In hindsight, it's because the right guy for me wasn't ready yet, and nor was I ready for him. These changes I started making in my life began at the same time Dustin's world was turned upside-down, though I wouldn't find this out for months. No one ever wants to have to think about the death of a spouse whom they love so dearly, but had I not been at the right place at the right time, with the right frame of mind, I wouldn't have been there when he needed someone most. I'm not at all jealous of Marina for coming first. I know she will always be a part of him, and I am extremely grateful for her presence in his life that shaped him into the man he is today. I am proud of him for being willing to let someone else in, and I am proud to have been just the right person to bring sunshine back into his life, just by being little old me.
I could never have imagined how things would turn out, and I wouldn't have done a single thing differently, pity parties and all. It's all a part of the journey, and has made me appreciate what I have all the more.
I'd better wrap this up before I cry anymore. Hopefully I'll get around to writing more often. It's good for me. Thanks for reading!
. . . :-)