Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Love

Many of you who know me are aware of my long and great desire to marry and start a family. Many of you also probably know of my struggle to find any success in this area, and even more of you have probably had to deal with a sullen Marc (which I understand is a very unpleasant thing indeed). But to all of you who have ever had to leave the room because I was uncharacteristically grumpy because of some unfortunate happenstance in my love life, I apologize and truly wish you well. But get a load of this:

That is right, I am getting married to that gorgeous girl!

There was a fallacy told me oft times during times of dating sorrow that went something like this: "just imagine, the amount of pain and sadness you feel now will equal the amount of joy and happiness you feel when you do meet someone who will love you." How very false this assertion is, for no matter the magnitude of sorrow I felt during those times, none of them have even come close to matching the magnitude of joy I feel now.

To be clear, I am not one to give way to silly notions of romantic bliss from newly engaged young couples who can barely go a day without declaring from the roof tops how wonderful their "babe" is, and who often plague Facebook with those feelings. Quite the opposite - I will never declare on Facebook some silly haiku of devotion to my beloved, nor will I post a sappy pronouncement of affection over such a public forum for all to see. Frankly put, I do not feel like such things are evidence of love any more than popularity is evidence of quality. Love, as I have experienced it, is something much deeper and more pleasant than these.That being said, I am openly aware that I have posted this post on Facebook, but at least it took you, the reader, some effort (and thus some conscience decision) to read it.

Andrea and I met in our Single's Ward at BYU during the July of 2012. I don't actually remember exactly when I met her, but I think it was when I was moving her roommate's obnoxiously large TV into her apartment. From most accounts it would seem that she was there and largely was just the shy new roommate who was only around every once in awhile, often going home to her family or going out of country or something. So, for the most part, I do not think I really took much notice as she didn't seem to be someone who would be around much.

Several months later I had my first conversation with her outside my neighbors apartment. She had just gotten back from school and was looking for some dinner from her dinner group. We sat and chatted for awhile and it was there that I clearly remember thinking "this girl is definitely not who I had initially thought she was." As a returned missionary, and as an MTC teacher, and in the Relief Society presidency, it was an outright shock to learn that she was, in fact, not a Molly Mormon. Quite the opposite - she had an edginess to her that just screamed to be released. Later I would refer to this alter ego as "On-dray-yah" and the pert Mormon girl most saw her as was simply Andrea.

Several more months passed and Andrea and I were more casual acquaintances than friends, rarely ever interacting with each other in any way other than the occasional chat in the hall. It was during this time that several events occurred that caused me to reexamine my life, and more particularly my dating routines. For one, I turned 26 and was staring at the very real possibility that I would be 27 and still not have progressed in any meaningful way in this area of my life. Secondly, I was looking at graduating from BYU without having ever had a girlfriend. Neither one of these things are inherently bad, but I was not pleased with either one of them happening to me. This caused me to deeply reconsider how I was going about this whole relationship thing.

The church has often provided young single adults with direction about how to date, often times focusing around the idea that we are not doing ourselves a favor by "hanging out." Indeed, much of the advice given in recent years centers around the notion that we, as singles, must take our relationships into our own hands, that we must take initiative. Additionally, they also have focused on the concept that numbers do matter, that it is unwise to focus on just one person when dating until you both know you actually want to date each other (particular emphasis on the both was needed for me). For whatever reason, I did not heed this council for many years.

Then the existential introspection occurred that led me to change my outlook on dating: I needed to date, I needed to date often, and I needed to date all types of people. Too often over the years I thought that I knew what I wanted, but usually that led me to pursue someone who was categorically opposite the definition of what I needed. Actually, in all honesty, I was terrible at choosing suitable partners for myself, and too many times I simply fell for a girl who gave me a quick smile and wanted to talk back (hardly enough reason to be loyal to a single girl). Therefore, I determined that I would ask out all types of girls, even girls who I did not really have much interest in.

Now we get back to Andrea. Sadly I must add that I was not initially interested in Andy, nor did I really see much potential in trying to date her. However, after a few dates with some other girls, I started to remember a prompting I had back when I first talked to Andy that went something like this: "You should ask this girl out." Of course back when I first got this I dismissed it because I was a fool, but the second time I received it I decided it was worth pursuing. It is a funny thing how the Spirit works, for it is infinitely patient and knows that if we are receptive it can work its magic.

I remember clearly during this time that my friends Mary and Parker were getting married and they had an open-house/reception somewhere in Alpine. I went with my roommate and a friend, and there I met up with many other ward friends, including Andrea. All I really remember from that night was just how much fun and how easy it was to talk with this girl (and how she seemed to think the same). I didn't think much of it then, but several nights later I found myself at her apartment in much the same situation where we had a very easy time talking with each other.

After these two times I gave in to that prompting and asked her on a date. We doubled with her roommate and another friend in the ward with the activity of playing penny golf (simply described as a silly, cliched BYU game). I had so much fun on that date that I decided to slyly set up additional dates by making a series of bets with her via racquetball and other competitive games (she is highly competitive by nature). Each time we went to play these games I would make a bet that pretty much guaranteed another date. This is, of course, the perfect setup for getting more dates because a) you do not have to actually ask her on another date, and b) only a truly foolish girl would not see the bets for what they really were, therefore it was a good way for them to say no and end it then and there without the humiliation of rejection. But she didn't end it, so we kept going out.

Eventually I ended up asking her to date me (more like I talked her into it, but that is for another time), and from there the relationship has progressed. I would be lying if I said that our relationship has been a series of warm-fuzzies and day of unadulterated bliss, but it has been a wonderful and exciting time of my life. Through it all I have learned far more about myself and how I express and feel love than all the other times of my life combined. There is so little of bad that has happened this past several months that I almost forget what it is like to feel depressed.

Andrea Carter is, simply put, the best girl I have ever known. She has repeatedly and consistently surprised me with her unparalleled sense of righteousness and commitment to that which is good. Almost on a regular basis she sets a new standard for excellence that I can only wish to reach. Yet she is the most humble and self-effacing person I have ever known, and she is driven by a genuine desire to be the best person she can be. Her love of life empowers others around her to be and feel good, and she has a sense of peace about her that attracts even the most surly of souls. It is no wonder to me that she has felt the need to enter the healing arts as her very presence is a balm to the beleaguered mind.

And yet she is also the most defiantly independent woman I have ever known. Her independence is not placed on some misguided notion that she must be independent because she doesn't need anybody else, but rather she understands that independence allows her to do more for others. She is, at her core, benevolent, and she hardly does a thing without first considering the impact it will have on others. Compassion is the guiding virtue of her personality. 

But perhaps the thing I love most about Andrea is how she loves me. I am a very flawed creature, and I am also a very stubborn person. It would take a miracle for someone to come into my life, with all my faults and ridiculous notions, and not only be okay with them but actually love them. Andy is as quirky and odd as I have ever been, and she seems to love the oddness and quirks that I so stubbornly hold on to. She does not judge, nor does she shun my weirdness. She accepts me for who I am, and that means the world to me.

Is it any wonder that I would decide to marry this woman? I think not. It would seem like we were made for each other (though I know such notions are not true). But I do honestly believe that God has led us to be together. She was not a girl that I saw myself with, nor was she someone I would have asked out without some sort of prompting. But thank goodness I decided to go out on a limb, and I can't help but notice that the limb I stepped out on will continue to bless me for the rest of eternity.