May 3rd, 2018
Six years ago today I met my (now) husband in person. We were already friends for a couple years prior to that.
It was the most unforgettable trip in the sense that I wasn’t at all nervous and embraced the whole process. I had never gone on such an extensive trip by myself and I have no idea how I didn’t have a complete meltdown at the idea of traveling from Buffalo, NY to South Africa without anyone with me or any certainty that it was a good idea to even go. At the time I had intended to come back in three months and had my job as a customer service representative in a call center waiting for me. I didn’t realize that it was going to be a long-term commitment. There was still the “what if he doesn’t even like me” question that lingered in the back of my mind.
I didn’t get a chance to freshen up much on the way there. My flight from Buffalo to Detroit had a stupidly long layover but the rest of the trip was pretty non stop. My “layover” in Amsterdam was reduced down to 15 minutes between flights because my flight from Detroit had to circle around so long due to the early morning fog. As our plane crossed over the equator many hours later, I watched the light show from the storms below us and asked for more of those free bottles of wine that KLM was beyond generous with.
When I knew we were at least 45 minutes from OR Tambo International Airport I rummaged through the pocket of my laptop sleeve where I stashed some makeup basics and facial wipes so I could clean my face and apply some makeup so I’d not look like I spent over 27 hours traveling to him. We were due to land at around 9:20 pm and I was going to be crashing at his house for the night before he’d take me to a mutual friends’ house to stay for the next few months. I managed to sort out my hair and generally made myself pretty presentable. By the time I sat down, there was an announcement that we were going to land about 15 minutes early.
The next parts were a blur. I will never forget how casual they were when I arrived at Passport Control. Everyone was wearing jeans and they barely looked at my passport. I was allowed to pass in less than a minute. By the time I grabbed my bags and entered the main part of the airport I could see Roland walking towards the same area. If anyone asks us about how we met, I always mention how he showed up in a track suit and didn’t dress for the occasion. And while I knew he was tall, he was a lot taller than I had imagined. But he was there and I could breathe a little easier.
The honest truth is that I am aware that if I hadn’t taken the step to meet him on his turf this entire relationship wouldn’t have formed. Looking back at that moment, I also realize that it was worth being the one to take the chance on traveling someplace totally unfamiliar because so much blossomed from that initial interaction in person. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had found my life partner.
There was a point in the car where I placed my hand on top of his and he clumsily yanked his hand back because he wasn’t expecting it. But eventually, we got to his house and sat on his couch to talk. It wasn’t difficult and he relaxed quite a bit. I built up the courage to kiss him quickly (something I never thought I’d be able to do) and I could see he was taken aback. But then he smiled and kissed me back and I knew at that moment that I had done the right thing by coming here. I didn’t realize that I was still unsure that he liked me in the same way that I liked him.
The trip was perfectly timed because less than a few hours later, Roland reached his 40th birthday and I got to be the first person to wish him a happy birthday. I also unloaded a bunch of little presents (mainly sweets) for him and his kids to share. While his kids knew about me as far as a gaming friend of their father, I don’t think they ever anticipated me actually showing up in South Africa to visit. I also was more nervous about meeting them than Roland, because my experience with single fathers was not the best. I was still very optimistic about it.
So much has happened since that night. After midnight, it was pretty apparent that we were happy to proceed on this journey together. We started discussing marriage not even two years later, and just last year we finally tied the knot. We’ve had a lot of challenges thrown at us that were designed to stop our entire relationship in its tracks and we’re still standing. I had a lot of growing pains adjusting to becoming a stepparent, learning to embrace working from home and coping with the differences between us that weren’t so obvious from our previous “online only” friendship. But the main takeaway from that experience was that I had too much doubt in myself and once I was able to let go of that, life began to happen.
May 4th is our “official” anniversary as far as being a couple, but I will also favor May 3rd as the day I finally took a chance on love. I have no regrets and I can’t even properly describe how excited I am for where we are today. Sure, there are moments that are uneventful because we have to handle priorities in life. Sure, we butt heads when I’m stressed or overwhelmed. But I learned about what unconditional love was supposed to be.
I guess this is why I encourage people to be more open-minded about modern love and dating. Just stop looking for it, have fun, and sometimes your perfect other half will present itself when it’s meant to. It’s a beautiful thing to embrace that process. You never know what you may miss out on.