The other day I got a letter from a reader who wanted to know how I knew my now-husband, Drew, was “the one,” whether I’d had an a-ha moment or something like that. She wanted to know how I knew he was “worth” picking up my life and moving to NYC for and whether I’d had some fear or hesitancy about moving. It was an interesting question to think about because on one hand, I actually don’t really believe in “a-ha” moments when it comes to relationships. I’m not even sure I necessarily believe in “the one.” I think there are potentially lots of ones, and it’s really all a matter of finding the right person at the right time. And though I obviously feel like I did find the right person at the right time, I didn’t always feel that way. And, in fact, there was an a-ha moment when things suddenly came into focus; I realized just how special what I had with Drew was and that our relationship was worth my picking up my life and moving, as scary as that was — and oh, it was scary!
Drew and I met in early May (four years ago) and though we both flew back and forth across the country over the next few months to visit each other, we both kind of thought we might just be having a jet-setty summer fling. Neither of us was talking future plans just yet. But then fall came and we were still seeing each other and we finally had a “where is this going?” conversation. I told Drew that I was open to moving — between the two of us, he was much more settled in New York than I was in Chicago — but I needed to take things slowly. If I was going to move, I needed to be pretty certain of my decision and our relationship.
But by October I was getting restless. The thought of moving — of leaving my friends and the city I’d called home for over six years — was pretty overwhelming. I worried about things not working out and looking like a fool for taking such a risk. I was concerned I wouldn’t find a job, wouldn’t make friends, wouldn’t like New York. I decided one weekend while visiting Drew that I just couldn’t put myself through the turmoil anymore. Sure, Drew was the best guy I’d ever gone out with; I had more fun with him than anyone else, but maybe I just hadn’t tried hard enough to meet someone in my own city. If I could find someone like him in New York, surely I could find someone similar in Chicago, right?
So I broke up with him. I told him I couldn’t handle the long-distance thing anymore. It was terrible and heartbreaking and nothing I’d ever want to repeat. He walked me to the bus depot and we had a long, sad, awkward goodbye before I boarded the bus for the airport to head back home. I was convinced I’d never see him again and I cried all the way to LaGuardia. At the airport, I met up with a friend of mine at the gate who’d also been visiting New York for the weekend. I started telling him about what happened and we got so engrossed in the conversation, we missed our flight! Like, the plane boarded and took off while we were sitting right there at the gate and we didn’t even notice. By the time we figured out we were the only people still sitting there, the plane was long gone and we were told there were no more flights to Chicago that night. We’d have to spend another night in the city.
My friend went back to Queens where he’d been staying and I went back to Drew’s. When I stepped off that bus and saw him standing there waiting for me, I knew. I just knew. And I’m not someone who even believes in that kind of hokeyness! But in that moment, I certainly was swayed. This was the person I was meant to be with. My fear wasn’t magically wiped away though — I still felt scared about the possibility of screwing everything up. I still worried about uprooting my life and things not working out. But in that moment — during that “bonus” night we got together, I felt absolutely certain that if I walked away from the possibility of us, I’d never forgive myself. I’d forever wonder “what if?”
So that’s what I told the reader who wanted to know about my “a-ha moment.” I wish I could say with certainty that if it’s right, everyone will have a moment like that, but I can’t. And hell, even if you do have an a-ha moment, who’s to say it means what you think it does? What I can say for sure, though, is that if the thought of not being with the person you’re with makes your heart sick, you figure out a way to make it work. You amend your plans. You change your vision of how you thought your life would turn out or what your partner would look like or be like and you make a go of it. It’s not always easy, and relationships – whether they’re long-distance, short-distance, long-term, or whirlwind — are always a little scary, but it’s so much better to live with regretting what you did try, rather than what you didn’t. And if things don’t work out? Well, you’re just that much closer to finding something that does.