Sixteen years ago, I woke up ready to face the day. I'm not a morning person, but this day was different. It was busy, with nearly every moment scheduled out, but I didn't mind. Because at half after six that evening, I was going to marry J.
I'd met him three and a half years prior, while studying for an art history exam. Truth be told, I liked him right from the start. He was focused on passing the final (very focused, since he'd bombed an earlier test), yet kind, welcoming and engaging. We studied slides together for a few hours. I pointed out the things I thought would be on the next day's final and made sure I had the important images fresh in my mind. I was disappointed when it was time for him to head back to his dorm room and for me to keep studying. I left the library that night hoping I would see him the next morning at our exam.
Nearly twenty years later, I still look forward to seeing him in the mornings.
J and I have changed a lot over the time we've been together. When you meet your mate on your twentieth birthday, I think that's inevitable. I was an art history major when he met me, a girl who felt like a fish out of water in the preppy, wealthy environment of Vanderbilt. I was never quite sure who I was during those college years. As someone who's never been good at deception or pretending, the artifice of Vanderbilt was intimidating for me. Yet J was himself during those years - unassuming, friendly, fun-loving.
I still value that J is who he seems to be and that I can be myself with him, just like I could all those years ago.
While I was out of place in college, I've found my niche in East Nashville. Here I have a neighborhood that lets me blend in without requiring that I put on camouflage each morning. I've gone from being a girl in a jean wraparound skirt with a button down shirt to one in a flowing skirt and boots. J's fashion evolution has been milder. When I met him, every shirt in his closet was blue. There are sprinkles of green, yellow and even (gasp!) purple now, but the style of shirt remains classic.
The clothing may have changed, but I would still choose J to share my closet and my life.
I think when I married, I imaged that J and I would always be basically the same as we were on our wedding day. I've found that to not be true. We've sought different careers than we imagined back then. We've changed outwardly and inwardly. We've grown - sometimes in the same direction, sometimes in different ones. When I woke up on that morning sixteen years ago, I thought I was choosing my husband once and for all. What I didn't know is that marriage is really a series of choices to have J as my husband. Every day, in countless ways, I have choices. I can choose a book I know J would like, make a dinner he will enjoy, watch an episode of Warehouse 13 with him. Some times selfishness wins and I choose what I want over what he might want. This ebb and flow in marriage is inevitable (and perhaps necessary).
This fact remains: I would choose him still. After sixteen years of marriage, three children, job changes, wardrobe changes and oil changes. I do love him. Still.