I fell in love at seventeen.
And though I hate to admit it, I fell in love again, briefly, foolishly, at twenty-two.
At twenty-three, I fell in love with the man I’m going to marry.
I distinctly remember taking a road trip with my parents while I was a freshman in college. They picked me up in Austin after a Friday exam, and we meandered onto the highway, headed south to the Rio Grande Valley.
I sat in the backseat, munching on trail mix and texting my boyfriend at the time, when suddenly, without warning, my mother asked me a question.
“Is he ‘the one’ for you?”
I looked up from my phone, astonished and blushing.
“Yes, he’s the one.”
And that was the end of the conversation. I was nineteen. And I was pretty sure I was right.
The beauty of life–and especially of a love life–is its unpredictability. But that’s also the very hardest part.
At nineteen, I thought I had it all figured out. He loved me, and I loved him. Easy, right? We’d graduate and get married and build a life together. But trust can crumble and people can change, and it turns out that being “pretty sure” isn’t really good enough.
Don’t get me wrong–some people really do figure it out that early. Hell, some people find the love of their life at sixteen, and stick with them for better or for worse.
Others don’t find their person for another thirty years.
The thing is, there’s no formula or crystal ball. You can’t plug in two names and come up with some cosmic answer to lifelong commitment.
But I believe in small moments. Little things that add up to really big ones.
This past January, at twenty-four years old, I found myself standing in six inches of snow on the side of the road in Angel Fire, New Mexico. It was 4 AM and well below freezing.
My boyfriend sat in the driver’s seat of the Suburban we’d borrowed, tapping the accelerator to get up and over a steep hill so we could head home to Texas.
I began to lose feeling in my toes, but I stood still and watched, smiling.
The car would climb a few inches, only to slide back further down the street than where it’d started. The icy surface was unyielding, and I was growing nervous as I gazed at the base of the hill, which I’d describe as nothing less than a rocky ravine.
Finally–after we’d likely awoken the entire town with a revving engine–the suburban climbed over the crest of the hill and came to a stop rather politely on the street, as if to say it was finally ready to make the journey home.
I climbed into the passenger seat and buckled up.
More ice and treacherous mountain passes awaited us, but I turned to look at the driver.
He grinned at me and asked if I was ready to go. I nodded my head and we drove away, into the frigid darkness.
It’s hard to explain to people how I knew. Several have asked, and my answer always comes up short.
Because I did know. Deep in my bones (which thankfully finally thawed after that cold New Mexico night), I knew like I’ve never known anything else.
He was the one for me and that was it.
It didn’t happen all at once or in a single flash of realization. And it was far different than what happened at seventeen or nineteen or any of the other times before.
Because no one, including myself, even had to ask. My mother never even posed the question.
This time, it was answered before it was ever spoken.
And really, it came down to this:
Stuck on the side of the road with a car barely able to make it out of the driveway, with yet more hairpin turns and steep descents to battle–who would you choose to have beside you?
For me, it’s him. It’s him every single time.
// photo by Sara Jane Photography //