I was never a big proponent of long-distance relationships. In fact, when I met Ryan, my now husband, whom I knew was going into the Navy, I assured him there was nothing he could do or say to convince me to stay with him when he started his military career. In the end, he didn't have to try and persuade me. Falling head over heels in love with him was effortless. And as his boot camp send off quickly approached, I knew I was in trouble.
The majority of our relationship, Ryan and I lived in separate states. He was working as a waiter in Pennsylvania, saving up before Basic Training, and I was fulfilling what I thought was my dream to be an editor in New York, working at a start-up website and freelancing on the side. Although being two hours away made things more difficult, we managed to see each other once a week, working around our schedules.
But that type of long-distance relationship was nothing compared to what we would face once he was a sailor. After Basic Training (also known as Boot Camp), an intense two-month period of physical and behavioral exercises, he would be off to South Carolina for two years to complete difficult (we're talking 12-hour school days) schooling in the prestigious Nuclear Power Program before completing four years of Active Duty. Weekly visits would be impossible, and even monthly meet-ups were unlikely with the financial burden of plane tickets and hotel rooms.
I was left with two options: Break up with the man I knew I wanted to marry, or move to a new state and start from scratch.
I wasn't sure if I could handle moving to a place where I knew no one, a place where editorial jobs are few and far between, until Ryan actually left for Boot Camp. During those two long months, I fell more in love with him every day. It's hard not to appreciate someone when they're completely taken away from you, and I think my fellow military spouses will agree that there is nothing like Basic Training or a deployment to wake you the hell up and make you see how amazing your significant other is.
We missed Christmas, our birthdays and New Years, and our only way to communicate was through letters, other than a handful of very short phone conversations. Somehow, Ryan still managed to support me and love me and be there for me.
By the time the first month passed, I had already made up my mind: I would follow my sailor wherever his duty took him. Our love was worth it.
I began reaching out to other women in the same situation as me -- other military wives and girlfriends living all over the country. The support I found was astounding. So many amazing women, who I sincerely am grateful for, answered all my questions and gave me a better picture of what my life would be like as a sailor's wife. They didn't sugarcoat it, either.
I would be spending a lot of time on my own. I would have to start over again and again each time Ryan got stationed somewhere new. I would face multiple deployments that could last anywhere from six months to a year, and I would deal with homecomings that could be precious but also very difficult. (It's hard to readjust as a married couple when you've been living two completely separate lives.)
But despite all of these realities that were initially hard to swallow, each and every one of these women had something in common: They wouldn't go back in time and change their decision to marry into the military if they had the option. They loved the adventure, the opportunities to travel, and more importantly, they loved supporting and cheering on their spouses -- the men and women who are brave and generous enough to give up a good portion of their lives to serve their country. Regardless of your thoughts on war or politics, it's impossible to deny the integrity and courage men and women in the service possess. Ryan's dedication to his country amazes me every day.
When Ryan finally graduated, things moved fast, as they often do in military relationships. We spent two glorious days together before he got shipped off to South Carolina. When I came to visit him the next weekend, he proposed. We decided to do a court house wedding the next month so that we could start our lives together. (We couldn't live together without a marriage license due to the strict rules placed on sailors in the beginning of their schooling. We also couldn't sleep together since he had a base curfew.)
While we tried to keep our quickie wedding under wraps, we ultimately had to tell close family members and a few friends. Understandably, it was hard for a lot of people to swallow our decision to move so fast at a relatively young age (I'm 23, and Ryan's 25). It was even harder for the people who loved me to watch me choose to up and leave New York, a city I had been dreaming of living in since I was 13, to follow a man.
I get that, I really do. I tried my best to bite my tongue, let people give me their advice, and then do exactly what I knew in my heart was right: Go ahead and marry my sailor.
I understand that I made a big sacrifice when I married Ryan. He understands that, too. I never planned on this, and in a way, yes, I am giving up on a large part of my life. But to me, a marriage is about making sacrifices. It's about doing things to make your spouse happy, while fully trusting that they will do the same for you.
My husband is the most genuine, kind-hearted and caring soul that I have ever met. He does everything in his power to make me happy and to ensure that I will have a comfortable and good life. We respect one another, and we communicate well when any insecurities or fears come up.
As I pursue my graduate degree in public health, the topic I've always wanted to write about, he has stood behind me and rooted for me, just like I have for him.
So no, I may not be an editor in New York, and maybe I was never meant to be, but for whatever I lost by leaving the city, I am gaining so much more by doing what is right for me. For once, I am not basing my decisions off of what makes everyone else happy.
I don't expect everyone or anyone to understand or accept my choice to marry a military man, "give up my youth" (which by the way, doesn't come with being married, unless you're really boring or something), or pursue a different dream than I had originally planned, but I do expect my friends and family to realize that I've always been a smart girl and to have some level of faith in me.
Sometimes I'm resentful that instead of a huge celebration and congratulations over my engagement and marriage, I got looks of shock and unsolicited advice. Sometimes I wish Ryan was a civilian and that instead of the Navy calling the shots, we could. And I'm sure sometimes I'll look back and wonder if I would have made it as an editor in New York.
But then I look at my husband, and all I can think is marrying that man, right there, in his dress blues, is the best damn decision I have ever made. And those other insecurities just fade away.