Four years ago today my guy asked me to be his lady and I said yes. It was as unexpected as it was thrilling. A month before I bumped into one of his good friends, who asked me to check out the new bartender at the Broadway show Jersey Boys for his job. I had met them both three summers before when I was interning in New York. Since then I had finished college, moved to the city and settled into my first job. I also had a year of being an active dater and was in the midst of a mancation. As I walked to the theater and was told I was meeting someone for the play, I hoped it was the funny and cute guy I met when I was 21. It was.

We immediately hit it off (again) and enjoyed the first half of the play. I was having such a nice time I forgot to actually order a drink during intermission: the whole reason we were there. Two nights later he asked me out on our first official date. And after a month of dating, standing in his kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, three days after our first kiss, he asked to fill the position of being my boyfriend, and let me know he didn’t care if anyone else was applying. He wanted the job. We hired each other and started the positions effective immediately.

And I’ve learned so much about life, love and myself since. Here are just three lessons I’ve encountered:

#1 Love is a Life Raft
I’m always reflective when I think about us first falling in love. Two months later my grandmother died. Four months after that he lost his job and the next month I lost mine in the height of the recent recession. I always think of the timing to discover something solid before things felt so unsteady in my life. It was a reminder God makes no mistakes. I am much clearer now on the people in our lives being so much more important that the stuff.

#2 Intimacy is Internal
It wasn’t 50 Shades or Zane style when I took our intimacy to a new level a few weeks into our relationship. We were fully clothed and I was having a snotty cry. I had gotten up that morning ready to help someone else. There was a bone marrow drive to help find a match for Jasmina Anema, a 6-year-old battling leukemia. As a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a highly-treatable cancer of the lymph nodes, I felt especially connected to her and woke up excited to possibly help. Soon after arriving to the location, I realized I might have come for nothing. Big signs said anyone with a cancer past could not be tested. I felt incredibly helpless. I headed back uptown and stopped by his apartment. I hadn’t yet told him about my past illness and wasn’t planning to share that day. Though I was proud to be a survivor, I wasn’t quite ready to reveal that to someone I had just fallen in love with. To see the sympathy. To see the what-ifs of my health and that of my future kids. But a few minutes after arriving, he could sense something wasn’t right and asked what was wrong. It was like a dam burst and I started crying and telling him about my past with cancer and the day’s event at the drive for Jasmina. I also told him my new reality of possibly having kids of my own one day and not being able to help them if they needed medical assistance. We prayed for Jasmina. We prayed for us. And he reminded me the same way we all came out for Jasmina, if it were my child, God would provide. Sadly, after finding a donor, Jasmina passed away a few months later. I know she’s fine and fabulous in a special place and continue to pray for her mom and all those she touched. And I’m also thankful for the short life she had on this Earth and my lesson on real intimacy – being naked from the inside out.

#3 Embrace Your Differences
“I feel . . . ” “The next time I would prefer. . .” Raised by a powerful, single mom and now a professional writer, I am very quick to articulate my point and “how I feel” in discussions. Earlier in our relationship, I felt I poured my heart out sometimes in our conversations and he didn’t have as much to say in response. I would internalize that as a lack of understanding. Then days later he would give a more detailed response to our previous dialogue. I quickly learned we processed things differently and just because he didn’t respond in the way I would, didn’t mean I was not heard. I had to stop looking for “what I would do” what made us unique.

I don’t know what the future holds. I do know by far one of the best decisions I made was to say yes to seeing Jersey Boys one Wednesday night. I am incredibly blessed to have found a soulmate to share this journey and forever changed for being vulnerable enough to love and let myself be loved in return.

And you know I am jamming to the Tonys . . .

XO,
Charreah

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