I recently rediscovered a photograph of me and Joe right after his graduation from Gonzaga University. His dad took the picture as we were standing on the sidewalk outside Joe's house that he shared with 3 other great guys. We had just come from the graduation ceremony (loooooong), and Joe is wearing his orange engineering swag around his neck, above the black gown. Magna Cum Laude. Electrical Engineering. Girlfriend attending. Parents proud. Roommates ecstatic. Sun shining. The picture shows two happy young adults, smiling from ear to ear, holding each other side-by-side, fresh and full of promise. Was I really that cute and spry? Hmm. Seems to me I may have been!
I was about to turn 21, and I had no idea where my life was going. I had Joe, but he was leaving in a couple of days to begin working full time at Boeing in Renton (near Seattle) while I kept my job at Nordstrom (in Spokane). My mother had left the house for her first teaching job in central WA the previous January, so I shared the house--and the house payment--with my brother, Michael. Otherwise, I was ALONE.
Strange thing about being alone and an extrovert: it is lonely. I enjoyed having my own "stuff" around me, but I really missed my family and wanted more regular companionship. This was scary, since I resorted to staying out with coworkers into the night to allay my loneliness. I had a great time unwinding with the people I got to know at my job, and I cherish those days and nights. But something nagged at me constantly: who am I? I knew the Catholic girl, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the girlfriend, the employee, the idealist, the sensitive. Who else? Where will she go? What does she want? This was tough. It would get tougher as I searched for the answer.
I was sure as ever that I didn't want to get married "too young", but even surer that I wanted to marry that Joe guy. Although we parted that May with tears and uncertainty of the future, OUR future, I knew the choice was clear: I will marry him. We were bonded. It was a matter of time. I needed that time to figure out what I wanted for myself. Yeah, yeah...kids. That was a no-brainer. But WHAT ELSE? Anything else? I looked around at the people I knew and sought inspiration from their lives. People who married young and yet found the time, amidst baby bottles and dirty diapers, to finish college and get a respectable job. People who waited until college was finished before marrying and having families. People who didn't even have prospects of marriage and carried on with life, making good things happen for themselves. People who may have done any of these things, but were unhappy, because it wasn't the right choice. I had to make the right choice. I did what I knew I could do: keep working and let time unfold its secrets. Sounds like a cop-out, but it actually worked! I really enjoyed my job, Joe and I visited each other at least once a month, I moved into an old apartment near work, and continued building my feeling of independence. By the time Joe and I got the nerve up to GET MARRIED, I felt like a real, live, grown-up woman. My mother used to say, "You're just a late bloomer, honey...and that's ok!" I totally believe it.
All's well that ends well, as Shakespeare's Helena said. She was pretty much right...although perhaps I shouldn't compare my life with hers! But the tenor got the girl, they made 5 great kids, have a big, God-filled house with lots of love and noise, and everybody gets what he needs. The future is wide open.