Somewhere, amongst the stress and pressure of my senior year of college, the seemingly endless schedule of basketball games, the impending doom of graduation and, oh yeah, studying, I lost myself. Any semblance of the person I might want to be when I growed up got buried deep in the muck of trying to survive that year of my life.
As you can imagine, this was not an ideal time for my sense of self to go missing. I was about to make a bunch of BIG decisions and knowing what I actually felt about them might have been helpful. In just one year’s time I found myself getting engaged. Choosing a career path. Moving. Getting married. Changing jobs. Moving again. Buying a house. And the list goes on. And I was just as confused on the outside as I was on the inside. I tried bangs. I got highlights. I went through a red lipstick phase. I spent all the money I earned at Anthropologie, buying ruffled dresses and printed tights and an obnoxious amount of blouses with tags that said “dry-clean only.” Trying so desperately to find something that made me feel beautiful, authentic, real. I took photos of my outfits and posed for daily “what I wore” shots in my backyard. I tried my hand at being a fashion blogger and even attended a national blogging conference in Chicago. No matter what I did, or said, or wore, nothing seemed to suit me at all.
I took a corporate job doing something I wasn’t formally trained in, but the paycheck was enticing and I convinced myself that grown up, married people had desk jobs. Shortly after realizing my boss was a lunatic, I took another corporate job in another town and without thinking, we made the move. You know what they say, mo’ money, mo’ problems. I trudged to my windowless, basement office day after day, rotting away in front of a giant computer screen, 40 well-paid hours a week.
And I sunk deeper, and deeper still, into the muck.
Besides my miserable job, I also loathed the little house we had bought. I’d felt a little shanghaied about the whole ordeal and deeply regretted the purchase. It was a 45 minute drive from everyone I loved and I was completely alone, still trying to wrap my head around what it meant to be a wife. Frustrated and looking for someone else to blame, I started to look at the boy I’d loved from first sight with resentment and mistrust. I felt completely out of control of my life and miserable at the thought that the rest of my days might be spent like this. I was anxious all the time and deeply dissatisfied. I wanted out. I wanted to get away. Run away! Far from everything my life had become. And so, being the go-getter that I am, I decided something had to change and I forged ahead, trying out one crazy idea after another.
I considered going back to school to get my masters and teach English. I thought about quitting my job and working at Anthropologie. I spent all my money there anyway, might as well get a discount, right? I applied to Fashion School in LA and convinced myself I desperately wanted to go. I’d stay up all night researching LA neighborhoods and taking virtual tours of apartments in Koreatown. I entertained thoughts of leaving my husband when he said he wouldn’t go. It was the first time he’d ever told me “no,” and I hated him for it. I begged him to make a career change, too. To take a job overseas so we could escape all the decisions we’d made to get ourselves so stuck. And I woke up every morning with an ache for the day we’d sell that damn house.
Throughout these miserable months, the only thing that brought me any comfort was watching a cooking show here and there. When I lived alone briefly in the months between graduation and our wedding, I’d watch the Food Network in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. It made me feel calm, and serene, and hungry. Watching Ina Garten make roast chicken after perfect roast chicken made me feel like maybe the world wasn’t such a nasty place, after all.
High on the tiniest bit of reprieve I’d found, I started inhaling food culture like it was my life. Watching Ratatouille, Julie & Julia and No Reservations on repeat. Buying full seasons of Giada at Home at Target. Reading Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and every book on Julia Child I could get my hands on. Eventually I came across Mireille Guiliano’s French Women series, which totally changed the way I thought about life, food and eating. Mireille, we’re on a first name basis, preached that life, and food, were about pleasure and enjoyment. Finding our bliss in what we make, eat and do. Her words resurrected my soul and I felt my head rise out of the muck, just a little.
Inspired by all of the food I’d been reading about, I began to cook. First, I made all of Mireille’s recipes. Baguettes and omlettes. French toast, pasta with prosciutto and leek soup. I botched a few things along the way, but mostly I felt like a natural in the kitchen! I started drinking a small glass (like literally a tablespoon) of wine every night while I chopped and prepped, and strictly followed her daily dark chocolate regimen. I spent my previously dreary work days looking forward to dinner, and used my days off for browsing the aisles of the local natural foods store. I reorganized my pantry, putting everything in pretty, labeled mason jars, and shopped for dry goods in the bulk aisles. I was still unhappy with my life circumstances, but the absolute misery had begun to recede.
Second, I learned about eating seasonally and locally. I read how my body craved warmth and sustenance in the colder months and realized eating what was growing then actually made me feel more satisfied. I bought new and exciting ingredients I’d never heard of before. I took my first trip to the Farmer’s Market and tasted my first farm fresh eggs. Gamechanger. I lost the weight I’d gained from a mix of unhappiness and eating out, and my hair grew out, long and healthy. I felt better about myself than I had in years. Ascribing to more of Mirelle’s advice about life, I started to follow the French beauty regimen, less is more and natural is best. I cut my morning routine down to a quick, five minute schtick, and suddenly looked more like myself than I ever had. I purged my wardrobe of ruffles and lace, ditching the brightly colored frocks in favor of simple, neutral pieces, and I also said adieu to the contacts I’d worn since fifth grade, deciding I liked the way I looked in glasses.
After almost three years of feeling like I wouldn’t recognize the person I was if I ran into her on the street, I could finally feel myself being pulled from the muck, limb by limb. My relationship with my husband became fun again. I let go of my unjust hatred for our poor little house and decided instead to embrace the place, painting the walls white and finishing our backyard. We planted hydrangeas and lilac bushes and I felt so proud as they bloomed. I planted my first garden and froze berries, canned peaches and filled my house with potted herbs and fresh cut flowers. We ate meals I had cooked on a little bistro table in our backyard and ate grilled veggies I’d grown with my own two hands. My circumstances hadn’t changed, I’d still made some choices I regretted, but the crushing misery and hopelessness were gone. Despite the fact that I still really, really wanted to move on from my job and our house, I’d somehow become rather content.
They say that just about the time you start to get comfortable somewhere, that’s when everything finally starts to change. Once we made the painstakingly analyzed (and over analyzed) decision to send me to culinary school, we set in motion a chain of events and it was basically one thing after another. Two dizzying years filled with a crazy commute to school, my first kitchen job, Taylor starting grad school, my second kitchen job, finally selling our house and moving into a tiny apartment, and starting a catering business. 2014 was spent simply trying to catch our breath.
And when we did catch our breath, six years into this marriage business, both having gone back to school, both managing to find a version of ourselves we were happy to wake up to in the morning, we started to think…what’s next!? We’ve done what we set out to do. We’ve faced our demons and come out the other side better for it. Where do we go from here?
The other night, while I was reading through some old journal entries, trying desperately to come up with something interesting for the next installment of Our Story, I stumbled upon a conversation we’d had just a few months into our relationship. It had started out as a talk about our exes, you know, the traditional who you’d dated, and how long, and how fresh you’d been with them, sorta thing. It was a conversation I’d dreaded, knowing my number was larger than his and also realizing my past relationship history painted a not-so-flattering picture of who I was at the time.
But the talk was much less painful than I imagined it would be and quickly turned towards our future instead of the past. It was the first time we’d talked of “our,” future. We were only a few months into this “our” stuff, after all. And just because I’d been sure were going to get married since day one, didn’t mean I expected
a normal person him to feel the same way. I had been very busy prematurely panicking over what I’d do after graduation, I mean I was getting an English degree for goodness sakes. A degree which told me nothing about my life except, “hooray, you can read and write!” I was obviously going to go broke, end up homeless and labeled a big fat failure. In typical Taylor fashion, he listened to my irrationality, providing some practical insights, and comforting me with the thought that he’d be there to support me, no matter what. A truth which, at the time made me feel week in the knees, but now makes my heart just swell with gratitude.
And then, though it didn’t seem strange to me at the time, he started to talk about what he wanted to do. Which now, knowing him much better, I realize was quite out of character. You see, Taylor is gifted with the unique ability to live in the present and doesn’t usually
waste spend a lot of time trying to micromanage his future. He goes with the flow. Makes decisions when he’s faced with them, leaves the stressing to me. Yet for some reason, he sat there that night, at 19 years old and pretty clearly, laid out his plans. He saw himself doing some sort of counseling for 5-6 years and then looking into what it might be like to help manage the family farm.
My brain kind of exploded when I read that this week. Here we were thinking this farm business had come out of nowhere! That we’d never really been interested in the path of agriculture. That it had come upon us so recently and unexpectedly. When all the while, Taylor had predicted the whole thing at 19 freaking years old. When I read the journal entry out loud to Taylor, he just grinned widely and said, “well that’s pretty cool.”
You can say that again. Cool indeed. Over the last six years, while I was busy having a quarter life crisis, doubting everything I’d ever known, trying desperately to find myself and changing jobs about 47 times, there he was, just doing his thing. A constant. Working slowly, deliberately, intentionally towards his goals. Going through just as much change and transformation as me, being grown and stretched and pushed, just doing it a whole lot less dramatic-like. That’s kinda how he rolls.
Today is my husband’s last day of work at George Fox. His last day at a place he’s loved so much I’ve often felt jealous of it. His last day in his role as an admissions counselor, athletic recruiter, student guider, parent adviser and coach mediator. He has single-handedly recruited more students to George Fox than any other admissions counselor, ever. And he has changed lives, you guys. In the span of his six(ish) year tenure, he has received more emails, and cards, and letters, from students and families than I can count. He is beloved by his coworkers, and respected and admired by all who know him. The intentional, patient way he does things has significantly impacted both the admissions and athletics departments, and made a whole lot of people’s lives better. He helped recruit the university’s first football team in 60 years and was still, a mere week before his departure, spending his Sunday evening answering emails so no one felt overlooked.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of the man he has become in these last six years. Especially since I was already pretty proud of the boy I married in the first place. Especially since I was pretty busy trying to steal the limelight most of that time. He is so deeply kind, wise and discerning. He has learned how to stand up for himself and when to put his pride aside for the common good. He is an incredible leader, excellent decision maker and one of those obnoxious people who is usually right about anything and everything. He is unafraid to express his emotions and make himself vulnerable when others wouldn’t dream of it. He’s risen above countless obstacles and adversities and refuses to sacrifice his standards to get ahead. He still cares as much on his last day as he did on his first and I know he will be dearly missed. Although he says he’s ready to move on, I know he will always feel a deep love, appreciation and responsibility for the well being of George Fox and it’s people.
I also can’t tell you what it felt like to read that journal entry this week of all weeks. To realize that, although it’s taken six long years of feeling completely lost and broken at times, this whole thing has come so perfectly full circle. To recognize how we’ve come back to the people we were in the sweet early days of our romance, and at the same time become these brand new, hard fought, better versions of who we once were. To feel like we’ve completed at least a small part of the good and perfect will of the one who orchestrated this whole thing. To know that in a week’s time, as my husband slips into his new work boots and hops on a tractor, we’ll be setting off on a brand new adventure. To know that if this one is half as good as the last, we’re in for a wild ride.
Photos by Gabriel Boone Photography.