When I was 16, things were different. I thought softball was my entire life, I quoted music lyrics for my Facebook statuses, and I had a freckled face full of acne. I was a junior in high school, trying to sort out my talents and my passions while struggling to balance AP Lit and anatomy and pre-calc.
I was busy. If my energy wasn’t completely consumed by school—there was student government and National Honor Society and Great Expectations, which loomed over me like a shadow—it definitely felt spent after my athletics. I had just led my team to the state softball tournament, I was emailing collegiate coaches, my dad and I spent weekend mornings at the field hitting grounders, and open gym for basketball was starting up in the evenings. Every minute was accounted for—from panic attacks to showers to early morning weight lifting. It felt like I had no time: not to breathe, not to relax, and certainly not to date anyone.
One Friday, someone changed all of that. He asked me to do the unthinkable: to take a break. Though my mind was a swamp of stress and anxiety, he took me to look at the stars. And for once, I let myself appreciate the beauty of everything around me, and accept the tranquility of the moment. Home slowly became two eyes and a heartbeat, instead of a place. I was 16 when I first fell in love.
Over the past five years, I’ve grown up. And I’ve been lucky enough to do it side-by-side with the person I love most, all while following our own paths. We’ve gone to separate schools, lived in different places, and studied polar opposite things. My English writing degree looks nothing like his civil engineering one, and that’s been a blessing.
We began as teenagers, holding hands in our high school hallway and meeting at our lockers during passing periods. I would write love letters in health class and he would twirl me after his baseball games. I’ll never forget dropping him off at Colorado School of Mines, tearing up on the drive back home where my senior year awaited. And later, when he was in the crowd as I gave my graduation speech, the time I sipped my first beer while holding his hand, how he picked me up from the light rail each weekend, and the feeling of moving into our first apartment together. We’ve created countless memories, each as special as the last.
This past weekend my partner took me on a walk after dark, under a blanket of twinkling sky. And, exactly five years after that first nighttime gaze, he got down on one knee. I’m happy to say that I’ll always remember my answer to Chad’s question, and the bliss that followed: “We started looking at the stars five years ago. Will you keep looking at them with me for the rest of my life?”