For all that I don’t write romance novels or even fiction with heavy romantic themes, I’ve always thought of myself as a romantic in the goofy, sappy, cry-too-much-at-cheesy-commercials sort of way–especially when it comes to my husband, my kitties, and my friends and family. In the political climate of late, it’s hard for some to think about love. For those who see Valentine’s Day as nothing more than a commercially motivated Hallmark invented holiday, even more so. But love comes in many forms and from many different people, making today one of the holidays I love. Especially since it’s my anniversary. (See? Hopeless romantic, I told ya!)
It feels like a lifetime ago, and yet I remember with perfect clarity the people in our lives who told us we’d never make it. Some worried that high-school sweethearts wouldn’t last by definition–as if such a cliché was found only in rom-coms made by Hollywood. Many worried that at so young an age, we couldn’t know who we were as people enough to possibly know what we wanted in life. A few worried that depression would destroy us because it destroys so many.
They spoke damning words about our future with such…gumption, as if they knew these things for fact, but Erik and I have never been normal. We’ve never been average or mundane or boring. And we’ve never let others tell us (or anyone else for that matter) what to do or who to be.
1996 was a long time ago. 21 years in fact.
Just saying that feels insane. Mostly because we were so young–young enough that in some ways, we were different people–but not so young that we didn’t walk into our relationship with more knowledge than most. Like I said, we aren’t normal people. Both of us grew up with challenging and unusual childhoods–the kind that ages someone. Events that would crush some children made us strong. Made us flexible and capable. Traits that are necessary in a successful relationship.
People who were high school sweethearts like to say that they are still together because growing up together gave them special insight or that somehow the universe just made it work. I like to believe that if two people can survive high school together, they can survive anything, because let’s face it–people are at their worst in middle and high school. The stress of hurrying up to become who everyone wants you to be–to instantly know what you want to do with your life so you can get into a good college–coupled with trying to figure out what you want to be, is chaotic enough without all the hormones. Society wants children to be both children and life-changing decision makers within a span of 2-3 years.
That’s not to say that the years after high school didn’t carry their own challenges because they did, but to have been through what we had before the age of 18…well, it puts things into perspective. I knew who I was as a person long before I met Erik, and while we’ve both grown up together, we were pretty solid people by the time we’d met.
Oddly enough, we’re one of three sets of high-school sweethearts in our circle of friends from high school–all of which are still together 20+ years later. Through money struggles, job-loss, health issues, deaths, and children (furry or human), we’ve all persisted through the nay-sayers and folks determined to trample love.
I don’t write these words to say we’re better than anyone else, because we’re not. Some days depression does turn us into grumpy people who snap at each other. Other days stress and lack of sleep make for one of us being oblivious to the other’s needs. We’re not perfect, nor do we claim to be.
I write this because right now more than ever, I’m seeing so many of my friends struggle. My friends are afraid. They’re unsure. They’re cycling in a loop of anxiety and depression. And they’re not alone. The world watches us as this roller-coaster ride shoots us toward a future that could end badly for so many.
But in all the darkness, I believe in love. I believe in our ability to hold on to one another and boost each other up. I don’t just believe this because I’m a hopeless romantic, but because it’s true. It’s why Erik and I work. It’s how we’ve survived so much. It’s how we’ll continue to survive whatever the future brings. Our belief in each other, in our love and our future, is what keeps us this happy 21 years later.
So my wish for you all today–whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not–is that you find someone you love, be it a friend, a family member, a pet, your child, or your spouse. Find them and hold on to them. Love them, because this is how we win.
LOVE WINS. Always.
P.S. Erik, I love you more than life. Always will. <3