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Monday, March 09, 2009

Five Years (How I Met Serach, Part XIII)

This is Part XIII of a series about how I proposed to Serach. To see the series, you could simply use the dropdown menu on the right side of the blog or this link right here titled "How I Met Serach".
It's hard to believe it's been five years [see below]. Happy engagiversary, Serach!! Let's celebrate by fasting all day! :) ...It's also hard to believe that I actually started this series three years ago and still haven't finished. {wince} When I started this series, I didn't realize it would be a series. I thought I'd tell quickly the story of our engagement, which was a lot of fun, but as I started to do so, I realized it didn't make sense without the background. Once I started writing, we thought it would be amazing for us to have written down as much of what we remembered from our time spent dating as we could and keep it for posterity. At the same time, we also liked sharing what we felt we learned while dating, what we found to be important and what we found to be unimportant. In the process, however, we dragged down the story, so in the future, we're going to try and get back to telling the story, and then discuss different things afterward. In this segment, however, I'm putting the story on pause again, this time right before we discuss our first major hurdle, because we were discussing a lot of things recently that fit in well at this point in the story.
Five years. Truth be told, it didn't really hit me just how long ago that was until recently, when we were at the Lander Alumni Shabbaton. I was talking to a few friends, and somehow the subject came up; when I said that it was about to be five years since those times, it was a bit of a shock to them, but more surprisingly, myself. It's hard to believe that everything that we can so clearly remember is from so long ago. These are people who knew me before I knew Serach, who roomed with me while we dated and got engaged, who saw the development of that relationship from the beginning. When Serach and I think back, we recall just how much went into those 3-1/2 months of dating, just how much emotion and time and energy and effort - and then there were another few months of engagement, with all the planning and stress and discussion and craziness and preparation for marriage itself... and that's all just on the input side in a short few months amidst other details of life.

At the time, we weren't much different than most college students. Serach was in the Lander College for Women in Manhattan, going for a Judaic Studies degree to move more quickly into a Master's Program for Education and Special Education. I was in my first year in Lander in Queens, going for an accounting degree; economics wasn't offered, and a finance/political science double major would have taken too long. I talked to people about how to best approach the accounting degree if I wanted to eventually go to law school and get a JD-CPA; I even borrowed a draft LSAT from a friend to try, and talked to my sister about law schools around different Jewish communities outside of New York. At the time, the University of Virginia's law school was ranked highly, and I remember trying to figure out whether it was a feasible choice if I lived in a place like Baltimore. (Er, it is not.) It is fascinating to think back to what we thought then, what we felt then, what our approaches to different aspects of life were then, and to think back and realize just how different and often naive those were.

A friend of ours was here for Shabbos recently, and we were talking about the interesting differences in perspective and understanding people gain as they mature - and yet constantly discount the comments and advice of those who are a stage or two ahead of them in life as people who "just don't understand" their situation. Everyone can remember when they were in 8th grade, looking down at the younger kids and thinking just how much they still had to learn. In 10th, anyone coming into high school was just a dumb freshie. At graduation, there was a sophistication that 10th and 11th graders simply could not appreciate. Anyone who's been in Israel knows just how much more developed their thoughts and hashkafos are than a high school kid; anyone in college knows just how confused and out-of-touch a seminary girl or yeshiva guy are with reality. A senior in college looks back at the naivete of a first-year; a post-grad can't imagine how they lived in that college bubble. And yet, at each stage, nobody is willing to truly pay attention to whatever anyone ahead of them is saying, though all in all, this is probably not a bad thing: Much of life must be experienced to be understood.

Perhaps this is my own current stage bias showing, but as we discussed this, we noted that around when a person moves into "real life", this constant upgrading changes dramatically. There's no larger difference in mentality than the one between someone who has finished college and someone in college after that point. Once a person takes that step forward into the rest of their life, there really is no looking back. Whatever path one chooses to start will shape their future in many ways, even if they eventually decide to try and switch whichever path they are on. A person who has been working for even a short period of time and a person who has been working for 30 years relate to each other more easily when discussing life's challenges than a college student would relate to either.

It is certainly true that we are all products of our life's experiences. When we were talking to our friend who was visiting for Shabbos, she noted that her own experiences (divorce after about a year of marriage) had changed her mindset and maturity in ways that people just a couple of years younger than her simply could not grasp. There is something about being forced to truly form your future that changes a person in a different way. For some, this comes when they finish college and start choosing that path in life; for some, it comes from a long and difficult life-changing experience. While we talked, I mentioned the excellent book Miracle Ride by Tzipi Caton, and [slight spoiler] how she discusses in the end how hard it was for her to relate to her old friends when she recovered. Though just 17, I believe, she chose to date and marry an incredibly and kindly man who - though many years her senior - could relate to her in ways others never really would be able to. His own divorce helped him to appreciate the complexities of life and how different experiences change a person, not somehow damage them. She writes about relationships earlier in the book, saying
"I felt that the relationship could be a lot stronger if based on what be both got and learned from our experiences rather than the experience itself. Two people don't have to go through the same rough ride in order to make them right for each other. What makes them suited to each other are the similar perspectives on what they have gone through individually."
People sometimes, if not often, forget this. When people look for a spouse with whom they have something "in common", there is a tendency to search for someone for that person who has had similar experiences. It is not the similar experiences that make it work, though - it is how the person comes out of their life's experiences, how it molds them for the future.

When Serach and I were first dating, and a few mutual friends eventually found out, there was a slight hesitancy on their part - as so often happens with friends, they simply "didn't see it". We were too different. Serach was the outgoing, fun, but a little high-strung one; I was the calm but shy and passive one. Serach was the unpredictable and exciting "livewire"; I was - well, I was going for accounting. A few years later, these are some of our closest friends, those who understand us as a couple best. I remember having a conversation a while back with another close friend who'd gotten married a few months prior about marriage in general and the bond it creates that people often do not quite appreciate. People underrate the strength a marriage has in general, and that only gains as the years go by, even when - if not especially when - things are difficult.

Certainly, the last five years have included plenty of stresses for Serach and me. But those pale in comparison to the good and positives that have come out of our marriage, from our own relationship to our joined path in life to (of course) Elianna and Kayla. As my sister-in-law noted when we got engaged, we were headed to a "lifetime of free entertainment", and that has certainly been the case. The past five years have been a miracle ride of our own, and it has only prepared us that much better for our future together. Happy anniversary, Serach! :) [click on the pic to enlarge]


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