Falling in Love on Fridays: Loving on a Prayer

This week’s Falling in Love on Fridays comes from one of my very best friends in the whole world (and the world wide web). Nikki started as my bubbly intern at the campus newspaper and quickly grew to become a treasured soul in my life: always reminding me to be positive, always giving me a dose of reality and always remaining one of the most thoughtful, generous people I’ve ever known. Though we haven’t lived in the same place in a long time, we stay connected each day via Gchat (I call her my Gchat BFF!). Her story is one that’s unique and so sweet — just like her. Check out her awesome blog, Mrs. Healthy Ever After for more great insight into her married life. It’s hard not to fall in love with this girl, I promise. (And if you want to submit your own falling in love story, read this!)

Loving on a Prayer

I remember thinking I was in love and when it all changed. I had been in a long relationship with my high school sweetheart who was a couple of years older than me. Everyone thought we were the one’s for each other and we were that “it” couple at church. On the outside, it seemed like I was living the dream. He even wanted to marry me. But when he said I had to marry him by my 19th birthday and on top of his porn addiction that led to me having the worst self esteem ever, I knew enough was enough.

It’s weird thinking how “first loves” or failed relationships truly play into your happy ever after. But they do. And no matter how bad the hurt is from one relationship, there really is hope for that knock-you-off-your-feet love story you’ve always wanted.

I was still dating my porn-addicted ex long distance  when I met Addison. He had been out of school due to back surgery the first semester I started college and all his friends took me under their wing at the place where we both worked. Every chance they got, it seemed like they were saying that I had to meet Addison because we were so much alike. By alike, they meant super-sheltered, goody-two shoes Christian kid, so I didn’t think much of it. Until he  finally walked into the game room I was working in, that is. Someone was making fun of me for being a virgin, as usual, and he just waltzed up and said, “Don’t feel bad. They make fun of me for that too.”

Impressed by a male outspoken virgin, I ran around the desk, gave him a hug and said, “I love you.” Yeah, I know. Not the smoothest of moves, but I was a bubbly freshman who said “I love you” to practically everyone. But that day, a friendship was born.Turns out, Addison had a high school sweetheart who absolutely shattered his heart and he thought he was going to marry her too. It’s a weird commonality, but it was refreshing to have someone to talk with about such a pain that’s hard to express. Eventually I broke up with the wrong guy and Addison continued to be probably one of the best friends I ever had.

One night while we were watching MASH in his room, I turned to look at him during a funny moment and he just planted a kiss on me, completely catching me off guard. It was the most magnificent kiss that has ever happened to me. I asked him what that meant, because it really came out of no where and he said he just wanted to date casually. That was fine with me because I had just gotten out of a longterm relationship and figured it was time to do the “college thing” and date around. But we were inseparable and dating casually didn’t last long. What was really funny was that while I was still dating my ex, I had  prayed to God to send me a man– any man– even if it was a “Joe-Schmo who couldn’t remember my birthday” as long as he wasn’t addicted to porn. Imagine my surprise when my first birthday together, he actually forgot to give me a birthday present. At first I was hurt and mad, but then I just had to laugh. Sometimes God has a sense of humor.

But the real defining moment when I first realized that I loved him and knew he was the one was something that still shocks most of my girlfriends when I tell them this story. I’m not proud of this, but dating a porn addicted really really messed with me on multiple fronts. Early on in our relationship, I took the opportunity to search through Addison’s computer for EVERYTHING. I wasn’t as fast as I thought because when he walked into the room, I just froze. First, it was the expected “What are you doing?” but then to my shock, he replied, “Here are my passwords to emails and Facebook. I have nothing to hide, so if it makes you feel better, go for it.”

I was blown away. After being in a relationship full of lies, and let-downs and entire feelings of inadequacies, I found a guy who was upfront with me about everything. And now, almost five years later, I am married to him and he still says its okay to go through his computer if I ever feel the need to snoop around.

Since then, we’ve been through a lot: long distance, death, failed plans and more. But you know, it always did turn out alright. It just goes to show you that even damaged goods like me, who was overly suspicious of computers after years of hurt, could still find the one who could be what she truly needed all along.

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My Chats with God

After a particular stressful evening at the student newspaper in college, I needed some air. So, I decided to do something that always clears my head: go for a run. Not in the mood to go to our 24-hour gym or trot around the track, I decided to just run through town until I couldn’t go anymore.

I was 20 years old and silly – I knew better then to run alone when it was dark outside, and it was nearly midnight. But I went anyway, filled with frustration and stress, wanting nothing more than to feel the wind blowing through my hair and have the cool evening cool my mind. I started at my apartment on the main strip in town, hustled past the Wednesday-night bar-goers, boozy and insisting I join them in my sweats and tee for a $2 PBR. I smiled, refrained and turned up Rihanna to tune them out. Two miles later when I reached our stadium for the second time, I decided to push myself a little further and run up a massive hill (North Carolina is good for those), past the Chancellor’s House, into an abandoned parking lot.

Again, not the smartest move in the world.

Making my final lap around the lot, I noticed a sneaky path that led to a hidden trail behind the trees. I glanced at my phone – almost 1 a.m. and I had class at 10 – did I really want to venture some more? My legs hurt, so did my body, and though I was less upset than a few hours ago, the running wasn’t totally curing me. Was I a complete idiot to go into a dark forest with only a few streetlamps strung along here-and-there? I sure was, but I did it despite the fact. I moved slowly and cautiously, without a soundtrack to serenade my adventure except for the Autumn leaves crunching under my feet. I looked around at my surroundings, braced myself for the billowing wind that whispers its way around the mountaintop my school was nestled on.

And there it was. My spot.

We all have them – a place somewhere in the middle of nothing or the middle of everything, wherever you find that’s right for you, where you can stop and feel at ease. Where you in your own words, in your own way, can think and breathe, relax and let go. Where, if you’re anything like me, can chat with God.

I do pray, mostly when I’m scared or nervous, and also when I’m really thankful. Always when I find a penny. But while in college – I used to talk to God a lot more. I’d have full-blown conversations with him, complete with yelling and crying, asking and pleading. Always in that same spot after a run or when it was really cold, I’d drive and go out for just a bit. This ledge overlooked the campus and I loved how the lights twinkled in the night, reminding me of New York, reminding me of where I wanted to be.

I sometimes sat on a large rock, but mostly I paced and chatted, watched the minimal cars go by and hoped no one would come and interrupt me. If they did, I had mase, just in case. I don’t know if God talks back. The only true way I feel like I get answers is when I find a penny when I’m feeling lost or when something so perfectly designed for me, happens, and I can’t accredit it to anything other than divinity.

I don’t have a spot in New York. I can’t seem to find a place where it’s quiet and comforting, where I feel safe enough to say all of those things out loud to the sky that I could never say to someone’s face or in a crowded space. I hadn’t even realized I didn’t have a spot until Mr. Possibility and I went away for the weekend a few weeks ago, and there, at a house by the water, with the sun cascading down, I felt the urge to talk to God.

Mr. Possibility was inside napping and I was alone with only the sounds of nature around me and the feeling of my toes tickling the top of the surprisingly-cool July lake. I hadn’t talked to God out loud in years, even when I went home to North Carolina for visits, so I wasn’t sure how to start. I glanced around me to make sure no one else was around to hear me, the crazy, 20-something who was jabbering away into the distance to something that didn’t meet the eye.

But once I started, it felt good. It poured out. Years and years of things I’ve needed to say, things I needed to admit to myself and to the universe, though both of us already knew. I talked so much my throat got dry. I cried so hard, I had to breathe out of my mouth. I was there for so long that the porch light came on and I decided it was time to head inside. And when I reached the steps, my eyes puffy with a big, wide smile on my face, Mr. Possibility asked what happened and I simply said, “Just had a nice chat with God. Everything is going to be okay.”

The rest of the weekend, I continued to chat down by the lake at night when no one was around, and when I left, he would say, “Have fun, tell God I say ‘hello!'” and off I’d go. By the time I returned to New York, I felt fresher and energized, ready to unfold yet another chapter in the many chronicles of my twenties.

I still need that spot though. I still need a place to unwind and feel free to spew. So for now, my chats with God are limited to, “Please guide me to a place where we can talk more. Where I can feel closer to the universe, where I can feel closer to myself, where I can feel closer to you.”

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for Borders Free Wi-Fi today, where if I stand in the right corner, legs crossed, holding my laptop, I can finally get a signal.

A Little Piece of My Heart

Barely a month after I got my license at 16, I hydroplaned on a rainy Wednesday morning, lost control of my shiny red 1996 Chevy Cavalier (with a spoiler!), and flipped into a ditch. When I realized in a split second I wouldn’t be able to get my car back on track, I removed my hands from the wheel, covered my face, and prayed: “Dear Lord, Please don’t let me die.”

The next thing I remember, I’m sitting on the ceiling of my car in the passenger seat, purse on my shoulder, and feeling the urge to get out as fast as I could. All of the windows were smashed in, except for the driver’s side windshield and side window. I crawled out, taking a jagged piece of glass in my wrist on the way, stood before my car, the rain pouring, and put my hands on top of my head. I saw blood leaking down my arm, thought it was my head bleeding and furiously started searching for the wound. I couldn’t find one, and as I watched my tires still spinning, heard Michelle Branch still playing, I wondered if the new tank of gas I just put in would cause my car to explode. I then thought I may want to run away. My high school was less than a mile away, I could just go to class.

Unable to cry, dial my phone, or have a conscious, collected thought, I felt alone on the country road and unsure of what to do. It was then that a woman approached me. I don’t know her name – I’m not convinced she actually exists – but she came up behind me, put her hands on my shoulders and asked me if I was okay. I told her what happened and she started making phone calls to 911, and helped me dial my parents, thinking they’d rather hear my voice than a stranger’s concerning the circumstance.

She then covered my head in her jacket, walked me to her parked car where it was warm, and started asking me questions. She inquired about the career I was interested in pursuing, the university I would be attending, what sports I played, what my plans were for Thanksgiving since it was the next day, and made me apply pressure to my wrist. It seemed like I talked to her for hours, listening to soothing music, and hearing her chat about her life, though I couldn’t tell you anything she said. Soon, my best friend happened to drive by (it was the road to school, after all), and I ran to meet her and we cried together – remembering all of the times we whipped around curvy road without hesitation. The ambulance showed up, the firefighters, and the police. My parents greeted me with watering eyes and smiles bigger than the State because I had survived, though my car would never be driven again.

By the time I calmed down enough to understand the kindness the woman showed me, I turned back to find her car and she was gone. No one remembers her there and my phone had “911” dialed from it when I looked in my history. But I can see her face. I can hear her voice. I remember the smell of her car and the sound of raindrops hitting the pavement below as someone directed traffic outside the window. My mother calls her my guardian angel, but I’m not exactly sure what she is or was.

The only thing I’m certain of is that whoever she is, she changed my life.

I took a tiny piece of my car with me that day. I still have it. It reminds me that our time here is limited. It could change, it could end, it could be over without notice. And it keeps me motivated to volunteer consistently. Since that day, November 23 to be exact, I created a community service club at my high school called SOUL: Serving Other Under Love, that’s still active today. I joined my campus’ community service center, serving as a peer counselor and as part of the leadership and service residential living community. When I moved to New York, I joined New York Cares within a few months, and now lead the Young Authors Club in Chelsea. I also participated in charity events through my sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi, and I run 5Ks and participate in other events when I can.

It wasn’t that she volunteered her time that morning to help a scared teenager, but that she gave a little piece of her heart. And really, I think that’s what volunteering is all about. It’s being generous enough with yourself to give a bit of yourself to someone who needs it. To someone who, regardless if they know it or not, craves compassion. I was lucky enough to survive crashing my car into a ditch and if I’m able to walk, to speak, to live my life fully – I should be living it to help someone else.

Perhaps she wasn’t a real person and maybe she really is sent from the heavens. I don’t know and it doesn’t quite matter because I still think of her often, especially on nights like tonight, when the group of volunteers, parents, and children celebrated a successful year of writing with story sharing and pot lucking. The smiles on the children’s faces, the pride the volunteers felt, and the love that circulated the room – that’s why I will forever aim to be a humanitarian, and one day if I can afford it, a philanthropist. Because no matter how insignificant the contribution,it  is a contribution in itself, even if it just shelter from the rain and smooth jazz tunes at 8 a.m., it’s enough to shape the life of a stranger…forever. And, for the better.