With engagement excitement swirling like twinkling snowflakes around me, I’ve been thinking a lot about other trends that have ebbed and flowed throughout my life.
I grew up on a steady diet of Disney. My imagination billowed as I twirled in flowy dresses. In my mind, no dream was out of reach.
We believe that when we’re young. We believe that all is possible, that we can be and do and achieve anything we want. We believe that love is true and real and that one day, when we least expect it, it’ll come riding up on a horse, handsome and kind.
But at some point as we grow up, our belief begins to change.
I’ve always believed in love, or so I thought.
And then I met Carl, and realized that surrounding my hope was a thick layer of fear. And protecting that fear was an even thicker layer of disbelief.
This man was too good to be true. I’d learned the hard way that this wasn’t possible. He couldn’t possibly love me, cherish me, tolerate me and want all of me the way he seemed to.
I tried to hope. I tried to trust him when he said I could. I tried to believe him as he dreamed about our future.
But deep down, I just knew—stories like these are the stuff of fairy tales, and I was too cynical and afraid to believe in them anymore.
We dated for over a year, knowing and talking about our desire to marry each other. Carl said we were on our way, but without much control in the when or how, I had a hard time fully believing him.
Meanwhile everyone around us was getting engaged.
I’d get a text every week or so from a happy couple wanting to share their news.
And every time, my heart got heavier.
Maybe fairy tales were true, just not for me.
Christmas Eve was the last straw. Two great friends of ours got engaged and I burst into tears immediately. Why them and not us?
I cried into my pasta at Christmas dinner, finally confessing to my dad and to Carl later on the phone just how hard waiting was.
And in response, Carl comforted. And he asked two questions. Do you love me? Do you trust me?
The answer to both was yes. And so, slightly soothed, I resolved again to trust and be patient.
Christmas day came without much merriment on my part. I showed up and went through the motions, feeling like my favorite day of the year was just a little less sparkly than I’d remembered it.
Carl was at his parents’ house in Indiana, and I missed him terribly. It felt strange to spend this holiday without him.
“This will be our last Christmas apart,” Carl whispered to me over FaceTime on Christmas morning. I nodded, trying not to cry, and mentally kicking myself for being such a baby.
And so when all of the presents were unwrapped and the excitement had wound down, I snuggled into the comfiest sweatpants I could find, and fell asleep while watching the Grinch—a last-ditch effort to get myself in the Christmas mood.
After hours of lazing around, my mother finally insisted that I get up and get dressed. Shower, she told me, and knowing that I am a fan of the sopping wet messy bun, instructed me, rather ferociously, to dry my hair.
As I swiped on eyeliner, I thought about my mother’s strange request.
Why would she care what I wore to dinner, it was just our family right?
And with a flash, hope sparked like a match in my heart.
What if Carl was here? What if he showed up from Indiana just for the night, just to surprise me?
What if tonight was the night he was going to propose?
But I squashed the thought just as quickly. I’d been getting my hopes up for an entire year—crushed just a little bit more every time I turned out to be wrong.
Fairy tales like that just don’t come true, at least not for me.
I walked downstairs, fresh and toughened up from my personal pep talk.
And just then the doorbell rang.
My mom opened the door and there was Carl.
I couldn’t breathe.
I ran to the door and threw my arms around him. I cried into the shoulder of his sweater and breathlessly listened as he told me he wants to be with me for every Christmas forever.
And then he dropped to one knee and with tears streaming down both of our faces, slipped the most magical ring onto my finger.
We all cried as my family hugged each other and welcomed Carl to the family, and laughed as my best friend burst through the door, a bottle of champagne in hand.
We toasted and ate our traditional fondue Christmas dinner, our faces glowing around the candlelit table.
And that night as I fell asleep, I realized I was wrong.
Even after mountains of heartbreaks, and feeling forgotten, and relationships that are too good to be true…
… there’s that one time when it works out exactly as you were too scared to hope that it would.
Maybe fairy tales are real after all.
Oh, one last thing: don’t misunderstand the meaning of fairy tale. Fairy tale romance isn’t easy or perfect. The best things never are.
True fairy tales are full of courage and goodness, of overcoming adversity and fighting for love, even and especially when it’s hard.
And that’s the kind of love that Carl and I are working towards every single day, and this is just the beginning of chapter two.