When thinking about accomplishments, it’s easy to dwell on those things which are acclaimed in our culture. Things that make a lot of money. Things that look good on paper. Things that cause others to pause in awe and wonder.
But for me, I always come back to people. I don’t know if I’ll ever have an impressive resume, but I think I do have impressive relationships.
I was a kid when I met my husband, Steven. 14 years old. He was 15. We were a freshman and sophomore in high school. We had no idea what we were doing, but were fond of each other. We dated all through high school and then college, and no, we never broke up.
We didn’t know ourselves or what we wanted in a relationship. We just knew we had something good. Through 12 years of trial and error. Of arguments and laughs. Of good times and bad, we grew up together.
The truth is that we are very different people and we challenge each other constantly. We didn’t even realize how different we were until we had grown up and into ourselves.
I always imagined I would travel the world and go to school far away from home and live in a big city and have some kind of high-profile career. But when it came time to forge my path and make decisions that would take me closer to living out those visions, I chose something else. I chose stability and familiarity and my high school boyfriend. It wasn’t even something I realized I was doing at the time. I just followed my heart.
I could say what I have now is so much better than what could have been, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Because I do not know what could have been. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder.
But I also know that 12 years of commitment doesn’t come without personal sacrifice. To share your life completely with someone else requires some degree of selflessness.
When I think of Steven and I think of our time together, I do not feel lucky or blessed. I do not feel that we were put together by some divine power in a time and place that fit with a grand plan. I do not feel I have been bestowed a gift. When I think of one of the most constant relationships in my life, I do not feel fortunate.
What I feel is proud.
Because this is not the result of luck or divine order. This is the result of work. Hard work and lots of it. Twelve years with someone doesn’t just happen. It is a conscious choice we make every day, and putting another person before yourself isn’t something done easily.
I feel proud because throughout my life so far, I have never lost sight of the fact that people are the most important part of our stories. And when you find people who make you laugh. Who light up your world. Who make you think a little differently and look at life a little differently and who challenge the lens you see others through, you have to, no matter what, hold onto them.
There will likely never be monuments dedicated to me or books written about me. I will never have a great deal of money and I will probably never run a company or an organization. But by the time I am 30, I will have spent half my life devoted to a person I love and have decided to build a life with. I feel proud about that. And if I could put it on my resume, I would. Because I actually think that kind of commitment says a great deal about me, and is something that serves me both personally and professionally.
Now this is not to say that other accomplishments don’t matter or that having a partner is the most important thing in everyone’s lives. I do not think that at all, and I do not think people need partners or spouses or even romantic relationships to be fulfilled and happy. But for me, this is something I am deeply proud of.
Other things may come and go, but this life I’ve created with the kid I had a crush on in high school, feeling his hand in mine, hearing his voice everyday, watching him become a dad……this is what I am most proud of.
Steven, you are my greatest accomplishment.