Life doesn't make sense. I realize that sentence is one of the most overused cliches in the history of mankind, but maybe that's because it is so incredibly true. Because life makes no sense whatsoever. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, seemingly sound and logical people do really dumb things. Sometimes the harder you try at something, the more difficult it becomes. And, sometimes, things happen totally by chance, when you aren't trying at all.
That's what happened when Adrienne and I met. I've never really been a believer in love at first sight, and I've always thought fate was more of a made-up explanation for strange coincidences than something that actually affected our everyday lives. That is, until I met Adrienne.
I still won't say that it was totally love at first sight...It wasn't. I say that because I think that's impossible. You can't love someone that you don't know. But, I will say the time it took to realize I loved her was short. Strangely short, actually. As for the idea of fate? There's just too many strange circumstances surrounding our first meeting that can't be written off as simple coincidence. There was a higher power at work that we were unaware of until enough time passed for us to have hindsight. At least, I think so.
I finally got hired at Metcalfe County in May of 2010 after two years of one interview after another ending the same way. I was overjoyed to have a job, but I wasn't thrilled to be moving to the middle of nowhere with no friends or family within a two hour drive. It was a tiny school in a tiny place I didn't even know existed until the day I went for my interview.
It's mind-boggling to me to think about it, now. In a three year period I probably spent more than $200 on postage to ship out countless numbers of application packets to school districts all over the state. I spent hour after hour filling out online applications, emailing principles, completing mind-numbingly repetitive paperwork...It never ended. And of all the school districts in the state (and even a few in Tennessee and Georgia), I got hired at Metcalfe County. And so did someone else.
I found out about Adrienne just a couple of days after school started. As it turned out, my co-worker was dating Liza and she had been my academic adviser and one of my graduate school professors while I was a student at UK. He said she had a younger sister they wanted to hook me up with. I said no.
More than once.
But, he bugged me for two or three days, gave me her phone number unsolicited, and finally convinced me to go out on a double date with them. I was extremely reluctant...Adrienne would say the same thing if you asked her. Blind dates are so awkward and, in most cases, go absolutely nowhere. But this was different, and it was different immediately.
There aren't many moments in life that we can look back upon with such clarity and vividness that it's as if we are there in the moment. But the first time I laid eyes on her is one of those moments. I remember nervously walking down my stairs to the car trying to collect myself; I wondered what I was going to say, I wondered what she would say, I wondered how my hair looked. The walk down the stairs didn't take nearly as long as I would have liked, and before I knew it, I was in the car.
I had done my fair share of Facebook creeping the night before, so I had seen several pictures of Adrienne beforehand. But not one of those prepared me for her in person. I'm sure if you were to ask her how she looked that night, she would've come up with some ridiculous reason to say she looked terrible. But she was absolutely stunning...The most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I could feel the knot in my stomach tightening.
That first night was fantastic, minus the God-awful movie we were forced to sit through. It was Step Up 3D and we were the only four people in the entire theater (big shock). But we had a great time making fun of the movie and making fun of ourselves in our ridiculous 3D glasses.
We hung out a couple of more times as doubles after that; we all went to breakfast together a few days later, and Liza had us over for dinner at her house one night. I knew that night at Liza's that I really liked Adrienne, and finally got the nerve to ask her on an actual date that night in the driveway. I was so nervous I almost didn't do it, but I wouldn't have been able to look myself in the mirror when I got home if I didn't.
That first date was a little different. We didn't have the safety net of other people to keep the tension down, and it was apparent we were both a little nervous. I thought the whole evening I was going to kiss her for the first time, and I thought as she was leaving (since it hadn't happened yet) it would be the perfect time. And then one of the most awkward and embarrassing moments of my entire life took place.
I walked Adrienne to her car expecting her to stop and stand there before getting in to give me time to make a move...But, instead, she immediately opened the door and got in the car. She had thrown me a curveball and I didn't know how to react. So, I busted out this little gem:
"Days of the New, huh?" I said in reference to the music playing on her iPod. Smooth, one, Zach.
"Yeah," she said, obviously impressed with my musical knowledge. I paused for a moment, not really sure what to say next.
"I have that song on my iPod, too."
As painfully awkward as you can imagine that exchange was, the main event was what happened next. We said our goodbyes, and I was fully intent on kissing her goodbye. So I leaned in, expecting her to reciprocate, but she turned her head slightly to the side. So, at the last moment, I bailed out and gave her the most awkward, ego-bursting hug imaginable. It was painful. As she drove off, I stood inside the door and just shook my head. She didn't like me the way I liked her, and it was extremely obvious.
But, she gave me another chance and that first kiss did come. And a lot less awkwardly. Thankfully.
I remember when I realized I loved her. We were sitting on my parents back deck after going to dinner in Paducah. Oddly enough, I don't really remember what we were talking about. I just remember the thought creeping into my mind. I remember that feeling you get when you think your heart is going to burst out of your chest. I've had that feeling a thousand times since then. Usually at times when you wouldn't even expect it.
Watching her fix her hair in the mirror, trying to look pretty. When all I can think about is how beautiful she is all the time. As my mother puts it, "She'd be pretty with a shaved-head wearing a burlap sack." Yes, she would.
When she's stressing about all the schoolwork she has to get done, or when she gets a 49/50 on an assignment. I don't think about her complaints...I think about her drive and the excellence she expects out of herself everyday. And I admire it. I'm jealous of it.
When she gives me that look...The one where I'm doing or saying something ridiculous. I'm sure you've seen the photographic evidence of this one.
When she laughs at one of my corny jokes, and then beats it with something even more corny. Mainly because she said she always hated corny...Until I came along, of course.
I love her frankness. To a lot of people it can come off as harsh sometimes, but mostly I just look at it as brutal honesty. And that is an extremely rare quality to find in a person. As I told Jackie one time, with Adrienne, there is no guessing. She tells it like it is. And I love it.
I love her sense of humor. I can have an odd, sometimes borderline inappropriate, sense of humor. Sometimes we don't necessarily agree on what is funny and what isn't, but most of the time I'll point something out on TV or on a poorly written billboard, and she will finish my sentence and we'll bust out laughing.
I love how she accepts my faults. I'm FAR from perfect in so many different ways, but Adrienne doesn't seem to mind. Sure, she tells me when I'm being annoying, or out of line, or whatever the case is...And in the moment, I will usually argue. But, as much as it pains me to admit this, she's right most of the time. Not ALL of the time as she might lead you to believe...But a vast, vast majority of it, she is.
I love her family. I've never met someone with a family so similar to mine. The first time I met her family, I felt as though I fitted in like a dirty shirt. The love and closeness between her and her entire family was apparent immediately. It made me feel like I was at home. I've often told Adrienne this...Given the fact I was in a new place with no friends and no family nearby, and the difficulties I faced in my first year teaching, I don't know how I would have gotten through it without them. The walls of a small apartment can feel very close when you are homesick and alone. Having Adrienne's house to go to, filled with the warmth and love that exists there (the same warmth and love I feel at home) was the best thing that could've happened to me.
The past 15 months have been unreal. From the unlikely and unseen beginning, to where we are now...I still have trouble wrapping my head around it. Adrienne and I have said several times...From day one it was just so easy. And it was. I remember the first time I went to her house. We sat on the porch swing until the wee hours of the morning just talking. The conversation flowed so easily, it was as if we had known each other for years. Oddly enough, I don't remember much of what we talked about except for one thing: what cereals we liked the most. No matter the depth, I knew when I drove home that night that there was something special there.
We've grown as a couple since that time in countless ways. We've grown as people in even more. I've grown to love her with every ounce of energy I have. I've grown to stop thinking in terms of "me" and "I." It's become "we" and "us." Every decision I make, every choice I'm met with, is accompanied by the thought, "how will this affect Adrienne and I?" I don't live for myself anymore...I live for us.
That was the overriding thought that made me realize I was ready to propose to Adrienne. I had always told myself I would never jump into something like that if I wasn't 100 percent positive I was ready. Knowing that her life and her happiness was more important than my own gave me the assurance I was absolutely ready.
I went to bed that Friday night not knowing exactly when I was going to propose. I had given it a ton of thought, and I had already talked to Jackie about it, which was an absolute necessity as far as I was concerned. So, after that, it basically just came down to me planning it. I woke up Saturday morning, and as I was driving to work I thought to myself, "I'm going to propose tonight." I had bought the ring two weeks earlier, and the waiting was killing me. As Adrienne will tell you, I can hardly stand it when I have a card to give her, much less an engagement ring. I can't keep surprises to myself because I get so giddy about them, I will at least give her hints.
We went to dinner that night, and despite subtle hints throughout the evening, I don't think Adrienne had the slightest clue. I had requested she bring Scrabble with her so we could play, and while she was preoccupied with my cat Kirby, I got the necessary letter tiles out of the bag, and put them in my pocket.
Adrienne played a few words, and I did too, but I had no intention of finishing the game. I took a turn to exchange some tiles and through a very sleek slide of hand, I got all the tiles from out of my pocket to the little wooden stand. By this point, I was about to jump out of my skin.
When it came to be my turn, I moved very slowly and deliberately, trying extremely hard not to look at Adrienne. As I completed the spelling of "Marry Me," Adrienne sat there for a moment. It took her a minute to catch on.
"That's not even a word! You can't play two words at once!" She exclaimed. As I pulled the ring from behind a throw pillow on the couch and got down on one knee, I could see the realization start to creep over her face.
"Wait...Is this real? Is this really happening?" I just grinned ear to ear and opened the box, watching her reaction. She said yes.
Here's the Scrabble board:
After 26 years on this planet, I've had a good life and I've learned a lot. But, one lesson I didn't learn until I met Adrienne was just how much my life was lacking. And now that we are engaged, I won't have to worry about that ever again. Life is full of ups and downs, full of stress and questions about the unknown...But I can rest each night, now, knowing that I won't have to face those alone. And that is such an amazing feeling.
I know things won't always be great...I know the proverbial honeymoon will end. I know we'll have disagreements and arguments...We'll probably have a couple knock-down, drag-out fights. We'll stress about work and money and bills and everything else that comes with the real world. We will face sickness (hopefully nothing more than a mild case of the flu), we'll face health, we'll face better and worse...We will face the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. But, through whatever this world can throw at us, one thing will always remain: us. The best of the best is worthless without someone to share it with. And the worst of the worst is impossible to get through without someone there to support you. And we will always have one another. And I absolutely cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us.