Last week, my entire family was just waking up to leave the beach at Hilton Head. That trip was a restful one – and much needed.
Since then, I’ve returned to reality. I’ve dropped Bryan off in Chapel Hill, driven myself – and the “essentials” suitcase I’ve been lugging since California (talk about limited wardrobe. oh, wait, that’s normally how I dress…) – to Arlington, Virginia and I’ve started my first week of orientation.
This week has been a literal whirlwind of activities. Among my biggest accomplishments: finding a parking spot in our apartment’s underground parking deck, getting a Virginia driver license, and unpacking our THIRTEEN boxes of books. On Wednesday I met 80 new colleagues at orientation (!). Okay, so, maybe I introduced myself to 20-30 (but, introvert here!).
My last day of orientation included a wonderful speaker from Georgetown with advice on “Having Difficult Conversations.” She asked us to think of a difficult conversation currently on our mind. I realized that mine this week has been talking about how Bryan is finishing law school and not living up here. As a new person in a new environment where everyone wants to welcome you and ask about your husband and your move this gets clunky in explanation. “Hi! I’m Shannon. My husband actually still lives in Chapel Hill. We just celebrated our one year anniversary. Yes, I’ve enjoyed marriage so far … why do you ask?”
My resulting insecurity made me realize how much I’d hoped for affirmation – that others would hear our decision for this year and see it as a brave symbol of trust and commitment. Maybe someone thought that, maybe, but it’s not what their body language said. Raised eyebrows, confused head nods, follow-up questions (sooooo when exactly will he be in DC?). These new friends are so so lovely and smart and talented at what they do. Their confusion comes from a genuine place, and the fact that they approach marriage differently than I have. They see marriage as the end destination, not part of the journey. Many are engaged and waiting for marriage until their student loans are paid off, or waiting for engagement until their significant other finishes school. What Bryan and I are doing just doesn’t make sense to them. I see that now.
This is a radical decision; one that is not easy. I know this. But I am fully confident in the rightness of that choice but explaining this decision over and over again made me realize how reliant my confidence was on the affirmation of others. So, these days I’m thinking a lot about that.
In other news:
– I LOVE my new job and my new colleagues. There’s a lot I want to tell you about The River School – but I’ll save that for another post. Our first school day is after Labor Day.
– Our new apartment complex is confusingly near a confluence of multiple highways and interstates. Someday this will be a good thing, but right now it’s quite disorienting.
– We park our car in a garage (PRAISE).
– EIGHT PEOPLE can fit around our new dining table. I’m so excited to have room for friends! Will you come over for dinner soon? K, awesome. See you there.
– I’ve already seen so many friends: Alli and Kelsey and Sarah. So great to have accountability and encouragement and familiar faces.
I’m settling in well. I know I will soon love the new rhythms of this place. I miss Bryan the most in the evenings. I really treasure our time right before sleep. Those moments you really cannot share with anyone but someone with whom you’re wholly comfortable. But it’s also been fun to explain everything him in the evenings and know how much we each want to be with the other. Distance indeed making fonder hearts.
PS: Thursday I discovered that there’s a veterinarian not 100 yards from our apartment. I know this has nothing to do with anything above. But, it does have a lot to do with this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpPjehAySIQ