Two days ago it was my first wedding anniversary. I still get amazed at this fact, that I’m married, just as after almost a year I still get amazed that I’m here, in Washington. Amazement is the right emotion I think, an accurate assessment of the import of these things, a refusal to allow them to come to feel commonplace or ordinary
I’m sure a lot of people say this but, truly, I never thought I’d get married. It wasn’t part of my plans or my world-view, my self-image or my values; I’ve never understood why anyone felt the need for a certificate from the government to validate the relationship they have. And then we needed to secure a visa for my partner once I had been offered a job in America and all of a sudden it mattered to us very much that we had that government certificate. Without it we were just good friends as far as visa’s and such things were concerned.
Let me be clear: this isn’t just a marriage of convenience. Kate and I had lived together for almost four years in Australia and traveled together for six months before settling in America. We were already planning to spend our lives together. But marriage? Not part of the plan.
However a year later I’m swept away all over again remembering how breathtaking the moment was, saying our vows in front of Yolanda, the country clerk in Upper Marlboro Maryland, only my parents and sister in the audience, how I looked into Kate’s eyes and felt something deeper and more powerful than anything I had experienced. One year later I’m still wondering what this whole marriage thing is all about, but I couldn’t be happier to have made this commitment to Kate (and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier with how it all happened, with so little stress or fuss). A year later I’m still overwhelmed at how much we’ve grown, and how much we are still growing.
We know ourselves through our interactions with others. This is the essence of our humanity. Many years ago I saw the then former and now again Costa Rican President Oscar Arias speak to a youth leadership conference in Mexico. He said to us: “a human alone is a contradiction.” In other words it is only through others that we become fully human, that we express and realize our potential.
I have always felt this and drawn my strength and confidence from those around me. But the strength and confidence I draw from Kate, the support and companionship she gives me, goes beyond what I can express. From my family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues I learn of humanity; from how others see me I learn of myself; from Kate’s love I learn how to be my best self, so that I might be worthy of it.
It is a precious gift and often seems wondrous to me that in this huge world here we are, keeping each other company, challenging and cherishing each other on this epic adventure. It’s not always easy, and it wouldn’t be worth as much if it was, but our partnership continues to evolve as we evolve, allowing us to change, experiment and grow rather than to cling in place, stagnate or drift away.
I think this would all be happening anyway, regardless of the surprise marriage, that this is all fundamental to our relationship and who we are. Marriage cannot overcome the absence of qualities that sustain and support a true partnership (and I think many marriages are in fact an attempt to overcome these gaps, when they’re not simply a blind allegiance to tradition) but with these qualities in place and values that support our individual growth and our partnership, marriage seems to have clicked something into place even more firmly for us. We knew we were in this for life before, but now we really know it.
This sense of scale helps us keep things in perspective and worry less about the small stuff. We know we’ll be here for a long time and we’ll continue to work at getting it right. Getting it wrong is just another chance to figure it out, to do it better next time. And better we continue to get.
The past 15 months have been the most exciting, adventurous, empowering and fulfilling of my life. As we’ve moved through ten countries, rebuilt our lives in a new city, met hundreds of new people and made some incredible new friends, deal with challenges and opportunities at work and questions about our career paths, our relationship has grown into a rock upon which we can build, which provides us with the foundation from which to launch new adventures. As we left everything else behind it become more and more apparent what we had taken with us, that wherever the other person is is home.
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Kate has turned my story into a love story. And just between you and me I’ve actually always been a little bit of a sucker for a good love story, provided it also has enough adventure and comedy mixed in. So far so good.