Thankful for the Unexpected

Like our initial meeting, this past weekend’s date almost didn’t happen...

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Like our initial meeting, this past weekend’s date almost didn’t happen. K. needed to leave Manhattan soon after the Northwestern football game to prepare for a trip with his ski club the following day, and I had already committed the first four hours of my afternoon to mentoring at the MIT Hacking Medicine NYC Grand Hack.

I am no stranger to spending my weekends at hackathons.

K. and I each have independent interests and ambitions that we work to fit into our now intertwined lives — I value this, and aim for a healthy balance of such in all of my relationships. We respectfully co-mingle our schedules, but sometimes that means we won’t see each other as long, as soon, or as frequently as we’d like. For instance, we first met (offline, in person at an Irish pub!) on 30 August, but I delayed our first official date until 13 September so I could maximize time with my Grandmother before she returned to the West Coast.

Since then, K. and I have managed to accommodate date nights in Manhattan twice a week over the past two months despite my utterly erratic calendar and the three hour round trip from his home in Long Island. I could reliably expect to see him soon after he returned from skiing, if not before. If only because I’m holding both of our tickets to Betrayal on Broadway. The man has also already booked our plans for March 2020!

But I wanted to see him sooner rather than later. Funny, since I almost left the night we first met without giving him my contact information. Luckily, he ignored my hesitation and insisted on getting my number to text me in three days. I left, expecting never to hear from him again.

I’m not going to lie. I was fully embracing my resting Squidward face when he arrived. I was not dressed to meet anyone romantically, and I was emotionally shut off. He admits he sat down next to me only because it was the only available chair at the bar. I entertained his chatter out of sheer politeness.

K. is not like finance bros that I usually date. He wanted to be a history teacher. He is unabashedly happy to see me. Every time.

He is kind, optimistic, and empathetic. He is respectful, honest and earnest. He works to improve himself, and he wholeheartedly encourages my professional goals. He appreciates the strength that is built when two people work together as a team.

Relatively quickly, I earned his trust and he melted my deeply jaded heart. During our date night two days preceding the hackathon, he confided in me about the most challenging experience of his life, which happened as he began his freshman year at Northwestern.

Many of my friends know I had an extremely difficult decade, but life has been brutal to K. I cannot say I would have had the strength to endure the battles he has faced, and I certainly would have struggled with a great deal more bitterness and sadness. In contrast, he remains generally cheerful, generous and disciplined. He recognizes the positive aspects of his life and strives to be a good role model to his eight nieces and nephews.

Last month, he told me that he “really, really” loves me. I was NOT expecting him to say that! I still had my guard up. But that changed this weekend. We met up before his driver arrived to pick him up…

Three hours and $20 of snacks and Pelligrino from Epicerie Boulud. $20 not $200, and it was a FANTASTIC date. I haven’t felt as elated about a date in the past ten years, and I’ve been taken on many envy-inducing dates by extremely educated and professionally successful men.

K. and I just talked.

No pretense. No secrets. No distractions.

And we laughed. And we held hands.

As my friend, Sunny Cervantes posted on Facebook —

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” — Vera Nazarian

This year, I am grateful that I met K., and I am thankful for the unexpected joy and calm that he generously shares with me.

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