Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama...

The time has come for me to make an announcement: Jeremy & I are leaving Florida to move to Anniston, Alabama in August.

We've been accepted to a master's fellowship program through the University of Alabama. We were selected as two of eight students to enter, what they have dubbed, The Teaching Newsroom at The Anniston Star newspaper.

We'll be full-time students, taking classes inside the newsroom (about an hour west of Atlanta). They pay our tuition and a monthly stipend, and at the end of the year (if all goes well), we'll have our Master's degrees in journalism.

It's going to be a big change for us, obviously. All of our parents and siblings are here in Florida. It's where we both grew up. But over the years, as home prices got to be outrageous, and we developed a taste for changing seasons and prettier neighborhoods, we knew it was time to go.

When I left Florida the first time, at the age of 12, it was a devestating experience. I didn't want to leave, and my choices were limited (practically non-existant).

I'll never look back on my 10 years in North Carolina with regret. I made some of the best friends I've ever had in my life. I lived in a great neighborhood, went to a great high school and college, and got exposed to a different way of life.

Still, a part of me always ached for Florida, and those I had left behind. Everyday was a struggle to balance the great things I had with the great things I missed. So, after graduation, I came back.

It's been over four years, and they have been great. I've gotten closer to my families, made new friends, and, of course, met my husband.

Now, I'm leaving on my terms. The decision wasn't easy, but it was mine. This time, there are no broken hearts, no angry feelings and nothing but best wishes.

I'm going to go. But my heart will always call Florida home.

Reeling in the years...

In the past two weeks, my life has changed, both completely and not at all.

On March 24, I married the man that was too good for even my best dreams. We understand each other completely, which led us to what we realized right from the start: there will never be another.

On my customs declaration, entering Antigua on our honeymoon, I checked the box labeled "married." So far, that's been the only change -- on paper.

Everyone has asked me, in the short time I've been back, if I feel any different, now that I'm a wife. I tell them no, and that is the truth. What's different isn't me -- it's the way I see him.

Every time I catch a glimpse of that shiny gold ring on his left hand, I see a man. I've always viewed Jeremy as being mature, and even wise beyond his years. But for the first time, I look at him now as a grown-up, and he said the same about me.

The thing is, neither of us has changed. We've lived together for so long now, there aren't many surprises for us to tackle.

What has changed isn't even our perceptions of each other. He's still that smart, goofy, loving person I fell in love with, and I'm still that adventurous, admiring girl he always knew.

When I look at him and see a grown-up man, what I'm really seeing is my own grown-up reflection. And it's a little scary. And it's a little wonderful.

It's hard for us to see ourselves as grown-ups, because "grown-up" to us means: "like our parents." We've separated the roles of parent and child for so long, we can't even recognize it when we become one in the same (whether we have kids of our own or not).

I've always objected to those who believe you become a "man" or "woman" after you're married. Marriage, I believe, just shows you the mirror.

I think it's the challenges you go through on your own -- living alone, finding a job/career, struggling to pay rent -- that develop you into an adult. I know I wouldn't be the woman I am without those things. I also know that a child, with no sense of responsibility or ability to self-reflect, has no business entering into the complete partnership that is marriage.

So have things changed? On the surface, sure. But really, truly, we are still the same man and woman we were before. We were just lucky enough to find each other, and to find love, to make our lives more complete.