Life can be really hard. It can beat you down day after day, month after month and year after year if you let it. In the nearly five years I've had the privilege of knowing my fiancée, Aeriel, life hasn't always been easy. We have been through hardships, challenges and difficult times; things that could have sent either of us running for the hills. I think the same could be said of any strong couple who love each other through and through. We all face challenges and hard times, but coming through them together is what makes us who we are in the end. It's what makes days like March 1st, 2015 even more special than they would be in the first place.
March 1st, 2015 is a date that I will never forget. It's the day that the love of my life agreed to marry me. The day that I put myself out there in a way that only a man who has asked their significant other this question can understand. It isn't so much a feeling of anxiety like the kind you get before a big test or a big project due date. It's more like the anxiety you build as you're standing in line for an awesome roller coaster. You just want it to be your turn already!
I didn't have any previous experience asking anyone to marry me, so this was all a bit new. I had, however, spent many nights drifting off to sleep throughout my late teens and all through my twenties, thinking of many ways I might propose to a woman, were I to ever be lucky enough to find that special someone. I can honestly say that the scenario which actually played out was not in any of those well laid plans, but I couldn't imagine it happening any other way now.
Aeriel and I had recently made a tough decision to accept a relocation offer from my employer which would move us completely across the country to Portland, OR. It was a difficult decision because we had done this once before, moving to New York City, and it didn't exactly work out the way we had hoped. Our families both live in Kentucky along with most of our close friends and that didn't make the choice any easier. In the end, we made the decision together, doing what we felt was best for now and the foreseeable future. So I made the trip in early January to start working out here and begin the search for permanent housing.
Being apart was tough. After a short visit from Aeriel and her mother just after I arrived, we were looking at one month or more apart right away. It was the longest we had been apart in more than 2 years and it wasn't easy. I decided one day not long after their first visit that I wanted to propose to Aeriel and I wanted to do it as soon as possible. It wasn't like I hadn't thought of getting a ring and "popping the question" a million times since we had been together, but this time was different. It just hit me like a ton of bricks one day, "I want to spend the rest of my life with this woman!". The desire was so strong that I immediately went and bought her a ring.
It's a funny thing, buying an engagement ring. I knew the "type" of ring she would like, but I was petrified that even with that knowledge, I would get something wrong. Some detail of the stone or the setting would end up making her cringe. I walked into one of many jewelry stores I had browsed and I found a ring that really stuck out. It was the exact style she wanted within a price range that was affordable. I looked it over very carefully and I didn't even buy it right away. I went to other shops and viewed other rings to make sure I wasn't missing one that was even more perfect. In the end, I knew that the one which caught my eye was the one for her. I went back and completed the transaction and drove home that night with a beautiful symbol of my love for Aeriel in my pocket. This was really going to happen.
It would be nearly six weeks before I would have the chance to propose and a million things were going on in the meantime. However, Aeriel arrived for her final Portland visit and housing search on February 25th, 2015. Then it was only a matter of days before what would be the most important day of both our lives thus far.
I had decided in advance how this was all going to go down so it was just a matter of cooperation from the weather and, of course, proper execution to keep it a surprise until the last moment. I hadn't told ANYONE. Not family, not friends, no one. Aeriel doesn't generally like surprises, but this one was going to be an exception, I knew, and I didn't want her to even catch a whiff of what was coming her way. All she knew was that we were going to Multnomah Falls to eat brunch at the restaurant there and enjoy the natural beauty of the waterfall.
We arrived just in advance of our 11:00am brunch reservation and made our way from the parking spot up to the restaurant. It was brisk and chilly that morning, but we had dressed nicely for our romantic Sunday brunch together anyway. We got a great table with a view of the falls just outside the window next to us. It was wonderful! The brunch buffet was good with a decent variety of foods from which to choose. Before we knew it we had filled up and were nearly ready to go. We finished up our Mimosas, paid the check and she decided (wisely, might I add) to change into jeans before we started up to the falls.
After the quick costume change, we were headed to the paved trail up to the bridge directly in front of the falls. As I always do when we visit a beautful park or landmark, I was snapping photos along the way.
The falls are a truly amazing sight and only one of many such waterfalls in these areas of Oregon, at least that is my understanding. I had hoped brunch would take a little longer so the sun would have been overhead at or after 12pm, but we finished so quickly that the sun was just beginning to peak over the top of the falls as we approached the bridge.
As we made our way up the short, winding trail, I snapped a few other photos. One in particular, the lovely stream (above at right), really turned out amazing. It was as awe inspiring in person as it turned out in the picture. That's a rarity with me behind the lens. We then got up to the bridge and the moment of truth arrived.
We stopped on the bridge and spent a brief moment in silence, just taking in the beauty of it all and the light spray of the water rushing down. I turned to her and said, "Do you love me?". "Yes", she replied. "Are you sure?", I asked. "Yes...", she replied again, more purposefully this time. "Are you positive?", I asked one last time. "Yes!", she said in a more urgent tone. Then I reached into my left pants pocket as I slowly lowered to one knee and as I raised the black velvet box up, I said, "If that's the case, will you marry me?". She was clearly taken aback with surprise, at least that's how it looked to me, but she didn't hesitate for a second. "YES!!!", she said excitedly. I think she even immediately asked "Are you serious? Yes!!", but I was so excited it's a bit of a blur. Maybe she'll correct me on that one. The only thing that really matters, though is that she said "yes". We were officially engaged to be married and it was the happiest day of both our lives so far.
After some PDA (as you might imagine), we continued over the bridge and then stopped on the other side. I hadn't brought her up there for a real nature hike, so I snapped one last picture of the falls and then we quickly made our way back to the warm car so we could soak in what just happened and, of course, start notifying those closest to us of the news.
I think one of the best things about this day was that we had already planned to drive out to the Oregon coast after brunch, so we got to it almost right away. We notified our family and close friends and took off in the car westward bound for the continuation of the day. It was sunny and warmish that day and after nearly an hour of driving out 26 West, we stopped at a rest area nestled in the forest.
We were both ecstatic the whole car ride just trying to wrap our heads around the life changing event of which we had just partaken. We were going to spend the rest of our lives together. I thought our faces might break due to an intense bout of "resting happy face".
It turned out this rest stop area was at the mouth of a sizable hiking trail and park of some sort, so we were treated to another beautiful walk through moss covered trees, over a wooden creek bridge and then back to the car to continue our journey.
It wasn't much longer after the rest stop that we ended up at the coast. We both agree that one of the blessings about relocating to Portland and the surrounding area is the proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the west coast. This day we made it out to "Goonies Rock Beach", as I call it. It's actually called Haystack Rock and it's located less than 2 miles south of Canon Beach. We had such great luck to experience a sunny, mild day for what would turn out to be our Engagement Day.
We didn't stay an incredibly long time at the beach, but we stayed long enough to bask in the new direction our life together was taking. I know it's only been two weeks since this day, but it's such a powerful life event that I'm still coming to grips with how wonderful it is to know I'm going to marry this woman. At first, relocating way out here seemed like such a big, frightening change to happen at a time when we weren't entirely prepared for it. Now, after being here for a few months and experiencing some of what Oregon has to offer together, I feel much differently about the change than I did initially.
Everything feels like it's coming together to form the launching pad for a new chapter in life. Not only did we get engaged while she was here for this visit, but we landed on a wonderful town house and got approved for a move-in date that directly matches up with our original move timeline. I'm not a particularly superstitious person, nor am I religious, but there are times in life where a special convergence happens. Times when things either fall apart suddenly or come together, seemingly by way of magic. The last three months could have turned out either way. While there is still a long time to come in this new location, living this new life together as fiancée and fiancé, I find myself filled with feelings of joy, happiness and gratefulness. I'm alive, healthy, in love and getting married to my favorite person in the world. If there's a better situation under which one might segue into a new chapter in life, I don't believe I've seen it, read it, nor heard faint whisper of its existence.