How everything started...

First and foremost, I'm weird. Emily has helped me realize that, but in a good way, of course! But it's going to show here, so be prepared..

I'd like to document our life piece by piece starting with our 2 days of dating and 3 days of being engaged (just kidding...more like 8 days.) Just FYI, I've changed some of the names in this story.

The dating part!

In August 2013, I was returning to college as a junior. I thought I had left the girl that I had wasted the past year dating, but as I would later find out that was not the case. I was not assertive enough. It was one of those "I don’t know if we’re the best for each other", where to me that meant “We are done NOW - get out of my LIFEEEEE” and to her it meant “Oh I love you so dearly, we just need to work on some things”. Okay, so stuff was confusing there, but my goal was to walk into this new school year a more true version of myself. I spent the previous year being yelled at and cheated on by this girl, losing touch with all of my friends, and questioning everything I did. It was [forked] up. That was not going to happen this year!

Mid August my parents helped move me into Evermann apartments. I had a studio that was oozing with vintage cat cool and my beatnik mind was losing itself. Nevermind the linoleum floors and cinderblock for walls and ceilings (yes, ceilings), the freakin kitchen was straight out of 1956. The bread box was a new experience for me, and the stove top would turn on after pressing these little plastic buttons - something I imagine manufacturers stopped doing 40 years ago. The fridge was new, maybe 2007? Couldn’t really tell. And the bathroom shower was a different experience all together. The first shower I took there almost led to my first “shower accident”. The water coming out of the faucet was ridiculously loud, like unbelievably loud - a story, I believe, Emily hasn’t heard enough, but she thinks otherwise. Then the shower curtain would strangely get sucked to the opposing shower wall in some weird watery vortex, and my poor soul was caught naked in the middle of this mess. But I was a new man remember. I can outsmart an aggressive shower. The next time I went in I filled plastic water bottles and pinned the shower curtain to the lower ledge of the shower. It worked well enough.

The place was minimal, raw - just as I had wanted. I was on a minimalist kick. You see life is bursting at the seams with distractions and fluff, time sucks, and dead ends, but I was on a mission to push through those things and find It - the point, the peace. As most people know I’m not the most expressive person to ever exist, so even though I may have externally seemed boring and normal, on the inside I was truly trying to find It, my way, and discover what it meant to be. I knew there would be some indication of a journey successfully completed, but I didn’t know what this completed journey would look like. There had to be something at the end. A greater appreciation of the world? Of myself? At the time, I had no idea of the treasure I was about to find and how special that treasure would be to me.

I would end up finding the love and joy of my life.

I was a mormon of 8ish months. It was a steady source of confusion and anxiety as I slowly tried to figure out how I fit in (that will become a common theme and struggle in my life), but with the membership came an entirely new pool of friends. I would often attend the institute for hours at a time. Being alone for most of the day, the institute was a great way for me to avoid delving into real loneliness - you know, like “not knowing I’m being difficult” or “oh hello young lady, let me tell you more about how bees store honey” type of loneliness. I will say that someone who thinks it probably takes years to get to that point has never met me, so I was cautious.

At this point Emily and I were already acquaintances - she was no longer a new face. We actually “met” the prior year:

It was a sunny spring morning - I think it was spring, who really knows.. Either way, I awoke in my Tulip Tree apartment to the sun burning my skin, as it always did, and the alarm clock probably blaring in my ear. It was a stone cold alarm clock - didn’t care at all. I probably shot up, dressed as fast and sharply as I could, ate a bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch and ran out the door to the institute. I just remember it was sunny that morning....probably because it was the morning I met Emily.

I don't remember which institute class I was attending, but I know it was one of the 10:10 am ones on Tuesday or Thursday (awww we first met on a Tuesday or Thursday). And I remember Brother Tibbs was passionately teaching, as he does, and I was soaking it all in. To me he may as well have been a Prophet - I admired his passion. Anyway, we were doing something in the class when out of no where, this hot, sexy little P.Y.T decides to just stroll right in and everything stopped! I whipped my head up so quick and soaked in that curly brown hair, those beautiful eyes, and what are those? High cheek bones? Yes, please. Those luscious lips, and the...2 KIDS??

I had never felt lower than I did at that point. For real, though. She was perfect; She was cute, about my age, delivering treats, and then I saw she was with two kids. Of course at the time I didn't know she was just babysitting. I thought they were her kids - even though she was my age - the whole mormon family thing flipped my world upside down. I didn't know if people were old, young, or my age; I had no idea.

And as soon as she came in she was gone, but I never stopped thinking of her. I wanted more Emily, and boy did I get more Emily

We never connected much that year, except for one time when my current girlfriend suggested to both Emily and I that we date? It was awkward to say the least. I mean I can’t speak for Emily, but I was kind of down. I would have happily left that relationship for her at the time. However to be honest, I’m not sure I was completely ready to date a real girl like her. My confidence was non-existent, so how was this gorgeous, strong woman suppose to like me? Who even was I? No one.

So back to where we were. It’s the beginning of the school year (my junior year, 2013). Like I said earlier, I’m living in a minimalist’s playground. I have so much confidence that I’m tripping over it, and I’m spending quite a bit of time at the institute.

And wouldn’t you know it, Emily also happened to spend a lot of time at the institute. We didn’t instantly hit it off, but don’t get me wrong, we weren’t awkward or anything. I just didn’t come in day one and profess my undying, eternal love for her (she probably would have thought that was hot), it was a much slower start. Love isn’t an instantaneous passion. Love hides (after previous hurtful relationships, love really hides). Connection, trust, and vulnerability mixed with time slowly coaxes love out of hiding. The whole process is a delicate dance of whirling thoughts and emotions, but when done right creates the most rare and spectacular performance. If only I had known that around this time. I thought love was easy; I thought love was “I love you” - “I love you, too”. I thought love was holding hands, kisses and hugs. But how wrong I was, for that is affection, a byproduct or precursor of love, depending on where one stands in a relationship. A great thing in and of itself, but in my case, that lack of understanding prevented me from digging deeper during this delicate moment in our journey together. It prevented me from opening up to Emily and talking about how we felt when near each other. Talking about what scared us about being with each other, and what made us feel the subtle joys of life. Years later I would finally understand (or at least start to understand) love - what it looks like and how it feels, but during this time I was clueless. Instead, I relied on my sunglasses, mad biking skills, and interest in poetry, Kerouac, woodworking and the blues.

Eventually, after many small interactions we started building a connection. At the institute we would talk and laugh. She would watch me kill it at pool, and I would listen to her musicals as she prepared for her musical class (I hated musicals at the time).

Emily was hilarious, and we would often be riding the same brain-waves. For example, the first time we did anything outside of the institute was when Ken invited me to help him home teach Emily and Jess at their apartment. All was going well until we got on the topic of cats. I love cats. Emily had a cat, George. How could I not tell a story about one of the cats I had growing up. The only problem was that Jess also wanted to tell a story about a cat. So I waited and then:

Jess: …and it was crazy.

Josh: Yeah, I…

Jess: But what was even more wild…

Josh: waits for her to be done.


Josh: Yeah, I…

Jess: And if you think about it…

Josh: waits for her to be done.


Josh: So, I…

Jess: But that’s not the only thing….

It went on like that for MINUTES. Emily and I could not keep a straight face. It was wild. WILD. Never in my life had that ever happened. MINUTES. Finally I got to tell my dang cat story, and it probably wasn’t even that good. All I remember was that George was cute and so was Emily.

After that things really started to pick up. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but I don’t think it matters. I remember the time we spent together - the time we shared. I could spend hours with her and only feel the passing of a few minutes. Consumed in new love, my journey to find It was slowly morphing into a realization that maybe I didn’t need to look very far.

We first kissed on her balcony, starring at the stars…well, I was starring at the stars - she was trying to kiss me. As I’ve probably made it clear before, I’m not the smoothest guy to ever exist. So, we continued to lie on a blanket on her balcony under the stars with a candle lit. I would say a few words and she would slowly scoot ever closer to me until we were practically on top of each other. Still completely clueless, it finally happened - we kissed! On the lips. It wasn’t a long kiss. I feel like most genuine first kisses aren’t long but rather short. You want to kiss them, but you also want to judge their reaction before going any further. My reaction maybe wasn’t well-timed. Emily went in, we kissed, she backed away, looked up, and then I said it: “…ew!”. Of course I was mimicking Jimmy Fallon’s “Ew!” skit, which was a running joke between us. However, this potentially wasn’t the best time to joke. I took a briefly calculated risk, and it did not pay off. I don’t remember Emily’s reaction, but it certainly wasn’t cry laughing, which I was kind of expecting.

The night was far from ruined, but this does present a glaring flaw in our dating so far: me.

Look, I like to think of myself as a nice guy. I mean, we all place ourselves in the best light whenever we can, but I really do think I’m a fairly nice person. Plus, Emily was starting to love me. And, who could blame her? I was quite kind, freakin hilarious, rather genuine, and normal, for the most part. I could maybe add in tall, dark and handsome. I never once got angry, and I never once hurt her. At the time I honestly thought I was doing all the right things and making all the right moves, but looking back I wasn’t giving anything to the relationship.

We didn’t go on any dates. Although we did go to Dragon Express together once. It was a delicious and very cheap local Chinese takeout place right next to the institute on campus. Emily went there once and brought her food back to the institute. I had a try and it was immediate love. She was hot, she was spicy, and that sauce was to die for. Where had Dragon Express been all my life? So a few days later (I believe) we went together. I was nervous that we wouldn’t have much to talk about, so naturally I decided to be a little weird and anxious. I was constantly analyzing things in my head. What are people at other tables thinking about us? Do we look natural together? Is she enjoying herself? Am I enjoying myself? Of course, life isn’t usually that cruel - the dinner was lovely. We talked about my metaphysics professor and his thoughts on the Thee-ah-ta. We talked about Emily’s crush on her teacher…..whaaaat? It was good. I think I may have been the one that suggested we go, but we definitely paid separately. So, I suppose we can’t count it as a date.

I didn’t offer to cook her any meals. Although I did cook her scrambled eggs mixed with Chicken Of The Sea Salmon once at my apartment. She kindly and rightly declined to eat it. I never cooked food growing up. The year before that is when I learned how to cook eggs. I learned how to cook chicken during our first year of marriage. But, I did know how to cook pasta, heat up salmon packets, pour cereal, and open Krispy Kreme boxes (the trick there is to go slow).

I didn’t write her any letters or bring her any flowers. Although, I did write her a song, sort of. She was the theme in a few songs, but none of them were explicitly about her. In my mind they all spoke about Emily, but the words coming out of my mouth were fairly generic. However, I did buy her flowers once while we were dating! She spent the weekend at her sister’s house with her mom and when she arrived back in Bloomington I surprised her with a bouquet of flowers in an empty, Newman’s Own pasta jar…

I didn’t give any part of myself to her. I didn’t even try, and I certainly didn’t open up in the least. She put the work into setting up all the dates, makings all the dinners, planning all the nights and I just went with the flow. I loved her; I loved her more than I loved any other girl, but I never dared show her that. So, in the seconds after our first kiss, instead of looking up into her eyes and holding back a burst of joy with a cute smile, I made a stupid joke.

I struggle with vulnerability. Just the idea of smiling can shift my mood from one of lightheartedness to one with more somber tones, and I haven’t the slightest idea why. I often feel happy, and I often feel life’s sweet, delicate wafts of joy, so why would I not want to smile? Why would I not want to bring that joy to other people? For a good portion of my teenage and young adult years I generally viewed life as something to take seriously, something a little morose and a little painful. Of course there were plenty of happy times where I would laugh and break out a few smiles, but those somber undertones were consistently lurking and waiting to bring me back down to reality. Life is hard; life is work. Exposing my innermost feelings and emotions would be foolish. It would be ignorant of the world around me. So I learned to hold myself back and appear as if I was in on It the whole time. I knew the secret; I knew the reality of things; I knew what real life was about - definitely more than those happy, emotional saps. Those fools out there singing and dancing, swinging and swaying through their days. Those infuriating fools.

I was the grinch. My gosh, I was the grinch of life.

But how wrong I was! Oh, and how much pain that would cause Emily in just a few years. She was exposing her inner soul to me and I gave her nothing. I gave her nothing because I didn’t want to be one of those happy, ignorant saps. Unfortunately that can drain a partner to the point where they question every part of their life, and I didn’t realize that was slowly starting to happen with Emily. That, so far and without a doubt in my mind, is my greatest regret in my life.

...Coming soon: the rest of it.