Ten years. We have been married for ten years. TEN YEARS?!?! That seems insane. At the time, it was the next logical step. We started dating in October of 1998 - during our senior year. As much as I insisted that we should be nonexclusive - not that I was seeing anyone else, but because I didn't want our relationship to affect our college plans - he eventually won me over. In February 1999, I agreed that we could date exclusively. However in July of 1999, he broke up with me. I still find it amusing that at that time he told me that I wasn't "the one."
We both ended up at Iowa State in the fall of 1999 and because we still had mutual friends, our paths crossed once again. We were broken up for a year and a half, however during that time, we managed to maintained a friendship, even while we were with other people. During the winter of 2000, one might say that Russell came to his senses, but I say that I was the one who started dating someone else and he didn't like that so much. At this point, he made it known that he was interested in getting back together and that this time, it would be for the long haul.
I had a decision to make. I was with someone who pretty much worshipped the ground I walked on, but I had the opportunity to be with the one person with whom I could very clearly see my future - my best friend. It took time for me to officially tie up my loose ends and then we both went home for winter break. We went out to dinner on New Year's Eve 2000. As we were sitting in the parking lot of Macaroni Grill, he turned to me and said "I'd really like to take my girlfriend out to dinner tonight, so what do you say?" It's pretty obvious what I said.
Russell made it very clear that his intention was that we would eventually get married. I made it equally clear that I was going to earn my degree before I got married. Then 9/11 happened. September 11th, 2001 - many of us remember what we were doing when we heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center, but can any of you say that these attacks altered the course of your life? I can. Following these attacks, Russell decided that he would join the Marines. So, with my full support and the eventual blessing of his family, it was official. Russell was going to be a Marine.
In addition to my own studies, I was suddenly helping Russell study Marine history, ranks, etc. He left for Bootcamp during the summer of 2002. While most college couples were worried about where they were going to party next weekend, suddenly we were faced with being separated for 13 weeks until I got to see him at his graduation and then several more weeks for his specialty school. (Little did we know that this extra-ordinary obstacle that we faced would set a precedence for our future.)
Our time apart merely solidified our commitment to each other. Suddenly, actual plans were being put into place for our future. As I powered through my final classes, studying for the GRE, and applying to grad school. We decided that we were going to move in together in Omaha after I graduated. One final roadblock stood in my way. I needed to tell my Dad about our plan, which I did on my next visit. This was one of the most terrifying conversations that I had to date. Little did I know, that my Dad already had some inkling as to what was going on.
My graduation was set for May 2003. Russell wasn't able to get out of drill to attend. We didn't realize at the time what this meant, but it all became clear in time. We moved back to Omaha in July 2003. On July, 19th 2003, Russell proposed to me. We were planning a September wedding until that fateful day in February when Russell was informed that he was going to Iraq. Russell insisted that we get married before he left. I was worried about the date being moved up on us, so I decided that I might as well have a fun anniversary. So, we were married on March 17th, 2004.
At the time, I thought we were so old and so mature. Like I said, it was the next logical move. But, I look back and think about how YOUNG we were. Holy Moley, we were babies!! And yet we had already been through so much. And we would endure so much more.
So much has changed in the last 10 years, yet the important things have stayed the same. I would never have predicted that we'd be standing where we are today. But, I'm so glad to be standing here with my best friend, celebrating everything that we have overcome, the three beautiful children that we've created, and the plans for the future that we continue to make.
Happy anniversary, Russell. I look forward to many, many more.