This past weekend Dora and I ‘celebrated’ our 1-year wedding anniversary together. ‘Celebrated’ is in quotations because we didn’t really do much – in part because we were hosting a friend until this week and in part because we were also busy traveling ourselves (SF-Singapore-LA). Hopefully we can do something this weekend, but I think we’re both content to take it easy for a bit.
To anyone wondering what being married feels like – I’m happy to share that this past year really hasn’t been any different than the previous 10, which I take is a good sign since that’s the version of each other we chose to marry. It has, however, felt like the start of a new chapter as we moved to a new country, found new jobs, and adjusted to new routines.
Statistically most high school sweethearts don’t pan out, which puts us in an exclusive club where everyone assumes that we have the relationshipTM all figured out. The reality is that no one in high school really knows who they are or what they’re looking for, and Dora and I were no different. We just happened to luck into a certain compatibility as we grew up to share similar views on the big topics in life such as money, children and religion. Anything else we could either compromise or indefinitely hold a differing view on without much consequence.
But despite the affinity, our challenges came in a different form. At about the 3-year mark, we realized that we wouldn’t be in the same city for the foreseeable future and have to either break up or endure long distance for the duration. Dora had planned to move back to Hong Kong after her graduation and I had already begun taking internships in other cities with the hope of eventually moving to the states. A relationship felt like a cruel risk to take if only to delay the inevitable.
Thankfully our emotions bettered our pragmatic selves and we decided to give it a shot. We didn’t go into it with a vision of what a long distance relationship would look like, and the first few years were definitely a bit of trial and error as we calibrated to each other’s expectations.
Many people contemplating a long distance relationship would ask me how we made it work, but I think the answer is pretty anticlimactic. Sure you need to start with strong fundamentals built on maturity and trust, but in the end it comes down to your personality to thrive in the independence. Some couples try to bridge the gap by seeing each other every few months, but over time I find that to be too financially and operationally taxing. The chance of success (unfortunately) really comes down to what you already know – it’s how you interact with or without the distance.
Dora and I eventually established a cadence where we would see each other 2-3 times a year, likely once in Asia and once in North America. We would communicate mostly through texts and have calls maybe a few times a week. I find the most difficult part to be being emotionally supportive during particularly tough moments, as there are only so many things you can say and do on the receiving end of a sobbing exchange.
Things started to simplify in May 2019 when we finally got engaged. It was both a major milestone on its own and also a commitment to each other after all the years apart. It would be a few more years before we moved together, but at least now the end was in sight.
I visited Hong Kong that summer on route to Taiwan and decided to pop the question there. I had brainstormed a few locations with my friend for a private proposal but quickly realized a problem – anything indoors in HK was too crowded and anywhere outdoors was too hot. It didn’t leave me with many choices. I even contemplated for a moment to propose in her house. In the end, I carried the ring in my backpack and just hoped that the right opportunity came up.
It never really did until my last few days in Hong Kong when I saw the Ferris wheel while waiting for her to get off work. It wasn’t my first choice at the time since it felt pretty cliché, but I’ve grown to like it over the years. I think Dora knew the moment I asked to buy out a private cabin and had to watch the attendants awkwardly scan each one of the 10 or 12 tickets they gave me.
I don’t remember what I said in the actual proposal (no lie) except that it ran long and she asked if I was going to put the ring on her or not. I said yes and we got engaged!
Because of this whole other thing called Covid, we couldn’t get married until 2021, but I felt like the time in between went by in a blur. We moved back to Vancouver together, squeezed a bunch of stressful things in a few months (prepping for a career change, planning a wedding, preparing the move to the States), and came out of it mostly unscathed.
Like many others, Covid normalized our desires to have a small wedding, and it turned out better than I could’ve imagined. My old manager from EA mentioned to me once that there are really only two occasions where all your friends and family come together to celebrate your life – your wedding and your funeral. Seeing how I can’t attend one of those two, I felt like having a wedding is as much for us as it is for those we want to thank in our lives.
I still remember most of my speech to Dora because those are the same things I would reiterate today. That I admire her for her resourcefulness to navigate through the many years of uncertainty and distance, while still speaking of our future with the same enthusiasm as if we had just met. I feel very grateful for the past year and I’m glad that the future we always spoke of is here.
What I’m reading: It was taking me way too long to get through Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Rant’ that I finally accepted that I wasn’t really enjoying it. It’s a story about a murderer told through the eyes of others, but it jumped around a bit too much and the subject matter felt only as interesting as they were bizarre. Started a new series last week AKA Dune – my wife’s Christmas present for me last year :). I saw the movie recently which made the visualization easier, and it’s squarely in a genre I enjoy – sci-fi with political intrigue and with some cool characters/factions.