My fiancé Donovan and I are both active duty in the military. I'm in the Army and he's in the Navy. We met in paradise - Hawaii to be exact. Despite us both being from Ohio and having mutual friends, I had never met him in person until then. I had the biggest crush on him for years. So before we officially met, I definitely knew I wanted him to be mine.
He was stationed in Hawaii a year before I arrived. We exchanged text and calls here and there, keeping touch, but nothing more seemed possible given the distance between us. While he was in Hawaii, I was in Germany. However, the tides turned. I received orders to move to the Aloha state and what once seemed unrealistic, felt more likely. He was one of the first people I told. Lucky me, it only took a month for us to get together and make it official.
Lucky us, we both knew what we wanted. There was no need to play hard to get.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Donovan had just gotten back from a four-month deployment when he planned a trip to Napa Valley for my birthday. It was a big trip for a couple of reasons. Not only would we be celebrating my birthday together since we started dating, we would also be honoring our approaching two-year anniversary on April 9. And to top it off, he scheduled a hot air balloon ride while we were there, which was especially romantic because it was something I had been telling him I wanted to do for forever.
On the morning of my birthday, at around 6 am, we woke up to start the journey of getting to Napa and those hot air balloons. Now, even though Donovan is chipper in the morning, I am not a morning person by any means. It was the main reason why whenever our friends had whispered in my ear about him proposing to me on my birthday, I shrugged it off. It was honestly the last thing on my mind as we made our way to our destination.
I remember him being really impatient during the drive to get to the hot air balloons, but because he's normally an impatient person, I paid him no mind. We had paid for professional pictures, so when I saw him give his phone to one of the photographers, I just assumed that he wanted his own pictures on his phone, so I stayed minding my business waiting on our turn to get on the hot air balloons when I felt him tap me on my shoulder.
I turned around and my best friend was down on one knee, ring in hand, asking me to marry him.
The first thing that came out of my mouth was, "ARE YOU SERIOUS?" And immediately after that, I said YES! I'll admit, he caught me way off guard. I couldn't even focus and enjoy the hot air balloon ride because I was so shocked. What made his proposal even more special was the fact that he prioritized asking the two men who mean the most to me in life for my hand in marriage before we left for our trip. My 12-year-old son from a previous relationship, and my father. It literally meant the world to me that he took the time to make sure my father and son approved before asking me to be his wife. It was truly the best birthday ever.
But as quickly as his love sent me to cloud nine, I was brought back down to earth.
Back To Reality
After an amazing time in Napa Valley, we returned to Hawaii. It was easily the best trip we've taken together to date. I don't know if it was because we had been apart for four months from his deployment before this trip, but it's like everything was perfect. The weather was great. We visited some of the best winerys in Napa Valley, went to our first baseball game together, ate great food and laughed nonstop. I don't remember arguing once during the trip.
It was bliss.
But one week after I said "yes," my fiance left me.
To be fair, we already knew he had to move to Chicago for work when we returned and that I wouldn't be able to join him until 2019. However, admittedly, it was a little bit harder to deal with, knowing we had just got engaged. I wanted to enjoy being his fiancee, to be together, to enjoy the moments leading up to our big day. And although we had been apart before, survived a deployment that consisted of us not being able to talk for days at a time, this separation felt different.
Here I am in Hawaii. He's in Chicago. And we are planning a wedding in Ohio. And let me tell you, the time difference ain't no joke.
When he is getting up for work, I'm sleeping. When I am getting off work, he's getting ready for bed. We do make it a priority to make sure we talk everyday, no matter what, but honestly, it isn't enough. And how could it be? When he was deployed, I had an idea of what his daily schedule consisted of. I didn't know exactly where he was because he was in the middle of an ocean, but I found solace in the fact that he was on a ship.
Now that he's in Chicago, it's a weird feeling. A different feeling.
It feels like he's living a life of his own, and I'm not included. What's worse is that trying to plan a wedding without him right now feels incredibly empty. We should be looking at venues together, scheduling cake tastings, scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration together. But instead, I'm doing these things alone. Sending him links and screenshots of things are okay alternatives, but it's definitely not how I pictured planning the wedding to the man of my dreams.
To help navigate through this long distance, we recently both made a trip to Ohio where I got to meet all of his family and he met all of mine for the first time. In August, I'll be going to Chicago for a week where we will be attending the On the Run II tour together (He loves Jay and I love Bey, so it's only right), and he also plans to come back to Hawaii in December so we can spend Christmas together.
His deployment was a tough time for both of us. When we would actually get the opportunity to talk, I remember feeling sort of depressed afterward. I definitely appreciated hearing from him, but not knowing when the next call would be didn't sit well with me. He found himself having a lot of time on his hands. Too much time! Donovan has never been the insecure type, but I can honestly say his insecurities showed during that time.
It was important during that time to reassure him that I would be waiting for him when he returned. I sent him a care package around Christmas time with his favorite things inside. I even had a professional photoshoot on the beach just for him and printed off the pictures to include in the care package. I found myself trying to stay as busy as possible. That's when I created my blog CrazyStupidMilitaryLove. I knew that other military couples were going through the very same thing as I was, so I wanted to connect with others and get advice on how to cope with things.
What I am learning and relearning is that any relationship is difficult, especially a military relationship. In fact, you'll find that many people who are in a military relationship will run to the courthouse to avoid being apart. That just wasn't something that either of us wanted. We know that the journey to get not only to the altar, but to our forever will not be easy.
This love is work.
It is needy. It requires a lot of trust and communication. It requires never giving up and holding each other down. We both deserve this love though, and I truly believe Donovan Jemison was made for me.
With tons of communication, a refusal to go to bed angry, occasionally making trips to see one another, we gon be alright. Trust and believe though, I am counting down the days that this long distance love comes to an end.
Only 17 more months to go.