“Can we turn the music down for a sec?” I asked Kelsey as we sat at a stop light, on our way to register her for graduate school.
“Uhh sure” she responded – my hand already reaching for the volume on the dash. “Is everything okay?” Her face was genuine but her eyes showed worry, thinking that maybe I wasn’t feeling well from car sickness or a headache. She reached for my hand, sitting on my lap in the passenger seat.
“Yes, I’m fine” I replied, embracing her hand over my thigh. “Can I ask you a question?”
She carefully shifted her position in the drivers seat, pulling her hand from my lap back to the steering wheel, as if she needed it freed in order to continue driving – The light was still red.
“Of course” she replied, her eyes fixed forward on the road, as if to prepare herself for the serious conversation to come…
We had just returned home from our honeymoon, spent traveling around various parts of Western Europe for 20 days. Although we we’re married 9-months prior, in September (it was now May), we were forced to postpone our honeymoon after paying for this elaborate wedding, ironically, that neither one of us really wanted. After six-and-a-half years of dating since high school – I was a senior and her a sophomore – we had anticipated a smaller wedding. Something casual, yet more intimate on our home beach, with only our closest friends and family. Seeing that we were both young and still pursuing school, this plan seemed to hold the most relevance to our specific situation at the time.
However, this idea didn’t go over as well as we’d hoped with our families…
Kelsey was already considered a part of my family, and had been for quite sometime, so the combination of both excitement and anticipation after nearly seven years caused our plans to lack the eventful justification my family felt it deserved. My mother, raised Baptist, seemed to hold the least content with our initial plan. Holding very traditional-southern values, she seemed to push the hardest for our reconsideration. I could never fault her for this… Her youngest son was finally marrying the young woman whom she herself had already considered to be her daughter for years. And being that I was the first of her two boys to marry, her excitement was that much more intensified – and we couldn’t help but embrace it.
Kelseys family, on the other hand, seemed to hold views amidst the opposite extreme, as my acceptance was never quite granted as easily, or organically as Kelseys was to mine.
I had just turned eighteen when we first started dating, and Kelsey was merely fifteen – turning sixteen later that month. A combination of our age difference, although insignificant now, and my own ‘instability’ throughout our initial years together – quitting my college wrestling team, drop g out of school, managing a local surf shop and traveling around surfing and merely enjoying my early years, didn’t seem to project the necessary qualities they deemed fit for their daughters future.
Therefore, I spent several years ‘proving my worth’, eventually returning to school and pursuing a career in the corporate-engineering world. Upon finally reaching a level in life to where I could gain their blessing, it still wasn’t enough to alter their personal views on financially supporting a wedding, seeing that they, themselves, had simply justified their own marriage with a quick trip to the courthouse.
So Kelsey and I met with my brother – a wedding and events coordinator at the time for Capella Resorts, and began planning this elaborate event, for which we would pay for ourselves. Two days after the wedding, we returned to work, saving as much money as possible to afford a honeymoon in the near future. Seeing that we had both done quite a bit of traveling throughout the years prior, we knew it wouldn’t take too long to save the necessary funds to formulate a trip that met our ‘minimal’ travel needs. After eight-months of juggling marriage, work, paying bills, and even a quick trip to visit her parents in Costa Rica, where they live and own a beautiful surf and yoga retreat, we left for our honeymoon traveling around Europe. Although travel was nothing new to us, with Kelsey growing up bouncing back-and-forth between Virginia Beach and Central America, and myself having been to 26 countries by the age of 25, we would embark on this seemingly typical adventure, only to return never the same again…
“Please don’t respond right away” I told her as I leaned forward in the passenger seat of our white Mazda 3. “Just try to think about the question before answering… I know what your initial response will be, but you need to really think about this first, rather than just reacting. Take a minute to reflect on it, because it deserves a genuine response.”
“Uhhh…okay…” She replied with a puzzled, somewhat disturbed look on her face – still confused as to what it was this was all about.
“I know you’ve always had a passion to teach” – she was hoping to go to graduate school to become a college professor – “But is this really what you want for your life?”
“Is this really what you want to do?”
“Of course it is!” She snapped back, seeming almost offended that I even asked.
“This has always been my plan Cameron… You know that!”
“Yes, I know it’s always been your plan… But a plan isn’t a passion. Just think about it… Take a few minutes to really reflect. You can tech in so many ways other than just through education! Before spending all of this time and money on more school, only to result in one specific outcome – just ask yourself… IS THIS YOUR DREAM!?”
Silence filled the car as the traffic light switches from red to green. Her eyes never left the road as she pressed her foot gently against the gas pedal – she was stiff as a board. Several minutes passed in silence. Not another word was spoken as we approached yet another stop light – Virginia Beach is full of them. Her hands dropped from the steering wheel to her lap as the car came to a stop. As her eyes left the road in front of her, and shifted down at her hands – now laying on her thighs as she adjusted the ring on her wedding finger, looking deeply at the diamond, studying it as if it were the first time she actually saw it. A mere whisper then seemed to escape from between her soft, thin lips…
The silence grew thicker, as if the entire world outside had suddenly stopped, in hopes to hear her revelation. “It’s not my dream.”
A chill shot up my spine as her head turned and her eyes lifted to meet mine. Although this was the response I had hoped for, the initial shock of hearing it from her own mouth left me speechless, as if completely surprised. I didn’t know what to say – my mouth was frozen shut! No words could come out. Her eyes began to swell – I reached for her hand. As she embraced my subtle touch, clenching tightly as if terrified by this sudden self-discovery, I finally gained back control of my face.
I smiled at her softly. She smiled back. Holding on to each others hands, our eyes remained locked. Our smiles grew larger, gradually changing to laughter. At that moment, sitting at a stop light on Indian River road…we were connected – not just physically or emotionally, but spiritually we had entered a place together in time where not a word was spoken, yet we understood exactly what each other was saying.
While on our honeymoon, Kelsey and I had connected in a way we’d never experienced in our seven years together – we were in sync. We wandered about, free and confident, straying from the packs of eager sight-seers and finding our own seclusion together amongst the chaos of the world. We walked the streets of offbeat neighborhoods and embraced the various cultures in which we were enveloped. We immersed ourselves in conversation, making friends of strangers – sharing thoughts, perspectives and ideas. We took every opportunity possible to learn, unlearn, and relearn – embracing all views and prospects as if our minds had been set free from the filters of the world.
All the things I’ve always cherished most about traveling alone, I now shared with another. I had a partner – a wife – a friend…a fellow wanderer. As we sat in the car, holding each other’s hands tightly, our eyes lost within the others, it became clear – without words, that we knew exactly what it was we had to do. It was time for us to leave.