I never expected to meet the love of my life in my freshman year of college, much less that we’d be living together a year later. I definitely didn’t mean for this to happen. Really, I just wanted to have a fling. I don’t even think Riley meant for this to happen. Somehow though, this is where we ended up.
Our relationship hasn’t been perfect. Riley has managed to screw up every single relationship milestone.
Did I get some big romantic gesture when he asked me out? No. Laying in his dorm room one evening, he muttered, and I quote, “you know you’re my girlfriend, right?”
Did the first “I love you” come at the perfect moment? Not exactly. Six months into the relationship, standing outside in the cold, I had a nasty stomach flu and had just finished puking up the last of my spaghetti dinner. “You know I love you, right?” Yeah.
If he ever asks me to marry him, I’m fully expecting the proposal to be “you know we’re engaged now, right?”
Living together hasn’t exactly been perfect either. I’m not the easiest person to live with, and most of our time is spent with me nagging him about something. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the dishes and laundry to be done, the house to be clean, the fridge to be full, and the bills to be paid—preferably on time.
But we’re learning, slowly. We switch off doing the dishes now. I set up automatic payments for our bills. Sometimes Riley even cleans and does his own laundry. Even though it’s hard sometimes, it’s worth it to be able to fall asleep with Riley every night—usually me much earlier than him—and wake up with him next to me every morning—which usually means me setting a million alarms on my phone and getting up much earlier than I’d like to so that I can wake him up. I love him just the same, even at the sound of my alarm at 6:20 on a Monday morning.
Sometimes being with Riley is the most annoying thing in the world, and sometimes it’s the scariest. The thing about college is that nothing is permanent. I have no permanent home, jobs, friends, anything. College will end for me in two years, and most of the people that are in my life now will graduate and go their separate ways.
What will that mean for me and Riley?
I’ve spent hours going over that question in my head, and the honest answer is that I don’t know what I’d do without him. And that scares me even more. Part of college is learning how to be independent, and I’m not so sure I’ve done that yet, or that I’ll be able to do that with Riley here as a crutch. Part of it is also figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life, and that’s hard to do when you’re planning your life around someone who might not even be here in two years.
But there are moments that I know it’s all worth it. He’s not just my boyfriend. He’s my best friend. We support each other, push each other, and love each other. He’s adventurous. I’m timid. I worry about everything. He has never worried about anything. I’m responsible. He’s getting there. We balance each other out. And honestly, for every quality he has that drives me nuts, I have 10 more that drive him up the wall. And for some reason he’s still here.
One of my less flattering qualities is that I tend to be very impulsive and indecisive. A few weeks ago, I called my grandma to see how she was doing. Her husband had passed away a few weeks earlier, and the funeral was the next morning—I couldn’t go because of school. However, my grandma, as sharp as she still usually is, forgot that.
“It’s going to be so nice having all of my grandchildren here tomorrow. I never get to see you all together anymore and it just means so much to me that all of you are coming tomorrow.”
I panicked. The thought of seeing all of us made her so happy, how could I tell her that I wasn’t going to be there? So I found myself going along with it. It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I realized, in horror, that I either had to call her back and explain to her that I was not home and that I had lied to her, or I had to drive the 6 hours home and go to the funeral.
I called Riley. We arrived at my house in West Virginia at 2 in the morning.
I’m also a pageant girl, and so Riley gets to be a pageant boyfriend sometimes. If you know anyone dating a girl who competes in pageants, be nice to him. He’s dealing with a lot. While I’m preparing for a pageant, sometimes I become a really ugly person. I’m usually a little hungry, stressed, and exhausted, and every single one of my weird, awful insecurities comes out. I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. My singing voice sucks. I’m going to embarrass myself in front of an entire theater full of people. Riley dealt with a lot of tears and a lot of screaming while I was preparing for my most recent pageant in November. And yet he still showed up to the pageant to cheer me on, wearing a shirt with my face on it.
I don’t think my situation is necessarily the best model for what modern love is. But love is different for everyone, and this is ours. At some point, you realize love isn’t a fairy tale. I’ll probably always be a little bit neurotic. Riley will probably never give me the perfect romantic moment, and he will definitely never live up to my standards of cleanliness. And even though we realize those things about each other, we still love each other at the end of the day. And maybe that’s what real, true love is.