“Oh, my life is changing every day/ In every possible way./ And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems/ Never quite as it seems.”

Even in elementary school, I already have a void in my heart. I long for meaning and answers as to why life is so precious but so painful. I don’t enjoy recess. I pretend to enjoy recess because most other kids say their favorite class is recess. I feel things I can’t describe. Listening to the radio in the middle of the night (hello, early insomnia) makes me cry sometimes because I think about the passage of time. I sob about the 5th graders in my school graduating and nothing being the same. I don’t know how to express how I feel, so I write. I write a terribly written book about a girl named Linda and her 10 sisters. In writing, I can create new worlds where there is love and belonging. These other worlds make me feel safe, and I cling onto those.

“And as she carries on without a doubt/ I wonder if she’s figured it out/ I’m crazy for this girl”

I have a crush on Evan and Jaron. At least I think I do. I have started to wear a bra and watch TRL with Carson Daly every afternoon after walking home from middle school. The dark complexions of these men singing about love are enticing but perplexing to me. Through bites of Easy Mac, my staple afternoon snack throughout 7th grade, I contemplate what it means to be crazy about someone. As of yet, I have yet to talk to a boy about anything besides collaborating on school projects. I decide the yearning for love that is trickling into my thought process for the first time is impossible. I will never fall in love. I am not popular. I am not allowed to go to the mall with friends alone on the weekends. I feel invisible much of the time, and for that reason, I stuff down my longing.

“Feel the rain on your skin/ No one else can feel it for you/ Only you can let it in”

I listen to “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield on repeat when driving with my friends on lunch hour in high school to get Coke Slurpee’s. Well, they get Slurpee’s. I have confined my food intake to a pretty negligible amount and don’t drink calories. Preparing for college doesn’t seem real. For as long as I remember, I’ve wanted to go to the University of Michigan, find my best friends for life, and meet the man of my dreams who I’ll promptly marry at 22. But I am numb. Starvation and obsessive-compulsive intrusions make me miserable. I am not living, not really. I want to believe I’ll get my “happy ending” in college, because it sure as hell didn’t happen in high school. I wear sweat pants as a senior so much that my mom does a closet intervention when I am gone one day and throws some of the sweats out. I am checked out, isolated, and pretending. I connect with dark books such as The Awakening and write poetry so disturbing my creative writing teacher asks if I am ok in life. I hope leaving my hometown will give me perspective. I hope I can be normal and functional enough to allow life to happen to me.

“If I l lay here/ If I just lay here/ Would you lie with me/ And just forget the world?”

I want someone to lay with me and forget the world. I am in a first semester college English class, and my quirky prof with wiry red hair discusses the song “Chasing Cars” in class one day, “It is so much more meaningful when you realize Snow Patrol is from Northern Ireland.” That sticks with me. I listen to that song on repeat while trudging through the snow in the deep of winter. The song gets pain, that is what I like most about it. I relate to the decidedly maudlin undertone. I spend my first year of college trying to fit in the Greek scene and even try a Greek Bible study. When one of the girls in the group says flippantly, “Do you think Jesus was hot?”, I decide none of this is for me. I throw my efforts into church, and I have a crush for a year on a 6’7″ emotionally unavailable guy in my dorm. He is dark and attractive, and he spent one night sleeping in the Arboretum near our dorm in the snow. He is a free thinker and not interested in me. Tears stream down my face as I walk through the wind, “We’ll do it all/ Everything/ On our own.” I cry because I understand these lyrics so well.

* * *

Over a decade later, I am getting married, but the “me” who will walk down the aisle is not a static, context-less “self.” Who I am today is an accumulation of different selves that have shaped who I am in this moment and in the ones to come. Finding someone so special that marriage feels like a natural outflow of love is a surreal process. In the most literal sense, we met last year. In some other intangible sense, I’ve always longed for him and known him. My feelings defy the space-time continuum, I know this. He somehow fits into all of the above snapshots.

Once I told S. jokingly that I learned about love first from Evan and Jaron. It is sad to admit my formative ideas began from terrible 00’s songs and an unhealthy obsession with TRL, but that is the case. When we were thinking of first dance songs for our wedding, I brought up “Chasing Cars” as a possibility, and S. vetoed it right away. A music connoisseur, S. does not like the monotonous beat of that song and can’t understand the hype. I laugh.

The man who wakes up next to me every morning and kisses me goodbye as he leaves for work is more than I could ever ask for or imagine in a husband. I don’t know if I deserve him to want me. That thought crosses my mind often. I still feel somewhat shocked when he hugs me or lets me sleep in his arms. Words don’t do the sentiment of love justice. I scour the internet for hours in an attempt to find love quotes to describe how I feel, but even the most ornate, flowery language does not satiate my need to verbalize the inexplicable.

I go about packing for our honeymoon and printing off my vows. Getting married is a major life change, but it still seems surreal. The holiness and sacredness of the day to come hit me in random moments: in a song, in the last look of my condo before moving, when I hung up my wedding dress.

“Oh, my life is changing every day/ In every possible way./ And oh, my dreams,/ It’s never quite as it seems/ ‘Cause you’re a dream to me.”

I hear this song on my Spotify playlist, and tears enter my eyes. I’m not crying because I’m sad or because I heard this song often in elementary school so often. I’m crying because it was always you.