Originally published June 24, 2013 on my former blog Valeri Down Under – This is story about a girl who thought she was being funny and turned out to go on and live out her wildest dream…
It is no secret that as little girls, many of us grow up dreaming about our Cinderella fairy tale – the day we get to meet our Prince Charming, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. As teenagers we grow closer to the reality of that fairy tale and start the ironically exciting but dreadful process of kissing all the bad frogs in hopes of finding our prince. In our twenties, we begin to see that long awaited fairy tale become reality. Whether it is for ourselves or those around us, life starts to meet up with our Cinderella dreams.
I, however, had a little bit of a different fairy tale dream. For years I’d continuously think of what my life would be like when I was “older.” I thought of everything from my wedding gown (that’s changed a million times), the ballroom decor, the house I’d live in, the car I’d drive and the job I’d have. There was one thing however that was never really in the picture….my prince. Of course by all means I had hoped to one day find prince charming, but marriage and kids weren’t something I ever actually wanted to think about. At least not until I had my degree, my dream job, a nice car and my very own house. So pretty much I was banking on late twenties – early thirties before I’d even start thinking about meeting not just my prince charming but my dream man.
In two weeks I will turn twenty seven. I guess you could say I’ve officially started my “late twenties.” I have my bachelor’s degree, I barely have a job, no longer own a car, and I live in an apartment. Did I imagine this would be my life at twenty seven? Absolutely not! My life at twenty seven has exceeded my expectations. My degree is my proud possession, the part-time job I’ve recently started is an open door to exciting opportunities of something I actually want to do and though I miss my car, walking and taking the train is somewhat refreshing. Oh and did I mention my apartment that I live in is in AUSTRALIA! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have the opportunity to travel the way I have, let alone live in another country just because I felt like it. Traveling has led to a shift in dreams, but it is a journey I’m excited to take with no regret.
If you’ve followed my story I’ve mentioned two important relationships in my life and how they’ve brought me to the place I am today. There was my first boyfriend of nearly five years who I dated from the beginning of my senior year of high school until my senior year of college. This relationship was where I learned what it felt like to be in love. Being young, naïve, and inexperienced in relationships I assumed that was the man I would one day marry. I think a part of me always knew I wanted more in a partner and of course I still had my own goals ahead of me, but at that young of age, I felt lucky to have found someone who I loved so much and who I thought loved me that much back. Though young and foolishly in love, there was always one condition that I kept constant in that relationship and that was that if our relationship progressed for the long term, he could never ask me to marry him until I was done with college. I needed to know that if he wasn’t ever capable of pulling his own weight that I would always be in a position to put a roof over my head and food on the table.
Two months before my college graduation I was blindsided by the most gut wrenching, deceiving and heart breaking breakup of my life. Now that story deserves its own novel because it is exactly that. No matter how painful, miserable, and unexplainable that moment in my life was, I am so thankful to have gone through it. Through that breakup I was able to feel heartache and know that I can overcome it. I was reminded of my worth which helped me to move on and most importantly it removed a shameful and undeserving man from life. I can only hope that I will never have to go through such a painful experience like that again. I was so fortunate and blessed to be surrounded by good people who kept me focused and my spirits up. With the help of family, friends, my professors and an amazing counselor at school – I was able to move on in a very healthy way.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have come out of my breakup the way I did. Instead of holding it in and dwelling on it, I shared my story with anyone who was willing to hear it, which for me worked as therapy. As far as dating went, I learned to love it and use it as a tool to enjoy life and meet new people. I wasn’t eager to jump into anything serious or too bitter to even give men a shot. I was just going with the flow and enjoying life. Now fast forward two years to boyfriend #2 – better known as Andrew. This man is near and dear to my heart. A lot of my fond memories of my mid-twenties were spent with him. Though we had our ups and downs and clearly did not work out as a couple, in the end we ultimately got where we are meant to be. I don’t know that he feels or if he is willing to admit the same, but this man is now one of my best friends. We dated off and on for about two years and this relationship was one of give and take. The problem with the balance of this give and take was that we weren’t giving and taking at the same time. It was a teeter totter effect and we could never level ourselves out. After the years of back and forth and some unfortunate personal events, we eventually reached an emotionally toxic and draining point where we knew we just had to separate ourselves for good. This breakup is what ultimately led me to travel abroad and refocus on myself. When I got back from my first solo trip in Europe, we tried to make peace as friends but again it was an emotional rollercoaster. This crazy ride not only affected us but our friends. Poor things were exhausted having to constantly put up with our shenanigans (if any of you are reading this – sorry and thank you). It took an entire year between my travels and self-reevaluation for us to finally reach a healthy point not only in our relationship but more importantly in our friendship. Some people find it very hard to remain friends with an ex as majority of the time it just cannot be done. Andrew and I definitely defy the odds. We have finally mastered this friendship not only because we’re honest with each other but we are finally honest with ourselves. It was a long hard road to get here and many tears were shed. Trying to create a healthy relationship with your ex boyfriend is definitely not for the faint of heart. We are still on a journey and still growing as friends but I am so thankful we’ve finally made it.
So where does this leave me on my fairy tale path? In the midst of traveling and trying to establish a friendship with my ex-boyfriend this brings us to whom my old work managers incorrectly referred to as La Quinta Steve (that wasn’t even his real name but we’ll keep it). Now this part of my story is a little sensitive. I was hesitant to share but find it necessary. The day I met Steve was a day I went away with my parents and their friends for the night to a resort near Palm Springs, California to get away from hanging out with Andrew. On this trip was my teenage brother, his teammates and their parents. I clearly didn’t fit in either group. The Summer Olympics were airing on TV so I decided to head over to the bar and chat up the bartender. It was free cocktail hour so why not? Low and behold that free cocktail hour eventually turned into a few hours of chatting up the bartender about work, life, my upcoming travels to New Zealand and Australia and a free grilled cheese. Turned out the bartender (if you haven’t figured it out yet – meet Steve) was actually the hotel restaurant manager so yay for free food. Now Steve must have really been listening to me blab on because a grilled cheese really is the way to my heart. As the night came to an end we said our thanks for the good chat and I went to back to my room. The next day I remembered I had his business card and it had his cell phone number on it so I decided to shoot him a text and avoid texting Andrew out of boredom. That text message led to a few days of texting and eventually Steve drove two hours west to LA to take me on a date. That first date went well and I was so smitten over the attention that we went on several more dates over the next couple of months. Now we both Steve and I knew I was going to travel for quite a bit so we took it pretty casually. Or at least it started off that way. I was to leave for my travels in early December and I didn’t want anything holding me back. I had just quit my job to travel the world and I wasn’t going to let any man get in that way. If I wanted to continue my travels or move to another country – I did not want to have to consider anyone else’s feelings except for my own. As time progressed the bond between me and Steve didn’t lessen and looking back I think I was unfortunately mistaking companionship for comfort. As much as I was enjoying the idea of a fling, we were two different people and we were going to drift apart once I figured myself out. I knew I wanted a clean slate when I boarded the plane to New Zealand and though I talked to Steve about this I still left the chance of hope for him to hang on to. We had spent the weekend before I left together, exchanged Christmas presents (I technically still have his), and then said good-bye at LAX for unknowingly the last time. I really thought I’d see him when I got back no matter what was to happen while I was away because I still had his Christmas presents I was waiting to be delivered to my house. A week into my six week trip to New Zealand and Australia, I reached a point where I felt tied to a person back home and obligated to keep in touch. I was jumping on free Wi-Fi whenever I had the chance to say hello and chat for a bit and I wasn’t starting the trip off the way I wanted to. It was at this realization that I knew I was mentally checked out and had to confront a conversation I was putting off for a while when I got back home. While sneaking away from the pub and back at my hostel, I text Steve and asked him to just let me be while I was away and we will talk when I got back. Knowing this probably wasn’t going to go in his favor he respected my wishes and let me enjoy my trip with no worries back home.
Little did I know this new weight lifted off my shoulders would lead to a new sense of freedom and eventually to my fairy tale story I joked about for so long before I left. This joke was ongoing for so long that even Steve teased me about it as I was prepping for my trip. I’m such a sucker for accents, tall men, and dirty blonde hair. The minute I found out I was going to Australia I kept telling everyone exactly this, “Australia is the country where I’m going to find my dream man. I’m going to fall in love with an Australian and I’m not going to come home. We’re going to tan and surf at the beach all day and it’s going to be great!” Of course I didn’t think I was in any position nor have the energy to even begin putting together an actual list of qualities my dream man would have. I was too excited about going on my dream vacation, so I was just happy to go with the wildest dream I could think of and run with it. Everyone wants that story book love story so why can’t I pretend it could actually happen to me?
Well… I don’t spend every day at the beach and I’ve only surfed once while in Australia. My other half isn’t tall, his hair is not dirty blonde and I’m use to his accent (most of the time). I am living a fairy tale I didn’t even know I wanted until I met the most amazing man who without even trying, swept me off my feet in a way I can’t even describe. As I was enjoying the most freeing experience of my life not having to worry about work, money, or men back home, in walks into my life the most amazing man I have ever loved.
Have you ever been in similar dating situations? What do you think happens next?
To meet my very own Prince Charming continue reading Meet My Frog: Part Two of How My Fairy Tale Romance Joke Turned Into Reality.