It's strange to think it's already been a year, but also that it's only been one year. Time has moved fast and slow, and we've been apart almost as long as we've been together but I wouldn't trade our story for the world.
I met Julian over a decade ago, and through my mom he became a very close family friend. He very quickly became like a member of the family, guiding my sister and I in our tough days and celebrating all of our successes. When there was a concert or a recital, he was there. When there were tears, he was there. I remember telling my mom that when I got older, I wanted to find a man that was just like Julian. I liked the way that he cared about other people and thought deeply about God and served others selflessly.
College was a rough time of searching for me, I think it is for most people. Julian and I didn't talk much, I pushed his friendship away and pushed myself to be the best student and musician I could be. I spent hours and hours practicing piano and voice each day, and all the other hours of the day were spent trying to maintain a put-together persona so that I could be "respected" and have a half-decent social life. I went through a string of almost dating guys, and then dating one and breaking up just a week before my graduation in December 2015. (eek)
My family rented a cabin in North Carolina for New Years, we sat around playing "Auld Lang Syne" on the banjo/guitar, hiking through the woods and watching a Twilight Zone marathon. While I was planning my first big backpacking trip across Europe with my college besties, Julian and I got the idea to extend the trip and backpack together for the first week of the trip and then split off and go to Israel while I met up with my friends. That ended up being the coolest thing I've ever done. We saw London, Budapest, Paris and Barcelona together, and then I saw Oxford, Prague and Venice with my friends and saw so many incredible buildings and historical sights, I was changed forever. That was the trip where studying at the University of Oxford first entered my mind, where I thought maybe I could get my masters after all. It was also the trip where Julian and I actually became friends again, ate weird food, took buses to airports at 3 AM, and only got lost a couple times.
Fastforward to 23 year old me applying for grad school, preparing essays for my Oxford musicology application, worrying that I'm not good enough (#impostersyndrome is a real thing). Hurricane Matthew hits Florida, but not as bad as we were expecting, power doesn't even go out, so I am still about to work on my essays. I have Julian read it over and give me some feedback, and slowly it became obvious that he didn't want me to leave the country for a whole year. He told me that he cared for me, and you know what's crazy? I had already had an inkling in my heart about this, and I my thoughts toward him had begun to change too. I think it's strangely beautiful how everything fell together that winter, how we each became sure of our feelings individually and felt so much peace about deepening our friendship and beginning to date in the spring.
So April 10, 2017 we went out on our first date, beginning a relationship with the knowledge that I would be leaving in September to get my Master's in Oxford. It was kind of weird growing a relationship that you know will have to be long distance, but I felt such a peace that this was all part of God's plan. I've learned more in the past year about good communication than I ever thought possible. We've learned to grow through 5 hour time differences and busy seasons of life, and we've had wonderful times together in Florida too. I absolutely adore his family and I think Colombian food is what I crave more than anything here in England. (Seriously, I went out of my way in London to get an empanada) I don't know how I would have gotten through the craziness of the past two terms of school without Julian's prayer and encouragement and support. I know I would've survived, but not nearly as gracefully. The best part is that when I am homesick, I think of our relationship now, long distance and all, and realize that it's 100x stronger than it was before.
I set up a camera in my back yard to capture some self-portraits of us right before I left in September. I think this one is my favorite, it reminds me of strength and beauty and hope. Next month, Julian is coming to Oxford just in time for the Lincoln College Ball and a photographer-friend of mine from Scotland is coming down to photograph an anniversary portrait session for us (check her out here). I think it's so important to capture every stage of a relationship and I can't describe how excited I am to be in Oxford with my love and have portraits taken with a city that has been so central to our relationship.