It was June, 2015 and we met for dinner at The Revolutionary Lounge & Cafe in Toms River. The quaint coffeehouse lined with local art became a halfway point for us to meet before I moved from my apartment in Ocean City to Philadelphia. As we ate, I marveled at her, as I always did, up until the very end.
“I have an important question for you,” I said as I took a bite of my salad. She winced with curiosity. “Do you believe in free will or destiny?”
She didn’t directly answer, but motioned to the sense that she didn’t want to go there, as if maybe her thoughts on the matter were complicated. I then shared with her one of my favorite quotes of all time from Forrest Gump, a movie she knew and loved just as much as I did.
“Remember when Forrest says he doesn’t know if Momma was right or Lt. Dan? If we each have a destiny or if we’re all just floating around accidentally-like on a breeze,” I said. “And he says he thinks it’s both, that both are happening at the same time. That’s what I believe.”
Later that night, as we drove our separate ways back home, I saw her at a stop light, though she didn’t see me. She had the biggest smile on her face, and it gave me goosebumps, filling my body with a tingling joy.
As our relationship flourished, she would occasionally send me quotes and songs alluding to destiny, how she felt like her path led to me purposely, and on Valentine’s day of the following year, she would write in the most thoughtful, handmade card: “I’m so glad I finally found you.”
A few months later, in the midst of my life’s deepest pain, I said some things I didn’t necessarily mean, namely that I had been manipulated. I don’t believe there was intentional manipulation, it’s just the way my heart was feeling, and feelings deceive. The heaviness in my chest and in my back hurt so much I had wished I never rushed out of the city that one December evening in 2014 to meet her at my apartment in Ocean City. But that was just my pain talking. As I sat on the floor next to my couch in my new apartment in Asbury Park, I knew I wouldn’t even be where I was had the relationship never happened.
My priorities would have never shifted off of myself, my goals, ambitions, and career. If it weren’t for her, I’d probably still be slugging away, living the life of a starving artist focused solely on myself and my creations. I would have never reached the point of wanting consistency, structure, and stability, and truly desiring to live selflessly for someone else. She inspired that in me and I remembered writing exactly that in a long physical letter to her in early September of 2015. I wrote how my dreams and goals and hopes and ambitions and desires had shifted off of myself and onto a person, that I wanted a new direction for my life in the hope of taking steps toward being the man I was meant to be for my future wife and future family. She was the inspiration and the motivation. She changed the course of my life for the better, and perhaps got me closer to my destiny.
I only hope that I did the same for her, that I might have been as much of a positive influence on her as she was on me. I hope that her thought process, perspective, and desires changed for the better, just as mine did. No, I could never regret the relationship, not ever. Rushing out of the city that one December evening so I could meet her at my apartment in Ocean City was one the best decisions I ever made, and I didn’t know it at the time.
Nothing was wasted, and everything was used. The relationship furthered and advanced me, propelled me forward to get me into the right mindset. She was still worth the long wait, and I could rest assured that I loved her with forever love. Had there been no relationship, would I be sitting here today in this new job doing exactly what I feel called to do exactly where I feel called to do it with exactly the right people who love and appreciate me? My heart and mind would have stayed the same, it would’ve never matured and would have stayed in the same place of struggle and hardship as opposed to the abundance, freedom, and exceeded expectations of my present circumstances.
Bob Goff said, “It’s easy to trust God when He does what we want. It’s the other times when we grow.”
Despite all of my pain and heartache, when I start to see from a heightened perspective, things start to change and I see free will and destiny intertwined. Free will was her and I choosing each other, destiny was God working within that choice to bring us closer to our destinies, to put us on the paths that are best for us, to get us to the next step, the next place. At least I know this to be true for me, and I pray it’s the same for her, too. I never loved anyone more than her and I was so thankful for the sincere privilege of being able to love her. I may have been utterly destroyed for it, but it was worth it to experience that love, and to be, even for just a short time, wanted.
“Five years from now, maybe even one year from now, you’re going to be grateful for all of this,” my newfound friend told me. I had just met her days before through a mutual best friend and already, somehow I knew she was going to be one of those rare, lifelong best friends you only meet a handful of times in life. She just so happened to show up in my story at exactly the right time, and imparted this profound wisdom to me: “If you could only see what’s coming, you wouldn’t be so sad.”