I stormed out of the restaurant with him close on my heels. That didn’t quite go the way I expected! Now my temper and smart mouth didn’t just get me in trouble and fired but somehow him as well. We stepped outside, the late afternoon spring sun blazing down the mid day empty bar strip.
“What do you say? Carolina or Colorado? Let’s go!” A smile split across my face. The tension from the argument inside with that witch of woman and her asshole husband that had the nerve to say he “owned” his employees started to leave me as I saw that smile that said “I’ll go right now if you will.”
He had hinted at taking off to Carolina or Colorado a few weeks ago, and he was the type that would totally just do it. Besides my commitment to finish my last semester of college, I had also already committed myself to a year of teaching on the Missouri/Iowa border. But I was getting farther and further away from the girl that I was that had hesitated on picking a college and lived at home the first two years, and I seriously considered the truth to that offer to just take off. I was 22 and free! The whole world waited out there for me, for us, and it was so tempting to just embrace it and take the biggest leap of faith I’d ever taken.
However, even though we had worked together for a few months, we had only been dating for a few weeks, and I was not quite the impulsive one like he was. But that moment over fourteen years ago was just the beginning of what would become a wild, sometimes impulsive ride. Who knew then that we were destined for such great disasters and battles of epic proportions?
I had maybe left behind my family that knew how to put a cap on my temper and attitude, but the road ahead would show that I had met my match. We didn’t leave in the coming months, but we did a year later and together alone we took on whatever came our way. How we didn’t kill each other at times was possibly a mystery in itself. I pushed and demanded too much, too often, and he’d only take so much of my temper before he’d match it right back. But he made up for my shortcomings and where he was weak I was strong.
As the time to leave approached, I don’t know if I had ever been so emotionally scared in my life. I was absolutely terrified of the bombardment of emotions that could be forthcoming in the journey ahead. I would question many times if maybe my stubborn father was right and I was absolutely out of my mind. But I was set on proving him and anyone else that doubted me that I could do this. You see my father wasn’t the only one that was quite stubborn.
I had told my parents only a few weeks before actually leaving that I was leaving home with a boy they barely knew. And by leaving home I mean I was packing my few belongings and my dog in my old Ford Contour and moving halfway across the country, eighteen hours away to Maryland with him. My father was irate to say the least. I was twenty two and had always been the stubborn, mind of her own child, but because we were such a close knit family they never really saw this coming. And they were NOT happy. No one believed I would really leave in the first place and if I did it wouldn’t be long before I was back.
It was the moment in my life that would define so much of whom I would become and the direction my life would take. Growing up I had always imagined living near the ocean. As a small town Midwest girl, the ocean and the big cities of the East Coast were like an exciting adventurous life I only saw on movies and television shows. I had been to the beach once in my life and aside from visiting a few neighboring Midwest states, I had been to Buffalo, New York and the Badlands of South Dakota. I was twenty two and there was a giant world out there calling my name and I wanted to explore it. But my family just did not understand.
This driving desire to go was something none of them really understood about me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family immensely, and leaving them behind was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I had a great childhood, a childhood I would come to realize was well sheltered and great-the way every childhood should really be. But I was set on leaving. This was my window to chase my dreams, but I would see that the fence is not always greener on the other side. And even chasing your dreams has a few bumps in the road.
We were going to spend the Father’s Day weekend with my family before heading out Monday morning. I was a nervous wreck about leaving but was trying my best to hide it from my family and Nate. I did not want anyone to know how absolutely terrified I was that I was making a huge mistake and was going to be absolutely miserable. I knew I could always come back, but I was a very prideful person so the thought of coming home with my tail between my legs was almost as terrifying as being so far away and homesick.
I knew as soon as Nate pulled up that Friday evening something was wrong.
“What? What’s the matter?” I yelled as I ran down the steps.
“Bettis fell out of the window when we pulled into your parents’ neighborhood. I think he broke his leg!” Bettis was the dog he got me for Christmas that year. He set him on the ground and every time the poor dog tried to walk he’d fall flat on his face. It was such a sad, pitiful sight!
“It’s Friday night! How am I going to get him to a vet?” I cried. Of course, the first thing that crossed my mind was how much was this going to cost me. My mom came out and said she’d see if their vet would see him for an emergency visit. Luckily, he agreed to meet us at his vet clinic in half an hour.
A couple hours and $300 later we learned it would have been better if the dog would have broken his leg because at least that would have healed in a few weeks. Instead he had nerve damage, which could eventually result in us having to amputate his leg. It was a horrible start to my last weekend at home. I remember crying all weekend. I now had a good excuse because of Bettis, which I claimed was the reason, but really I think I cried more because I was scared to death to leave Monday morning.
Years later, I still remember the night before we left. I laid awake the whole night, terrified of the journey I was about to embark upon. I questioned every factor that went into my decision to do this in the first place. Nate wanted to leave Missouri. He wasn’t from here and he had already lived in three states since he left home at eighteen. I wanted to go to give us a chance to see what would happen but then at the same time I felt that I used him as my ticket to go because if I didn’t go with him I didn’t think I was brave enough to go that far from home on my own. He never believed I would actually leave with him. There were all these people just waiting for me to back out.
I kept weighing was chasing my dream to live in some East Coast city and be near the ocean and completely independent on my own worth it to leave the family I worshipped and the only home I’d ever known. I wouldn’t get to hang out with my sisters all the time, eat dinner with my family on regular basis, take nightly walks with my dad, go shopping with my mom and sisters, attend the huge Sunday Williams family dinners. Could I give all that up?
That seventh grade student of mine that I had taught that year really knew what he was talking about when he said, “No matter what you want in life. Even if it’s what you always wanted, it comes with a sacrifice.” Maybe my Dad was right, maybe I had lost my mind. Everything told me to stay; that this was crazy, especially with all the crazy issues Nate and I had had the past few months, but I felt if I didn’t go I would regret it and wonder what if for the rest of my life.
So the next morning with my few personal belongings and my dog piled into my Ford Contour with no air conditioning and tears in my eyes, I started the eighteen hour drive East to a future that scared the daylights out of me but would forever change my life and define me at the same time.
We hit Washington, DC the next afternoon at rush hour. I didn’t even drive the major highways in Kansas City so experiencing the Capital Beltway was my first cultural shock of this journey I had decided I needed to embark on. We were at a standstill in the 90 degree heat with no air conditioning with my dog panting down my neck. Nate was in front of me in his old Jeep Wrangler that also didn’t have any air. Between our two cars contained all our few possessions which consisted of all our clothes, personal possessions, a TV, and a microwave. That was it. We didn’t have a place to live yet and that was all we had to put in an apartment when we found one. He started calling my phone.
“So this is an exciting experience,” I mumbled into the phone.
“My brakes are shot,” he says.
“Great, what does that mean exactly?”
“I can get to Pat’s and hopefully I don’t rear end anyone. But I’m going to need to get them fixed soon.”
Great more money. Just what I wanted to hear. Because the Jeep was a stick shift, he was able to make it to his friend’s where we were staying without rear ending anyone thankfully. From there, we were down to one car to find an apartment and start furnishing it. It was going to cost $800 to fix his brakes, and then the mechanic so kindly told us a list of about $3000 worth of work the Jeep needed. Needless, to say on about the third day when we were driving around lost again trying to find a Wal Mart because that’s where you shop for household items in the Midwest we were getting a little short with one another and ready to kill each other. I later learned Wal Mart is NOT the place to supposedly shop on the East Coast.
We managed to get our apartment set up and settled for the most part a week or so later, when it was time to head to Virginia Beach to meet my sisters who were coming out to see a friend of ours in the Navy down there for a few days before coming up to DC to stay with us. This was going to be my second time seeing the ocean so I was pretty excited.
The six of us: my boyfriend, myself, my two sisters, one of their boyfriends, and our friend in the Navy had a great time together. On Sunday afternoon, the five of us piled into my nonair conditioning car and started the three hour drive back up the coast to DC. Beach traffic on a Sunday evening I learned is NUTS. So we decided to get off on a side route and travel the countryside of Maryland. About an hour outside of the Capital Beltway, my car died. It just stopped. So there we were, the five us in my hot car, stranded a good hour from our apartment, two hours from our friend’s, and not a person to call because we just go here and didn’t know anyone! Not to mention that now Nate and I were out here with not a single working vehicle because the Jeep was still sitting in the apartment complex without brakes.
I started to think it all had to be sign. A sign that said, “Go home! You never should have left!” What the hell were we going to do? We had to get a tow truck which dropped us all off at a hotel with the promise that they could have my car fixed in the morning. So when I get stressed I tend to get mad and angry and take it out on about well everyone. The five of us were in one room. My sister was fighting with my other sister’s boyfriend.
Nate and I were fighting over where we were going to get the money for all these crazy mishaps that kept happening. My sisters’ trip out to see me turned into a nightmare. And it only got worse from there. My car wouldn’t be fixed for a week. We had to take a cab from where we were to a subway station which was $100! We got on the subway train going the wrong way before we had to turn around to go back the other way. How was I suppose to know what was the right way?!? I never rode a subway train before. Then we had to take a city bus from the subway station to our apartment. Twenty four hours later we made it back to our apartment. Except now my sisters and her boyfriend had to be back in VA Beach for their flight the next day and we didn’t have a single car to get them back there. Our friend we had just left had to drive up to get them and then drive them back down.
After they left, the sadness of not being with my family set in again. On top of all the financial stress, I really wanted to just give up and go home before I even started the job I signed a contract with that was suppose to start in a month. But I decided it was too early to quit and owed it to myself to see where this journey could take me. So we bought a new 2005 Dodge Ram Hemi truck because we figured we needed at least one reliable vehicle. That should have given us some vehicle peace of mind, except someone decided they needed it more than us I guess because it was stolen forty days after we got it the weekend before we were suppose to start working at our new jobs for the upcoming school year. We never saw it again and ended up with a rental car for two months before the insurance company paid it off.
I learned a lot of things about myself and life in just the journey to make it out here and get settled in this life I was determined to live. Even when you’re chasing your dreams and living the life you only imagined it is life. There are bills to pay, disagreements with the ones you love to work out, incidents with everything from your vehicle to your house to your dog that comes up, and just when you think you’re making enough money you’re not. People are always going to second guess you and sometimes they may be right but not always. You have to do what’s right for you when it’s time for those big decisions. Even if you learn later that it wasn’t so right that’s okay too. There’s always something gained even from our mistakes. The answers in life aren’t always so clear; sometimes they’re a big fuzzy blur until years later.
And that boy I traveled halfway across the country with on whim I did marry two years later. In the thirteen years between taking that risk to follow him out here, I have now visited over a dozen beaches verse the one, we have taken many memorable trips that now includes 27 states and Mexico (still lots of places left to visit on the list), visited close to 100 wineries throughout ten different states as that has become one of our Nathan and Angela things. We love live music, wine, cookouts and sitting around a fire outside under the stars, camping and canoeing and hiking, and of course hanging out with our family and friends whenever we can. Our life isn’t grand or extreme but it’s ours. We’ve both always had to work hard and take pride in every moment in this crazy life we have together, even in the craziness.
It’s been a hell of a journey. There are so many stories to it, so many ugly and beautiful truths (maybe one day we’ll share them all). These last fourteen years are so full of memories of laughter and tears, frustrations and joys, highs and lows. The road hasn’t always been easy and half the time we probably made it harder than it had to be. God knows we have our flaws, a multitude of imperfections individually and together as a couple, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s all a part of our story but it’s ours.
Photo credit to Sandia Pantano Imaging and Photography