Back in November, Garrett and I took a short vacation to Aix-en-Provence. The city was exactly how we had left it, and it was so great to revisit all of our favorite spots. We kicked off the trip with a stroll around our school, and lunch in one of our favorite squares.
We were lucky to catch great weather, perfect for afternoon markets.
And we enjoyed a wonderful evening with Garrett’s host mom. It was so great to see her after all these years. She doesn’t speak much English, so Garrett and I really got to brush up on our French. He did most of the talking, but after a few glasses of wine, I found my words again.
We were thankful for the 30 minute walk back to the hotel. Camille served us a feast! The evening started with an aperitif, nuts and cheese to munch on. When we sat down at the table she served a platter of charcuterie and French bread. For the main course we had turkey cutlets swimming in a delicious mushroom cream sauce, and fried potatoes on the side. When I thought I could take no more, she brought out “the best cheese in the world” so I had to try it, followed by a triple chocolate torte. I’m not kidding. We were stuffed, but it was worth every bite.
The next day we punished ourselves with a beautiful hike. Years ago we hiked this mountain, Mont Sainte Victoire, and we got lost on the way down. This time we got lost on the way up and never quite made it to the peak. But at least we had seen it before.
For our last evening out we went to one of our favorite pizza spots and enjoyed a drink on the Cour Mirabeau. It was a fantastic trip back in time and a real walk down nostalgia lane. I can’t wait to visit again!
It’s been a great week over here in Antwerp because the sun has been shining brightly! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the typical Belgium forecast, it usually ranges from partly cloudy, to full on cloudy, to cloudy with a chance of showers. No joke. So the days we do see sun are quite amazing.
While most of the U.S. seems to be getting warmer temps lately, I’ve been waiting for that to happen here. It hasn’t been cold, but it sure would be nice if it hit the mid 70s soon. Yesterday I saw a high of 66 F! We’re on our way.
One of the great things about living in Antwerp is the atmosphere in the city around lunch time, when the temperatures have picked up a bit and the sun is out. I have never seen people celebrate good weather like the people here. By noon every cafe terrace is packed to the brim with locals. Parties of three or four cram together at an outdoor table to drink a glass of cava, enjoy a leisurely lunch, and have lively conversation with friends and co-workers.
Living in another country, you learn to be a close observer. One of the first things I thought when we moved here in September was, “Man, these people really love a nice day!” You hear the Belgians talk about the weather (when it’s good) constantly. The joy and care-free attitude on a sunny day in Antwerp is unmistakable. My Belgian friend said it best, “We never know when we’re going to see it next, so we have to enjoy it now.”
There is a big picture here. The Belgians seem to have a great balance between work and play, or work and family and personal time. When someone goes on “holiday” for two weeks, they are completely MIA from work. No one checks their email, calls into the office, or heaven forbid, comes back from holiday early. Personal time is valued and respected by others.
And why shouldn’t it be, right? Life is too short. So lesson #1 from living in Belgium: celebrate every day, enjoy your family and friends, and for God’s sake, take advantage of the sun while it lasts! …And with that, I’m off.
I had thought about Garrett often. He was always in the back of my head, even through the other relationships I had been in. But, I was also extremely hesitant to make an appearance back in his life. I knew the damage I had done, and didn’t know if what we had could be restored.
I had talked to my mom a few times about this. I think she was a little guarded of Garrett (she always was a big fan). The first time I mentioned him, she said to give it time. After six months, I was still thinking about him.
Later people would ask me, how I changed my mind. How did I all of a sudden find love again with someone I had fallen out of love with? But for me, it’s very simple. I grew up. Through other relationships, and time apart from Garrett, I realized that he was exactly what I wanted. It was like a ton of bricks hit me and I could see my future very clearly. He was the only one in view.
I learned that the elements that were always present in our relationship, were the only ones that mattered.
Interests. Values. Upbringing.
And I learned that not everybody is going to love you unconditionally for exactly who you are, so when you find that person, you sure as hell should hold on to them.
So, when I told my mom that I was 100% sure, and I had to find a way to put myself back in his life, she told me to book a flight.
You can imagine what was going on in Garrett’s mind as he started receiving frequent phone calls from me again, it had been about a year and a half. He humored me by picking up and having conversations with me, but he never really let his guard down. When I told him that I wanted to come see him, he said that he had to think about it.
Of course, he gave in. I went to visit him in Philadelphia in February. I can only say that the timing was finally right. Nothing and everything had changed. We had grown up and gone through our own self-discoveries, but our chemistry was as strong as it had been the first day we met. I reassured him that I wasn’t going anywhere, ever again.
We spent the next four months flying back and forth to see one another every few weeks. At that point we knew we didn’t want to spend any more time in two different cities, let alone, states. By June, I had left my job in South Carolina, and Garrett and I moved into a little apartment in Philadelphia. That first year together was simply awesome.
The following February, I walked into an apartment full of rose pedals and candles, and Garrett down on one knee. He had home-made lasagna in the oven and champagne on ice. I think he knew what my answer was going to be.
We were married a year and a half later on July 16, 2011. Close friends and family gathered for a weekend of festivities in Whitefish, Montana, the finale being a beautiful, outdoor ceremony on the lake.
I often wonder whether fate would have lead us back to one another eventually, or if our lives are a result of the decisions we make along the way. I guess I’ll never know for sure. But here we are, back in Europe, where we met six years ago. Every single day I am thankful that I made my way back into Garrett’s life, and he took me with open arms.
Garrett and I continued to see one another through the fall of our senior year. I had gone to visit him at Gettysburg, when our flame was still burning bright. I got to watch him play soccer, meet his college friends, and walk around campus holding his hand. It was great to see what life was like for him back at school. I felt very comfortable in his world, and truthfully, I didn’t want to leave.
I can’t really dignify the next chain of events. All I can say is that I had a lot of growing up and learning to do.
By Thanksgiving, I had pulled a complete 180. I was having fun at college, and had lost interest in the relationship. When Garrett came to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Atlanta, he could feel the distance, and was blind sided by my change of heart.
We had plans for after the holidays that were cancelled. We reconciled briefly around Valentine’s Day, because for a second, I came to my senses. He came to see me at South Carolina, and I made another trip to Gettysburg for his senior formal.
We had a lot fun, but my heart was no longer fully in it. My head was distracted by an active social life back at Carolina, and the feeling that I wasn’t ready to settle down yet. By late April, I had broken things off again. This time I thought it was for good.
Garrett landed a great job in Philadelphia after his graduation. I was following along my own path, better know as, “the year of Teddie’s great decisions” when I decided to change my major mid-way through my senior year. This set me back a year, looking at a May 2008 graduation. My parents were thrilled.
I moved in with Melanie, my best friend from France. She was interning in Columbia. Our lifestyle straddled the fence between working girl and college kids. Lets just say neither of us had demanding schedules that year.
In the fall I started dating a grad student at the University of South Carolina. By the spring, I had finished up an internship at a local TV station, and was offered a job for when I graduated. When summer came around, I moved into my own apartment and I had started working. My relationship also ended around this time.
I was keeping myself entertained. I adopted a cat. I quickly made friends with co-workers and would often hang out with them after work and even on the weekends. I didn’t really know how to draw that line yet. Too many happy hours and dinners out were enjoyed.
I was living the life of a “young professional” and I enjoyed it for a bit. But, things got old fast, and I was left feeling pretty empty.
You can guess what happened next… or you can read the next post!
To catch up, read Study Abroad
I met Garrett the first day of school orientation. We sat at a table together with Melanie, a girl I had just met back at South Carolina, and Katie, who went to Gettysburg college with Garrett. Randomly enough, these two girls had been paired up to live with the same host family. The four of us were destined to be best friends.
We went on a quick overnight excursion with our school just our second weekend in Aix. We stuck together like a pack. I had never made such great friends this quickly. We shared the same sense of humor, a love for sarcasm, and no fear in the world of what people thought of us. We had developed our safety net, our home away from home.
I always felt like Garrett and I had clicked from the first day I met him. I just really liked him. Of course, I had a boyfriend back at home (story of my life) so initially I was just interested in being Garrett’s friend and travel buddy.
Eventually, Garrett and I started doing things on our own, without the girls. We would meet at cafes and talk for hours about our family and friends back home, our interests and our hobbies. It was amazing how much I had in common with this guy! Things were always super natural and comfortable between us.
I really had never met anyone like him. He was just so genuine, and REAL. On top of that, he was athletic and adventurous. He loved food and culture, and really, he was the total package. So we started dating, if that’s what you want to call it. We traveled A LOT. We took weekend trips together any chance we got, and did things I never thought I would do. He kind of took care of me. He would arrange our travel plans, make sure we got everywhere in once piece, and just always took charge and made things happen. I loved that about him. I still do.
We made plans for that summer after Aix, with all the intention of trying to stay together after study abroad. Summer worked out great. Garrett came to my family’s cabin in Montana, I visited him in Harrisburg and even went to his brother’s wedding. When summer ended, we both went back to college to finish our senior years (I ended up having two senior years, but that’s neither here nor there). We were committed to making it work, but anyone who has ever been in a long distance relationship (especially when your 21 and 22) knows it’s not always that easy.
So the rocky road begins, and this road is LONG. In the six years that I have known Garrett, there was a two year period where I didn’t see him once and only referred to him as a boyfriend of my past.
Then I grew up… and once again, I listened to my mother.
Next up: The break and the reunion. Coming to my senses.
My mom is a smart lady. Some of the best decisions I have made in life have come from listening to my mother. Mark my words.
(Are you listening, Mom?)
So when my mom told me to study abroad, and more specifically, to go study in Aix-en-Provence, I listened. Not because I knew my mom’s wisdom at the time, but because, well, did I have a choice? I had grown up hearing stories of her study abroad experience in Nantes, France. It was the time of her life. She had encouraged me early to go abroad, and to go to Aix because its was “the coolest city in the world.” When my Dad said that he regretted never doing it himself, that sealed the deal for me.
I was a junior at the University of South Carolina, it was the end of winter break and I was getting ready to fly overseas to spend my spring semester. I strolled behind me a suitcase the size of my body, and carried on my back a serious looking hiker’s pack that would later be referred to as, “the beast.” My mom dropped me off at the airport, tears in her eyes and fighting both nervousness and excitement. I was on my own now.
Getting to France was a learning experience and a “growing up” moment in itself. I had flight delays, missed connections, missing airline tickets (how did that happen??) and I spent the night in the JFK airport (not recommended). When I finally made it to Paris, a day later than expected, I realized that any French I thought I knew didn’t mean squat now.
In Marseille, my loving host mom was there to greet me with a sign (just like you see in the movies) and drive me to my new home in Aix-en-Provence. As I walked into her little apartment, I was greeted by a friendly, black dog, a very old cat, and her son, who was about my age and wreaked of pot in the most obvious way. It was a liberal household, indeed.
The living quarters were smaller than I was use to, but completely charming, like everything else in Aix. I spent that first day off the plane fighting delirium and exhaustion. I took a stroll around my new city with my host and her dog, taking it all in. My eyes were wide open, my adrenaline pumping.
Welcome home. You’ll never forget this place.
Next up… Enter Garrett.
Read Part 1: Moving to Belgium: The beginning.
Of course, my Mom was thrilled with the idea. It’s funny because when Garrett and I first found out we were moving to Antwerp, most people asked us how our families had reacted to the news. Both families were completely supportive, and this surprised people. I’m sure, somewhere deep down, they thought about how far away we would be and how much they were going to miss us. But, in my mom’s case at least, it was another wonderful excuse to visit Europe!
After Garrett told me about the email, we came home that night, cracked a few beers, and opened up the conversation. Let me first say that no one was offering him a job, but we had to decide if this was something he wanted to go for. We weighed the pros and cons. The biggest con being that I would be leaving my career and possibly not finding another one in Belgium (although at that time, I didn’t even know the extent of that reality). All in all, we decided that if he didn’t go after it, we might always say, “what if we had gone to Belgium?” And apart from that, Garrett and I have always been adventurous and have said that if we could live and work abroad, we would.
I can’t even tell you how excited we were just talking about living in Belgium. I pictured us sitting outside of cafes, traveling around Europe, living in a beautiful apartment in this little, unknown city Antwerp. Garrett had contacted the right people and told them he was interested in the position. The interview process started and carried on for about two months. Not that he underwent a ton of interviews, there was just a lot of time in between. Meanwhile, we were wrapping up the last details of our wedding, which was right around the corner. All I could think about was the possibility that we were moving to Europe! It got to the point where we couldn’t even talk about it anymore. After pretty much picturing our life there, and totally romanticizing all of it, I had sufficiently gotten my hopes up without trying to. Garrett didn’t even have the job yet. I hadn’t told anyone at work about the opportunity. Things were most definitely still up in the air.
I remember I went to my parents’ home in Atlanta for my bridal shower in May. I told my girlfriends about the job position Garrett had been interviewing for. They were all thrilled for us, but I wanted to take back my words the minute I said them. I was so afraid that this wasn’t going to happen. After the first phone interview Garrett had, it took several weeks for anyone to get back to him. Then he was informed that there would be a second interview, a video conference with people in Antwerp. Technology really is remarkable these days. I found out about the second interview just as I was leaving Atlanta to come home to Philly. I don’t remember the exact time of events, but I do remember waiting a while after that interview too. Then one morning, when I knew that news should be coming soon, Garrett called me at work and told me something that would change my life.
And so you know how the rest goes. He got the job! We were getting married in a few months, and would be moving to Antwerp two months after our wedding. I had never been so excited in my life. I remember calling my parents, after weeks of them telling me not to get my hopes up or put any more pressure on Garrett, I got to tell them our news. They were so excited for us. We had the best time telling our family and friends, it was like getting engaged all over again. Our life was about to change forever. This was only the beginning. Oh, and we still had our wedding to look forward to!
Next up: Everything comes full circle. How I met my husband.
This crazy adventure began somewhere. My husband and I have been living in Antwerp now for about six months. A year ago, I never thought this would be my reality. In fact, a year ago I was anxiously awaiting my wedding day, working full-time in Philadelphia, praying for spring to finally show up, and pondering what our life would look like next year. Would I still be working the same job? Would we still be living in the same apartment? I had a feeling a change was on the horizon (apart from the fact that we were about to become husband and wife), but I had no idea how extreme it would actually be.
It started with a company email expressing a job opportunity. The company my husband works for in the States had acquired another company in Belgium. After searching for a local Belgian to fill this particular position, and not having any luck, they were now extending the search to their offices in the States. I remember calling my husband (then fiancé) from work because I just found out some of my old college friends were moving to Philly. I can’t imagine what he was thinking as I called him bursting with excitement like this was HUGE news. He simply said, “I just found out something too.” Of course he made me wait in agony until later that day to tell me about the email.
On our next call later that afternoon, he told me there was a job opening within his company and it required a move. Having moved a few times in my life, I welcome that kind of adventure and look at it as a learning experience and a chance at a fresh start (little did I know how right I was!). I immediately started guessing all these states where I knew his company had offices, or just states that I thought it would be fun to move to. I could hear the excitement on the other end, and his amusement as I rattled off,
“Califonia? Arizona? Colorado? Florida??”
He laughed and said, “It’s actually not in this country.” I fell silent, and then I got REALLY excited, “Where is it!?”
Then, like he had been holding his breath, he let out, ”Belgium!”
Almost immediately I had flash backs of our short trip to Brussels almost six years ago: Deep, rich beers. Little shops full of mounds of chocolates. Waffles bought from a vendor on the street, like New York City sells hot dogs. Beautiful architecture and art. Open squares filled with cafes. People overflowing out on the terraces with beers in hand and spirits high.
I had loved it.
At that moment, so many thoughts were running through my head. When we got off the phone, I did what I always do in moments of excitement or indecision, I called my mom.
To be continued…