Circumstance. Sometimes it binds us. Sometimes it places us right where we need to be, right when we need to be there. People have different names for it and different interpretations of its meaning.
Whether you choose to call it fate, destiny, serendipity or circumstance, I came to meet Jessica through a series of conditions and occurrences with no relation or common purpose except when viewed in retrospect.
I graduated with a BFA for graphic design in the summer of 2001. This was a rough time for entry level people in my field to find work, especially in NYC, so I spent much of the summer sending out resumes and wondering what I was doing wrong.
I did manage to land a job by late September. It offered higher pay and title than I deserved fresh out of school, but I hated it anyway. The hours were unusually long, the commute was unexpectedly bad, and the whole thing went sour for me almost immediately. The office itself offered very little opportunity for social interaction and I barely had enough time to get home for dinner before going to bed and repeating the cycle. I distinctly remember envisioning myself five years later, still at the same job, still living at home, still not having a life. This was enough for me to give my notice before the second week was through. Five weeks later, I back home sending resumes.
I passed the following months unsuccessfully job hunting, complaining about lack of employment, and training a few nights a week at a martial arts club. I must have been in the mood for multi-tasking one night because I decided to complain about being jobless while training at the gym. Willie, one of my training partners, offered me a job as his partner, working the graveyard security shift at a local law school. It wasn't exactly what I had studied for, but then again, I wasn't in a position to be turning down work.
A plus of the job was that it gave me a lot of peace and quiet for personal reflection and plenty of time in which to do it. When I was tired of reflecting, I mostly surfed the internet at the front desk or worked freelance web development projects on my laptop.
I was driving to this job one night and heard Norah Jones on the radio. Having little else to do during my shift, I did a web search on her and ended up at a community site for people of mixed Asian-Caucasian descent (Norah Jones is half Indian). I had never much dwelled on this subject and generally avoided interacting with those who did, but as I said, I had a lot of free time on my hands. Lurking this site for a few nights, in turn, led me to Hapas.com, another site with a similar target. It was here that I met Jessica. From then on, I spent my nights reflecting, surfing the net… and corresponding with Jessica via e-mail.
A year into the job, I had had enough of explaining to the law students that no, I was not working nights while studying law myself, and yes, I did in fact just work there. I decided to apply for grad school and if you understood the extent to which I hated schooling my entire life, you would understand just how desperate I must have been.
Jessica half jokingly recommended I consider applying to her school, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Keep in mind we had never met in person at this point. Nevertheless, attending the school's open house day was a passable, if transparent, way to legitimize flying across the country for a first date.
Jessica welcomed me at the Oakland Airport on Halloween night, 2003. We moved into an apartment together that July, right before the start of the fall '04 semester at AAU.
I may well have spent my entire life's allotment of dumb luck to find Jessica. If so, I think I got a pretty good deal.
I don't remember exactly when I decided to propose, but I do remember taking mental note of Jessica's ring preference. She had a 3 stone costume jewelry ring from her childhood, given to her by her father. It had a blue stone in the center and two smaller clear stones to the sides. She pointed out how she liked the style setting, but would have preferred a white metal setting with two blue stones to the sides and a "big diamond" in the center. Seemed like a hint to me, like a really obvious hint.
I was sitting in a computer lab at AAU in the summer of '05, waiting for a class to begin, when I somehow decided to search the web for engagement rings. Shortly after, I traced the ring size of her costume jewelry ring on a piece of notepaper and kept it in my wallet.
I set out to find work that September while continuing with my classes, with the purpose of saving enough money to purchase a ring. I found a contract position and worked through December. With the bargain basement pay I received, my savings probably actually decreased during this time, but I could wait no longer. I made the decision to purchase a ring after Christmas.
I stopped by Shaneco on my way back from work one day and picked out a three stone ring: white gold setting, two side sapphires and a diamond of my choosing in the center.
I had an eye doctor's appointment around the date the ring was ready for pick up. I don't remember if I specifically scheduled the appointment to cover the ring pick up, or if it just worked out that way, but it served as a good excuse to get out of the apartment alone on a weekend. Unfortunately, Jessica requested to accompany me since the eye doctor's office was at the mall. That ruined my cover story, so I just had to tell her I was going to run an errand alone after my eye appointment.
The doctor's assistant took my blood pressure for their records and found it to be at an alarmingly high level. High enough for the eye doctor to write me a referral and urge me to seek immediate medical attention. I don't know if the assistant screwed up the measurement or if it was just proposal anxiety, but I was certain picking up the ring was more urgent than checking in to the E.R.
I finished with the eye doctor and had no choice but to leave Jessica at the mall while I ran my unspecified errand. On the way back, I picked up king crab legs for a surprise dinner treat, and to double as a really unconvincing explanation for my suspicious lone excursion.
After returning to our apartment and enjoying a nice crab leg dinner, I proposed on the living room couch, in our house clothes. I said something to the effect of, "We pretty much act like we are engaged already, so…"
It wasn't a fancy proposal and it wasn't public, but it suited us I thought.
She said yes.
My father once expressed the opinion that you should get married only when
you cannot see yourself living without the other person. When the time is right,
it is the easiest of decisions -- a non-decision really. Those were not his
exact words and I'm sure he doesn't remember ever specifically discussing the
topic with me. I, myself, don't recall the context or even the decade in which
our conversation took place, but I do remember the principle.
It is one bit of advice from my father I freely admit to have taken to heart. It's true that I likely would not have taken it to heart had I not already agreed with the sentiment, but at the very least, I noted it as tacit parental approval to remain a bachelor all my days if need be.
This is an important point to note. I didn't propose to Jessica because I want a wife. I proposed because I want her to be my wife.
Jessica and I are compatible. We are similar in ways that give us uniquely common ground on which to relate, while dissimilar in ways that allow us to sufficiently complement each other.
We get along well. We are both half Chinese. We are artists. We both grew up on the outskirts of great coastal cities (though on opposite sides of the continent). We are romantics. We are the right age for each other. We are the right height. She laughs at my jokes. She is kind, giving, honest, and beautiful. We both enjoy pizza.
I like her for all those reasons and more, but that is not why I proposed. I proposed because I love her. I can't quantify why I love her. I cannot list in words the myriad details and experiences that must come together just so to describe love.
I know this much: Without Jessica, my life would be something less than whole.
I also know that even a lifetime together will one day come to an end. All I can do is spend the time in the most worthwhile manner possible. Jessica inspires me to be strong and noble, and I am whole. I can't think of a more worthwhile manner than that.