Friends! I couldn’t be happier to tell you that Daniel and I are engaged! On New Year’s Eve, just after midnight, he asked me to marry him in the sweetest, most intimate way, and I was just a heap of tears. I love this man, this incredible human being, with my whole entire heart. There’s not a person on this Earth I’d rather spend the rest of my life, not even a person I’d rather stand in some agonizing line with, than Daniel. He is, without a doubt, the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I will be thankful every day to have him.
For any readers who need a little bit of backstory on our relationship, Daniel and I met the first day of our freshman year of college in 2003, started dating in 2004, and stayed together for 7 years (with a break-up thrown in there), until 2011, when, at 26, I broke up with him. If you’ve read the book, you know this. It was a devastating time of life.
Last May, though, we got back together, and in July, I shared it with you by writing this on Instagram:
In April, on a rainy Sunday, I woke up from a nap and saw that I’d gotten a text from Daniel. It was a picture of a gravestone in the ground. I didn’t recognize it at first, until I saw the name, my dad’s. It was overgrown with grass and weeds. The text to follow said, “I thanked your dad for making you. Told him all about your success.” All of the air in my lungs left me and I cried these deep, heaving tears. I haven’t been to that grave more than twice in the 18 years since he’s been gone, and here Daniel was, standing on that ground in Massachusetts, talking to my dad and thanking him. Who was this gift of a human being who loved me this much? I knew in that moment, even though I didn’t tell him then. There is no one I’ve ever loved, or will ever love, so completely, and on such profound levels. He is my best friend, the person I am most genuinely myself with, the kindest, most loving, funniest, and smartest person. He goes to dinner and the movies with my mom, just the two of them, because she asks, and he loves her. He loves my best friends. He accepts and loves the parts of me I have trouble loving myself. What incredible luck I have to have found him, and re-found him, and to have all these years of growing up together. When I wrote the dedication for my cookbook this past winter, we weren’t back together or even heading that way; we were just talking every day like we’d done for the last 12 years, never stopping even after we broke up in 2011. I wrote the dedication of that book to him, because I wouldn’t be who I am without him. Because I can’t imagine a life without him. He didn’t know I wrote it, but it’s so plainly true it practically wrote itself: “Daniel, you are my solid ground. No matter where we go, I’ll love you everywhere, all the time.”
When I think back to 2011 when we broke up, and that point in my life, it’s so clear to me how scared and unsure I felt about who I was and where I was going. I compare that to now, at 30 years old, with a pretty solid sense of self, a world more confidence, and a career that’s far more defined, and I’m aware of how unprepared I was to marry anyone then. When I consider the way I struggled with whether or not Daniel was ambitious enough, outgoing enough, and all the various other measures of enough-ness, I wonder now, Was it really Daniel who I felt was not enough? Or was it me?
Because at 26, having started a blogging career just a year and a half earlier and having just signed a two-book deal with Clarkson Potter, I was so insecure. I worried, do I deserve the success I have? I had overwhelming anxiety about where my career was going. Even though I went out all the time, I often felt obligated to, and then drained by all of my people pleasing. And when I felt depressed, I wondered, as I’d done a million times before, should my relationship be making me happier?
The past 4 years have been full of transformation. I moved in with my parents for a year after we broke up, and then to New York City, lived with my best friend Sabrina, published the memoir, dated some, and so much more. I’ve had incredible highs and crushing lows–even when everything appeared to stay the same. And every experience has taught me something invaluable about myself. I’ve begun to work on that part of me that needs to please, begun to tackle this perma-feeling of not-enoughness I have, and to shatter the perfectionism that often paralyzes me. Once again, I was reminded that happiness and fulfillment are a personal journey, not a couples’ game. Through living, through therapy, I have slowly started to accept myself completely–even the parts that I once found unacceptable, and started to realize that rejecting Daniel was in some way a rejection of me.
If you were to compare Daniel in 2011 and Daniel now, it’s clear he’s changed. If you ask him, he’ll tell you how much better he feels and how he’s improved his life, and I think that’s just wonderful. He’s more confident, more outgoing, and more intentional. But today, the way I’ve changed, and truly and fully loving him the way I do, it’s not the changes that make me love him. It’s amazing that he’s changed while we were apart, for him; but I don’t need him to be different. Loving him is accepting him wherever he is.
I don’t regret breaking up in 2011. I wouldn’t know the things I do now, even when they were unbearably painful lessons. But the way I love him today is so full that it feels like finally putting on glasses to see clearly that the issues of our past, all those little specks, weren’t really an infestation of termites that were going to damage the foundation of us; they were just dust mites. I can sweep them away now. And when they collect again, because of course they will, I’ll keep a broom handy.
This summer, he asked me if I believe in soul mates. And I told him that, despite the fact that they’re cheesy and over-used, “I kinda do.” When I asked if he did, he said, “Only because of you.”
I’ve always been skeptical of people who say things like, “You’ll just know,” when it comes to finding “the one.” It just sounded too good to be true, or at least a little too flimsy a feeling to make such a huge decision. But now I’m rethinking it. I didn’t know when I met Daniel freshman year of college in 2003, but I didn’t know anything then. I didn’t know in 2011 either. I still had a lot of growing up to do, and he probably did too. But this year, when I wanted to be with him, it felt impossible to be apart any longer. I didn’t need to make a pro and con list to help me decide whether or not to get back together. I didn’t need to convince myself.