Important Dates

When I first met my girlfriend, it wasn’t love at first sight, and it took almost a year after we started dating before I realized we were 1.) dating and 2.) in a relationship (she was a lot quicker to this realization than I was). Unlike what one sees in movies, most love stories don’t begin with a meet-cute between incredibly attractive individuals who have equally beautiful personalities. It often takes many people and many years. Sometimes, decades.

Because our relationship doesn’t have a clear start date, we’re missing some of the dates that other couples know instinctively. After much research, we discovered that the first day we met was July 3, 2014. My current girlfriend came in that day to interview for a volunteer usher position at the movie theater where I used to work. While that was on a Thursday, her volunteer day was Friday — a day I usually had off (or left early) because I had to wake up hella early on Saturday to either run the TOEFL test or invigilate the IELTS test. On the Friday before a TOEFL test, I also had to set up everything in the computer lab. So, while the next Friday I worked was a couple weeks after her training, I most likely left before she arrived. In fact, it wasn’t till October that I worked there again on a Friday, floating between two locations (so again, it’s possible I wasn’t there when she arrived). I asked her out the following Valentine’s Day (along with another volunteer — didn’t want to make it look like a date, after all), but she was in a relationship at the time, and neither I nor the other volunteer ended up going to the event.

The next opportunity to hang out was at my birthday (she was single by this point). My first photo with her is from that party. I’d gotten over my initial attraction to her, though, which is why, when she was hired to work during the film festival that year, she pursued me for much of it, while I rebuffed her. In most cases, that would’ve been the end of it.

Except that it wasn’t.

After festival, she was hired year-round at the movie theater. On nights when she worked the same hours I did, she offered to drive me home, which I gladly accepted (she did this with other coworkers, too). Parked in front of my shared house, we often found ourselves talking about many deep and personal things — things I had no one to talk to about. One of my housemates at the time saw right away that she was pursuing me, but I thought nothing of it because I wasn’t interested, obviously.

And then the shared house was sold and we all had to find different lodgings. At the same time, my current girlfriend was looking to move. At this point we were good friends, so I asked her if she wanted to look for apartments with me, since I didn’t want to move into a place with a bunch of strangers again. She agreed, and we ended up finding a place a week or two later.

So yes, fanfic readers, we were roommates.

Before we started looking for apartments together, though, we had what was, in retrospect, our first official date: June 24, 2015. Never mind the fact that her mom was there, too.

We moved in together on August 15, 2015 (we signed the lease on August 12). But when did we actually became a couple? It could be as early as when I went home for Christmas in 2015 and realized how much I missed her. Or it could be Valentine’s Day 2016, when I took her to see Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet at the ballet, despite my telling her it wasn’t a date afterwards (one of many moments in our early relationship where I wish I could travel back in time and smack some sense into my former self). Or later in 2016, when I went on a trip by myself for my birthday in order to be alone and write, and ended up doing most of my writing to her.

The latest it could possibly be, however, is June 2016. That is when we took a road trip to California to see her best friend get married. After that trip, I could no longer pretend we were just friends. The feelings ran too deep, but even then they weren’t a raging fire, more like a solitary flame that continues to grow larger and burn brighter. And yet what warmth it gives off! Unlike relationships which burn bright and fast, our feelings for each other have evolved — mine evolving much more slowly than hers (see comment above about smacking my former self).

One other date I can’t tell you is when we passed the honeymoon period of our relationship. I’m more in love with her now than I was back on that June day when I told her how I felt. I’m more in love with her than the first time I told her, “I love you” (she thought I said “Olivia,” which was the name of one of our pet rats). I’m more in love with her than I was in those first few years of the relationship, when I still wasn’t sure about us. At that point, neither of us — especially me — had much experience with romantic relationships, particularly ones that lasted longer than a few months. But we were living together and were both on the lease, which forced us to work out our problems where living apart might’ve made it easier to break up over stupid shit.

Not that we had many fights. Most of our early ones were about finances, which led to a rule about not discussing finances after midnight. Other fights had to do with us adjusting to each other’s quirks and lifestyles. Even with how stressful quarantine has been, we haven’t fought that much, and every time one of us has lashed out in anger, it’s been followed by an apology.

This year marks five years that we’ve been together, officially or unofficially. And while we don’t have an official date to commemorate the beginning of our relationship, at least we know how long it’s been since we first lay eyes on each other, only realizing in the intervening years how significant that day would be.

The Old Year in Review

I cannot remember another year as awful as 2020. True, I’ve experienced moments that rivaled the worst of 2020 (like when my grandmother and dog died within a month of each other), but collectively, 2020 sucked.

I’ve been out of work since March 13, when movie theaters closed in Seattle. While I’ve gone to the store (occasionally) or visited others after mutually quarantining (rarely), I’ve spent most of my time in my apartment, which isn’t great for mental health, but is somewhat helped by living with my girlfriend, possessing a cell phone, and owning a cat.

Having all this free time meant I could finally work uninterrupted hours on my writing projects and voice acting career, but “could” is different than “would.” I should’ve remembered the last time I was stuck at home. I’d just graduated from college and lived with my parents, since I had nothing else lined up. I tried to write magazine submissions and my first novel with no social life, which went about as well as you think it would — though time and circumstances were different (9/11 happened several months later, and smart phones weren’t a thing).

As this pandemic continues, I’ve gradually been learning to put my mental health first and to stop feeling guilty for not filling my days with endless productivity. Of the two types of work I’m focusing on, voiceover is the more physically demanding, writing the more mentally challenging.

But, to be successful at each, I have to ignore any monetary rewards attached to them, not because I don’t want to earn money putting my talents to work, but because focusing on the monetary aspect tends to strangle the creative aspect. Doing creative work for money causes me to fall into a depression, particularly during gloomy Seattle winters. Writing for any reason other than that I love writing, or doing voice acting for any reason other than that I love voice acting, ends up being counterproductive.

Speaking of doing things for money, I don’t miss work. What I miss is hanging out with my coworkers and being able to go to live events and movies. If universal basic income became a reality, artists, house spouses, and part-time workers would finally be able to put time and energy into their passions, rather than having that time and energy drained in working jobs for the “privilege” of living paycheck-to-paycheck. We’d finally get paid for the work we do, not how much money we generate. And for those people whose jobs’ only purpose is to make money, perhaps we could put that money to better use by taking it out of their pockets and putting it back into their communities.

Imagine a world where no one has to worry about not making enough money to eat. To own property. To buy clothes. To have healthcare. To pay the bills. Civilizations were formed because it was easier to band together for protection than to go at it alone. Isn’t it time they fulfill this promise and protect us from want?

Here’s hoping that when the world opens up again, we’ll be ready to demand a more perfect one.

Connections

I was reading an excellent post by Sheila O’Malley on Before Sunrise (which I found in a link on her post celebrating Richard Linklater’s birthday today) when she revealed a detail I’d never noticed before (and I say this as someone who’s seen the movie more than 10 times. The only movie I’ve seen more times is Amadeus). This detail is that Céline and Jesse meet and start their walk on June 16 — Bloomsday, when a young James Joyce went on a walk with Nora Barnacle, his future wife and muse (it’s also the day — June 16, 1904 — when the whole of Ulysses takes place). To clarify, June 16 is the day Céline and Jesse met on the train, June 17 is when they went their separate ways. And then I realized something.

As some long-time readers know, I lived in Japan for several years. Notice the dates in that linked entry. I took off on June 15. I landed in Japan on June 16. My first full day there was June 17. Had I left a year earlier, I would’ve arrived exactly 100 years after James and Nora went on that fateful walk.

The only difference between the June 16 events listed above and my own is that mine didn’t involve falling in love with a woman. It involved falling in love with a country. More than that, those three years witnessed a transformation in how I viewed myself, others, the US, and the world. To quote O’Malley (who quotes Joyce), I “stopped living ‘in fragments,'” and if I feel somewhat fragmented now, it’s only because my connections have weakened over time.