How We Met

It was the summer of 2010. yeah, seven years ago (what?!). i was a young, awkward, recent high-school graduate, nervous to start college in just a few months. after just one tour of the picturesque campus – later named the #1 most beautiful college in the country – i’d chosen to attend Elon university, a private liberal arts school in north Carolina. at elon, there are over a dozen “freshman summer experiences” – optional excursions for incoming freshman eager to get on campus and meet other future phoenixes. there are dozens of trips to choose from and thousands of people vying for spots on the most popular expeditions. but i soon found out the trip i’d excitedly chosen to join, “quest,” wasn’t one of those popular ones. At all.

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When i walked in on that first day, ready for a week of bonding with hundreds of my new classmates, i saw only eight other people had signed up. eight. people. out of thousands! only eight. but one of those eight people was a guy named Alex. and seven years later, we’ve decided to spend the rest of our lives together. we met that first day of quest, but it wasn’t love at first sight. in fact, the only thing i noticed about him at all was that he wore one of those dorky drawstring backpacks that can’t fit anything more than a few pencils.

But before we embarked on our week-long quest, we had to do team building exercises. of course, it wouldn’t be orientation without ’em! when we had to pair up for a get-to-know-you exercise, somehow Alex and i were the last two without partners. so that’s how we found ourselves blindfolded, leading each-other with only our voices and (sweaty) hands, through a wooded obstacle course in rural north Carolina. and that’s how we found ourselves almost a decade later, still lost without one another – feeling our way through life holding hands and letting love guide the way.

How He Asked

we were eating dinner at my mom and dad’s house in Durham, NC. Alex and i live in Atlanta, but had gone home for the weekend to celebrate the ten year anniversary of my parents’ nonprofit – a community center for people with physical and mental disabilities. we were so thrilled to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a relaxing weekend with friends and family. as we were sitting around the kitchen table, my grandma leaned over to get a closer look at Alex’s watch. “what’s that fancy thing on your wrist?” she asked. “oh,” he said, looking at his fit-bit, “it’s an activity tracker and watch.” “yeah!” i chimed in, “it even measures your heart rate! what’s yours now, babe?” i grabbed his wrist and put it up on the table for everyone to see.

102 beats per minute, it read. 102. that’s twice a normal speed. “looks like it’s being a little glitchy!” Alex quickly exclaimed, as he abruptly snatched back his hand while my sisters and i worried about his irregular rhythm. “must be from when i got up to go to the bathroom!” he assured us. little did i know, his heart really was beating out of his chest. just a few moments later, the doorbell rang. My dad opened it to find Elijah, our seven-year-old neighbor and the child of lifelong family friends, standing there. Elijah and his brother Ty are like part of our family. in fact, when their parents got engaged over a decade ago, it was my sisters and i who helped plan the proposal. little did i know, the tradition was about to continue in a very special way. Elijah stood there at the door – it was normal to find him on our porch; he often stopped by to hang out – but instead of his usual muddy t-shirt and basketball shorts, he was wearing a bow tie. khakis. his church shoes. and his blonde hair was slicked back.

I ran to the door and got down on my knees to give him a big hug and kiss and tell him how handsome he looked! they must’ve just gotten back from a nice dinner, i thought. he handed me a fistful of flowers. “can i be your ring bearer?” he adorably asked me. uh oh, i thought. there’s been a misunderstanding! i’d told my mom for years that i dreamed of having Elijah in my wedding, but i wasn’t even engaged! “uhm, yes! sure!” i confusedly answered. what was he talking about?! i turned around to look questioningly at my family sitting behind me. but when i turned around, there he was: Alex, on one knee… asking me to spend forever with him.

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