Hayley and Richard

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How We Met

There are a lot of people who think they deserve the credit for our relationship. First and foremost, though, we owe it to social media. R and I worked for the same network of schools, but in different states. He was a Director of Operations in Mississippi and I was a Dean in Nashville. We both joined Teach For America right out of college and were still in our placement regions in 2015. We knew of one another for a while before we met. By that I mean that we followed each other on Instagram, were friends on Facebook, and met once at a professional development meeting in Nashville.

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I still remember the day (and the Instagram photo) that peaked my interest in R. He remembers the same for me. (Romance in the 21st century…) I took a screen shot of the picture and sent it to my three best friends. They all worked with us, too, so they also knew of him. My friend Z actually knew R personally, though. They had both taught in Mississippi with TFA and Z even stayed in R’s condo in Orange Beach one Spring Break. Back while the whole thing was still just a joke, I remember Z telling me I couldn’t date R because he would “want to marry me and move me back to Alabama” (where he is from). Z eventually came around…

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On October 2, I was at a good friend’s wedding in South Carolina – in the middle of Hurricane Juaquin. Z was my date. We were having a blast after the rehearsal dinner with all of my college friends when an Instagram post caught my attention. I showed all my girlfriends this cute boy who Z was friends with and I kinda knew… He was all dressed up for his brother’s wedding. We woke up the next morning to get ready for my friend’s wedding and Z screamed when he found this message in his inbox…

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To say that the rest is history would be…well…very wrong. As much as I wanted to go on that date. I fought it. Hard. I didn’t like dating. It was awkward and weird. Plus, he lived in a different state. It would never work out – or so I thought. A few friends pushed me to text him, to accept an invitation to go on a date once he asked me, and even took my phone to text him for me. I still managed to blow off that first date… Luckily for me, he didn’t give up. He asked one last time and told me it would be the last time. “Look H, I really want to take you on a date. I will come back to Nashville if you want me to but I’m not going to keep chasing if you’re not interested.” I was interested. We went on our first date to Holland House in East Nashville. We talked for what felt like 30 minutes, and then we realized we were the last two in the restaurant.

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The next year put more miles on our cars than we would care to admit. With the exception of two weekends, we spent every weekend together in either Jackson or Nashville. One of us would drive 6 hours on Friday, then 6 hours on Sunday, every single weekend. He asked if he could FaceTime me the day after that first date. We FaceTimed every single day we were apart for the next year. We both fell pretty hard very quickly. “I love you”s came sooner than we both expected and we met each other’s families by Christmas. In what would have otherwise been an awful, stressful year for us both, we were each other’s escape. We got through the weeks knowing that weekends meant we would be together. And that’s somehow all we needed. I decided pretty early in 2016 that I would move to Mississippi at the end of the school year. There was no reason to stay long-distance for another year. Then, we had even more to look forward to. The spring flew by – nothing could get us down because soon we would be together every single day.

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I had a particularly precocious student at the time who somehow formed a very strong bond with R. They would FaceTime nearly every day at school from my phone. At the end of the school year, I asked my students to write a letter to a teacher who had a big impact on them that year. Amari wrote his to “Mr. Petty”. Little did Amari know, Richard was going to look at diamonds the following weekend.

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How He Asked

I have missed my kids and Nashville every day since I moved to Mississippi. I would do it all again if I had the chance – nothing could beat finally sharing a zip code with R, but I missed that city. My favorite spot in Nashville is on the top of the pedestrian bridge. You can see Downtown, the skyline, East Nashville, and the Cumberland River right in the middle of it all.

We’ve been planning this trip to Nashville for months. We planned it while I still lived in Nashville. Little did I know, that a lot more planning happened over the past month and a half. On Saturday morning, we were going to meet some college friends of R’s for brunch. I hadn’t met these friends but had heard a lot about them, so I was excited to hear they would be in town at the same time. We went to brunch and then decided to go to the rooftop of Acme, my favorite bar in the city, for some frozen moonshine lemonades. It was 95 degrees in late September. Why not? As we were walking toward Broadway, the three of them slowed as we reached the entrance to the pedestrian bridge. R’s friends, Brett and Caroline, told me they really wanted to check out the Titan’s stadium. I had just met these people. That didn’t seem weird to me at all. So we started walking over the bridge toward the stadium.

R got a work call and told us to keep walking while he took it. I continued explaining to Brett and Caroline every experience I had at Titan’s stadium. “I went to one football game once. It was kinda boring. We bought the tickets on Groupon… I got kicked out of a One Direction concert there [another story for another time], um… CMA Fest is there…” I didn’t have much but I was trying to feed their love of NFL stadiums..

R grabbed my arm, asked to talk to me, and we walked ahead. He walked over to the railing and looked over as he explained to me the stressful work call he had just taken. He was leaning on the railing when he eventually looked down at me and said “I love you”. I immediately responded: “are you telling me you are going to jump off the bridge?” He stepped away from the railing, got down on one knee, and said, “I’m telling you I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

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The next few moments are quite a blur – it was hard to get my mind to jump from suicide to proposal so quickly. I know that he asked. I know that I said yes. I know that his twin sister (who happens to be a professional photographer in NYC) was there to capture all the moments I would have otherwise forgotten.

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As we walked toward Acme to finally get our frozen lemonades, I was too busy asking questions (and staring at my finger) to ever think there could possibly be more… Boy, was I wrong.

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My sweet fiance (yay!) had plotted with our families and friends to add the to perfection of the day. There were 40 people waiting on that rooftop when we arrived. People from Alabama, Mississippi, New York, Chicago, and DC. 40 people who we love and adore, but many of whom we hadn’t seen in many months.

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The day was filled with countless hugs, laughs, and (finally) moonshine lemonades. The night was filled with music on Broadway and my signature off-tune rendition of “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” on a stage. That boy painstakingly created my perfect day.

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To say I’m the luckiest is an understatement. To have so many people willing to book flights and hotels, take off work and put off studying – all to watch him propose from a roof and to bring me to tears minutes later – is grounds for hashtagging blessed any day. But to have a boy willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, to know the perfect spot and the perfect ring, all to make me happy – that I don’t know how to describe. All I know it that I can’t wait to marry him.

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Special Thanks