Part 1 of this story can be found here, and I suggest you at least give it the ‘ol college skim. In a nutshell, it suggests that God can work some freaking miracles despite our stubborn humanity, using my against-all-odds faith journey as an example. I’m here to continue that story by talking about my against-all-odds love life. I won’t be gross I swear.
I’m currently married and we’re expecting our first son in April. Let’s rewind nine years.
It’s August, 2008 and I’m out of place at Franciscan University, trying not-so-desperately to follow my one rule of waiting a semester to start dating. Suddenly, it’s October and this Catholic girl is monopolizing my time and attention.
Let me ruin the surprise for you right now: this girl is not my wife today. I wrote briefly about her in my previous post: “... I also allowed her to be one of the greatest distractions from my studies, second only to ultimate frisbee.” To make that very long story very short, three years of joy mixed with near-daily arguments, bottled resentment, impatience, disrespect, selfishness, codependency, and disagreements about whether soccer was better than hockey (please) revealed that we were incompatible. This revelation was especially painful due to the fact that, by the time we split up in the fall of 2011, we had been engaged for about a year.
Single and a senior, I reflected on my college career: I had damaged strong brotherhoods. I had driven my family away. I had squandered an opportunity to study philosophy and theology under some of the greatest minds for no higher a price than that which will be crushing me in loan payments for the next decade plus. Now, every Wells Fargo bill that comes in for watching Netflix in Archaeology Lab or lazily banging out a two-hour senior thesis is like a swift kick to the groin of my now tiny brain, courtesy of College Mark and his slightly tinier brain.
Worst of all, I spent a whole summer mowing cemetery lawns to pay for my semester abroad, and instead chose to spend that money on a ring that I would one day learn was actually worth less than a fifth of what it cost me. To magnify it all, the semester we split up was the semester I was planning to spend abroad.
The semester I was planning to spend abroad was the semester I met Julia.
Once again, I found myself falling for a Catholic girl. This time there was no bottled resentment, no impatience, no disrespect, no monopolization of time or attention, no codependency, and no effs given whatsoever about soccer. Our friendship grew immediately and alarmingly quickly. We spent the whole of winter break texting each other. When we got back to campus for the spring semester, we discussed the possibility of dating, and, after a few weeks of consideration and prayer, chose to do so. Up to this point in my life, I had literally never been so happy.
This is not the moment when everything fell into place, but rather when everything started falling apart. About a month in, I realized that I had not yet healed from my broken engagement and chose to step back from the relationship. I dumped Julia, broke both of our hearts, graduated, and left.
At first, we attempted a distanced friendship, but found it to be painfully unsustainable given the fact that strong feelings remained between us without us being able to act on them. Julia made the call to remove herself from my life, and we stopped communicating entirely. I was soon living with my parents (who had just moved far away from my hometown of 22 years), struggling to get the hang of waiting tables (I never did), and struggling even harder to find a job that could actually pay off my student loans, lest I have to join the Air Force (that’s not a joke).
Up to this point in my life, I had literally never been so miserable.
In January of 2013 I landed a job as a Multimedia teacher at a boarding school in Ohio where my brother taught. We both lived on campus, about a minute’s walk from each other. I also lived about a two hour drive from my alma mater where Julia was finishing up her senior year. I tortured myself with frequent visits, which never resulted in anything more than palpable discomfort for all whenever Julia and I were in a room together, ignoring each other.
In October of 2013 I was Texas-bound to be in my best friend’s wedding. He was marrying Julia’s best friend. Julia, now graduated, was also in the wedding. We hadn’t spoken in over a year. She was now dating some guy and it was drowning me. Now I had to see them together in person, not just on Facebook.
In a moment of weakness and partial insanity, I seized an opportunity to strike up a conversation with her as our van was headed to the reception. Though slightly awkward, it was polite. We spoke a few times more throughout the weekend, and then we left; I to Ohio, she to Cape Cod. Slowly but surely, we reconnected. Eventually, we were speaking daily over chat. Our renewed friendship seemed unforced, comfortable, fitting, and void of romantic tension.
Blindsided by the news that she was single again, I blew a mother-effing fuse. I saw this as an opportunity to get another shot with her. See, my plan was to show her how great it was to be my friend and then tell her that if she didn’t marry me I wouldn’t be her friend anymore.
I’m not even kidding. That’s exactly what I did.
In the summer of 2014 I drove my dying car 642.8 miles from Ohio to Cape Cod and told her that I loved our friendship. I told her that she was my best friend, and that there were only two directions our relationship could head in: either we could both get married to other people, demanding that our friendship be at least diminished enough to make room for our best friendship with our spouses, or we could get married to each other, resulting in our friendship expanding infinitely until we die and see Jesus. I told her that I wasn’t interested in diminishing our friendship. I then drove 642.8 miles back to Ohio.
The year is 2017. Julia and I are married and we’re expecting our first son in April.
Because I broke my one rule of waiting a semester to start dating, I bought a ring. Because of that, I missed my semester abroad. Because of that, I met Julia.
Also, I would have never been equipped with the tools to become a halfway decent Catholic husband had I not broken that one rule, because, though my ex-fiancée was obviously not meant to be my wife, she showed me a fire for the faith that I didn’t know was possible. By the end of my first semester she had me in tears realizing how far I had strayed from my faith. I owe the turning point of my faith to her more than anyone else that walks the earth.
I also would have never ended up in Ohio where I strengthened an extremely broken bond with my brother. Spending a year and a half practically living together and touring the midwest as a folk duo is just what the doctor ordered for drifting apart to the point of refusing to be the other’s best man. For the record, we’ve been each other’s best man and we couldn’t be closer.
Yes. God can absolutely work some freaking miracles despite our stubborn humanity. There was a time in my life where these events were my biggest regrets; ones I honestly didn’t know how to cope with. Now, I have a faith, a brother, a wife, and a son because of them.
Mark Kaschak is a New Hampshire-based graphic designer, musician, and husband by both day and night. He runs a sweet music blog called Backline and he wants you to check it out.