Twenty years is a very long time in the context of a human life.
As a historian I sometimes get caught up in thinking in terms of centuries or dynasties, but few people ever get to see the full span of those. We are finite creatures, we humans, and the world in front of us slips away faster than we can grasp. This is why it is important to hold on to the things that matter, even as the rest of it slides away.
Twenty years ago today Kim and I got married.
One of the best lines from When Harry Met Sally (aside from “I’ll have what she’s having”) was the simple observation that “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” We were engaged eight months after we started dating, and married a year later. It couldn’t happen soon enough.
It’s been a full life since then. We bought a house. We had our daughters. We moved up and through a great many professional opportunities and way stations. Loved ones have come into our lives and left them. We have been to more than half the states and three different foreign countries together. We’ve raised vegetables, chickens, and eyebrows. We’ve had five different cats, two of which still live with us. The entire Harry Potter series came out as books and then finished up as movies and now recedes into the collective memory, a monument to a time.
Through it all there has been one constant: we have faced it all together.
We thought about going away for a vacation to celebrate, just the two of us, in January – the traditional time for academics to do anything that doesn’t involve grading papers. It turned out that a) I am a terrible person to ask to help plan any kind of getaway, as it genuinely doesn’t occur to me where to go or what to do after arriving there even when I am sincerely trying to figure it out, and b) Kim took a new position within our institution that starts in January anyway. We may yet do it – holidays and celebrations happen when you have time for them, after all, and it will be our twentieth married year all year long.
But really, the celebration is here, every day.
Every day I get to wake up with the woman I love, who is more beautiful to me now than ever, and to go through the day knowing I am loved in return. We share our news, our ups and downs, our lives. It gets no better than that. In a world where things slide away so easily, I hold on to this.
Twenty years is a long time.
But not long enough.