Exactly six years ago on April 18, 2004, unknowingly, my life reached a very interesting fork. For most of us, when changes are about to happen, we are rarely aware and only recognize it after the fact. Interestingly, April 18th six years ago was also a Sunday and it will always be one of those days forever etched on my 'calendar of shake-you-to-the-core events'. Landing on Chicago O'Hare International Airport on that date probably doesn't sound as eventful and dramatic as, say, when my heart first got pulverized, or when I got engaged, married, gave birth, etc. Still, I promise you its importance cannot be underestimated.
Six years ago on this date and day, I came here to Chicago for a vacation. It was summer in the Philippines and I didn't have teaching load at the time so I decided to come and spend my break with my sister, her family and Mom who was also vacationing here that year. I was set to stay for about six weeks and just have fun. At the time, I had an invitation from a friend who wanted to hang out more with me. I met him in late 2002 through a common friend and as it turned out, he was also from Chicago and thought it would be a great idea for me to come visit him and see where it goes. As for my side of the story, admittedly I liked him and thought he was interesting and sweet to say the least. But more importantly, I just wanted a slight change in scenery, get out of Manila and try to take a break from this other guy who couldn't seem to make up his mind about me, himself and 'us'. I was getting tired of the emotional pendulum I was trapped in, and so I thought I just needed to open myself to other possibilities and just enjoy. In other words, I really just wanted to have a nice, fun vacation. No drama. No (or minimal baggage). And most importantly, no strings attached.
I had such grand plans at the time, but I suppose God had even grander ones.
I was supposed to just get over another man, enjoy my single life and not care about anybody. Instead I ended up dating this Chicago 'friend'.
I was supposed to take it slow, have a long engagement and just enjoy the relationship. Instead, we fell in love and he ended up proposing within three weeks of my arrival.
I was supposed to end up (or had imagined ending up) with an older Westerner / Caucasian, mature in thinking and undoubtedly an intellectual. Instead I was found by someone my age, a Filipino, though with the perfect degree of Westernization, no less intelligent and with adorable brown eyes to boot. Eventually I realized that I was better off with someone I can speak Filipino with especially when I'm exploding in anger. There's really nothing like being angry and cussing in your native tongue, you know.
I was supposed to board a Northwest Airline flight back to Manila on May 30th but there was a thunderstorm and my flight got cancelled. I took it as a sign from God and for the first time thought seriously about staying for good. On that day though, my luggage ended up reaching Manila way ahead of me.
I was supposed to go back to the airport on June 1st considering I booked another flight back to Manila two days prior. Instead, I ended up sitting at a Denny's diner and staying there as I agonized over my sudden decision to just stay and let the plane go without me. As I've admitted countless times before, that remains to be the most impulsive and dramatic decision I've ever made. Fortunately, I live to NOT regret it.
I was supposed to go back home to family and say my long goodbyes before migrating and getting married. I was left to make do with phone calls and emails and leave people back home with much shock and unending questions.
I was supposed to go back to my teaching job at the University, keep teaching and possibly pursue a PhD in Sociology somewhere in Europe. Instead I had to abruptly say goodbye to my Sociology colleagues and opted to live and work here in the United States, sans PhD.
I was supposed to get married in the Philippines and have all of my family and closest, dearest friends around on my very special day. Instead, I got civilly wed in Chicago with just my sister, her family and my Mom, and of course my groom's immediate family. A year later, we still got married in Church but still with most of my side of the family absent. It's not like it was a car or bus ride away, so that was understandable. Sad, but understandable.
Seriously, I was just supposed to be friends with AJ, my Chicago friend. And look what I got...a friend, a wonderful husband, a child that blinds me every time I lay eyes on him and a life altogether blessed albeit imperfect. I had so many plans and had my eyes set on so many things, none of which I got exactly as imagined. Six years later and I'm still in awe with how life has surprised me and turned out when I learned to let go.
"The thing about trains... it doesn't matter where they're going. What matters is deciding to get on." (The Polar Express, 2004)