Five years ago today you could find me in the quaint little village of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic. I put on a pretty white dress and pretty sandals with seashells, both bought for this particular day. I put flowers in my hair and hooked my arm in my father’s arm as he walked me across a quiet beach until I had reached my destination- Ernie. Five years ago today I married the man I know as my best friend, my partner in crime, my biggest advocate- the man that knows me to my core and amazingly still loves me exactly the way I am.
In 2008 I was living in my hometown of Atlanta, diligently clicking away the credit hours toward my Master’s Degree in Mental Health therapy, which I was due to finish early 2009. It was a weird time in my life, for sure- I was at the end of my student career, faced with the realization that I would soon actually – truly, for real – have to do what I had been talking about and studying to practice for over 6 years. Blech. Who wanted to do that? Studentdom was way better: you got discounts on just about everything (who wants to pay $15 for a movie when you can pay $10?) and it meant you could stay in a perpetual state of creation. “I’m going to be a _______________” instead of being stuck in something like, “I’ve been a ________________ forever and I have no idea why and I wish I would have chosen something completely different. Yay!”
Not to mention the work of a counselor is a heart-heavy task, which I had just recently discovered, starting the Internship portion of my degree. People will always need help, but most people just simply want to talk, never improving. Improvement means moving forward, away from the person who sits and give you their undivided attention for (as many) hour(s) (as you pay them). I felt trapped, even before my adult career life had begun.
And then I met my Captain.
August 2008 my parents booked a vacation for the three of us on a liveaboard dive boat, Pirates Lady (that would later employ me), in the lovely Bahamian islands. Ernie was our Captain for the week- a meeting of chance, as he was filling in for another Captain that had to leave on an emergency. Ernie had worked on Pirates Lady and other boats for this company many years before and had decided to come back and fill in for fun. Pirates Lady did 4-5 dives a day, and let’s just say I’m more like a one-to-two-dive-a-day kind of girl (vacation in the Bahamas ≠ going home without a tan). So I found myself sitting around on deck, hanging out with the crew!
My little world exploded with new information: YOU COULD LIVE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES?? THERE WERE JOBS WORKING ON THE OCEAN??? YOU COULD SNORKEL FOR A LIVING?!?!?! Holy wow, my mind was blown. As the week went on I learned more about what these fascinating seafaring people did, and also got to know Ernie. Naturally, him being the congenial, amiable guy he is, I liked him more. And more. Eventually, really only a few days in, I was in love. Utterly smitten, slobberingly hooked- he was the most interesting guy I had ever met, hands down; not to mention talldarkandhandsome and all those Prince Charming adjectives.
I was crushed when I realized I had to go home, terrified I would never see him again. But luck was on my side- he was hooked, too. We made plans to see each other and, eventually, after flying back and forth for visits that were never ever ever long enough, he moved up to Atlanta with me while I finished my Master’s Degree.
Thanksgiving 2008, Ernie is back in the Bahamas filling in on Pirates Lady and tells me I should come down and spend the break with him. He was overly obsessed with making a bonfire on some island called North Cat Cay. Whatever- I like bonfires! Sangria was made; firewood was gathered; we dinghied everyone in and sat around on blankets watching the fire. Ernie asked me to go on a walk with him to “look for seaglass for my mom.” Halfway down the beach he asked to see my flashlight (I was dedicated to my beachcombing task) and slyly turned it off. He stopped and moved me in front of him, said words that made me melt that I wish I could remember, and ended by asking me to marry him. I was thrilled. My Captain wanted to keep me forever.
May 11, 2009 we said vows surrounded by just 7 special people and continued on the adventure we had started. We rode four-wheelers to our reception dinner and danced on the beach under the stars. It was perfect. And since that day – honest to goodness – we have not been apart for more than an hour at a time.
I did some research and it seems the average American spend about 4 awake hours a day with their spouse on weekdays and 6 awake hours a day on weekends. In one year, that means spouses spend time with each other about 1,664 hours on average.
If you consider Ernie and I sleep 8 hours every night; and for our lifestyle there is no such thing as a week-end or week-day; and at most we’re only apart for an hour during the day; we therefore are together 5,460 hours every year.
So, in Ocean Time, we’ve actually been married 16.4 years.
Happy 5-Year-Landlubber-Time/16.4-Year-Ocean-Time Anniversary, Ernie! You are the most kind, thoughtful, steadfast, loyal, hard-working person I’ve ever known, and you’ve taught me boundless knowledge of life- loving and being loved; sacrifice; responsibility; generosity; hunkering down and working hard; setting and realizing goals; looking within yourself to know who you are; doing the right thing even when it’s hard; exploring; making your own way; how to spear a lobster; how to cook on a boat; how to freedive; how to navigate; how to ride a motorcycle; how to change oil on our generator; what the clouds mean; nutrition; loving your body; rejecting body image; enjoying the things around you; the Ocean; the world; and what it means to be a part of a team. You are my best friend beyond a shadow of a doubt, and if I’m a better person today than I was 5 years ago, it is all thanks to you.
Sorry to get all mushy on you, folks. Our story is a real love story. I’m just so excited for every day to unfold and see where life takes us!
Happy Sailing, all. Wishing you the best of love and luck. If you haven’t already, I wish for you to find your Captain; and if you already have one, to find him all over again everyday.