The diamond ring was on my finger, the wedding date was set, the honeymoon flights had been booked – and so had my one-way ticket to Singapore. Marlon, who had gotten a kick-ass job in Singapore, had been based there for the entire four years we’d been dating. Since we both agreed that the Singapore dollar would give us a better financial head start in our shared life, the moment we had gotten engaged, moving there became a foregone conclusion.
The thing was, I didn’t want to move. I loved my life. I had a career that made me creatively fulfilled, ecstatically happy and financially rewarded, a tight-knit family of females with whom I shared everything, and a large, loving and irreplaceable network of friends (a choir, actually) made my life sparkling and vibrant.
Unlike many Filipinos who would leap at the chance to live and work abroad, I was staunchly in love with life in the Philippines – with our people, our beaches, our Salcedo markets and Cubao Expos and cheap finds at Landmark, and damned if I was going to give it up to start from scratch, jobless and friendless, in a country about the size of Quezon City.
But when I said yes to Marlon’s proposal, I – by default, almost – also said yes to Singapore. We were overjoyed at the prospect that we were finally going to be together after four years of physical separation, but there were trepidations underneath the happy surface. I was not too excited about being lonely and financially dependent (at least until I got a job). Marlon was worried that I was someday going to resent him for being the reason for the disappearance of my wonderful life.
After a while, I realized I had said yes without really making a choice. And that beyond putting on a brave face, what I really had to do to start our new life together with no fears, no doubts, was simply… choose.
So on October 4th, 2007, only two months and twenty-five days before our wedding date, I really, truly and freely chose to move to Singapore. I wrote Marlon this letter, excerpts of which I will share with you.
This is what I see. I didn’t choose Singapore.
I chose you. I chose to be with you… no matter what that looks like.
Starting out, that was all I really wanted. I realized now, I’m finally getting what I really want.
Coming into this marriage, you are my biggest commitment. I’m not committed to where we’re going to live, what we’re going to do, how much we’re going to earn, what we’re going to do with it. I’m committed to you – my best friend, my partner, my husband, the one true love of my life. And I’m committed to being with you – finally, forever. With that commitment in place, the rest just follows. It’s just details. It’s just circumstances. So I can rattle around and drive myself nuts about circumstances. Or I can see that I’m finally getting something I want with all my heart. Something I said I’d have no matter what, damn the torpedoes. You. You in front of me on December 29, and by my side for the rest of my life.
So there’s nothing there for me to do, or be, just yet. That only means I haven’t created it yet – and that I still can. Thank you for giving me the space to do just that in our relationship. Thank you that my life as me, Deepa, doesn’t end when our marriage begins. Thank you, because I know creating my life and sharing it with you will be so much fun. Thank you, because whatever game I choose to play, having you on my team will enable to me to kick some serious ass.
Thank you, because who you are to me is someone who is worth it. Thank you for being such a beautiful person, in the face of whom a beautiful life is almost relatively easy to give up. Thank you for being the beautiful person who is the beginning of a beautiful life where I am moving to.
I love you. And I choose you.
To date, that has been my biggest wifely step, from which all my wifely steps have followed. Some of those subsequent steps have flowed with grace and ease while others have been taken in awkward fits and shaky starts.
Some have been fun – like learning to cook, assisted by my husband the kitchen god, or buying him a Playstation 3 for Christmas (to the horror of many wife friends), or simply allowing myself the joy of saying “Yes” when my husband says to me, “Let me take care of you”, or easing into the role of obsessive-compulsive itinerary planner for every trip and holiday (and both of us being peripatetic travelers, believe me there have been a lot).
Others have been challenging and difficult – like this past weekend, when Marlon and I found ourselves having a “who-would-have-thought-we’d-ever-be-here?” moment at the Great Wall of China. I, the sleep-till-noon-sloth, pushed myself to complete the entire trek up the mountainside, climbing hundreds of steps on a stone staircase with practically a vertical incline in a dress and Chucks, because I knew there was nothing more my adrenaline junkie husband wanted than to reach the top of the Great Wall.
Starting my life as a wife began with a choice. And each wifely step I take every single day is just that, too – a choice. Even if the choice is inspired by my husband, or by our shared goals, or by my love for him or his love for me, the choice is always mine to make.
And I know I – and my wonderful husband – wouldn’t have it any other way.