He was once the boy everyone thought was wrong for her. Reunited in adulthood, he’s now the husband that’s entirely right.
In the tenth grade, a teacher pulled me aside one day. “You can do better,” he told me, with a furrowed brow. “You shouldn’t be dating that boy.”
That boy was Shawn. He had long hair and a leather jacket. He played in a band. My teacher had seen me seated on Shawn’s lap outside my locker, curled up in the arms of the quintessential bad boy, and he had not approved.
I was not the type of girl who was supposed to be with that sort of boy. I was at the top of my class. Shawn was at the bottom. I was the president of the marketing club. Shawn smoked in the schoolyard. We were not a classic match. Yet, I loved him.
And then, in typical high school fashion, our relationship imploded. He had been a good boyfriend — a great one, in fact — but I was young and dumb in the ways of romance and needed to kiss a lot more frogs before I could appreciate that particular kind of prince.
I don’t remember the phone call when we broke up, but Shawn does. He wanted to know why I was so distant. “I just don’t love you anymore,” I explained with teenage girl brashness. I broke his heart.
High school turned to university and I saw Shawn now and then. We would run into each other at a bar or waiting for a streetcar. I graduated and went to work for a record label. He played in a successful metal band. I kissed a lot of frogs. He married the first woman he dated after we broke up.
Now and again, I’d think of him. I’d remember the boy who showed up on my doorstep on Valentine’s Day with a giant balloon filled with a stuffed pink pony and my favourite jelly beans. I thought about the boy who dropped everything to pick me up when my maxi pad leaked and I almost died of embarrassment at an after school event. He was not the type of guy I was supposed to end up with. But he was a good man.
I was almost 30, reeling from the death of my father and yet another heartbreak when Shawn’s high school best friend added me on Facebook. I immediately accepted. A few days later, Shawn popped up on my page. He was divorced, still living in Scarborough and looked just like he had 13 years earlier — though with much shorter hair.
The one who was all wrong for me in high school felt entirely right as an adult.
We started chatting online and, just like that, I knew. This felt right. We went for drinks a few weeks after we started talking and the chemistry was clear. He dropped me off and I went back to my apartment, turned on “Defying Gravity” from Wicked and danced around the room. The one who was all wrong for me in high school felt entirely right as an adult.
Our friends and family were taken aback by how fast things progressed. We started dating on November 30th, moved in together February 1st and announced our engagement shortly thereafter. My girlfriend called him my “recycled love interest.” I called him “home.” On June 13th, 2009, we were married – I walked down the aisle to a song by Hole and a wrestling announcer introduced our bridal party.
Shawn was planning a career in law enforcement. I worked in communications and wanted to transition into writing. He would follow his dreams and I would pursue mine. We would likely move somewhere out west, and I would have babies and write books. He would be the breadwinner and I would raise our family. In my head, this was the way it was all supposed to work.
But life doesn’t always go the way we plan. Shawn’s career veered in another direction. His song writing was successful, though not lucrative, and my work life flourished. I became a communications strategist and fell in love with medical research. I started a wine blog that allowed me to travel and write. Shawn pursued his own passions, and it was quickly apparent that the life we had imagined was not the one we would have.
We talked about children a lot in the early years, but we were never quite ready. One more vacation, we reasoned, as we traveled to Ireland, then Germany, then California and the Czech Republic. I read Eat, Pray, Love, the quote about children ringing in my head: “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” I wasn’t committed to it. And neither was Shawn. We didn’t have a baby.
We have cats — two of them currently — who we adore. And we have lives that make sense to us. It turns out, domestic goddess is not in my wheelhouse — I hate to cook, I forget to clean, I find myself lost in reading or writing while dishes pile up. The idea that I would one day be a housewife now seems laughably naïve.
Shawn works full time, but in a less stressful profession, so he has taken on more of the domestic role. He makes all our meals (my girlfriends swoon about this) and I pay most of the bills. He does the laundry and I do the dishes. But mainly, he takes care of us while I attempt to change the world.
I have a successful career in communications, I write about the research that inspires me, and I still maintain my wine blog. In 2017, I started the Diabetes Canada Podcast, where I speak to experts about the latest in diabetes research — a cause for which I feel incredible passion — and I am consistently thrilled that people listen and enjoy it. I go to yoga and dance classes, I run a dozen races a year — and my kind, patient husband is always waiting at the finish line with my sweater and a hug.
When I wanted to start a wine blog, Shawn drove me to every winery in Ontario so I could taste and learn. When I started my podcast, he listened to every episode — even the terrible ones at the very start. When I wanted to write a book, he changed his work schedule to give me more time to write. He makes our meals, he cleans our home, he brings me a million cups of tea. In turn, I’ve spent a mud-soaked week in Germany at the world’s largest heavy metal festival and nights quizzing him as he prepped for his next beer certification.
When that teacher pulled me aside years ago, he wanted me to know that Shawn wasn’t going to amount to anything. His hair was too long, his single mother too lenient, and his life too unstable to be the right fit for me. I was the star pupil — I couldn’t be pulled down by the kid in the back of the class throwing spitballs. What he didn’t know was that this particular teenage boy would work hard to overcome all the strikes against him and would do everything he could to ensure my dreams became a reality.
Was this the family I thought I’d have? No. Is it exactly what I need? Yes.
This is #1000families post number 245. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.