A few days before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted into grocery store raids, toilet-paper memes, and overall panic I had made the very big decision to upend my life by getting married and moving to Okinawa in August. I have not even fully processed this decision yet, but when an overwhelming society-changing experience like the COVID-19 pandemic starts (and ceases to let up) you don’t get to question the timing, or do you?
This feels like some great cosmic joke. You see, I never imagined I’d even get married. I’ve ended relationships over the topic and have had more than a few fiery debates with well-meaning relatives over Christmas dinners. There have been tears and hurt feelings for years over my adamant stance that marriage is an archaic remnant of a previous time. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not opposed to having a partner to share and build a life with, but the institution of marriage, of giving a woman “away,” of losing my identity in a name change, has always felt antiquated to me and please don’t get me started on weddings! All of that money, time, and energy for a single day celebration seems overwhelmingly wasteful in the face of so many suffering in today’s society. So it’s strangely ironic timing that at the exact moment I finally decide to take the plunge and change my tune after decades of denying marriage, the world turns on itself.
Starting the process of getting married and moving to another country involves a lot of work, but there is no part of you that ever expects life as you know it to come to a screeching halt while you’re trying to make it all happen. Now, instead of saying “yes to the dress,” I’m worried about finding a store where I can say yes to buying fresh vegetables. Instead of setting a date, I’m yelling at the County of San Diego website for not allowing me, or anyone, to book any appointments for new licenses or ceremonies and scouring the internet for locations that are still issuing licenses. Turns out, not even Vegas can help me out now. Instead of having my great grandmother’s ring resized I’m worried about getting my hands on a single loaf of bread (even crappy off-brand whole-wheat will do). My hopes of properly saying goodbye to the places in San Diego I love have been replaced with intimate views of my living room walls. Quarantine life has left my life’s To-Do list quite full and increasingly incomplete. And yet…
These complaints are nothing in the face of the thousands who are sick, and the thousands that have and will die due to this pandemic. I’ll gladly give up any pretense at my “big day” if staying home means saving even one person. In the last two weeks, the world has shrunk down to the basics, the fundamentals of what it means to be alive and what is truly important. COVID-19 has pushed us all (and will continue to push us in unimaginable ways in the months to come) to really look at our lives and assess where we are and what we still want to do. It is an alarming reminder of the fragility of life and the ever so short time we’re allotted here on Earth to do and be whatever we might imagine. All too often we get lost in the trivialities of life. I never imagined myself as a bride and maybe I was right all along. I’ve been given the opportunity to focus on what’s important, to be a partner, and no quarantine or delay in marriage licenses will change that.
I feel lucky to actually really like my living room walls. I feel lucky to have my mother as a neighbor that I can keep an eye on during this time. I feel lucky to have three incredible dogs that fill my afternoons with laughter. And I feel lucky to know that, no matter what happens in the months to come, I’ll be moving to Japan for an adventure I couldn’t have ever imagined with a person who is willing to accept that marriage isn’t about a dress at all. We might end up getting married in jeans with no one there, but our life goes beyond a wedding and certainly goes beyond a pandemic. This crisis will change us all. It will force us to face harsh truths and evaluate not only our views of ourselves but of our world. In the face of such existential uncertainty, I feel like my timing might have actually been perfect after all.
P.S. It is (almost) a good thing I have some extra time lately since I’ll be buried in visa paperwork until this summer.
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