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At times, and like most people, I suffer from social anxiety. If you have ever met me, and then you saw me again a few weeks later in the street and I pretended I didn’t see you – it’s NOT because I don’t like you. It’s because I have wackadoo thoughts that run through my head. “What if they don’t like me? Are they going to pretend they don’t see me?” “It’s better for both of us if I avoid eye contact”

I don’t call people on the phone for the exact same anxiety-ridden reasons “What if I’m bugging them?” “What if I call and they see it’s me, and they don’t answer?”

If I’m in a store and I don’t buy anything I start to get panicked that the employees will think I have stolen something. I replay conversations in my head constantly, berating myself for sounding stupid. I have a hard time making eye contact.

The list goes on.

Most of the time I am good at pushing these thoughts away, and I think many people would be surprised to find out that I even have them in the first place.

However, I am lucky enough to have two people in my life who I feel I can be completely myself around, and where these worries disappear. Where the weight of any negativity I have about myself just dissolves into a silly puddle of irrelevance around my toes.

The first person to do this for me was, and is, and always will be, my brother.

And while I was growing up, with my blonde mullet-headed baby brother selflessly teaching me how to be a more generous, loving and humorous person – the other most important person in my life (Dan) was also growing up, learning difficult life lessons, and developing his own characteristics that would eventually, and unbeknownst to us at the time, perfectly complement and strengthen my own.

A little about me:

I am not romantic in the slightest. I didn’t grow up dreaming of my future wedding, or thinking about ‘prince charming’. Instead, I spent long hours dreaming about the things I would accomplish: the books I would write; the animals I would study; the goals I would score in soccer and basketball, and the strong woman I would become. The child Jessi idealized these as completely solo tasks – perfectly accomplishable on her own without the help of anyone, thank you very much.

At the time, I knew this made me different. When other heterosexual girls my age were talking about boys, or *gasp* about kissing boys, my reaction was to flee. Flee far away. Most times, this either resulted in me alone with my nose in a book worrying if I was a ‘prude’ (the ultimate put-down for girls around grade 6), or, in the field playing some sort of sport (where all worries disappeared completely).

This led up to the fact that by grade 12 I had still never had a boyfriend. This was partly due to my own diffidence and angst, and also partly due to the fact that not a single person had really piqued my interest yet. And (here comes the cliché part that you were waiting for) ….

then, I met Dan.

A little about Dan:

Dan is a quiet thunder; a natural, intelligent and impassioned leader. He is loud actions, and soft words.

When he comes home from work he lovingly lifts up our cat, whispers sweet nothings in her ear, and takes her to the window to show what her she’s missed. When he was a kid, he called strawberries ‘tarbellies’ and believed the inventor of chairs was named ‘chair’.

He tends to carry the weight of the world in his hair, dispersed in each strand. And he spends every morning carefully and methodically, adjusting and primping – wanting so badly to right all of the world’s wrongs. But, he’s getting better at letting me help him carry that weight, which – when I’m allowed – I perfectly coif into a Bob Ross afro; painting happy clouds wherever we go.

He respects me absolutely, and (even on our worst days) he never underestimates my deservedness. He has spent every day of the last 12 years that we have been together having complete and infallible belief in me, and my abilities.

And although I have a strong desire to correct my behaviour, I often forget that he is more in need of the kisses goodbye, the gentle words, and the long loving stares than I am. Yet, despite my brutishness, he finds a way to forgive me.

In short, Dan is my first everything: My first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first love, my first roommate and, truthfully, my first heartbreak.

Tomorrow, July 6, we celebrate our 7 year wedding anniversary (my heartbreak long mended). And although it’s been 12 years since our first kiss, I still see sparks when we touch. When I look at him, I see the old grey haired, doggedly habitual man he will become and I am grateful.

Grateful for the impact he has had on my life. Grateful for the way we have changed each other, and for the ways in which we will continue to shape each other. Grateful for the feeling of acceptance towards me that emulates from every inch of his being. Grateful that we decided to try, and try again, when things got tough. Grateful for the love that I know I deserve, and that I would want from no other.

So, thank you Dan, for being so many of my firsts. Cheers! Here’s to long lasting love, laughter and kittens (cuz, why not really?).