6 / Will We Make It?

A Relationship Embarks On A Journey

In October of 2011 I posted an ad on Craigslist. The house was empty and too quiet. I had decided I wanted to rent out the front room of the house to someone.

Within an hour of posting, around 11pm, I received a two sentence email from someone in China expressing interest in renting the room. I read the email with some skepticism. I couldn’t tell if it was a spam email or not. I decided to respond immediately with some questions– “what are you coming to Miami for?” “how will you support yourself?” “do you have any references?”

Within a few minutes another email arrived with all of the answers. Her name was Evie, coming to Miami to study for her Master’s degree, her parents would be supporting her but she also planned to work.

Evie was from Nanjing in China and would come to the United States to study her Master’s degree in Hospitality at Florida International University. In regards to references, Evie provided a link to her CouchSurfing profile. 

“She’s a CouchSurfer!” I thought and I smiled a big smile. I love CouchSurfing and CouchSurfers. This meant she enjoyed traveling, had traveled, and enjoyed meeting new people. I took a look at her profile. Her profile photo was in black and white, a stylish shot, and her face was hidden behind a Minolta film camera. “She’s a photographer too!” and smiled again. 

I read her profile, I looked at her photos. Wow, she was beautiful! I read her references and got a good sense of who she was.

I responded to her email with enthusiasm and we spent the next hour trading emails back and forth. We discovered a great connection between us immediately, even if it was just via several emails over the course of an hour.

We agreed that Evie could come and move in when she arrived in Miami on January 1st, 2012. 

Over the next three months we traded more emails. We were becoming friends, even though we hadn’t met. We were both looking forward to Evie’s arrival in Miami.

I picked Evie up on the morning of New Year’s Day, 2012 and brought her back to the house.

Evie moved in and it was an easy transition for us both. We fit well together and sharing a house together was easy. We enjoyed evenings of British or Chinese dinners, long conversations and laughter. 

Evie was twenty-three and I was forty-seven.

The physical age gap was massive but we got on so well together. Our sense of humor and outlook on life, what we liked and didn’t like, they all matched perfectly. Evie was very mature for her age. We shared a mutual taste in music, art, food and photography. Despite the large age difference, we fit. 

Except that we didn’t share the same religious belief system. Coming from modern-day China Evie was an atheist, or perhaps agnostic because she would often mention how God was acting in her life.

In September of 2012, 9 months before my Arctic Ride For Dreams journey began, Evie invited a group of her Chinese friends from the University over to our house for a Chinese hot pot dinner– the Chinese version of a fondue party. Eight of us sat around the table. They spoke Chinese the whole evening and I didn’t understand a word.

The wine flowed and the food was good. They taught me to say rude Chinese words which kept them all laughing all night. My pronunciation was awful and required multiple repetitions until I got them correct. We fired off cans of silly string across the table.

What happened next is a bit of a blur. It was sudden. Evie and I were in the kitchen cleaning up. A silly string fight ensued between us. As we coated each other in multi-colored goo the chemistry between us ignited and we found ourselves in an embrace.

It was a shock. It was weird with the age difference being so much, but it was an undeniable connection that suddenly flared into a burning and passionate flame after nine months of living in the same house.

Our relationship began. We were very happy. We’d cook in the kitchen together, smile and both express the feeling of total contentment with our little life together. 

Our relationship required little effort. Our relationship was good. It was solid. Neither of us had expected our relationship to work when we began. But it did work. Very well indeed. 

Evie had been very supportive of my idea of going on a long trip, before we began our relationship and once we were in a relationship. Evie helped me think through places to go, had the initial thought of asking people about their dreams while I was traveling, she bought me books on Vancouver, Alaska and Canada.

But during the last three-month run-up before my departure reality began to set in and Evie began to be depressed and concerned about being on her own.

Evie wondered what would happen to our relationship. She didn’t want me to leave. She begged me not to go. She would cry. It broke my heart to see the tears roll down her cheek.

I felt our relationship was on solid ground and we were strong enough to last four months apart. We were very much in love. From past relationship experience I knew a relationship could last four months apart. I was confident that Evie and I could and would survive being apart.

But Evie was still only twenty-three and the thought of being alone in a house without me for four months was a lot for her to bear.

I was the one was leaving on an adventure. It would be easier for me. I would be occupied. Evie, on the other hand, would be left only with the sense of me not being present to keep her company. Undoubtedly the months apart would be more difficult for her.

I tried my best to reassure Evie that it would be okay. 

Her thoughts were understandable but the pull of the journey was too strong for me not to go. There were too many commitments in place already, and the dream was too big. I had been thinking about and planning the journey for so long, waiting for three years in anticipation, trying to get through the miserable days at work to get to this point.

I felt calm about us being apart. Evie felt panic, fear, impending loneliness and abandonment, and that I didn’t love her as much as the trip. It was all understandable. 

Where we differed was that Evie thought that if I really loved her I would put a stop to the Arctic Ride For Dreams immediately and not go, and I thought I would be able to go and our love would be strong enough to survive us being apart.

Evie became less and less supportive between March and June. She became more and more depressed. Some days she put on a brave and happy face, other days she would cry and curl up in a ball on the bed.

The Arctic Ride For Dreams, once a fantastic notion that inspired us, had become something that simply brought Evie pain. One evening in June Evie cried to the point of getting a fever. She no longer wanted to talk to me or see my face.

Evie thought I was incredibly selfish.

By this point I felt too far committed to the calling I felt I had from God, to everyone at MSPC and UrbanPromise, to all my friends, everyone that was cheering me on in the fulfillment of my dream, and to the people I wanted to inspire to follow their own dreams. I had already handed in my notice at work. And I knew that if I didn’t follow my dream now I would always regret it. I would feel like I had let myself, and so many others down.

I did not want to cause Evie feelings of emotional pain, discomfort, exclusion or loss.

Evie and I forged on through the ups and downs of the last couple of months before my departure– my highs of anticipation, our mutual lows of me feeling unwell and going through medical tests, and a relationship that was experiencing its first rockiness in a year and a half since Evie had arrived in Miami.

But backing out of the trip in the last weeks before departure wasn’t an option for me.

Perhaps it’s not possible to pursue the dream and not appear to be selfish at the same time. We are faced with choices, sometimes impossible choices. The path to one’s own dream is not always smooth but the difficult times teach us determination, endurance and how important the dream is to us.

If you’re like me you feel like you need to pursue the dream to the utmost of your ability so you can feel that your purpose for being here on this planet has been validated. So that you feel you haven’t wasted your time here. So that you have no regrets.

But maybe we will always appear selfish when we are focused on what we want, who we feel we were made to be, when we’re listening to God and determined to follow His direction. It is difficult for some to comprehend, especially if they lack your belief or a faith in God as Evie did.

I tried to reassure Evie. I thought we would be okay. 

But the road would get rocky for us from here on out.

Evie

______________

By Andrew Hayward Smith © 2015 All Rights Reserved. Copyright Andrew Hayward Smith. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced without the author’s written consent.