Holding out for a Hero

In the past 8 months, I hiked up Mount Washington after years of joint problems. I drove part of the trip from New Jersey to Boston after years of dreading I-95. I found pearls at a flea market for a better price than I'd have found in China. I went to my first ever music festival. Then I went to another one. I dressed up like a zebra and ran through Cambridge. I had a picnic at Castle Island and watched planes touch down at Logan as the sun touched down below the horizon. 

In February, all self-love and self-esteem practice aside, I was resentfully baking treats for happy couples for Valentine's Day while stuffing my sorrows by eating day-old inventory. If you were talking to me then and told me that this summer all the above  and more would be true, I wouldn't have believed you. And if you had told me that I was two weeks away from a fantastic relationship that would leave me in gratitude to the city of Boston for pushing my limits yet again, I'd have tried to silence you with a pile of cookies while convincing you of all the reasons you were wrong. 

Well, I was wrong. And even though that relationship ended a month ago, it doesn't make the rest of what happened any less real or render the personal growth meaningless.

This was someone who know he was essentially tone deaf but sang anyway--and didn't let anyone stop him. This was someone who saw the world as a stage for creativity and joy, who lived in a near-constant state of wonder and with an unshakeable sense of possibility. This was someone who cared about my personal growth almost as much as I did. 

This was the most honest relationship I have ever had, both with the person I was seeing and with myself. Which brings me to this story:

A talented woodworker, he spent hours in his shop making gifts for himself and his friends. He sought inspiration for new projects from instructables the way I did for new recipes from smitten kitchen: with creative determination. I was lucky to receive beautiful three things from him I never knew I needed and then couldn't live without.

I will never forget the day I saw his latest creation at the time, a wooden ring with a little gear perching in the center like a gemstone. I thought about him making more of them, selling them on Etsy or at a stand at SoWa market on Harrison Street. Indulging in hormones and fantasy for a moment, I also thought of one on my own finger.

About a month later, I was out to brunch with my fall semester team at Sloan. One of my team members (because he is charmingly French and because this is business school) casually participates in luxury watch and jewelry auctions. His wife joined us for brunch that day, and every time I saw her left hand, I stood agape. I don't consider myself especially materialistic or marriage-crazed, but I could not stop staring at her engagement ring, won through one of these auctions. 

Although the ring probably could have paid for a good part of my MBA tuition, it wasn't a garish thing. No elaborate band, no extra pave gems. One well-set diamond on platinum. A simple and elegant ring that suited her perfectly. 

My mind suddenly recalled the image of the wooden ring. The thought that had once given me a thrill now filled me with sadness: I envisioned myself accepting a wooden box with a wooden ring from a man on one knee. It was beautiful. It was handmade. It was heartfelt. And at the same time, it wasn't and would never be what I really wanted, symbolically as much as literally

I learned that I had someone in my life who gave me what I never knew I needed, but what I needed was someone to give me what I already knew I wanted. 

On the list of things I know I want? Someone who is going to support my career ambitions, wherever in the world they take me. Someone who can ride with the moments of depression as much as those of elation--of this two year program and beyond. Someone whose heroism extends beyond dressing up as a superhero for Halloween every year.

I have no shame in saying that one day I want a diamond ring. And I have no shame in saying that I am holding out for that hero.