On December 4th, 2017, in the wee early last call hours of the morning, I met a girl with golden hair and a grey Guns N' Roses tank top, and I'm not going to lie to you guys, I don't remember much about that moment. I don't remember exactly what I said. I don't remember exactly what I did. Because, as I'm sure you can all guess, I wasn't exactly 100% sober.
The "beverages" I had consumed previous to our meeting may have contributed to my lack of memory concerning what I said or did the moment I met her, but they did nothing to erase my memory of how I felt. Sometimes you meet someone and you just know that you are going to be watching her spill avocado in her lap for years to come.
From the very instant I met her I was deeply enamoured, and although over the past 365 days there have been SO MANY MOMENTS that I have wanted to scream, cry, punch something ANYTHING, run away, tear out my hair, drive our van off a cliff (okay I'm definitely exaggerating on that one...), I am grateful every single day that Corey Laurin was born, and that I decided to make the ill-advised trip down to Red Deer to celebrate his birthday the night before my final day of university (and the night before my final project was due no less).
Uschi has enriched my life in so many ways. But since she is not a fan of the mushy, gushy, cheesy, luuuurrve stuff that I am, I have compiled a short list of the top ten (mostly not romantic) things Uschi has taught me over the past year.
(and I promise I will do my absolute best not to get too sentimental)
1.) How to properly cut vegetables
There. You can't get less romantic than vegetables.
But seriously! It was one of the very first things I noticed about her. This girl can cut and pit an avocado like nobody's business. She can slice and dice a tomato, and chop broccoli like a pro. The best part? No part of the vegetable is left unused. My girl hates waste, and I love her for it.
Because of Uschi, I am 200% more waste conscious. I may still be particular about the ripeness of my avocados, but I am hesitant to throw anything away before I find a use for it, even if sometimes that use is Uschi's stomach.
2.) It's not whether you win or lose, it's who you play the game with
Our travels would not be complete without games, games, and more games! Though it's true that I can be a sore loser at times (okay pretty much all the time), and although Uschi may not be able to control her impulses to call me names during a speedy round of Dutch Blitz, the answer is almost always "Yes!" when one of us suggests a round of cards.
I've learned that winning is not what's important, what's important is enjoying the company of the person you're playing with. And although I often forget this lesson when I lose yet ANOTHER round of Monopoly Deal, I hope to play many more games with this particular opponent in the future.
Too mushy? Okay, I'll reign it in.
3.) How to drink beer like a Belgian
It's no secret that Belgium is known for its beer.
But because I had never given Belgium much thought before I met Uschi (oops!), and because I am from Red Deer, AB, where we grow up drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lucky Lager, and Budweiser, I had no idea just how AMAZING Belgian beer actually is!
How could I have been missing out on all of these delicious beers my entire adult life!?
Thankfully, I now have a beautiful Belgian girlfriend to show me the error of my ways. And show she has...
4.) How to be selfish in a good way
I am constantly trying to find balance in my life between being selfish, and being... not selfish.
The problem is, when I am being selfish, I often feel guilty because I enjoy making other people happy. And when I am being... not selfish, I often feel empty because I am not doing what makes ME happy.
Uschi is teaching me balance when it comes to being selfish, and while it is something that is going to take me a lot longer than 365 days to learn, there is no end to her patience and understanding.
It's difficult to live in a van with someone, not because it's actually difficult, but because we rarely have time to ourselves. And although I am normally not someone who needs a lot of alone time, when living in such close proximity to another person 24/7, I have found that I definitely need time to myself if I am going to remain happy, mentally healthy, and sane.
Sometimes I forget this, and I feel bad when I want to take time to read or write. But when I voice my concerns to her, Uschi always urges me to take as much time as I need. It turns out that it is often me who is stopping myself from getting what I need, not anybody else.
Now I am much more conscious of my needs, as well as hers. If she needs time, or wants to go for a walk alone, I give her the space. And when I need time, I do my best not to feel bad about taking it.
5.) How to be weird
Okay, let's be honest, I didn't really need any help with this one, but isn't it just so nice when you find someone as delightfully weird as you?!
And although she might not have taught me how to be weird, she definitely taught me how to own it. I can truthfully say that I am comfortable being my 100% most weird self with this beautiful human.
6. How to drive a manual
The acquisition of my new life skill may have caused a bit of strife in our loving relationship, because as anyone who knows me knows, I am not a patient person. And as anyone who knows me also knows, I hate driving.
Yea, good luck Uschi.
Not only was I learning how to drive a manual, but I was learning it while driving on the opposite side of the road, and in the opposite side of the car.
So while I was managing all of that, Uschi was managing...me.
But I have to hand it to my girl, despite fearing for her life on more than one occasion, she persevered, and I am now able to drive Jack all by myself thanks to her patient guidance.
7.) How to be fearless
I've always thought of myself as a rather fearless person. If I am scared of something, I do it. If something makes me uncomfortable I try to face it as soon as possible.
Giving a presentation in class? Volunteer to go first. Chasing waterfalls with friends? Climb to the top and jump before giving myself time to think.
Give me the highest rollercoasters, the deepest depths to dive, and the steepest hills to bike down.
Okay maybe not that last one. I'm brave, but I'm definitely not reckless.
This is where Uschi comes in.
Uschi helps me turn my thinking mind off. Because while I may be good at facing my fears when it comes to the physical world, I am not so good when it comes to the mental world.
Maybe it's all the Stephen King I read, maybe it's my overactive imagination, or maybe it's just my anxiety plain and simple, but I worry ALL THE TIME, about EVERYTHING.
Uschi constantly reminds me that things will be okay, things will work out, and life will go on. She leads by example and lives her life in a carefree way, inspiring me to live in the moment.
8.) How to spill avocado on yourself while eating every single time without fail
Pretty self explanatory.
Okay, but in all seriousness the reason why Uschi always ends up with avocado on the tip of her nose, or in her lap, isn't because she's a messy eater, it's because she enjoys her food SO DAMN MUCH.
I have never seen someone with a greater love and appreciation for food than this girl. We'll be eating the most simple meal (and believe me, with our budget we usually are), and she will be praising it with every bite! It is such a joy to witness. I know that's a weird thing to say, but it's true. You have to see this girl eat! I promise it will make you smile.
Her appetite and appreciation for food is contagious, and since meeting her I have found myself enjoying my food so much more.
Plus, she looks ridiculously cute with avocado on the tip of her nose.
9.) Opposites really DO attract
Anyone who knows both me and Uschi knows that we are pretty much the epitome of night and day.
If Uschi had her way she would be out all night, coming home only at the crack of dawn right when I'd be waking up after falling asleep the night before with a good book.
I worry about EVERYTHING and Uschi doesn't waste time sweating the small stuff.
Uschi goes to bed with a thin sheet pulled over half of her body, and I climb into bed wearing sweatpants, a sweat shirt, two pairs of socks and pull the duvet up to my ears.
I make lists and plan plan plan, while Uschi flies by the seat of her pants and lives in the moment.
She is truly the yin to my yang.
Although it can be very difficult to agree on anything when two people are as different as we are, it certainly makes life interesting. Uschi constantly challenges my beliefs, and forces me to reexamine my views.
It's not always easy to objectively criticize my own opinion , but I believe it's necessary to ensure personal growth, and the development of an open mind and an empathetic soul.
I believe it's not differing opinions that cause the most friction between people, but rather a lack of respect. Uschi and I constantly work to communicate our opinions to each other in a respectful and understanding way.
We may not always (ever) agree, but if we can remain respectful of each other's views, values, and restaurant choices, we might just have a shot at this crazy thing called love.
10.) How to love life, the earth, animals, food, myself... and pretty much everything!
If there's one thing that Uschi has taught me in the past 365 days above all else, it's how absolutely INCREDIBLE this life is, and how grateful we should all be that we get the chance to live it every single day.
She is one of the happiest humans - open minded, forgiving, and hands down the most understanding person I have ever met.
Uschi constantly amazes me by living in the moment, taking chances, and spreading so much love, light, and joy wherever she goes.
I could go on and on, and share picture after picture, but because I promised I wouldn't get too sentimental I will just say one more thing.
I am truly grateful that I get to be a part of Uschi's journey, and that she gets to be a part of mine. I'm sure I could imagine what my life would have looked like without her, but not for one single second do I want to.