This is a very special week for one reason. My wife is always giving her time and resources to others without want of return, but this week there’s a big reason to put her in the spotlight. July 9th is her birthday. With that I’m going to give her a present that she’s been wanting for quite some time – our story. You’ll see along the way that Christina is the one in control – for many good reasons.
Huntington, West Virginia
I’d finished grad school and had settled into a job that was good, but a friend had me leaning towards a life abroad. On a rare work-free Saturday in our old town a friend suggested a bar I never visited, and I walked in anticipating a nice change of pace. The Huntington, West Virginia of 2010 that I remember had lots of watering holes, and this one fell outside my drinking radius. It was on the other side of town near the shady railroad tracks and popular among older crowds.
Nevertheless, I showed up sporting my trusty Landon Donovan Everton shirt, thanks to his first loan stint and wonderful form with Merseyside Blue. I was a huge soccer fan at the time and was excited at the prospect of an American tearing it up in the English Premier League. Nobody in the bar would’ve known considering we lived in one of the country’s least soccer friendly towns. What I didn’t realize, upon walking in, was that destiny was sitting at the bar.
THE Chance Meeting
After standing and chatting with my friend we both noticed a woman sitting away from us who was rolling silverware while talking to the bartender. A few nudges later and I finally worked up enough courage to buy Christina a beer. We chatted for the rest of the night. Of all the chance and random meetings I’d have in life this would be the most important one. We spent weeks talking on and off, and after a few dates I went for it. Many have made stupider decisions, but this one would go down as a truly stupid move.
“Come to Korea with me.” I said to Christina.
Naturally, she broke up with me and taught me a lesson to wait before asking such a question. Of course, we reunited, and I somehow convinced her to get out and go to Korea. I’ve written about that story and why we left our town in great detail. However, I’ve neglected to mention Christina’s unselfishness in putting her dreams of settling down and starting a family on hold. For the moment we would be following mine. We road tripped through the east coast listening to the same three CDs and visited our families through a variety of going away parties and dinners.
Hitting Bottom and the Proposal
Our first job in Korea was meant to be an escape but quickly turned into a nightmare. We hit bottom but somehow came out of the experience much stronger and ready for anything. One loose end remained, and I had no clue what to do. Christina was “the one” and I didn’t want to lose this truly wonderful person. She and I had been through so much and were enduring our second terrible job in the country that promised dreams and little hassle. Somehow, she stuck with me and only asked for one thing in return. I had to go for it and nervously proposed to Christina sans ring while we were hiking in Seoraksan National Park.
This time she said yes and we triumphantly pushed through to the end of our second terrible job with a glorious vacation in Koh Chang as a welcome break before returning home. We remained intent on returning to Korea and properly handled the barrage of future-related questions, I think. Reverse culture shock at home is hard to explain and much tougher when family is picking at uncertain prospects. I couldn’t have handled those six months at home without Christina’s strong will and keen instincts keeping us afloat.
Back and Growing Stronger
She took on random jobs and worked hard to plan our wedding while I battled family issues and reverse culture shock. Jumping back into life in America was overwhelming and equally confusing during our time home, and was I so happy to find a job back in Korea. Until we left the U.S. I finally had an answer to our relatives about our future. Returning to Korea and having spent two productive and fulfilling years here, Christina and I have never been stronger. We’ve traveled to more countries, although she always holds her higher count over my head. She’s encouraged me to start taking better care of myself, and sometimes teaches me a thing or two about photography.
Every time I write something – except for this surprise – Christina sees it first and tells me honestly if it’s worth reading. Without her there’d be no Duke Stewart. I owe everything to this woman. She keeps me grounded yet understands that life won’t come to us. We have to take it through hard work and persistence. I love her for so many reasons, but her genuine personality and unselfishness always shine brightest. No flashy clothes or trendy hats for this woman, just those beautiful blue eyes and deadly smile that I can’t resist. .
The Guy Behind The Great Woman
Together, we’ve grown out of our insecure shells that served as a reliable defense mechanism for so many years. I credit my wife for that and will always be thankful to her. We all know that saying about a great woman being behind every man, but for me the opposite is true. Christina sets the tone, and I just follow along. I’m the guy behind the great woman. None of this would be possible without her fingerprints. I love you Christina and can’t wait to celebrate your birthday with experiences over things, just like you always say.
This was quite the personal post, but I wanted to share my love for a truly wonderful person.
Are you behind a great woman running the show? Are you the great woman who’s in control? Give Christina a little birthday love with a comment below!