….there was a young boy and a girl who lived in the quiet seaside village of Blackrock (Co. Louth) just on the north-east coast of the Emerald Isle. Little did they know as they tucked into their packed lunches of jam sandwiches and cartons of juice that one day they would grow up and fall madly in love.
At the tender age of 6 I longed after this blonde-haired, brown-eyed boy right through my primary school years but alas my tom-boyish ways, painfully shy personality and younger age did not work in my favour and so I proceeded to daydream about his boyish-charm and good looks, wishing that he was mine and I was his.
And oh how the tables had turned! By the time we graduated onto our respective single sex convent secondary schools Neil finally began to take notice! It might have been my lace-net gloves, scruffy red converse, heavy eyeliner or dog-collar choker but something caught his eye during my grunge teenager years. Unfortunately for Neil he had missed that rock and roll boat as I was dating a singer in a local band. I don’t recall ever seeing Neil during these years but he claims he was there at the AOH (our local hall where school bands used to play and you could buy Smirnoff Ice and Harp Larger with a fake ID) most Friday/Saturday nights. We hung out with similar friends but never spoke directly. We grew up and grew out of our grungy years in Dundalk to live our separate lives in the big sh’moke, Dublin. University life.
The next few years proved to be a challenge for me. At the age of 18 my life was flipped upside down. In September 2005 my amazing, wonderful, loving, inspirational father sadly passed away the day before my registration for UCD. I felt lost and alone for a very long time. I watched my family fall apart and I launched myself into trying to fix something that was impossible for me to do as a sister and as a daughter, as well as having my own bereavement to deal with. I tried to deal with grief by avoiding it. I went into overdrive with my partying, my boxing, my studying and making any excuse not to go home and face the reality of what was going on. I never spoke to my friends or family about how I felt and everyone would comment on how “strong” I was or how well I was “coping”. I kept this facade up for a long time until it broke me. In 2008 I had a breakdown. I was underweight, my hair was thinning, I was sleep deprived and isolated from my friends and family. I had to get away.
Canada was my lifeline. I grew. It was here that I found myself in the land of the Rockies, beer and ice hockey. I lived in Canada for 11 months, spending most of my time in Calgary and hopping back and forth to Vancouver and Vancouver Island. I met great people and made life-long friends. I gained my confidence through having fun going camping, skiing, surfing, touring, learning how to paint….. I learned how to live, how to love myself and how to be OK with being me.
I returned to Ireland in September 2009 as a new woman. I felt like I had been given a second chance in life and embraced my new found self-confidence. So on Valentines night in 2010 the slinky red dress, high heels and lipstick were donned for a night out with the girls at our local disco-bar in town. It just so happened that Neil had also just returned to Dundalk and was out with the lads as newly single man. Despite all best efforts made that night I had no clue that he was at all interested in me. He used the “talk to the best friend to get the girl” tactic but only got as far as talking to the best friend. I thought he was interested in her and even tried to set them up! A few weeks later history repeated itself at our local night club. Thank heavens for my good friend Stephanie, who has also known Neil for years, as she intervened and help set us up that night after watching poor Neil struggle to chat me up on the dance floor (again I was oblivious!).
And so the coffee and lunch dates began, followed by walks on our local beach until Neil finally asked me on our first official date to go to the cinema while out on one of walks on the strand.
Our friendship and our love grew very quickly in a short time. I felt as if I had known Neil my whole life. I suppose in a way I knew of him my whole life (remember that big crush I had when I was 6!!) but never actually got to talk to him. I’ll be honest in saying that I was frightened of my feelings at first. I suppose I never really knew what love felt like and it was new, exciting, overwhelming and I didn’t know what to do with myself! This impacted on our relationship as I began to test Neil, unknowingly, to see if he felt the same. We ended up having a bit of an argument about it but once I realised what I was doing, how I truly felt and what I really wanted with Neil it was easy to open up and tell him. It was scary but well worth it.
We were both at a huge cross-roads in our own personal lives at this time. I just got accepted to the University of Essex to do a Masters in Speech and Language Therapy, and Neil decided to leave his job with a leading newspaper as a sports journalist to go travelling across Africa and South East Asia. We each supported one another with our dreams and following a period of a long-distance relationship, Neil moved to the UK to live with me. We moved into our first home in Essex. I had a Monica from Friends “I have to live with a boy!!” moment but moving in with Neil was fun! It was a challenge setting up our lives at first but we did it together and we survived! We managed to build a home and our life slowly but surely on the little income that we had. We soon shipped our budding life to Surrey where we have continued to build on these foundations. I am so proud of what we have achieved as a couple in our relationship, in our careers and in our home. It was such an adventure and still continues to be one of the best ones yet!
Now we are engaged!! My childhood fantasy to be with that beautiful blonde-haired, brown-eyed boy in the year above me has actually come true! Fate has a funny way of working things out if you truly believe.
I can’t wait to share the rest of my story with you through my blog as we plan for our big day. There’s so much to do and I hope you enjoy every step along the way with me. I am sooooo EXCITED!
Emma xxxxxx (Aka. The Wholesome Bride)