My Genuine Blessing

October 23, 2010
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I went into my first day of work one fall afternoon thinking only about how nervous I was to start my first job. I had told my mom prior to that day that I was too scared and didn’t know if I was ready to start working already. She convinced me that the night would go better than I was imagining. As it turned out, my mom was right. I found that as I left work that brisk evening, the only thing on my mind was my trainer.

I had jumped into the working world the moment I turned 16. Deciding to follow suit with the rest of my family I worked at Wyndemere, a retirement community just a few minutes from my house. It is very elegantly designed with beautiful surrounding scenery and a hard working staff. The day I started, I was introduced to all the young employees, and then to my trainer...Ivan.

Ivan was a student at C.O.D. with immense work ethic. The type of person that was well liked by everyone; he had a lot of friends working along side him. He eventually worked his way up the line of positions at work, but never took advantage of his title. Soccer was clearly one of his biggest passions in life and he showed extensive dedication to the sport. Like many others, Ivan enjoyed the outdoors and was incredibly culturally-oriented. Family, school, friends, and his job were all among his top priorities. Ivan always took up challenges when they were presented to him, never accepting rewards without working for them and earning them himself. Lucky me was privileged enough to have him train me on my very first day. He showed me the ropes of the place by taking me around and explaining what everything was. The easy conversations he started with me made me feel less nervous and more comfortable. He was genuinely charismatic, outgoing, and immediately befriended me, while everyone else just saw me as the new kid. Ivan took the time to get to know me and help me learn my way around. He demonstrated how to balance multi-tasking and made sure I was clear on where everything was located in the kitchen, dining room, and wait station. Because of Ivan, I got to know my way around pretty quickly.

When I got home that night and walked through the door, my mom asked me all about my day. The first thing I told her? “Well, the guy who trained me was really cute.” From then on, I looked forward to going to work; the atmosphere automatically became more than just a job, but a social outlet as well. I started getting accepted by everyone and invited to all their work parties. I would come into work and be able to say “Hey! What’s up?” or “Hey, let’s hang out this weekend” to all my fellow employees. Inside jokes became another big way I got to know everyone. I quickly became friends with all of the employees at Wyndemere, including Ivan. The possibility of anything beyond a friendship didn’t occur to me until about a year later, when we started becoming really close. Then, I realized my feelings for Ivan weren’t just in a friendly way anymore. We had gotten to know each other pretty well over the months I had been there, and I finally decided that I would man up and tell him how I felt. Once I completely opened up and laid all my feelings on the table, Ivan indicated to me that he might potentially be interested as well.

I had texted him one night if there was anyone in particular of interest to him. He then asked me why. I wanted him to know that I was interested, but I was afraid he didn’t feel the same way. My fingers froze. I forced myself with every ounce of energy in my body to text a reply that explained that I was curious since I had feelings for him. After a good five minutes of debating with myself, I slid my finger over the send button and it was off. He never responded. This allowed me to think of all the potential reasons out there as to why he wouldn’t text a response back to me. Was there someone else he was interested in? Did he not like me like that and just not want to hurt my feelings? Who knew at that point!

The very next day at work, while I was rinsing something out at the sink, Ivan addressed me. “Way to respond to me. Why did you ask if there was anyone I liked?” he curiously remarked. I froze, coming up with the first thing that popped into my head, “Why didn’t you respond to me?” without totally being sure if I even really wanted to know. For all I know, he could give me a response that is completely opposite of what I wanted to hear. Eventually We came to find that somehow our phones lost connection and we were both left hanging with no response. Again Ivan asked, “Why did you ask if I like anyone? Is it because you’re interested?” I could feel my cheeks inflame to a hot shade of red. “...Maybe,” was all I could mutter. “Well I’ll keep that in mind”, Ivan smirked ever so smoothly.

What in the world did that mean? My mind automatically jumped to all the different possibilities racing through my head. I didn’t know whether it was a hopeful, positive response or a lousy, hopeless answer for me. All through work, I was playing different scenarios in my head. As the night went on, when I gathered up the courage to approach him, I mentioned that if he wanted to go out and do something together, I would certainly be more than willing. At that point, we mutually decided we would test the waters by going on our very first date.

Our first date was at Olive Garden. I was so nervous that night; I had butterflies that were just eating away at my stomach. My mind was filled with anxiety, running at a hundred miles an hour. Only thinking about saying something completely wrong or not living up to his standards made me feel undeniably inferior. Staying calm was completely out of the picture at this point. But to my surprise, the evening went better than I expected. We got to know each other even better than we had before and were able to open up about a lot of things, from our younger school years to family history. I learned about all the wacky, fictitious games that his friends and him would make up when they were little and even got a biography snippet of each of his family members. My childhood memories weren’t anywhere near as imaginative and inventive as his, but nonetheless were fun to relive in that moment. Every time I looked at him, I was reminded of the fact that I was out with the one guy I had quickly developed feelings for and got nervous all over again, like a little girl going on her first date.

After that night, Ivan and I went out pretty regularly. The date that sticks out most in my mind is the day Ivan took me to Chicago over winter break. That day, he finally met my mom for the first time. Ivan right away gave my mom a hug and initiated a conversation with her. Exceptionally polite and respectful to her, he assured to watch out for me and have me home on time. She was finally able to get a visual of the guy I’d talked about and spent so much of my time with. Being especially pleased with his intentions and manners, my mom wished us a good time and we were off; taking the morning train to spend all day in the city.

He took me to Navy Pier and to the top of the Sears Tower, since I had never been to either. We rode the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier first, and being up that high made me a little scared and uneasy. The ride leisurely rounded at the top, and I looked out over the water and the buildings. I imagined all the things that could possibly go wrong at that one moment, but then decided to overcome that fear and enjoy the thrill. It ended up being a phenomenal experience. After all, you only live once, right?

Next on the list was the Sears Tower, which I had been scared to do from the beginning. We had gotten into the elevator and started for the top when my nerves kicked in. As we passed each floor, my anxiety increased. The numbers grew immensely. Once we reached the top, Ivan had me close my eyes. He led me through the top of the floor until we reached one of the windows. Standing there with my eyes closed tight, I was already envisioning what it was going to be like. A dark, mysterious background, against a city full of light bright as day. I felt content and privileged to be standing where I was, experiencing that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with Ivan. As soon as I opened my eyes and saw the view, my whole face lit up. It was, by far, the most beautiful, implausible landscape I had ever seen. I couldn’t fathom it as reality. There were never ending lights for miles against the darkness of the black sky.

Once I had soaked in the exquisite illustration of the city, we got in line to stand in the glass boxes. These were newer additions to the tower that were made entirely out of glass that gave you the opportunity to stand in them and get a closer look of the marvelous city view. They were the only parts of the tower that extended beyond the walls of the building. I really didn’t want to go into them, but forced myself to try the experience. I stepped onto the glass, holding onto Ivan for dear life, and looked down. Automatically, both of us let out, “Wow!” We were in awe. It was crazy to think I was thousands of feet up in the air, yet able to look down and see a whole city life below me. My mind was stuck on the potential of that glass breaking at any moment and me free falling onto everything I saw beneath me. But, I turned that fear into excitement, excitement into thrill, and thrill into passion. The city display left me overflowing with desire and infatuation. It was an unforgettable experience that I will remember, always and forever.

Another specific date I can vividly remember was when we drove to my old grade school and sat in the parking lot, talking. We had no idea that we would end up talking, for hours and hours on end, about so much. That night, we both shared things that I hadn’t expected either of us to–our biggest fears, forgiveness and spiritual journeys. The history of my relationship with my dad came about among our conversation. Ivan had told me that the topic seemed to come up a lot when we talked, which was true. “I would say that my dad is the hardest one to forgive. I guess I tend to blame myself for everything that has happened between us,” I admitted.

Without even knowing the whole history about my dad, Ivan was still there for me. “You can’t just keep blaming yourself for things you’ve said or done to your dad,” he clearly objected. I, right then and there, realized I needed to forgive not only my dad, but myself as well. He said all the things I needed to hear to help myself move on. “It’s not good for you to just keep being so negative toward yourself all the time. You put yourself down too much.” Ivan commented. At that point, I was practically in tears, but it was comforting just having Ivan there to listen to me. However, I wasn’t the only one who was sharing all of my deep life stories. I felt very grateful that Ivan was able to open up as well. It seemed like a big step for him to share all about his unforgiveness and he even got into his spiritual life a little bit. We were connected on a completely new level at this point. Just having him smile made me feel better, and it still does. I learned so much from that night, not only about Ivan, but about myself.

The period of time prior to when Ivan and I started dating, I wasn’t in a very good state. I had been going through never ending court issues and counseling with my dad, dealing with visitation with him and hating every minute of it. My dad was taking my mom to court on a regular basis and it eventually got to the point that I had to testify against my dad to have full choice over visiting him. The court ruling forced me to keep seeing my dad.

Meanwhile, our relationship was slowly falling apart and I was having an awfully hard time dealing with it. I saw too many counselors to even name. My parent’s relationship had been bad for years and they got divorced when I was eleven, yet it still had a major affect on me to that day. Issues with my dad were making me feel depressed and hopeless. I wasn’t very happy with myself, or with where my life was at, and I didn’t have the strength to get through it all alone. Just when I had almost given up hope that my situations would ever improve, I met Ivan. At first, even just getting to know him as a friend was enough to give me hope again. He has such a spirit about himself that it brightens up all the faces around him, including mine. I could tell from the very beginning how much compassion he has for other people, something that has always stood out to me. As time passed, Ivan became more and more of my rock, someone for me to lean on.

Ivan was even there for me when I learned that my brother, Jon, was getting deployed. Going out of his way to comfort me through that, he drove over to my house that night just so I could vent to him about it. “Jon is getting deployed overseas to Afghanistan. He’s supposed to be a part of a non-deployable unit. But I guess I was wrong...”

For a good twenty minutes, he sat there hugging me. It meant a lot to me to have him there, when I was so miserable and heartbroken that I couldn’t even cry. “He’ll be fine. God will watch over him and keep him safe. You can’t keep worrying; this is what he wanted to do and he knows he has a family who loves him,” Ivan assured me. Ivan always says such comforting, yet blunt and honest words. He made me feel comfortable sharing my feelings which doesn’t always come easy for me as most know and it was a night I remember to this day. Honestly, Ivan is the one who’s been there through all of the hurdles in my life recently. He’s seen me through my rocky heartaches and has comforted me through every circumstance, which has helped me become a stronger person. I now know that no matter what, I’m not going through life’s grief alone.

There was one more memorable day between us that I will never be able to forget. It was on a warm, sunny day in the late afternoon, when I at last got to meet the one person who is most special and important to Ivan–his mom. It was the day I was taking him out for his birthday, and when I came to pick him up, he brought his mother outside with him. I had wanted to meet her for awhile, knowing the immense role she played in Ivan’s life. She was everything he described her to be: sweet, polite, and kind. There was a glow about herself that I noticed from the moment she walked over to me. I could see exactly how precious her son was to her; he was her baby. “You take care of my son now”, she said. I assured her that he would be fine and she had nothing to worry about, feeling honored to have had the opportunity to meet her. Automatically, I could see why she was so significant to him, and was content being able to put a face with the name.

After all of the unexpected life presented me with, I am brought to today– with feelings that are more than just “like”, but less than “love.” The way I like to put it is this, “I really, really, really like you...” It’s the “I can’t imagine life without you” feeling that comes from meeting someone truly special. On that first day of work in fall of ‘08, I would never have guessed I’d meet someone extraordinary enough, that he would change my life so significantly. Two years later, Ivan is someone I can’t live without, not only as a boyfriend, but as a best friend. Today, ten months from that frosty winter night in December of ‘09 when Ivan asked me out in a movie-theater parking lot, our relationship is as strong as ever.

We have been at each other’s sides through the journey of life, and we keep learning, day by day, how to overcome its obstacles . I couldn’t be happier not only with our relationship, but with how far I have come and with where I am at today. Ivan has pushed me to overcome my fears and encouraged me to live life up to my expectations, not others. Something he has always told me is at the end of the day, it’s not whether you lived up to everyone else’s expectations, but whether you lived up to your own; your life, your decisions. I used to think that out of the billions of people on this planet, one person couldn’t change your life so deeply that you would consider them to be a genuine blessing in your life. I was wrong. I’ve found my genuine blessing and it all started with the day I met my trainer...Ivan





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