How one simple choice can change your life forever
For years I imagined what my life would have been like had I made one courageous choice.
And now, just two years after making such a choice, I’m married, I live in Europe, and I recently welcomed a little girl into the world. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about how quickly my life changed or marvel at how I got to be here, in this place, simply by making one choice.
Six years ago I was living in Cincinnati and working at Coffee Emporium in Over-the-Rhine when I met the man who would change my life and open up the world to me.
Stijn, originally from Belgium, was living in Geneva and working for Procter & Gamble when he came to live in Cincinnati for a three month project. The coffee shop became his group’s cafeteria, and after a few months of lunch orders accompanied by the exchange of smiles and sideways glances he asked for my phone number. I was reluctant but I thought, How many cute, foreign, Converse-wearing men are there? So I wrote my name on the inside of a sandwich box and off he went, literally, back to wherever in Europe he came from.
Months later I set off on my first solo trip to Paris. I spent two weeks immersing myself in Parisian life, learning important words and phrases such as, “I would like a croissant,” and, “May I please try this on?” I memorized words that I never imagined would come in handy these many years later. It was here, sitting in cafés drinking rosé in the afternoon, eating the best food that I had ever tasted, and walking the streets of such a romantic city that I came alive. Then came a phone call.
Behind a strange accent was the man that had caught my eye and smile months earlier. He had heard I was in Paris and asked if I would like to accompany him to Musée d’Orsay. And so we agreed to meet.
An afternoon spent with a stranger from Belgium in the city of light and love and my life would never be the same. Never before had I experienced a more real and easy connection with another person nor had I ever felt more understood. Our time together came to an end and we both left changed.
Following the magic of that weekend, we wrote to one another compulsively but soon the distance became too great and the writing grew sporadic. The ocean between us made a relationship impossible, or so we thought...
Over the years my mind often flickered to him, recalling our time together, our connection, our words. I would question what my life might have looked like had we tried to pursue a relationship. I resolved myself to the idea that this was just a great tragic love story and that it was better this way as we never had the chance to ruin that beautiful weekend in Paris. But try as I might I could not shake him.
I remember my mother’s words. She said, “You have to do this, Megan. To settle it within yourself. Otherwise, you will always wonder.” Hey, a mother knows best and so, four years after that unforgettable trip, I found myself boarding another plane with nothing to lose. I set out on my second journey to Europe, but this time to him.
It was better than either one of us expected or imagined. We seamlessly fell into step alongside one another and knew instantly that we had no choice but to find a way to make a transcontinental relationship work. We flew back and forth monthly, Skyped weekly, spoke daily, and sent countless emails and text messages. He met my family. I traveled to Belgium and met his.
While in Belgium, Stijn took me to his favorite place, a bench under a tree next to the river. This was the place he had come to ponder many big decisions in his life. This was where he made the choice to take a job at P&G, the decision that ultimately brought us together.
He tore a leaf from the tree, fashioned it into a ring, and asked me to marry him. My answer was yes and once I recovered from the shock of such incredible romance I knew that it was time for me to make another bold and courageous choice. It was time to erase the distance between us.
In September of 2010 I packed all of my belongings into boxes and, with two suitcases and a large crate holding my enthusiastic dog, I left everything familiar and made the move to Europe.
Today I am preparing for another move across that ocean, back to the U.S. and to Cincinnati to begin a new adventure, and returning with so much more than I arrived with. Now, as I sit here rocking our daughter to sleep in an apartment that we will soon be leaving, where her and our story began, I think about what I want for her and what I hope she can learn from her parents’ story.
I want to foster an environment where she is safe to dream as big as she desires and I want her to grow up always with the hope that those dreams can happen. I wish for her to always be brave. If two people from opposite sides of the world can find one another and create the life that they were always seeking then anything is possible.