Collin and I met. I think that’s more important than most parts of this story, since it was made possible mostly by last-minute decisions and a lot of luck. If you’ve had the pleasure to meet your spouse that way, I hope you know what a gift it is. Every day that I’ve looked at my life and thought, “Good Lord, was this a good idea?” I’m constantly reminded that it wasn’t even an idea. It happened in front of me and I stopped being dumb long enough to just say, “Sure, why not?”
Unironically enough, that’s how most of our life together has continued to unfold. I had a realization sometime last year that most of the amazing, improbable or fortuitous things that have ever happened in my life came from the decision to respond with my now-classic, “Sure, why not?”
Let me go back. I switched high schools my senior year. People always ask me why – they assume I had enough of my “diverse” public school (newsflash – I was the diversity), or that my parents thought I was rebellious and needed to spend a year tucking my shirt-tail in at Christian school. Honestly, I probably did need that. But the decision was mine, and I was shockingly cavalier about it. I think I went to my last English class of junior year and decided I was over it. More than anything, I hate to make empty proclamations. I probably mentioned to someone over lunch that day, “I really don’t think I’ll come back here next year, ” and then my natural adversity to flakiness forced me to follow through. I must have been very resolute when I announced this to my parents, because the only person I know more resolute than myself is my mother. I honestly don’t remember. I spoke the words into a void, and then it happened in front of me. I was accepted to a new school, I agreed to pay half my tuition, and I went. That’s where I met Collin.
Collin was the opposite. Collin was on a path he had been on his whole life: cute, friendly, talented, musical, athletic and an effortless (almost accidental) leader. He’s one of those guys I thought only rode around in Jeeps with pretty high school girls in cheesy high school movies. He was the popular-but-sensitive Zack Siler and I was awkward-art-freak Laney Boggs. To be clear: I thought he was faking it. I really thought he was a joke. I told him so, very frankly, on a few occasions. I took myself very seriously. I wore black. I made paintings. I listened to Bright Eyes, for god’s sake (read: I was insufferable). Of course, I had an embarrassingly secret crush on him.
On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was. That’s not true. That’s from Mean Girls. But that’s exactly what it was like (and we did get married on October 3rd).
No, actually, a year and a half later he started chatting me up on Facebook. Yes, you heard me – he sent me a Facebook message, which I will copy for you here:
“August 20, 2006. Collin McHugh: (subject: hey stranger…or friend that i haven’t talked to for a while) Nice picture…very thoughtful. good summer? (cliche, but seriously)”
That’s what was important about Collin on that day, and all of them since: cliché, but seriously. We moved our eHarmony to instant messenger for a bit, then the phone for a few days, and finally – a date. It was the first real date of my life. The one where a guy meets you in your mom’s foyer (not the basement door after dark), introduces himself to your family (not showing everyone his new, still-bleeding tattoo) and takes you to dinner at a nice restaurant (and never mentions if he’s completely broke). I was nervous. I told him so over dinner. I said, “I think I’m gonna puke in this salad.” That’s a direct quote. And he asked me if he had anything in his teeth or boogers in his nose. We saw Little Miss Sunshine and he drove me home. We sat in my driveway and I told him my parents were in the middle of a divorce – I assumed someone perfect like him would be intolerant of such things. He told me he was nervous to start something long-distance. I asked him if we were going to date or not (we went to two different colleges, so naturally I had to know where I stood). He said, “Sure, why not?” We kissed. We put it on Facebook that next day. Everyone thought it was a joke. A month later I told my best friend I thought I could marry him. A month after that we said, “I love you.”
At that point, I became restless in this long-distance situation. I wanted what everyone wants – to be conveniently happy and have whatever or whoever I need at my disposal. I asked him to come to Georgia, but he wouldn’t because he made a commitment to play baseball at Berry. I was angry, but later I was happy. I was dating a guy who made commitments! Once, on the way to Zaxby’s, I asked him if he could spend his whole life playing baseball or spend his whole life with me – which would he choose? He chose baseball. We fought about that for a while. Later, I was happy because I was dating a guy who didn’t need me to be the center of his world. Little did I know he would spend his life playing baseball and being with me.
Two years later, he pulled over on the highway and proposed to me in the median. My exact response was, “Duh.” I only officially accepted after he asked me to be his Beyonce. And after three full years of drive-by dating, we got married on October 3rd… but I guess I already mentioned that. We were both 22. Some people thought we were too young (and I bet secretly, everyone) and we probably were. By the time I was 24, I marveled at – and feared – how I’d had the audacity to make such a huge decision. By the time I turned 26 I realized Grace had carried me through this far, and Grace will lead me home.
Being together has never, ever been convenient. Every day has been a new giant wall of complications to scale; we suck it up and scale them again and again. As a result, we move through problems quickly and have a lot of endurance. Like children, we’ve hurt each other out of selfishness and stupidity. We’ve moved eleven times. We’ve made terrible decisions – mostly due to my idiotic lack of fear to make mistakes and Collin’s impulsive need to accommodate instead of confront. We’ve laughed almost every day. I’ve cried in a hundred public places – mostly Starbucks. I’ve flown first class and been vomited on in a Greyhound bus. I’ve slept on dozens of strangers’ sofas and in the Ritz. We have had days that came straight from hell and moments that were perfect and glossy like we pulled them from a magazine. Our relationship has never been normal, or easy, and I doubt I could have been fulfilled in a marriage that was. Neither of us were built to stay still.
But one thing stays constant: the commitment to keep saying, “Sure, why not?”
-Ashley McHugh, Buzzy Craftery and AshleyBuzzyMcHugh.com. Her husband Collin was drafted by the New York Mets in 2008 and made his Major League debut at Citi Field in 2012. He writes about life and baseball on his blog, www.adayolderadaywiser.com.