By Alex Spinelli – Collegiate Staff
With two Taco Bell coffees and two hundred some miles down I turned onto I-76 just outside of Pittsburgh for the second time in a month. Construction work lined the side of the road and slowed the Photo courtesy of and story by Alex Spinelli traffic to a crawl.
My 2010 Honda Civic was packed with everything I needed to move across the country from Virginia to Michigan. The sun was starting to break through the late September morning and even though I couldn’t have been more exhausted, I knew that I was making the right choice. Thinking back to where my life had been just four months earlier I couldn’t help but to be amazed at the way things can change in an instant. I was at the tail end of a serious engagement, defeated by a dead-end job and was waiting for a sign, something good to happen. Obvious judgements aside, I was looking for that something good to happen in my spare time while finding ways out of my current relationship.
That’s when I met her. Elizabeth, or Liz as she prefers to be called. And in one of the most unlikely places too, Tumblr. Drawn in by her blog and the fact she had her KiK Messenger information willingly posted I decided to break the ice. The conversation started off simple, a bout of heys and how’s your night going, that then led to us talking about our nerdy interests. I didn’t know exactly what it was then but I knew I found someone special. It wasn’t just the shared interests but it was the way that she conveyed them to me. It was like we were perfectly in sync with each other. From there we talked constantly, from our interests like “Pokemon” and “Supernatural” all the way to the simple foreshadowing of the future that we would share together.
At that point in time, my current relationship was on its last few weeks and I had hopes for something new. When I think back to those days, one specific moment comes to mind. It was my grandparents 90th birthday party, as well as their 70th anniversary, and a clip show of their long-lasting love was playing. It made me think about my life and where it was heading. I started to cry, not because of the empathic happiness I shared with my fiance at the time but because it was then that I realized I didn’t have a long- lasting future with her. She wasn’t the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I knew I needed to find the one I was meant to have a future with.
Once we had broken up, I moved back into my parents’ house and started focusing on my own future. I was 24 and knew that I wasn’t getting any younger. I’ve always been a strong believer in love at first sight and the simplicity of romance so it goes without saying that it didn’t take long to fall head over heels for a stranger in Michigan. Soon enough we were talking and making plans to meet despite the distance.
With a 10-hour and 658-mile trip ahead of me, I finished up my 10-hour closing shift at Taco Bell by 3:30 a.m., which was earlier than usual, and hit the road. e tra c was light and the co ee was strong so I made it to Michigan around noon on August 29 in 2014. When I saw her for the rst time it took my breath away. I drove across the country and there she was, standing in front of me smiling. We embraced and kissed and starting talking and catching up; I couldn’t stop staring. Her eyes were a deep brown and beautiful and I swear that I could see forever. As the hours passed it was time to get ready for a Fall Out Boy concert. Our rst date. It was a memorable night being able to see her favorite band and just nally enjoying the company of the girl I’d grown to love over the past three months. It might sound cliché, but it’s true. It was in that moment that I knew we were meant to be. Standing outside Soaring Eagle Casino with her by my side was the happiest I’d been in months. It was in the way she laughed
at my bad jokes, smiled just because, lightly touched my arm in the car just to make sure it wasn’t all a dream. I loved her.
We spent the weekend driving around West Michigan. She was showing me the sights and telling me all about her home state. Despite the encroaching cold that everyone seemed to be warning against, it seemed like a pretty great place to live. One thing that struck me was the dichotomy of architecture in Grand Rapids. To me, the inner-city suburbs reminded me of New Jersey with the small run-down two story houses. It felt like I was driving to my grandparents’ house and even though I was hundreds of miles away, it felt like home. Being downtown, on the other hand felt like I was walking the streets of Washington D.C. It had the same modern architecture and gentrified feel, the medium-sized skyline I had grown to know like the back of my hand, even the view from I-196 felt the same. Standing at the center of the Blue Bridge and looking out towards the city with the late summer breeze in the air I knew that I was meant to be here; I knew that there was something special about the city. Even before I had moved to Grand Rapids, it felt home.
The next time I would take the trip from Virginia to Michigan my car would be packed from the oor to the roof with clothes, my television and video game consoles and other necessities. In just
a few months, and with only a weekend to base a relationship on, I was moving across country for a girl I barely knew and nothing could have made me happier. September 23, 2014 was the second-best day of my life.
We went into Grand Rapids the days after I moved up and I was amazed. Not only was
the dynamic of the city similar to everything I was used to in Washington D.C. but the culture was something I’d never seen before. I couldn’t have moved at a better time because Art Prize was in full swing. Seeing the city in a di erent aspect, with crowds and art and the perfect blend of community I was in love all over again. It really made me feel even more at home in Grand Rapids than I could have ever believed. Ever since then, we haven’t missed an Art Prize together.
As the months passed we moved to Comstock Park and found an apartment, found new jobs and made a life together. We brought her three- legged cat with us (that’s a whole other story), all of our video games and had help from friends to furnish our apartment. I even adopted a perfect kitten.
A little less than a year later I stood with her on the Blue Bridge and proposed, remembering the rst time in the city and the way it made me feel inside. It brought me back to the rst weekend I spent in Grand Rapids, learning and growing in love with my future wife and the city I would call home.
Almost two years to the date, September 24, 2016, we were married at Post Family Farm. It was a quaint fall wedding with the leaves starting to change and the air growing cool. Friends and family on both of our sides were there to celebrate our love and enjoy the brisk Michigan air. Most of my family hadn’t even been to the state yet so it was a treat for them. Now as I write this I’m six months married, happier than ever knowing that I made the right choice moving across the country and making a positive effort to change my life. Any time that I’m driving down the road and see a highway sign it reminds me of how far I’ve come. It reminds me that Grand Rapids has been the home I never knew I needed.