I promise to love, honor, and cherish you. I will support and encourage your dreams, always. No matter how crazy I think they might be.
Those are just some of the words that I spoke to my husband as we prepared our own vows on that oddly warm day in November. I remember holding his sweaty hands in mine, his thumb rubbing the edge of my knuckle so hard I thought for sure he’d leave a mark. He was nervous. We both were. But that wonderful kind of nervous that combines the unknown and the thrill of starting something new. And I meant what I said - that I would support my husband’s dreams, no matter what. But I didn’t know just how accurate the “crazy” part would be.
My husband has always been great with his hands. If a friend needed electrical wired, a toilet installed, or tile laid, my husband was the guy to call. I guess he’s what most people call a Jack of all trades. Though he’s great at a lot of different things, he never really found the path to the one thing in life he truly loved and wanted to make a career.
In high school he worked at the local movie theater. I can still smell the buttery popcorn mixed with cigarette smoke and nacho cheese. The carpets were a burnt red color with bright orange and blue polka-dots of various sizes scattered randomly across the surface. He used to wear a red visor and name tag. He hated that job, but it meant money in his pocket and gas in his 1992 Honda Prelude. I worked at a bagel shop on the weekends, but always knew I wanted to be a teacher. When I asked my husband what he wanted to do, I’d always get the same answer - “I’ll see where life takes me.” As you can imagine, my parents weren’t thrilled with this response. It wasn’t that my husband didn’t have drive or passion, he just couldn’t seem to focus that drive in any one direction.
He attended community college, receiving his associates degree in business. I finished my four year degree in North Carolina. The long-distance relationship wasn’t as difficult as I’d anticipated. We made it through and were engaged shortly after graduation. While living in our apartment my husband held a number of jobs including a pizza delivery guy, cashier at a liquor store, and even pest control! He was happiest when he was driving, so he tried his hand working for a limousine service. The odd hours, traffic into New York City, and unappreciative clients ended that shortly after it started. I saw him getting discouraged. I felt helpless. No matter how much I encouraged him, it didn’t seem to help.
Then, one day, my cousin mentioned he was starting a kitchen remodeling business and asked if my husband wanted to get involved. My husband seemed apprehensive and disinterested. He sat at the kitchen table, his elbow on the table, hand propped up on his cheek. He was flipping through a magazine eating pretzels and peanut butter. He had that look that people have when their dogs run away. I sat down beside him and took his free hand in mine - the same way I did on our wedding day. I was 6 months pregnant at the time. I knew he was drowning beneath the immense pressure to provide for our new baby. “Bubba” - my affectionate name for him broke him from his trance. He looked up. His eyes were droopy and tired.
“I think this might be a great opportunity for you,” I said, my smile straining as if I thought the bigger my grin got, he might actually match it. But he didn’t. I kept talking.
“You’re amazing with your hands. You can fix anything that needs fixing. You have vision when it comes to design and the patience to find the root of a problem. And the skills to back it up.” My husband listened but didn’t say much. At the time, my cousin wasn’t just looking for a worker, he was offering my husband an opportunity to become a partner in the business. I was nervous. It was a financial risk. We’d need to invest some money upfront, but I knew with my husband’s work ethic, he could turn this into something great. The lease in our apartment was up in 9 months. We were actively searching for a family home that would accommodate our daughter and potentially another. It was that type of “now or never” decision, where you either take the plunge or wonder years later “what if”. I didn’t want my husband to feel regret.
It took a lot of convincing, encouraging, and motivating, but after a week of endless talks at breakfast and pep-talks in the middle of the night, my husband found that confidence buried deep inside that he’d somehow lost along the way. We made a few financial adjustments and came up with the money needed for him to become a half partner with my cousin. I won’t say that things were easy at first. Building a customer clientele took time. My husband worked long hours, a lot of times on weekends. It left me alone with our newborn. But the look of pride and accomplishment that filled my husband’s eyes each time he walked in the door at the end of a long day made the sacrifice worth it.
I know you might be thinking, "sure everything worked out so of course it was worth it". But I can honestly tell you that even if everything had fallen apart and we ended up living in the basement of our parents or friends, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I still would have encouraged my husband to find a career that he loves and a job that gives him purpose. Because watching your partner feel defeated and lack the self-confidence that you know they possess, is worse than any other sacrifice you can make. By helping my husband to believe in himself, I got back the man I married. And for that, I am eternally grateful.