Ten honest things I’ve learned in my first year of marriage.

I’ve read many articles, as well as many books. I’ve heard many people talk about the beauty of their marriage, or the lack there of in it. Most people feel that if the first few years aren’t enjoyable, your entire marriage won’t be. Most people are quitters. Most people are cynical and narcissistic. Most people don’t realize that in order for anything to grow, it must endure struggle. I don’t claim to have everything figured out. In fact, in my relationship with my husband, he is actually the more knowledgeable of the two of us; I’m just nicer. Relationships are incredibly difficult – every. single. one. of. them.

And the greatest lesson I think I’ve ever learned, and continue to keep learning is this: Love isn’t something you ever figure out. It’s a process. It’s growth. It’s learning, it’s knowing, and then it’s choosing. Every day. Every situation. Every life event. Every small moment. Some days will be easier than others; some things may change. What can’t change is the importance of it. That’s what changes every. single. thing. about it.

Here’s what I learned over the last 365 days:

1. Men do not understand women. Shocker, I know. However true, this cannot be a way out of an argument. I think all situations, when talked through and thought through, you can come to an agreement – when BOTH parties are willing. If you aren’t willing to compromise, you’re selfish. Which I am, 100% of the time during the first five minutes of an argument. Give me a few minutes to cool down, and I will quickly realize that the only way to move forward IS to compromise. If it matters to you, you’ll compromise – which I have to preach to myself anytime I disagree about anything. Also – women, myself included, it’s not fair, under any circumstance, to become upset, disappointed, or annoyed that your significant other doesn’t “get” why your eyes water when you see a man at Lowe’s that looks like your daddy, and everything about him is precious (real story). Your husband will never understand that. Actually, most humans wouldn’t understand that. That doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means you were created and wired differently. End. of. story.

2. What seems necessary to do/finish now, will not register in the mind of a male the same way. Women can think about fourteen billion things at one time and keep them all organized. Men process things one at a time. When they tell you to come sit down and worry about the dishes later, don’t get frustrated with them. There are many people in the world that WISH their significant other would beg them to come sit on the couch with them. Men, the next time you see her busying herself, take her by the hand, pull her next to you on the couch, and tell her all the reasons why you love her. And when she fights you to let her go, so she can go clean some more, simply remind her that sweet nothings are heard better when you’re face to face. I just helped you out big time. You better use that one.

3. Some things do gross them out too. Men aren’t all disgusting. Seeing their hair on the sink after they shave is just as gross as them seeing our hair in the shower drain and on the shower walls. Again, compromise. More often than not, a jab at someone else can be thrown right back at you. It’s not even worth complaining about, unless you’re bald. Then I suppose you can complain about hair all you want. Or take all of the hair you’re complaining about and make yourself a wig and get over the fact that girls shed and guys pass gas way more often that a human should… like just now. Seriously.

4. Expectations are relationship killers. If there is any number on this list that hits home with me the most, THIS. IS. IT. Somewhere along the line, I have made the habit of expecting how people should respond/react/love/talk/act/clean/fold clothes/treat books/you name it. I have a problem. Even if my list is longer than yours, I’m sure at some point you had an expectation, often times without you realizing it, and when he/she didn’t meet it, you were disappointed. One thing I love/hate about my husband is that he always points out the truth that I don’t want to admit, because I’m perfect, duh. But really, he has me all figured out, WHICH I LOVE, but I hate when he uses it as a tranquilizer when I come in swinging with words of anger/disappointment. I expect things of him all the time. Most of these are behind the scenes details – like making the bed, putting his dishes away, putting his clean, folded clothes from his wife maid away instead of living out of the hamper of clean clothes like it is a suitcase for the week until all said clothes are dirty again. Very rarely do I say, “I’m going to do this, and I expect that you respond and act accordingly.” I just expect. And then I’m disappointed, and I think to myself, “How dare he?” when I never actually made it a point to communicate my expectation. Just as much – when I expect, it doesn’t matter if he comes SO close to the line of expectation. Instead of me responding with, “You were so close! One step closer to meeting my needs!” – I respond with the silent treatment, doing it myself, or bottled up anger, because some how that makes sense. And five years down the road, when my little boy swings at his first T-ball game and misses, that bottled up anger I’ve been practicing with my husband will result in me running out onto the field, yelling, “forget it, let me do it myself!” You see the problem. But really – it IS a problem to set expectations. Even if Jesse met every single one, every single time, do you think that I would throw him an expectation party and never again let one surface? Wrong. Once he meets an expectation in a specific area, I’ll expect more. I’ll always expect more, until I STOP expecting. Relationships aren’t a bartering system. Relationships aren’t standards and check lists and medals for accomplishments. They’re communication. They’re understanding. They’re accepting that people mess up, and the only way to move forward is to talk them through, and work through every single problem TOGETHER, regardless if the other person messes up. I’ll have you know that everything I just wrote about in number four I have heard from my own Professor Erickson, aka my husband. I think I get an A+ after that essay.

5. Your husband more than likely won’t care about your decorations, flowers, or the way your home smells as much as you. It isn’t the end of the world. What he always reminds me of is: “Wouldn’t it be a little weird if I cared about those things like you do?” Which the me in the moment thinks, “NO, DUDE. IT WOULD BE AWESOME AND WE COULD BOND OVER CUTE THINGS AND CUTE SMELLS.” And then the me ten minutes later would realize that I married a DUDE. And smile that I didn’t marry myself.

6.Your husband needs love just as much as you do – and that doesn’t mean just physical. Most people, me being one of them, think that guys don’t care about the different ways of loving. But I promise you that he does. Remind him that he’s your hero. Remind him that he’s your provider. Remind him that he makes you feel safe and protected. Remind him that he is indeed GOOD at what he does – EVEN IF HE DOESN’T THINK HIS JOB IS IMPORTANT. Guys may portray that they don’t need any more help with their pride and ego, but I promise you, as their wife, he needs your tender, affectionate reminder that you chose HIM for a reason. And that no matter how “picture perfect” media creates a husband/daddy to be — no one compares to the man you have by your side. They need to hear that. They need to know that. Even if they never admit to it, your opinion matters to them more than anyone else. The way your opinion and words of affirmation STOP mattering to them, is when we stop giving it to them. Don’t give them a reason to search for affirmation outside of you and God. Give it to them as if that’s what you were put on this earth to do. Make them feel like the gift of God they really are to you.

7. Watch the weird movies with them. They’ve watched their fair share of chick-flicks and reality TV, and they hear you talk about it enough — watch one of their eight billion marvel movies with them. They want to bond with you over their interests just as much as you want them to with yours.

8. Don’t ever talk bad about them. The whole part of trust in a relationship, is that no matter who you’re talking to – you never say anything that you wouldn’t say to your significant other’s face. And even if you’re reading this and thinking, “shoot, I would say it to their face anyway” refer back to number six. The problem with speaking negatively about the person you love is this: the more you do it, the more you will bottle up when you go home. At some point, it will come out, and even though it will feel good to say everything you’ve been thinking/feeling over the last however many days, months, years… it WON’T be good for their heart, soul, or your relationship. You want your relationship to end quickly? Stop being honest.

9. Never go to bed angry. My daddy used to say that to me all the time. And we all know it’s true. It doesn’t feel good to put your head on the pillow at night, with a burden the size of a golf ball in the middle of your throat and stomach. Talk it out. Even if your husband wants to talk about a disagreement for two hours straight, just to work it out once and for all, talk it out. If you don’t, it’ll just come up again, in a different way, at a different time, and cause a different problem. Always talk it out.

10. Never give up. Seems obvious I know, but it’s the truth. I have a very happy, joyful, playful, loving, and connected relationship with my husband. I’m grateful for that. BUT IF I DIDN’T… ALL I would have to do is sit on netflix for a day, go to Barnes and Noble and find a love story to drown myself in, call a friend who isn’t in a healthy relationship, confide in a friend who doesn’t believe that marriage is a COVENANT, not a fickle promise to be broken when things become tough, to realize how tempting it would be to throw in the towel. There are many reasons for why marriage doesn’t work, some destructive that we can’t control or avoid, due to the other person. BUT, the second that we start filling our mind with worldly gossip and banter about relationships and love, we step into a war zone, where your significant other is the enemy, and just about everyone will remind you of that. Don’t talk about your marriage problems with someone who tells you to do what makes you happy. That’s crap. That’s selfish. And you’ll set yourself up on a narcissistic road of destruction the second that you nod your head and say, “you know what? you’re right!” I understand that often times, someone in the relationship doesn’t treat you, love you, appreciate you the way that you wish they did. But let me remind you, LOVE isn’t an expectation. LOVE isn’t an “I’ll stay, if you __________________.” Love isn’t looking at your neighbors, church friends, family, and thinking “why can’t I have that?” It doesn’t matter what anyone else has, or does, or did. You’re not in that relationship. You’re in yours, and if you want to stay in yours, never. give. up.

People are watching. Children are watching. Show them that marriage can work. Show them that marriage is worth it. Show them the beauty in something that will last; something that is WORTH IT. Show them the beauty in love, even if it didn’t work out with the first marriage or relationship. Even if your parents didn’t make it. Even if your significant other walked away. You aren’t defined by the past, or the hurt, or the rejection. You’re the you that you are now FOR A REASON. Make it count. Make it worth it. Make sure that if you’re loving someone now, you’re loving that someone well. Call them up. Text them. LOOK THEM IN THE FACE. Tell them in some way, shape, or form: “I’m not walking away.”

Here’s to more 365’s with you, J. Erickson. I’m not walking away.

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I’m not done with you yet.

I was eighteen when my I felt my heart ache for the first time in a way that it never had before. I was eighteen when I realized how long I had gone without realizing this ache had always been there. I was eighteen when I cried more than I have ever cried before, which is saying something for the huge softy that I am.

I can’t tell you what happened exactly. I just know what my heart felt. It needed something. It needed something more than I ever knew how to need something. Apart from the love of my parents, I had a hard time accepting much else in life. My parents have radically shaped the love I expect and accept from other people in my life. Yes, there were days that words were mumbled under the breath of a confused teenager who thought she knew better and understood life in a more complex way than they did.

But, they were patient. They showed love. I’m twenty-four now, and I’ve never closed my eyes at night doubting the love of my parents. I can’t wait to make my children feel that kind of love. That love feels so good. That love makes my eyes water just thinking about.

But because of that love, I never felt incomplete growing up. I never felt without. There were days that I was confused, mostly about boys, but never about God. I didn’t let Him love me, because my parents did it so well. I realize now why it wasn’t until I was eighteen that I felt a new, bitter void showing up like a long lost friend.

I was away from home. I was away from that daily love, and though I received their love still, miles away, something was different. I needed more.

He was pushing so hard on my heart, begging me to let Him love me, just to taste how sweet it was. He knew I wouldn’t be able to turn away. He knew it so well. He knew how badly my heart needed Him.

It’s been six years since I started visiting the hallway of my dorm building at 5 a.m., and when I pour over those journals, they bring me right back to that ache… an ache I so easily lose sight of.

I’ll be the first to admit that life is hard. Family is hard. Friendship is hard. Marriage is hard. Ministry is hard. Being yourself is hard. Liking yourself is even harder. I’ve welcomed so many new things with adulthood that sometimes I wish hiding under the covers could indeed take me away from all of it. Life does an amazing job at making you feel unworthy and no good.

We taste these burdens of our own and of those closest to us. We see the hurt in the eyes, we see the weakness in the breath, wishing for a different story to be told.

Eighteen year old me found something, something I never want to lose sight of. Twenty-four year old me, married me, hurt me, prideful me, stubborn me, loving me, passionate me, sinful me… every part of me, it’s my story that He has given me. The pages are different, some are ripped and damaged, and some have tears spilled over them, but they are my story regardless. They’re my story and He’s my Author.

He slipped into my heart so quietly, into a heart that He knew needed Him. And every day, He’s been leaving me reminders that He’s not going anywhere. Every single page… He’s been there, even for the pages I don’t like reading, even for the pages I’m too embarrassed to show anyone, even for the pages that I want to rip up and erase from my memory… ALL OF THEM.

And on all of them He’s been writing “I’m not done with you yet, hold tight to Me. I found you, when you needed Me. That ache is Me, don’t shy away from that. Trust Me.”

And the best part is, no matter how different your story is from mine, even if you weren’t the eighteen year old with her knees pulled to her chest and tears streaming down her face, those words are FOR YOU. Those words are written for you. Read them again.

“I’m not done with you yet, hold tight to Me. I found you, when you needed Me. That ache is Me, don’t shy away from that. Trust Me.”

“I’m not done with you.”

This is my story. He’s not done with me yet. Every page, every day, for Him. Nothing else matters. Maybe you needed to hear that just as much as I did.

– Holls

Your heart & expiration dates.

Sitting here thinking. All these things in my life. All the strings attached to my heart that I’ve strung voluntarily and unwillingly. No matter how tight they are, when tugged, they pull. And I’m sitting here thinking of all the things that I let tug away at it; this heart of mine.

And it brings me back to the smell of Autumn years ago, and how what pulled my heart then isn’t pulling my heart now. And it resonates with me for a second that I’ve moved on without that. Is there a hole left from what once tugged tight? Did I allow something or someone else to jump right in with their string of life and begin tugging? Did I even notice? Did it even hurt? Or was I so numb to that tug on my heart that I failed to realize how many strings I was actually tying?

I’m sitting here thinking of all these things that have come and gone. Relationships, trials, situations, conversations, friendships, challenges, interests — as if by entering my life they were hiding their expiration date. Screaming out not to look.

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it and I didn’t even look for it. All these things that have passed through my life, they each contained one. I didn’t see them, and I’m thankful that I didn’t even try to look.

This whole idea of things coming and going so easily. I like it. Some nights it makes my heart swell with the truth that this life isn’t lasting and I relish in the comfort that that doesn’t scare me. And then other nights it makes my heart swell uncomfortably with the idea that the things I hold most dear have that same expiration date as well. It’s scary not knowing when you’ll lose something. What’s even scarier is the truth that it’s so insanely easy to treat life as if we control that expiration date. We walk away. We give up. We give in. We don’t reach out. We don’t reach in. We throw our hands up and say that this must be the end of something, because otherwise why would it be so hard?

But you know what love doesn’t have? Even though it’s stuck in this negative world with the grimy hands of sin clenching on to us every time we think we can live life on our own, without His help. Even though it’s difficult and trying more often than not… Love… It doesn’t expire.

Think about what you love. Think about what you would yell out if the booming voice of life told you to speak out about what you hold dearest to your heart. Think hard.

Because if it’s real love, you won’t have to think too long. Thoughts and images of things you hold dear will flood your veins as if your heart pumps heavy with the blood of His love.

I need you to hear me on this. Those things… Don’t let them expire. Don’t give up. Those things matter. Things pass through our lives so quickly.

Mark your love with the expiration date Jesus has placed in our hearts. Eternity.

Don’t let life pass you by.

Loving, even when I’m no good at it.

There comes a day in your life, maybe more than one day, when you begin to realize what the more important things in life are. Turns out all the fights I put up in Junior High and High School about important issues were just as trivial as my parents made them out to be.

There comes a day when realizing what you want turns into realizing what you actually need. There comes a day when you realize that keeping something means working for it. There comes a day when you realize treasuring something isn’t a one day fix, but a daily choice to treasure it. There comes a day when you realize what you love won’t always come easy to you, and it’s on that day that you decide one of two things:

It’s worth it.
or
It’s not.

Lately, I’ve been learning, that when the days you choose to love something begin to add up, the challenges begin to add up too. As if on cue, the challenges begin to rise when we feel the closest to achieving our goals and overcoming the fear and relentless human nature we all so irrevocably possess.

Some days, I am very good at loving. Some days, I make other people feel wonderful and happy and loved. I know that, because they tell me. I know that, because it makes my heart stretch in ways that cause the devil to cringe. Some days, I’m really good at this being a wife thing. Some days, I make him feel important and wonderful and inspiring. Some days, I feel inspired to do cute things that make him feel like he made the best decision with choosing me.

But some days aren’t every day.

When I say that most days, I’m no good at loving, I mean that with every fiber in my being. Many days, I wake up too groggy to take on the day, and it shows in my words and actions all. day. long.

Many days, the afternoon headache leaves me irritated and uncomfortable in my own skin. Many days, I feel insecure and upset with who I am, and I channel those emotions in the same love I showed him the day before. Some days, I lace up my shoes and let the pavement catch my guilty feet and prayers for God’s grace to flood my every thought and action.

I hear couples say all the time “Oh, we never fight” or “We’ve never had a real fight” and all I want to do is start the slow clap, only to stop and say, “just kidding, don’t care.” See I told you many days I’m no good.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned this week of being married, it’s that disagreements have more to do with denying our selfishness than ACTUALLY disagreeing with them. We want what we want. Our true selfishness shows up most aggressive when it involves someone we love. If you don’t believe that, think of the last argument you had with someone you love. I’ll spare you the quotes about how we say the meanest things to those closest to us, because I know you’ve heard them just as many times as I have.

Marriage, love, and any other relationship out there requires something of all of us. It may require more patience for me than it does for you. It may require a softer heart for you than it does for me. But either way, it requires something of us.

It requires you to think back on the very day that you realized what you loved most wasn’t going to come easy. It requires you to think back on the exact moment that you knew and felt the heart-wrenching grip of the Holy Spirit telling you THIS. IS. WORTH. IT.

You know what I could do with the days that I’m no good at loving? I could let them pile up into a mess of bitterness. I could let it pile up into a mess of resentment. I could let it pile up into a mess of unhappiness and anger. And you know where all of those emotions would be pointing back to? MYSELF. My resentment toward who I am. My bitterness, unhappiness, and anger with who I let myself become.

My selfishness has nothing to do with husband, other than the fact that he possesses his own fair share. When I unleash nasty words in anger, I let my selfishness win. When I show frustration and impatience with my words, actions, and demeanor, I let my selfishness win. When I choose to take my OWN side, and refuse to back down, I let my selfishness win. Every time I choose to let selfishness win, I’m letting the devil get his foot in a battle that I have professed is already won. With every battle I let him win, I become weaker. With every battle I let him win, he becomes more of a threat to my love for my husband. With every battle I let him win, I didn’t let God fight for me.

You see, it’s in the moments that WE ARE NO GOOD AT LOVING, that have to realize the power to love another soul does NOT come from ourselves. I made that covenant in front of my God, and it’s the SAME God that allows me to shed even the little bits of genuine love that I have in my heart to win over my selfishness. day. after. day.

When I choose to let Him help me in those moments, my marriage wins. my love wins. my Savior is honored. Through ME. Every chance I choose to love, despite the days that I’m no good at it, I push my husband’s heart, my own heart, closer to our eternity with Jesus. I have no job as a wife as important as that one. You have no job more important than that when loving someone.

“My love for you is not poetry, it is late nights of agonizing thoughts; and long days of selfless actions. It weighs upon my mind like a mad riddle, as I grow older, it becomes more obvious how hard it is to love selflessly; how much responsibility it holds.

If I am to love you at all, it is only through the grace of Christ. For I am not enough, but I know He is” // T.B. LaBerge.

There will be days when you’re no good at it. Maybe it was today. Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe it’ll be tomorrow. Choose what you do with that. Choose wisely. Choose what matters more.

Choose that it’s worth it.

How I married the wrong person.

You know what I’m sick of? Titles like that. Titles that make you click on them, only to go around in circles telling you something you already know.

I’ve been married for a month today, and guess what? It’s wonderful. It’s so much better than saying goodbye every night and texting until you fall asleep.

But guess what? It’s hard too. It’s really hard.

But instead of ranting about all the different things I’m learning, or reading this looking for some guidance in your own love life… here’s all I have to say:

Stop reading this. Go love on the person in your life.

That’s what matters.

Choosing to love, even when it’s hard.
Choosing to love, even when we don’t feel like it.
Choosing to love, even when an article on facebook seems more appealing than actually GOING OUT AND LOVING THAT PERSON.

Make this week matter. Go.

Love is patient, still.

“Why is patience so important?”
“Because it makes us pay attention.” 

– Paulo Coelho.

I don’t need to tell you that love is patient. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times; some, maybe more. Chances are, you’ve heard it so many times that you disregard it, because in your mind you recite the natural “I know that already” or something of the sort. 

That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve done. I stood in front of the ones I loved, and looked in the eyes of the one I love most, and vowed to be patient – in some way, shape, or form. I vowed to be patient, because I vowed to love him. Loving, loving is such a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing, because it brings out the best in us. But it’s also a beautiful thing, because it challenges the stubborn in us. 

“It makes us pay attention.” 

I pray for a patient heart. I yearn for it. Chances are, you do as well – with someone else… a friend, a spouse, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, a parent, a coworker. We remind ourselves that love is patient, and then we catch our blood pressure rising and the emotions rolling like a steam roller through our hearts. The word ‘but’ is in such a serious relationship with the validation our thoughts convince us of. We let ‘but’ justify every ounce of impatience in us. 

However, if I’m being completely honest with myself… with you… the hardest person I find myself being patient with is myself. I don’t think that’s always something we realize so quickly. We are quick to assume that the reason for our lack of patience is the person right in front of us in that moment… or even more, the person who should be right in front of us, but is choosing to head down a path your heart hadn’t planned on. We all strive to grow toward something. We all, whether we realize it or not, are working toward something. Maybe it’s involuntary, but whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all working toward love in some way, shape, or form. Some of us are running toward it, daily striving to love others as best as we can with the love the Lord has given us. Others, begrudgingly choose to stay in this moment, because moving forward requires too much; much more than we are willing to allow the Lord to do. 

I don’t care if you’re in a relationship or not. You don’t have to be loving someone romantically to move toward love; to grow toward love. It’s a choice, and often times, I think the world convinces us it’s a poor one. Why? Because being selfish and impatient is easier. It’s easier, because it doesn’t require work. Most often, it doesn’t require heartache, and that’s what the world says we should avoid. 

It says we should avoid it, but you wanna know why? Because it’s powerful. It’s powerful, because it matters. 

Marriage is fun, I mean so much fun. But it’s also challenging. They weren’t kidding about that whole selfless thing. You may do the dishes one way, and you have to sit there watching your sweetheart doing it entirely different… and perhaps wrong. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because down the road, you won’t remember the times that someone made you impatient. You’re going to be cherishing the things you were patient FOR. Love. 

The next time you find yourself growing impatient with someone, ask yourself: Am I being patient with myself? 

That one question right there is a step toward love. It’s a step, because it’s choosing to look beyond the moment and see what really matters. We can’t choose to be patient with the growth of another heart, if we aren’t first patient with our own growth. 

Love is patient. Whether the dishes are clean or sitting in the sink. 

Keep being patient. You’ll remember it one day, when your heart is overflowing with love instead of bitterness. 

Love is patient, still. 

Love Actually.

Life has been giving us handful after handful of lists and remedies for how to become something or find something. It’s a little exhausting trying to coin every list and mirror our lives by comparison time and time again. I love lists, don’t get me wrong. I love crossing things off of them even more. But lists don’t make things happen – we do. It’s easy to confuse lists as the means of getting things accomplished or bringing satisfaction to our lives, but really, it’s just something to distract us from the seemingly difficult truth that’s right in front of us. We are the ones who put action behind making things work. 

I’ve begun a new stage of my life, one that most certainly will be filled with highs and lows and not just mood swings. I’ve reached the one week mark of marriage — and no, I won’t be one of those who will post a happy anniversary each month for the rest of my life. 

I will however, be doing something to keep myself accountable, to keep myself growing, to keep myself learning, and to keep myself loving. I will not be searching the abyss we call the internet and I will not be picking up books with lists on “How To Be the Best Wife” or anything of the sort. However, each week, I will be posting something I have learned heavily or have felt has challenged me the most. Each week for the first year, I am committing to “submit” a lesson analysis (excuse my teacher self), for what God is teaching me through love, through marriage, and through Him. Not a list, or something that I can cross off, but a lesson that I can always look back on, learn from, and push me toward a heart that never stops growing. 

I don’t want this to be directed toward only those who are married. For the first twenty-one years of my life, love challenged me and bent me farther than I ever thought possible — and then I met my husband (I smile when I say that) and realized those were nothing in comparison to what love was going to teach me through him. Maybe it will help you, maybe you’ll exhale a sigh of relief and know that someone else out there feels the same thing you do or struggles with the same thing you do, and maybe it will encourage you. Many document memories with pictures, something I want to do more of too. But there is something about reading words from blessings I once received and wounds I once felt that make my nostalgic heart draw closer to Him time and time again. 

So be on the look out, here’s to the first year of the rest of my life.