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Thoughts for My Younger Self

This past Christmas, we drove to see my wife's parents in Houston. Being there over Christmas brought back a potent rush of memories. Eighteen years earlier, I left my parents' home on Christmas Day, flying to Houston where I was reunited with my fiance. I also met her family for the first time.

I still remember how achingly beautiful she was and how much I had missed her over the days between the end of the semester when we parted and our reunion.

Once I was there, we spent long hours together walking through the lush neighborhoods in the balmy weather. We were intoxicated by a heady combination of young, fresh love and grand visions of the future. We held hands--which still made our hearts pound--and wandered simultaneously through both the neighborhood and an envisioned future. What would we do? Where would we live? How many children would we have--and when would they come? Passionate blood pounded in our veins, providing fertile ground for our dreams to take root.

Now, we were back. I went jogging--well, jog/walking--through the same streets we had walked before. Eighteen years, five children, three states, one major illness, three college degrees and nearly two decades of highs and lows, joys and woes (what is that from?) later, we are back. In fact, our questions have moved from "When will we start our family?" to "Where will our oldest go to college?"

Many things have changed. Our dream, extravagant and unfettered then, have been tamed and modified by the realities of life. Not all of them came true, but we are now wise enough to see that it's probably good they didn't and content enough to be happy with our lives.

Our love is not the trumpets-and-fireworks passion of young long. But if it's not quite as flashy, it is much stronger. It's been tempered by time and trial and the mutual experience of laughter, tears, and reconciled conflict. If it doesn't burn quite as hot, it burns steadier, brighter, and with a more consistent warmth. I love her more--infinitely more, and in more ways--than I ever could have dreamed at the time.

Two things have not changed. Houston is beautiful and so is she. Even moreso, in fact.

If I could step back and run into the young man I would say one thing: "Be happy. Be patient. It won't always work out how you are planning it, but it will work out. There will be dark and difficult times. But hang in there. You are a lucky man and when your youthful ardor mellows you'll realize you are getting an even better wife than you think you are now."


Braden Bell and his wife have been married for eighteen years. They live outside of Nashville, TN, with their five children. Braden is the author of The Road Show and blogs at

Photo credit: Tungphoto (see portfolio) via

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