525,600 Minutes

The song "Seasons of Love" from the musical Rent explores the ways in which we measure a year. 365 days or, as they put it, 525,600 minutes can be measured "in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee; in inches, in miles, in laughter and strife." Measuring the small, day to day moments as well as the large monumental ones has become so important to me, and this song is a favorite of mine in terms of summarizing that. The song, though, also mentions that another way to measure a year is through love, and that's what I want to do in this post. There are, of course, many different forms of love in my life -- love toward and from my son, myself, my friends, and my family, for instance -- but here I want to write about romantic love (something I'm not entirely used to writing about).

One year ago, one of the last places I ever thought I'd find myself was in a monogamous relationship. Back then, I was happily polyamorous and didn't see myself entering into a partnership with any one person at any point in my life. Life is a funny thing, though, and sometimes the paths we never expect to travel are the ones we wind up exploring anyway. I entered my partnership with Matt about a year ago now, and I call it a partnership because that's how we've approached this idea of a relationship ... that is, while recognizing and respecting each other's differences and individual natures, we've decided to experience life as friends, allies, and lovers. And this approach to our relationship, I think, is why it works for me.

Having jumped, earlier in my life, from extremely strict parents to an extremely controlling marriage, I chose to spend the majority of my young adult life single (after said marriage ended in divorce). The freedom that came from living as a single person who called my own shots, made my own decisions, and answered to no one was intoxicating and exactly what I needed to grow as a person. Sure, I dated around during this time, and entered a few very brief relationships, but the majority of the time I was single -- happily single. There were times when, I think, I wanted to enter a relationship with someone I was dating, but usually didn't because of an overwhelming fear of losing the freedom I'd fought so hard to attain. So my polyamorous lifestyle -- in which there were a few people I was casually dating and a few other people whom I did refer to as boyfriends -- centered mostly around maintaining my freedom and independence at the center of it all.

It was a cool lifestyle, one that I was very happy in, and one that I know many others are very happy in. So entering monogamy with Matt wasn't a decision made out of necessity, because I wasn't even sure, at the time, that such a relationship could even be possible while maintaining personal freedom and independence.
My past being what it was, I knew exactly what I didn't want. I did not want someone believing they had any sort of say in where I went, who my friends were, how long I was out, what I did with my free time, and so on -- I didn't want to answer to anyone. I did not want to be with a jealous person who was constantly worried that I was cheating on them or that I would leave them for the next best thing the second the opportunity hit me -- I didn't want a significant other who felt the need to break my self-esteem down to such a low degree that I would thank my lucky stars every day that I was with them (because, surely, no one else would want me). I did not want to be with an angry person who acted like a ticking time bomb, leaving me in a constant state of dancing on nails to try and avoid the next blow up about who knows what. I didn't want to have to, once again, come up with lie after lie for everyone else about why this or that thing was broken. I did not want to be with someone who thought it their duty, or even their right, to judge my likes and dislikes, my choices in clothing, my parenting, my hair length or color, my friends, or any other such thing. I did not want to be with someone who wanted to take control of my health choices, including what I ate and when I ate it, how much I ate, how much I weighed, and such, as though I were a dependent rather than a partner.

And, yes, I've experienced all of the above. And I was never, ever, ever going to go back to living that way again.

Learning to trust has not been an easy road, but the approach that Matt and I have taken has been different than any other relationship I've ever been a part of, and it's been wonderful for me. For starters, we've never looked at ourselves as "halves" seeking a "whole" -- both of us see ourselves as whole beings, full and complete in ourselves, who seek to complement each other's lives. Though we have quite a bit in common (we both love video games, roller coasters, reading, travel, and the same classic films, such as Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure), we're also very different. He's the extrovert to my introvert; he loves sports and the outdoors and dogs while I, on the other hand, love politics and staying in and cats. He likes going to baseball games and I like attending the live theater. He likes skiing and snowboarding while I enjoy studying voice and dance. He's a beer guy; I'm a wine gal.
And the thing is, a huge part of our approach has been respecting that both of us will have lives outside of the other. When he wants to go play baseball with friends, or go to laser tag, or go for a weekend snowboarding getaway, there are times he does those things without me because I have no interest in those things. And when I do shows or debates or go out for coffee with my own friends, there are times I do those things without him because he'd rather be doing other things. And, because we respect each other's individual lives and privacy, it doesn't bother either of us that the other has a full and complete life outside of us.

Along with this, we've also been building a life together. We do things together that we both enjoy, such as theme parks, and sometimes we'll go to ball games or the live theater together, so that we can experience each other's passions, even if they're not our own. And this is why the relationship works for me. I have been able to maintain an individual, free life while, at the same time, building a partnership with someone else (and so has he).

In this way, we've had some awesome experiences together. So today, on this kinda, somewhere-close-to one-year anniversary of us being together, I wanted to highlight some of those experiences to honor the year I've been with Matt.

1) Disneyland/Disney's California Adventure

As some of my previous partners can tell you, it's pretty hard to be in a relationship with me and not find yourself at Disneyland once in a while.
Despite my love/hate relationship with all things Disney, it's still one of my favorite places to go. We've been to Disneyland a few times, having ditched out on work and school to make it happen, and Matt and I went to California Adventure once on our own. We were on an impromptu trip to California and decided to make it happen (which turned out to be really cool, because Matt had never been to DCA before.) We found out on that day that you can drink beer at DCA. The capacity to enjoy adult beverages at Disneyland was foreign to me, so we go to each experience our first Disney beer together. (In case you're wondering, it was cheap piss-beer, but beer nonetheless.) We stayed all day, right until closing, eating soup in bread bowls for dinner while watching World of Color. (Unlike the beer, the soup at Disneyland is actually really good -- Matt had tortilla soup and I had clam chowder, and both were outstanding.)
Also on this trip to DCA (which seems worth mentioning), we experienced the onslaught rush of a high school grad night. We realized this was happening when, a couple of hours before the park closed, we got in line for another ride on the Tower of Terror and realized that we were surrounded by loud, excited teenagers. Being around such a group of people who are about to embark on their grad night was more annoying than anything, but the reactions from the employees was nothing short of amusing. The ride attendants were changing shifts while we were in line, and those who were leaving were wishing their grumpy colleagues, "Good luck." After we actually boarded the ride, the teenagers were being so loud and obnoxious that the woman giving her safety speech had to break character and snap at everyone to shut up, after which she quickly delivered her spiel and slammed the doors.

Quite a different experience for a Disney trip.

Fun times.

2) Filming Twisted Colossus

Matt and I are on the Six Flags Magic Mountain website (the picture in which you can see us is the one I've posted right here -- you can see me on the right train, wearing bright pink, my long hair flying wildly behind me. Matt is next to me, wearing purple).

And just why are we on the Magic Mountain website? Well, back in May of 2015, I managed to book us a gig where we were invited to Magic Mountain to be a part of the promotional filming for the brand new Twisted Colossus. This was the coaster that premiered at Magic Mountain in 2015 as a replacement for the classic coaster, Colossus. This was a huge deal for two roller coaster fans!
The morning of, we went backstage and filled out paperwork and had our photos taken, along with everyone else who would be a part of filming. It's important to note that there were two distinct groups of people -- the professional models and actors who were hired to sit in the fronts of the trains during the filming, and everyone else. The actors would be used primarily for the on-ride filming, and after they left everyone else would stay for off-ride filming and still photos of the ride.

But something really cool happened. As they were filming the actors in what we (Matt and I and two pretty awesome guys we met while standing around) called the "pretty train," the crew plucked us out of the crowd to fill in seats in the very back of the train. So, if you watch the actual Twisted Colossus promotional video, you won't see the four of us, but we were there in the back of the train. What this meant for us was that we got to ride again and again while they got the filming right.

See, the thing about Twisted Colossus is that it's got two tracks with a distinctly different ride on each track. The ride is almost 4 minutes long because, once your train finishes up on the first track, you get to go through again on the second track. But, part of the big deal about this roller coaster, is that the trains are supposed to be in sync with one another.
So, in other words, while your train is getting ready to start its second run-through, the train at the station must be dispatched at just the right moment so that, while the ride is happening, the trains are twisting over and around each other. It's a pretty cool experience ... when it works out. On this day, it wasn't working out correctly. They couldn't get the shots they wanted because the trains weren't synced properly. They tried all sorts of things while we were breaking for lunch, but, in the end, this meant that after all of the actors had gone home, we rode through Twisted Colossus an additional 8 consecutive times while they tried to get the syncing right. Finally, when they did, it was like magic and everyone cheered and we all had some great rides. It was a wonderful, unique experience altogether.

3) Adopting a Kitten

When we met, I already had a grey tabby cat (Auryn Baby Girlface) and Matt already had a large, brown dog (Bodi). But during the summer of 2015, we found ourselves with another pet that we adopted together: a small orange kitten that we decided to call Gavroche (due to his mangy, alley-cat look and orphan status that he possessed when we first adopted him).
My vocal coach, Madelene Capelle, had a stray female cat living on or around her property who had a few litters of kittens in 2015. Madelene, being the awesome person that she is, systematically caught all of the kittens and got them spayed and neutered at Heaven Can Wait. She released most of them back outside, with two exceptions: first, there was a very tiny black female that she kept and named Mimi Meow, and second, there was a very tiny orange male that she asked me to help find a home for because he seemed to be happier inside than outside.
Gavroche has a story. While Madelene was in the midst of catching these kittens, the little orange one was actually found, by her neighbor, in a shed. He'd accidentally gotten locked inside. If you know anything about Las Vegas in the summertime, you know just what that meant for this kitten, too. When they found Gavroche, nobody thought he was still alive. But Madelene wrapped him up in a cold, wet towel and took him to her vet, who essentially brought him back.
He was timid when we first brought him home, but you'll be happy to hear that now, almost a year later, he's grown into a very large, rough-and-tumble cat with more quirks and nuances than I think I've ever seen in a pet.

4) Canada

Matt and I got to go to Canada for a week in 2015, and it was such an awesome pleasure to get to do so. We were there primarily because I was singing the national anthem at a Toronto Argonauts football game, but while we were there we got to do so much else -- wine tasting, live theater, Toronto island, Canada's Wonderland, and so much else.

We stayed with my dad in his condo overlooking the city. Our first day there, we went down to Niagara on the Lake to do wine tasting (my dad has a particular preference for sweet wines and ice wines, which I don't care for, but tried nonetheless), and then we went to a football game in neighboring Hamilton. On Tuesday, Matt and I got to go to Canada's Wonderland, where we both got to experience a giga coaster (a coaster which features an initial drop of over 300 feet) for the first time. After Wonderland, we got cleaned up and Dad took us "appetizer hopping" -- a favorite past time of his, in which you visit 4-5 high-end restaurants in a single evening, just to sample appetizers and wine.
On Wednesday, after a day out, we all went and saw Newsies (which I absolutely loved). On Thursday, Matt and I wandered downtown Toronto, including a venture onto Toronto island, and then went to see Kinky Boots in the evening (which I also loved). On Friday, we went down to Niagara Falls, where we both rode a Maid of the Mist boat for the first time (despite having lived near the falls for years, I never did take one of those boats down near the falls until this day). We all ate a steak dinner overlooking the falls before driving back to Toronto. And on Saturday, we attended the football game in which I sang the national anthem for over 20,000 people (and I was happy Matt could be there for that event). On Sunday, we came home again.
It was a busy week that went by quickly, but an awesome experience.

5) The Color Run

I'm not, by nature, a runner. When I was a teenager I did gymnastics and the flying trapeze, and I used the treadmill on a daily basis, but that was over half my life ago. I'm not in the same shape I was when I was a teenager, so joining athletic events always makes me a bit apprehensive.
Matt insisted that The Color Run was fun, so I agreed to do it. And I have to admit, it was fun. We kinda walked, kinda ran through the 5K, getting blasted with color along the way, and I realized that such things aren't as scary or intimidating as I thought they were. And, best of all, it served as momentum for me to start exercising like I used to.

And, again, it was another first that we got to experience together.

Every relationship has its series of ups and downs. I, however, have never had a relationship like the one I'm currently in, which respects both the ups and downs as legitimate, necessary aspects of growth, and honors the ways in which the both of us continue to grow on our own.

I can't wait to see what the future holds.

UPDATE: As of April, 2017, Matt and I are no longer together. Our breakup was a simple matter of lifestyle differences, and we have parted amicably, both understanding that it was the best thing for both of us. I am, once again, polyamorous (monogamy, I have discovered, is not for me, though I was nothing but faithful to that lifestyle while I was with Matt). I have decided to leave this blog post up, however, as it highlights a specific time in my life for many of its proverbial "ups." Matt and I had some great times and we learned a lot from each other. I am still so excited to "see what the future holds," as I'd said before, even though the two of us have decided to explore different paths.

I did keep Gavroche, though. ;)