My wife and I have lived in North Scottsdale for many years. We met here many years ago, we later reconnected here, we eventually fell in love here, and we were married here exactly 6 years, 5 months, and 3 days ago. Our marriage has been something that has meant absolutely everything to both of us; she is my favorite girl, my dearest friend, and my greatest ally in life. When we first got married, we felt that we could never be happier. We shared our dreams, we were excited for our future, and we fought for our hopes as a family.
The years wore on, and we shared many beautiful memories. However, in time, we found ourselves “settling in” as it were. We started to live a routine that became comfortable, and in time became a little bit… boring.
It was a solid 3 years into our marriage when my dear Kate and I had our first big fight. Sure, we had fought before about little things, but we had always been civil—our fights had been tempered by how much we respected, loved, and admired one another. This was different. We were both kind of mean, even hurtful. Never had I seen such coldness in her eyes, and I’m sure mine looked no different. And what were we fighting about? Something completely stupid: where we would go for an Easter dinner. But as we argued about this, we both saw that there was something deeper that we were really fighting about. Both shocked by the bitterness of this trivial dispute, we talked all evening.
When we both finally really let out everything that we were feeling, we came to realize that we both felt we had lost something essential to our relationship. When we were first married, we were two young people who wanted to adventure and conquer the world together. We were full of dreams and color and zest for life; we both wanted to achieve the other’s dreams; and thus we had the foundation of a living, exciting, and beautiful relationship. But over the course of three years, we had almost thoughtlessly, passively become a static family that we had never wanted to be. We had adopted our jobs and routines as the material essence of our lives, rather than forging our own path to achieve our dreams. Both of us felt betrayed not only by one another, but by ourselves and by our circumstances.
Well, let me tell you, my wife is not someone to see a problem staring her in the face and not address it. And, well, she married me… So you can imagine that I am pretty similar. We decided it was time to take control of our lives. We both knew that we loved each other more than anything in the world, and we both knew that we could do better than what we were doing. And thus the Project of Learning Originality was born. My wife and I resolved to cast off the mold of the monotonous lifestyle life was making for us, and to inject some originality into the family that had been founded on dreams and the yearning to bring them to life together.
We made some goals, vowed to give our dreams another chance, and set to work early the next morning. The first step in our project? To make our house into the dream home we talked about in the early days of our marriage. No, we didn’t have the money for a new house, but we had the money and the desire to do some DIY overhauling. It was time to start taking our dreams today instead of putting them off for some distant future that might never come.
My sweetheart is so artistic. It is one of the things that I find hopelessly enchanting about her. She sees things in a way that I imagine echoes the mind of whatever gods created this world. There is always creation in her eyes…
Ok. Sorry to get sappy. But it was so exciting to pull out the drawing board to re-haul our house into our dream home. I began, pulling out a sheet of butcher paper and creating a rudimentary blueprint of our house. She began to absent-mindedly sketch in imaginary details for each of the rooms as we talked about what we wanted (we would worry about how to do it afterwards). At first most of the ideas seemed impossible as we put them down, like a bedroom converted into a full trampoline room or the kitchen reworked into a dance studio with kitchen appliances in it. But when my wife finally said, “these are really just fantasies, you know,” an idea came to me. True, we could not afford to purchase dozens of trampolines, to re-floor every room in the house, or to buy many of the hardware and installation services it looked like we would need to make this house happen. But this project represented something vital that we wanted in our marriage and in our lives together. It was the lead project in a series of goals and changes that needed to happen for the happiness of the person I loved most in the world, and that of her husband (me). So, unwilling to give up, I proposed an idea.
What if we did what everyone says is the key to happy relationships, and compromised? What if we built our dream house, using what we had available to us? No, we couldn’t afford to hire people to rebuild our house into everything we wanted. But what if we did our best DIY approximation? It wouldn’t be perfect, no. But it would be fun, we would grow closer doing it, and it would achieve the true goal of Project of Learning Originality: making a metaphorical statement that we would not wait for our dreams to be easier before seeking to bring them to life.
My love, well… loved the idea. We discussed each room and our plans for it, and then we hit the garage sales, thrift stores, and anything else we could think of for cheap materials. Soon we had a garage full of seeming junk surrounded by boxes of nails and screws, assorted tools, and a good ladder we borrowed from my in-laws.
Weeks of Project of Learning Originality passed, then months. It was basically our baby. It was SO much fun. Approximations of our original dreams now cover our home. We lined the walls of our kitchen with cheap full-length mirrors and put up art of dancers everywhere. We removed the island counter and re-floored the area under it. A dance studio…Kind of. The spare bedroom has a trampoline in it—the room isn’t made of trampolines, but we decorated dozens of pillowcases and lined the walls with pillows to make the room squishy and trampoline-ey. This goes on and on for every room in the house.
Was Project of Learning Originality a success? Yes. We no longer wait on our dreams. We take them. This is our mantra and this is how our marriage became everything we wanted again.