My senior year of high school, I applied and was hired for a job at HEB, a Texas-wide gem of a grocery store, as a cashier. On my first day behind a register, I was assigned to a mentor to be trained on the specific way to run a register at my particular store. The manager I was assigned to was Paden.
I went home that first day not knowing that seven months later, I would be dating him.
I don’t think there was a defining moment when I just looked at him and knew I liked him. Our relationship developed over time and various midnight IHOP dates. Nothing sounds better than pancakes at 1 o’clock in the morning. We’d close at HEB together and then head over to IHOP. Soon it became a ritual. We found ourselves sitting in a corner booth, the whole restaurant to ourselves, talking for hours and hours about anything we could think of.
On the nights that Paden would close and I wouldn’t, he would drive down the street to my house and we’d lay out on the driveway looking at the stars. Those nights are some of my favorite memories and I’ll never forget the way I felt after our first kiss. It still takes my breath away just thinking about it.
We kept our relationship a secret at work. We figured the less people knew, the better off we would be. And we were right, because as soon as one person found out, all hell broke loose. Paden was basically forced to step down from his position as manager and people gave us a hard time all the time. It made work unbearable at times and the day I left that place was so relieving for the both of us.
Our relationship while I was away at Tech was rough, as almost all long distance relationships are. We were trying to maintain a brand new relationship with six hours between us. There were a lot of frustrating nights and we were both fairly poor communicators. But somehow we survived.
When I moved back home, things got better for the most part. Since I wasn’t working at HEB anymore, I didn’t have to restrain from posting pictures of us. Eventually people got over it. We no longer struggled with not being able to see each other because we were back to being in the same city. Some of the communication struggle was still there though.
One of the most frustrating things that got to me in the early stages of our relationship was Paden’s unwillingness to open up to me about serious topics, like what he planned to do with his future. Any time I brought it up, he would shut down. For a girl who’s essentially got her entire future planned out, it was incredibly frustrating to be with someone who didn’t have a clue. So in October of last year, I decided we needed to take a break.
Our break lasted about a month and a half and even though we don’t like to admit it, it was good for both of us. During that time, I made new friends that I now consider best friends and family and started attending church regularly, something I never once did before. Paden experienced some sort of epitome, for lack of a better word, and realized that what he was doing before was pushing me away. I think that if we hadn’t gone through that time period, our relationship wouldn’t be as strong as it is now.
Paden and I are so beyond happy together now. We talk about the future a lot. We talk about not knowing how to get there, but knowing what we want our future to hold. We are more open with each other than ever before and it has made us so much stronger. At the end of May, we’ll be going on our first vacation together. We talk about standing before one another and saying vows and committing to a life together. We talk about what our kids’ names will be, what kind of parents we’ll be, and the type of dog we’re gonna get before we even think about having children. We laugh everyday. We hold each other up and put each other’s happiness before our own.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like without him. He’s the best one-man support system a girl could ask for. He is sweet and thoughtful. Everyday with him is better than the last. He’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last one I talk to before falling asleep every night. I wake up everyday thankful to have the opportunity to love and be loved by him.