The first time I landed at Tahiti’s Fa’a’ā airport, I was a 33-year-old newlywed, just four days after my wedding—and still on my blissed-out cloud. My new husband, David, and I were young (-ish), tan, and thinner than we’d ever be. Things were feeling very peachy indeed and my heart felt like it just might burst. It couldn’t get any better.
Or that’s how it felt at the time. But now that seven years have passed, and my husband and I share two-year-old twins, I realize that back then, the latest chapter of our lives was only just getting started. And that being thin and tan and flush with wedding gifts (as cool as that is, no lie!) is actually just a jumping-off point.
After we got married, we bought a house. We filled it with love (and those wedding gifts), and were fortunate enough to watch it appreciate into a nest egg as the economy picked up swift speed (in significant contrast to the days of deep recession around our engagement when we feared for our own jobs daily).
I built my writing and editing career steadily and with ballooning post-recession success, and my husband and his business partners built their company into a lucrative place that respects, values, and treats employees like family.
We lost a pet prematurely when something went horribly wrong at a routine vet visit, and then we adopted two of the neediest cats we could find from the medical ward at the saddest, most overcrowded shelter in town.
We stamped our passports with wild abandon as we developed together our love for travel. It became one of our deepest shared passions, and we went to plenty of far-flung places. We didn’t even know that we had each been just waiting for the right partner with which to discover them.
I got pregnant. We found out it was twins. David put frozen vegetable bags on my feet when I got too big to walk or stand, and everything was swollen and everything hurt. Then, I delivered two of the smartest, funniest, sweetest humans into the world (feel free to fact check, but I think that’s verifiable data). We watched in wonder as they started crawling, walking, talking. We hosted birthday parties, blew out candles, made wishes.
We took them on their first airplane, then got their first stamps in their passports. Then, as summer wound to its close this year, we packed their lunches and sent them off to preschool for the very first time.
And at the end of that very same emotional week, I went back to Tahiti—but my husband wasn’t there this time. You see, that career I built up as a lifestyle writer comes with some unique opportunities—including a chance to return to that dreamy honeymoon destination.
This time, I was traveling instead with a small group of two other travel media women. I’d been looking forward to the trip for months—but I’d surprised myself when I cried so much on the plane that the flight attendant handed me a box of tissues. (I thought I was being discreet!) I missed my family—it was the longest time I’d be away from the kids since they were born. But, if you ask me, having a chance to miss people can be a very healthy thing. (And maternal guilt for its own sake, no matter how culturally ingrained, is not a thing I accept.)
On the first morning of my trip, I found myself at the very same spot where I had stood, so young and tan, with my husband on what had also been the very first morning of our honeymoon. I walked right over to the sprawling pool at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort and Spa and took a picture; it’s the same spot where David and I had posed for a snapshot, and where so many other honeymooners have done the same in some of their own lives’ most joyful moments. And standing there amid that life-affirming natural beauty for the second time, seven years later, I understood just how love and joy can grow.
As I had with David, on this trip I covered several different Tahitian islands (each so incredible in its own way) after that first morning. And this time, too, I found myself on the spectacular, bucket-list-worthy Bora Bora. On my honeymoon, we stayed in an overwater villa at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui—and it was at that time the most spectacular hotel I had ever visited. Even though it has since closed and reopened under a new name, Conrad Bora Bora Nui, I had to see it again. I went back to villa No. 107—the very one where we stayed as newlyweds—to find that it’s been fully updated and overhauled, down to the (wait for it) new plunge pool on the private deck over the lagoon.
Now, the classic honeymoon hotel is even more elevated, more sophisticated. The same in its foundation, you might say, but different. It was already a good thing, but it’s even better now. See where I’m going with this forced (but I hope poignant!) metaphor?
Ideally, marriage—or any kind of partnership, relationship, or life journey of another kind, is additive. The magic is in the continuum. Even if the tan fades and the hips widen, the sources of joy multiply.
So when you think things in life are good, be present and embrace the circumstances. (Or if they’re bad, remember all circumstances are fleeting, and you’ll get there.) But consider, too, what surprises might await you when you open door number two, and when you let life roll and see where it takes you.
This post was originally published on www.parents.com