Whenever I’m going through a hard time, whenever I’m doubting my vision, I think of my proposal to Garrett.
Just over three years ago, I proposed to Garrett on a balcony on the Amalfi Coast overlooking the Mediterranean.
Except it was a complete disaster.
See, it was a vision I saw in my mind just six months into our relationship. I knew exactly where I’d propose. I saw it in my mind as clear as these words before me.
I knew it was real. I didn’t know how or what or why. But I knew it.
So I went about life kind of forgetting about it. Every excuse got in the way. I didn’t have the money to plan this big, elaborate trip behind Garrett’s back and somehow not appear to be stressed.
And how would I get him there? How would I afford the engagement watch I wanted to buy him? How would I sneak over to Pennsylvania to ask for his parents’ blessing?
It was a pipedream. Still, I couldn’t shake the realness of it.
Almost four years had gone by since I’d seen the vision. But I hadn’t taken action. And I thought maybe I never would.
Then, one day, I got this sudden urge to casually check flights to Rome. I saw a shocking deal on direct flights from Boston that I couldn’t pass up.
It was now or never. I had no plan. Barely the ability to pay for hotels, too. But I felt like fate was staring me right in the eye.
So I visualized that scene of us on the balcony again, texted Garrett to take off this week four months into the future, and booked.
I was either going to be out a lot of money, or I was going to propose.
I figured I’d find a way to make it work over the next four months. And, little by little, magic happened.
My new business credit card gave me enough signup points to fly to ask for Garrett’s parents’ blessing. And I was able to convince Garrett I was at a yoga retreat weekend.
And friends helped me throw him off the trail. And I siphoned off a little money at a time to save up for the trip, pay off hotels, and buy him that watch.
And then the day came. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more nervous in my life. He repeatedly asked me for clues about how to pack or if we’d be flying or driving, but I was evasive enough to keep him in the dark.
Our Uber took us to the airport—a domestic terminal with a passageway over to international. And I freaked out and pretended I forgot something at the kiosk.
I pulled things out of my bag, asking him to hold them while I searched. First his passport. Then two books on Rome.
He looked at me, confused as to why I had that.
“When you wake up in the morning, you’ll be in Rome. We’re flying to Rome tonight.”
He still hadn’t fully understood. Maybe he was in shock. So I grabbed his hand and led him to the international terminal. And we got on a plane to Rome.
My plan was in motion. I let Garrett plot the whole trip in Rome, with the caveat that we’d be traveling halfway through the trip. I figured I’d propose the first night in Amalfi.
Everything was going to plan. Maybe a little too well. It was supposed to rain every day, and somehow we only got sunny days.
On the day we were traveling to Amalfi, Garrett wanted to see the Vatican before we left Rome. On a Saturday. Great.
But I told him it was his trip. So I meant it. And we got into a two-hour line.
“They’re always dramatic. It won’t be two hours,” I told him.
I was right. It was two-and-a-half. And about 10 minutes into waiting, the beautiful sunny sky opened and started downpouring. Of course, it was the one day we didn’t bring a raincoat or umbrella because it was the only day on our trip that it wasn’t supposed to rain.
So we waited and waited. And waited and waited. And waited some more.
After hours in the rain, I had to pee so badly. And Garrett was starving.
Worst of all, we were getting increasingly concerned that we’d miss our train. It was the last train to Amalfi that day, and we’d have nowhere to stay in Rome.
So, as we were at the very front of the line, Garrett made the decision that we should just go. It wasn’t worth going in for just 15 minutes.
We ran to every bar and café in Vatican City, begging to use a bathroom or get a bite to eat, but no one would open for another 30 minutes.
So we ran to the Metro, and a huge line was coming out of the station and into the rainy street. I asked what was going on, and someone told me there was a massive delay between the three stops we needed.
Wet, hungry, and unable to stand still without my bladder exploding, we decided we had to walk home.
Our map was disintegrating in the rain, the downpour made it nearly impossible to see street signs of Roman letters etched into buildings, and the Tiber River turns quite a bit by Vatican City.
We thought we were taking a bridge that went one way, but we actually took one that went totally opposite.
And, there we were, further from our hotel than we’d started. Almost positive we’d miss our train now. And still hungry and having to pee. In the rain.
I couldn’t even think I had to pee so badly. We started bickering. And the only thought I could hold onto was, “Fuck this. I put all this effort in and planned the perfect trip, and I’m not fucking proposing today. I’m just not doing it. This is the worst day imaginable to propose.”
A few days before we left, a friend uncharacteristically told me to pray to the Hindu god Ganesha. She just had a feeling it was important. So I did. And hadn’t thought much of it after that.
Well, in this moment of swearing the proposal off, I saw a giant painting of Ganesha in the middle of Rome.
“Okay, Mike, these obstacles are here for a reason,” I told myself. “Don’t be afraid. Your vision is real.”
So I stopped caring if we’d miss the train. I remembered this piazza and Garrett remembered that one. We slowly but surely found our way back to the hotel.
We ran in, peed, grabbed our bags, and sprinted to the Metro. I was determined now.
I went through the turnstile and turned to Garrett, on the other side, who was pale. His weekly pass was in his pocket, now completely disintegrated. I couldn’t come back through and help him buy a single ticket in Italian. He was stuck.
In the busy Saturday Metro station, I was screaming out directions to get to English. He eventually figured it out and put the ticket in the machine.
It didn’t work.
We didn’t have time for this. He ran back and tried again. Finally, the ticket worked.
We had just a few minutes to get to the train station. If we’d make it, it’d be an act of God.
Somehow, we made it. Our train was leaving in just a few minutes. I asked Garrett to look for a track, while I made sure we didn’t have to exchange our confirmation for real tickets.
I came back two minutes later, and Garrett looked scared. Our track still wasn’t posted. It was leaving in two minutes. And we couldn’t get anyone to help us.
“Go through security. Just go to the tracks and run up and down them,” I told him. “We don’t have a choice.”
So we went through and sprinted up and down all 30-something tracks. We couldn’t find ours. We were frantic.
I ran to Leonardo Express, the train that goes to the airport, and frantically flagged down an attendant.
“Please, please, can you call it in and find out which track this is?”
He grabbed his walkie-talkie and then looked back at me, “Your train’s leaving in less than a minute. Run!”
We sprinted across the train station with all of our bags. Like a scene from a movie. And somehow jumped onto the track just before it took off.
We were sweaty, hungry, wet, and disheveled.
I wasn’t proposing today. I wasn’t fucking doing it. Any other day would be fine. But I worked too hard. I planned too much. And then everything went to shit.
And then Garrett turned to me and said, “It’s so weird. Everything went wrong today. And you would have thought we would have turned on each other. But we didn’t. We worked together as a team. Isn’t that weird?”
And I thought, “Fuck. Now I have to propose today.”
So we got off the train three hours later. We walked 10 minutes in the rain, because God knows it was still raining.
We checked into our hotel, and I asked Garrett if he wanted to go up to the rooftop—the exact rooftop I had seen in my visions years before.
Maybe a little confused that I wanted to go up to a rooftop in a rainstorm, Garrett humored me.
And, at this point, I had no idea what I was going to say. None. All of my plans had gone to shit. And nothing I wanted to say felt like it mattered anymore.
So I told him to check out this castle in the distance that he obviously could barely see through the rain. And I got down on one knee. And decided I’d just wing it.
When he turned back around, I said, “Garrett, I won’t lie to you. I woke up this morning planning on proposing to you. And then everything went to shit. Everything. Literally, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.
“And I thought, fuck this, I’m not proposing today. Seriously, I spent so much time and energy planning this. I wanted it to be perfect. I have one shot at this, and I’m not wasting it today.
“But then we started working together as a team. And I realized I don’t just have one shot at this. I have a million shots at this. Because every day, for the rest of my life, I’m waking up, asking myself if I’m still game to do this, and asking you to love me. Today is just one of those days.
“So I brought you to the most beautiful place that I know—that could potentially rival your beauty—to ask you: will you marry me?”
In the rain, hungry, tired, disheveled, he said yes.
And it reminds me of the power of a vision. Of the power of choosing love. Of not being afraid. Of not being dismayed by dashed expectations. Of trusting all, even if we can’t see it yet.
Of us visionaries—we’re all romance and failure. We swing, and we swing big.
It’s the only way anyone’s ever changed the world.
Questions for Reflection:
*Answer in a journal, in the comments right here, or take it over to the Sacred Branding® Facebook group where we can support one another:
Do you ever doubt your vision?
— Do you ever think this is totally impractical or impossible? That it will never happen? That your vision is just your hopeful imagination?
— Do you feel totally frustrated and dismayed when your vision isn’t working out? When everything in the world seems to be in your way? When you put so much time and energy and effort in, and it doesn’t work out again?
— What if it’s all a part of the journey? What if those dashed expectations are actually leading you exactly where you need to be? What if you’re a true visionary—a true romantic? The only kind that can ever change the world?