A Month Ago, I Left for Aruba. Here’s What I Learned.

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A month ago today, I left for Aruba. A month ago. In some ways, it feels like lifetimes ago. In other ways, just yesterday.

I remember sitting at that airport having breakfast and wondering what the two weeks ahead of us had planned. It was to be a great adventure. And plenty was bound to go wrong. But we were excited for all of it.

I remember the plane ride. Garrett laughed because he was writing notes for all of our meetings, but I refused to give ideas until I had my journal out, too. Not because I needed a second set of notes and didn’t trust him, as he suspected. But because seeing a few words visually helps me think. And maybe because I am a control freak.

And we played Canasta. (I won, in case we’re keeping score.) And the elderly people in front of us marveled that we knew how to play Canasta. If they only knew that it makes up our nightly activities for at least half the weeknights.

And then we landed. And rushed around, cramming ourselves into the tiny shuttle that took us to the two cars we rented. There was no way we’d make it to the grocery store before it closed at six. It was a Sunday. And so it’d be a mad rush to finish welcome bags before people arrived the next day.

So we finally made our way over to where we were staying. And, as we were driving by, something seemed off. Oh, yeah—that building was no longer there. The very building of our first event. It had be leveled.

Apparently, it was planned to be rebuilt for years but was waiting on new permits. Well, the permits came through, and it was immediately demolished. Earlier that week. Our contact had no warning. So we didn’t have an event. Just meticulously printed itineraries we had made that talked about a now-leveled building. Great.

I tried to calm myself as I thought about the fact that we had maybe 18 hours to find another venue, sleep, find a printer to create corrections for the itineraries, go to the grocery store, put together the welcome bags, and have them to our wedding coordinator before anyone arrived. Great.

So we checked in. And there was black mold in the room. And I was hitting my breaking point. Not only was I standing in a room of black mold. But these particular room blocks were more expensive and traditionally more resort-like. So our guests who wanted a more luxury expensive chose there. And now they might have black mold.

That was my first 90 minutes in Aruba.

Fortunately, the Universe decided to deliver me a big gift. I pulled myself together enough (after switching rooms) to make it to dinner. And, while we waited for a table, we sat in the lounge area next to a woman who was raving about a wedding she was at. She said it was the best wedding she’d ever been to, and that the wedding coordinator was absolute magic. We asked her name, and of course it was ours. Thank you, Universe. We needed that one. Wedding won’t be a total disaster. Got it.

The next day, Garrett and I walked or sprinted 20,000 steps by noon. We were at the grocery store as the store opened, talked to every bar in the area about where we could have a private happy hour with three day’s notice, worked with the housing team to get automatic room upgrades for our guests (without mold), convinced front desk people to help us create and print itinerary corrections, put together all of our welcome bags, dropped off the welcome bags at the different check-ins (since we had no time to get them to our coordinator before people arrived), and had meetings with our event team that morning.

By the time our first guest arrived, we were done. Exhausted, but done. Without fights. Or turning on each other. Or complete emotional breakdowns (I’ll admit I did have a partial breakdown for a few minutes when I saw the mold—that put me over the edge.)

But, even during the chaos, it reminded me of why we were doing this. All of it. And why I’m so grateful we planned a wedding.

Want all of your shit and all of your family’s shit to come up? Plan a wedding—especially a destination one. The planning alone was an amazing exercise in remembering why we’re getting married.

The wedding itself was phenomenal. Our guests haven’t stopped talking about it or texting or sharing pictures and laughing. It was three days of events—but really a week or more trip for most. And it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Never again will we have those same 52 people together in one place, never mind a place as beautiful as Aruba. As the years go by, and as people grow and change and even transition on from this life, it’s a memory we’ll all have. And that was ultimately the gift we wanted to give to our closest friends and family.

A month ago. Wow. It’s funny to think about the chaos that happened exactly a month ago today. As I sat there amidst the leveled building and black mold, wondering how I’d salvage the trip. And more was still to come—with my broken toe, guests getting a stomach bug, and my own stomach bug on the way home just in time for my birthday.

But I wouldn’t change a thing. Not a thing. Because it was perfect. Even the chaos was perfect.

Because today, I get to sit here and think about it. And smile. And think, “That was one hell of an experience. All of it. And I’m so grateful for every moment. Even when they seem inconvenient at the time.”

Ultimately, that’s the way I want to think about my life. Just review it and smile. And think I’m grateful for every moment.

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