Outside, the leaves were flaming and air held the first chill of the season. Meanwhile, I sat — surrounded by boxes — in my Chapel Hill townhouse, frantically working on a paper for my Environmental Ethics class and an article about open adoption for my Feature Writing class. I had two days of classes left before Thanksgiving break, and it seemed all my professors were trying to cram in one more paper or exam before wrapping things up. It was my final semester of college, and senioritis had hit hard. Those classes were two of the best I’d taken in my college career, but still, I couldn’t focus. Even though I still had two weeks of classes and a week of finals standing between me and my big move, I felt like my life already existed in Atlanta, with me on the outside looking in. I had a home and a roommate lined up, and most of my belongings were already moved in. My employers were emailing me weekly with updates from the surrogate, and I’d been to Atlanta a few weeks earlier for Baby H’s baby shower. Most importantly, I was rapidly falling in love with someone I had never even met in person. Three weeks earlier, a random message via MySpace had started an avalanche of emotions.

I wasn’t looking for a relationship. In fact, the timing couldn’t have been worse. I was overwhelmed with schoolwork and the minutia of moving. I wanted to get settled in Atlanta, before meeting someone. I didn’t have the time or energy for a relationship. But life surprises us sometimes. And I’m so glad that I let go of control (for once in my life) and let life take me where it pleased. Because it was pleased to take me somewhere I had never been.

The main reason I couldn’t focus on my school work was because I was spending about 16 hours a day talking to JP via phone, text messages or instant messaging. I was spending another two hours obsessing over when I would be able to talk to her next and the remaining six hours dreaming about her. I arranged to travel to Atlanta for Thanksgiving and we were planning to meet for our first real date. One date turned into an entire weekend: one of the best weekends of my life.

I can list for you (some of) the things JP and I did that weekend: we went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner, we saw the traveling Titanic exhibit, we had coffee and talked for hours, we met Baby H. (who apparently heard I was going to be in town for the weekend, and decided to make an early arrival so that he could meet me before I returned to school). What I can’t tell you is how I felt. Because I have no words for that. It was like finding a piece of myself that I hadn’t known was missing.

I know that JP and I rushed into things. Less than three months after we met, we were living together. It’s not something I would ever recommend. But it worked for us. It more than worked. It was the right decision. This year has not been all wine and roses. It’s mostly been a lot of work. It’s HARD to live with someone. It’s even harder when the other person is basically a stranger. As hard as it has been, it’s been the best year of my life, and there is no part of it that I would trade. I’ve grown and changed this year. I’ve learned about life, relationships and myself. I’ve learned how to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own and how to accept unconditional love. I still have a lot to learn, but I have plenty of time. Another fifty or sixty years, at least.