The Struggle Is Real…Or Is It?

By Jeremy Carden

I’m certain that everyone reading this has either heard or said the phrase “The struggle is real.” Similar to Y.O.L.O. (You only live once), it has become a popular catchphrase of our generation. Typically, it is used to describe some type of hardship being experienced by an individual. However, just like those songs you hear on the radio 24/7…it gets old very fast.

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Now I’m not writing this blog to point fingers at people who say this phrase (because I say it on a daily basis) or to express my annoyance of it. The point of all of this is to ask the question; what does it REALLY mean to say “the struggle is real?”

Whenever it rolls off of your tongue the purpose behind saying it is to express that you recognize a difficult situation that either you or another person is going through. Recently, I’ve been going through some hardships of my own and I’ve found myself saying “the struggle is real” even more often than before.

A few nights ago I sat down and thought about my “struggles.” It wasn’t until I hashed out everything that I realized most of these struggles were self-created.

Take a moment and ask yourself; Am I the reason for most of my struggles?

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While I was mentally listing out my troubles, the phrase “You are your own worst enemy…” kept going through my mind. That makes a lot of sense because I’m one of those people who can be classified as an “over thinker” or a “worrywart.” I’m sure that some of you reading this can relate to me when I say that when you worry about something you can play 20+ worst case scenarios in your head about a situation in 30 seconds. Now if that does not cause a struggle for you mentality then I don’t know what does.

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For those of you who say that the struggle is real when it comes to losing weight, how many of you get off of the couch to take a walk or replace that soda in your hand with a bottle of water?

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To anyone having a difficult time trying to move on from a past relationship, are you still talking to your ex or find yourself looking at their pages on social media sites to keep track of what they are doing?

Our inner demons have a way of bringing out temptation and painful memories to bring us down. The struggle is real after you’ve gotten your heartbroken whem a relationship ends or you step on the scale and the number you see makes you want to breakdown and cry. Just the impossibility of getting into shape or putting the pieces of your heart back together truly makes the hardship of the situation escalate. Of course, these are just a couple of the many struggles people face in their lifetimes.

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Money is one of the primary struggles people use the phrase in reference to. Wanting to buy Frosted Flakes but you have to buy the generic brand instead due to a budget is “a struggle.”

Sometimes in order to overcome these struggles you have to do something about it!

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Want to lose weight? Stop scrolling through Facebook on your computer or sitting in front of your TV screen playing a video game for 5 hours straight! If you can do that then you can certainly manage to exercise for an hour or so a day.

Moving on from a relationship proving to be difficult? Stop pinning over the person who broke your heart! The more you dwell on it…the more painful it becomes. You cannot make room for the right person to come into your life if you are stilling holding onto feelings for the wrong person.

No struggle that we go through in life is impossible to overcome. Despite the difficulty one must face in order to conquer a struggle, it will all pay off in the long run.

If there was one thing that I’d want someone reading this blog to take away it is that “The struggle is real, but so is the reward on the other side.” We have to go through those times of hardship for 2 key reasons:

  1. Going through difficult times (struggles) help us to appreciate the good things in our lives once that period of hardship is over. You don’t truly appreciate something handed to you on the same level you do for something that you’ve earned through hard work and struggle.
  2. Despite the struggle(s) that you are going through at the moment there is something good waiting once it is over.

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Something else that I’ve heard many times is “Once you’ve hit rock bottom there is no reason to give up because that means the only direction that you can go is up!”

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Of course, some realists or Debby Downer would say something sarcastic or technical about how you can go even lower and melt at the center of the earth. All joking aside there is a lot of truth behind that statement. There are some moments in life where everything has to be torn down in order to be built back up again. What’s even better is that sometimes when your life is rebuilt it is even better than it was before. The downside is going through the pain of the struggles that come with that.

So the next time you say that “the struggle is real” just stop and think about whether or not you are the cause of it. The struggles we face are only as real as we make them. Are you spending more time complaining about your struggle or are you spending time doing something in order to overcome it?

 

 

 

 

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A Message To Single People: God Is Love

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by Jeremy Carden

This story happened early in November around the time that I was going through some girl problems. It seemed that no matter what I did or didn’t do I was being turned down left and right.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t going up to every girl I saw and asking “Would you go out with me?” because that wasn’t the situation at all. For some reason I was being put in the friend-zone.

I was going through a period where I was no longer content with being single. Every day I would ask God why I still haven’t found the woman of my dreams.

One night I was really depressed and was just lying in bed for about an hour. I was praying to God for some kind of direction because I really had no idea what I wanted to do next semester. I didn’t have a real reason to come back to campus (well I will admit that I was just looking at how I didn’t have a girl to come back to next semester), what to do after I finish graduate school in May and how to keep from getting turned down like this even by girls who I do not even have a romantic interest in.

And the questions went on until I asked for some sort of sign from God before finally falling asleep.

So to get my mind off of my troubles, the next day I just stayed in my room and did all kinds of busy work that I’ve been putting off; some cleaning, non-school related writing and other things like that.

Around 6 PM, I decided to make a quick trip to Ollie’s just to get out of my room and get some air. I made it to the bus stop and missed the bus by a few seconds meaning I’d have to wait 20 minutes for the next one. Instead of going back to the dorm and coming back, I just decided to sit on the wall next to the bus stop and listen to some music.

Not too long after I put my headphones in, another bus pulls up and a guy getting off the bus just comes up to me and says Hello. I said hey back thinking to myself whether or not I’ve seen this guy before and it turns out that I hadn’t. He asked where I was headed and I said Ollie’s but I had missed my bus. To my surprise he offered me a ride.

Well Mama always said not to take ride from strangers and after saying that I’d wait for the bus he kept insisting that it was no trouble at all. So, we start walking to his car and he asks “If I knew Jesus?” right away my first instinct is “Oh geez, this is just some evangelism student probably doing his Witnessing Project…”

Turns out he wasn’t, I didn’t ask him but I could just tell. Before I could answer his question he said you know what I think that you do know Jesus. I asked him how he knew that and he said that he could just tell. I told him that I was told long ago that the way you carry yourself can show other people the God in you and he agreed so we just talked about how and when we got saved, what we were majoring in at Liberty University and just simple small talk.

About 5 minutes later, he stopped the car in front of Ollie’s. Right as I was getting out of the car after thanking him for the ride, he told me “God loves you.” After taking a moment to reflect on that I thanked him again and he drove off.

Those 3 little words…God loves you

With a few letdowns in terms of women, a night full of doubt stressing about what to do next and questioning where God was when I was going through all of this just disappeared in that one moment! The thing that hit me was the night before I was asking God for a sign and He delivered it so quickly!

This might seem a bit cliché since I’m sure everyone has heard this many times; the most important relationship that you can have is a relationship with God. From that experience, I can honestly say that I could not agree more with that statement. Since that moment I’ve been trying to look at life a little differently. Doing my best to look at the positives instead of the negatives has made things a bit easier for me. There are still a lot of unanswered questions that I sometimes wonder the answer to, but one thing is for sure: GOD LOVES ME.

College Dating #5: You Are Not Alone

This is the final part of my 5 blog series about college dating. The theme of this blog is realizing that you are not alone.

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No, no this isn’t about Michael Jackson’s hit song “You Are Not Alone.” This is for people who are single OR in a relationship. You are probably asking yourself; how come you know so much about relationship advice but you are single?

Well I guess I can speak from not just the experiences that I’ve had but the relationships I’ve seen in my lifetime whether it be between strangers or close friends of mine who I know found someone special.

Personally, I have been living the single life for about five years now. I’d say the main reason that I’m still single is because I haven’t found anyone that I feel compatible with. That being said, I think it is important for me to find someone who I can relate to because in the end looks will fade but the love of a good woman will not (if you treat her right).

So as a final blog of encouragement I want to reach out to everyone single or not. For the people who like me are still single and sometimes find yourself yearning for the love of a good woman (or man), buck up. All of this time that we have to ourselves is meant for us to work on the most important person that we can be in a relationship with; YOU!

Yes, “you” or yourself if you want to put it that way. I might have mentioned it in another blog about how a relationship shouldn’t be a scapegoat in order to make an escape from loneliness. Not to mention if you are not ok with yourself, how are you going to be able to show affection for someone else if you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin?

Don’t worry the right person will come around when you least expect it. I know I know I sound like a one of those people who give the same advice and repeat it numerous times like a broken record. The thing that makes me mad the most is that the people who tell me “the right person will come along, don’t worry, be patient, enjoy being single while you can!” are all in relationships!

That is like someone who is a millionaire (because they won the lottery) saying; “Don’t worry sometimes I miss the days when I only had $20 in my wallet…” What the heck is that supposed to mean?! It is like people who use hash tags on Facebook or a face without a nose, it makes no sense at all!

Ok, I’m going to list off some of the things that people in relationships tell me that I should be thankful for when comparing my single life to theirs since they are in relationships.

  1. “You should be happy because you have all of this free time on your hands! Me? I have to take my girl out to dinner, walk her to/from her classes and spend time with her when I wanna hang out with my friends…” And so on…
  2. “Are you upset because you are single?! At least you have money in your wallet to spend on yourself!!”
  3. “At least you don’t have someone breathing down your neck asking you 101 questions all the time!”
  • Where you going?
  • When are you getting back to your dorm?
  • Who are you talking to?
  • Who is that girl?!
  • Why didn’t you text me last night?
  • When can we go out again, I want to see you!  (Even though we just saw each other 30 minutes ago…)
  • Can you come over to my dorm window tonight so we can talk?
  • Do you think I’m fat?
  • When are we getting engaged?
  • How come you don’t buy me anything?!!
  • Can we hang out tonight? (Despite the fact that I have a truckload of homework to get done)

Here are my responses to the things that my friends in relationships tell me;

  1. Just because I have free time on my hands doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy the company of someone special.
  2. I’m a COLLEGE STUDENT! Any money that I do manage to get my hands on is usually spent on things for college like food, supplies for some random class project, books, fees for a club or something so I might have a little stashed away for a rainy day.
  3. Sometimes it is good to know that someone cares enough about you to ask how you are doing, what your plans are, etc. To a certain extent there is a thin line between caring and neediness and some girls like to dance too close on the boarder of both.

For the people in relationships right now, the only encouragement that you really need to hear is that everyone goes through the ups and downs of romance with their significant other from time to time. What man hasn’t wanted to strangle himself because it seems that every winking moment he has is spent with his girlfriend?

I think for the past 2 ½ years, I’ve had roommates who had girlfriends and they’d go out and I wouldn’t see them until it was curfew. That was usually because they would be with their girlfriends most of the time. I can’t remember one day when they didn’t sigh because of something that happened when they were out. Despite complaining and being angry when a text from their girlfriend woke them up in the middle of the night, I could tell for the most part that they were happy.

So, if you are going through some tough times with your guy or girl, no worries! Those bad times are what make the good times worth it. Overall, that is just about the best kind of advice I can offer to anyone who is in love or longing to be in love with someone.

I hope that my blogs have been an asset that can be applied to your life as you make it through college whether you end up in a relationship or not. Just know that not everyone finds their true love on campus. As I mentioned before, someone once told me that college is supposed to be the best time of your life, but I’ve always wondered about that statement…

If college is supposed to be the best time/years of my life, then what does say about marriage?????

I think the most positive way of looking at it is this; when it comes to marriage it will be the best time/years of “our” lives just something to think about if you are looking up at the moon and the stars and wondering if your future spouse is doing the same.

College Dating #4: Don’t Cheat or Try To Be a Player

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This blog is for the men but of course it applies to the girls as well. In my other three blogs about dating in college, I’ve addressed the importance of finding the right person and how that usually happens at the right time when you least expect it. With that being said, why would you jeopardize a good relationship by cheating?

During my time at Liberty University, I’ve seen a few guys who labeled themselves as players. Some of them got away with it but a couple of them weren’t so lucky. I don’t know if this will apply to colleges aside from LU, but women tend to connect.

What I mean by that is for some strange reason it seems that EVERY woman knows every other woman. Never underestimate the possible connections formed between women because women talk…a lot!

The girl you are dating right now might know the girl you stare at during a boring lecture who sits two seats across from you in Biology class, the girl who lives in the dorm across the street from you and the girl who works behind the counter at the Starbucks you visit every day and so on.

Seriously, they are all connected in some way. That is why it is important to do your research and by that I don’t mean be a stalker. Also, I’m not trying to say that being a player is cool and to do your homework so you won’t get caught.

I’m trying to tell you a story…

I had this friend who lived on my dorm and he was dating a girl who lived on the other side of campus. He really liked her but about two weeks after they started dating, he was talking about how he liked this other girl on campus too. As time went on, he began to brag about how he now had two girlfriends and that was the man.

Well, let’s fast forward to around 5 days later; it was a Wednesday and he comes into the dorm looking mortified as if his Xbox 360 was thrown out of the 2nd floor window by his dorm mate. Someone asked him what was wrong and he said that his girlfriend(s) dumped him. Of course, we had to know how it happened because he just got dumped twice in one day!

He went on to say that both girls knew each other. Not only that they lived in the same dorm and were in the same Prayer Group (a weekly meeting in LU dorms when the dorm is broken into groups of 5 or more students who come together for a spiritual meeting kind of like a mini-bible study every Tuesday night).

During their Prayer Group the night before, both talked about how blessed they were to have a great guy in their lives. The other girls in the group asked who their boyfriends were and the girls were shocked to discover that they were dating the same guy! Needless to say my friend did not have the best reputation with any girl on campus from that point on.

The lesson of this story illustrates the importance of trust, honesty and commitment in a relationship. If you are not satisfied with the person you are dating it is better to be honest and breakup with them instead of cheating on them.

If you are thinking about cheating on the person you are dating (this goes for guys AND girls), just think about the repercussions of your decision before making it. Trust me, if you are doing right in a relationship with someone you won’t have time to be messing around with somebody else on the side.

Not to mention you will not only being hurting the emotions of the person you were dating in the first place, but you’ll make the person you were cheating with feel like a “side chick” (if she doesn’t know about the person you were dating to begin with). Do you remember the reason you got into a relationship to begin with?

If you started dating someone for the right reasons; you felt that this person is someone who you can connect with on an emotional level, brings out the best in you and you both really care about each other. Why would you be willing to throw it all away on some emotions you get just by looking at another person?

College Dating #3: Compromise But Don’t Settle!

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College is supposed to be the best years of your life when you get a small taste of life outside of your parent’s house and start to discover who YOU are as a person. Relationships can be a plus but of course there is a lot of compromise. I’ll get into that in Part 4 of my college dating blogs. This blog (Part 3) is going to be about compromising your standards and Part 4 will cover compromising with your significant other.

All too often when you are in a crowded environment for a long period of time (especially one filled with couples), you’ll start to feel the lonely part of being single. I can talk about this from experience being in a place like Liberty University. Most colleges have that famous slogan; “Ring by spring!” or “Ring by spring or your money back!”

Well, I’ve been at Liberty for 3 springs and let me tell you I haven’t met a woman who I felt strong enough feelings for to hand over a ring nor have I seen one sign of getting my money back!

In any case, LU was a college that really seemed to PUSH relationships. I’d say the last couple of semesters have been a bit calmer in that regard. That was not the case in 2011-2012 because it seemed that every person that spoke at convocation or Campus Church was there “preaching” about relationships or marriage.

There was one pastor who gave a piece of advice that I put into practice the night that I heard him say it at a Wednesday night service. He said that we should all take out a piece of paper and make a list. Writing down everything that you’d expect from your future wife or future husband and I wasted no time in writing down the qualities of my future wife.

When I finished, I made another copy and folded it up into my wallet. As time went on, if I had been seeing a girl for awhile or even ones that I talk to on a normal basis, I’d do a mental checklist of which qualities they had that was on my list.

After a few months, I decided to look over my list again. You know that feeling you get when you get back a graded paper and it was a lower grade than what you expected? That was kind of how I felt when I looked at my list again. Some of things on it were probably a little unrealistic in terms of what to expect out of someone that I’d like to spend the rest of my life with.

Thinking back to that church service, the pastor said that we needed to be careful of writing things down like; they have to be rich, good looking, etc. Because those kinds of things are more about selfish desires rather than true love and he was absolutely right.  I spent that night redoing the list and making it more about the personal qualities rather than physical or material qualities.

I must say that I met a few girls who were very compatible with the list that I made but certain circumstances made any chance of a relationship not possible; home states, career goals, how many kids we wanted and things of that nature that would be important if we were going to consider getting married in the future.

However, I feel alright about it because I know that I am looking for REAL love not just an artificial love based on looks.

As times goes on, it is easy to stumble and just fall into a relationship instead of falling in love. When you are constantly the third wheel when a friend invites you out with their girlfriend/boyfriend and you are just “there” or when everywhere you turn you see couples cuddling and you are alone…it starts to get to you. Then you’ll just find the first person who looks at you and say “I want THEM!”

That is a mistake because you are using a relationship as a way of avoiding loneliness. I’ll tell you one thing; you will feel lonelier in relationship with the wrong person than you will while you are single.

It is alright to say “Well this person doesn’t have every item of my quality list, but they come really close!” Seriously, you will probably never find that person who is 100% of what you are looking for relationship-wise. I don’t call that settling, I call that being realistic.

Why would you turn down someone who was “scored” a 96% on your Quality List for someone with good looks but they got a 54%? That doesn’t make any sense at all!

Just remember that settling and realistic are two different things. Either one can make or break a relationship. Consider what you want in a person and how they stack up in terms of your expectations. Trust me, a relationship based on that is probably going to last longer than one just to make you feel less lonely.

College Dating #2; Ladies Be Reasonable

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This is one subject that can get a bit touchy but it is something that I could not avoid talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, in a relationship I believe it is proper for the man to take out his girlfriend for a nice dinner or buy her something nice. However, it should not be something that is expected to be done numerous times. Why? Both individuals are in college and the last time I checked it isn’t the most inexpensive place to be in today’s world.

With rising tuition each semester, student loans, buying books, housing fees, buying gas (if the student has a car) and all the other things that take money out of a student’s wallet it is hard to keep a woman happy while in college. If women would be a bit more understanding then a lot of relationships would go a lot smoother.

I know times are tough after a long week of classes involving quizzes, exams, projects and of course the stress that comes along with that. Not to mention if one or both of the people in a relationship have jobs on top of that it just adds on to the daily demands already put into place from being a college student. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all with your man especially if the two of you haven’t been spending a lot of quality time together due to demanding schedules.

College relationships seem to be a “test” as to how two individuals would handle marriage when you really think about it. I’ve never been married but just from observation and talking with people I know who are in relationships some of the same factors are evident.

Here are a few of the similarities:

  • Bringing the stress from work or school into the relationship by taking those aggressive feelings out on each other often resulting in arguments due to misplaced anger
  • The relationship can sometimes get a bit stale with the same old routine over and over again. Don’t be afraid to spice up the relationship with something new. Instead of a movie go out dancing or just do something that you’ve never done before
  • Money can be an issue but only if you let it. Despite not being married, keeping a budget (and this goes for the men) is important because the school cafeteria and coupon dinners won’t keep a woman satisfied if this happens EVERY date night
  • The guy or girl may feel neglected if work and school seems to come in between them with dates having to be rescheduled due to demanding work schedules or exams/projects to work on

I know the last one listed above is true for guys who have girlfriends in the nursing program or ladies with a boyfriend studying law, those majors have a demanding schedule and it is not uncommon for person to feel a bit neglected. However, making time for one another is a topic I’ll cover in Part 3 of my “College Dating” blogs.

Ladies, sometimes it is best to keep things simple when it comes to date night with your man. As I mentioned above, there are many things that can cause stress and exhaustion while in college. Some nights it would do some good just to spend time with your man. Go out to a place off campus to get away from all of the distractions, look at the stars and just talk. Remember that old saying “Simplicity is best” and when it comes to love that really does apply. Those moments when the two of you can get away from everything so you can be together means more than anything he can buy you (ladies could argue that a wedding ring would mean more but that’s just based on opinion).

Overall, just remember that you are not the only one with a demanding schedule in college. If your boyfriend truly cares about you he will bend over backwards trying to make you happy. Also consider his feelings too, maybe he had rough day at work or a tiresome week of classes and he needs some attention. Just like text messages, phone calls or social media messages/conversations; it works BOTH ways. He doesn’t always have to be the first one to contact you. As a man, I can say that those little “I love you” or “Good morning” messages mean just as much to us as it does for females because it shows that you care. With that in mind, ladies PLEASE try to be a bit more reasonable when it comes to the dating expectations of your man especially while you are still in college.

College Dating #1: Finding the Right Love at the Wrong Time

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How many times in life have you had this thought go through your mind; “If only I had met him/her at a different point in my life, maybe things would have worked out between us…”

Coming out of college in May and only being 21, I’m surprised at the number of times I’ve caught myself thinking about this late at night. I mean high school is a lot different than college. Not just in general, but I mean in terms of relationships.

Honestly, in high school a lot of people date each other just to date each other, form a relationship and usually break it off before or soon after graduation. In college, it is a whole new concept because typically in college you do not just date to date. More often than not when you are looking for someone to form a relationship with it is usually with someone you plan to spend the rest of your life with.

In conversations with women at Liberty, it was not uncommon for me to talk about things I never had to discuss while I was in high school especially on a first date or during a general conversation with a friend who was a female;

  • Where do you see yourself after you graduate?
  • In 5 years, what do you see yourself doing?
  • What goals do you have?
  • What career are you going for?
  • Do you plan to stay in your home state/region or move somewhere else?
  • How many kids do you want?
  • What religion do you practice?
  • What political party do you stand for?

And the list goes on because it might sound strange but dating in college is kind of like applying for a job. You have to have your “interview skills” intact because you need to be prepared for the standard questions that are asked by someone who is interviewing you for a potential position in a company. In a dating concept, men and women are “applying” for a potential position as a husband or wife without even knowing it.

I know that might sound ridiculous but just think about it; Women are tricky when it comes to this because just a job interview, they may throw in one or two questions that you didn’t prepare yourself for or you can’t give a straight answer to and I’ve seen a lot of guys get thrown off and not get called back for a second interview.

Looking back at some of the girls that I met in college, I’ve come to realize that the reason most of those friendships never blossomed into anything more was because we were both at different points in our lives or wanted different things:

  • She saw herself living somewhere that I didn’t want to move to
  • I wanted to wait for kids but she wanted kids right away
  • She felt called to travel overseas on mission trips while I wanted to stay in the states
  • I was ready for a relationship but past baggage kept her from wanting one

Now I’m not picking on women when I say these things, it comes down to me being male and saying things from a male perspective. I’m sure many of the women reading this are going;

“Well there was a guy but it turns out that he didn’t want kids at all! There was a guy I dated for 2 years but he never proposed because he had his heart broken before! I knew a man who wanted to go on mission trips but I wanted to stay in Utah!”

I know it is not just women who have baggage or are the ones who do not think a relationship can last due to certain circumstances. It all comes down to where both of you are in life at the time you are dating or are planning to date. Not only that, what you want and what you expect of each other is also a deciding factor.

There will always be that one person who crosses your mind from time to time. Let’s call that person “What might have been…” and that person is someone that shows up a lot for some people. It is important to not let relationships that “could have been” interfere with the relationships you are in now and the ones you certainly will have in the future.

Who knows that one person you thought was the one for you but was not due to it not being the right time might show up sometime down the road. There may be potential to start a relationship if both of you are finally at good places in your lives and can finally be together. Only time will tell that tale.