Every Christmas Eve my family gathers to enjoy a large meal of appetizers and sweets, and then huddles under blankets on the couch to enjoy a holiday film festival, ending with the classic “White Christmas.” As the credits roll, we gather around the Christmas tree and exchange small presents.
Five years ago, this tradition changed my life.
My partner Carlos traveled from Texas to Philadelphia to spend Christmas with my family. We visited Christmas Village, an authentic German Christmas market in Center City, saw light shows, baked and made ornaments.
On Christmas Eve, I was able to share my family’s most cherished traditions with him. When the movie ended, we all got up to give gifts.
Before we could, Carlos wanted to perform an acoustic version of “our” song, Sleeping with Sirens’ James Dean and Audrey Hepburn. He and my sister grabbed their guitars and played while I sang.
After the final chords hung in the air, Carlos reached under our Christmas tree. I was about to ask him what he was doing when he presented me with an ornament I had never seen before: a clear orb with snow on the bottom and a white gold ring hanging in the center. As my eyes traveled from the ring to him, I saw that he was down on one knee.
The cliche of it all never entered my mind, but then again, neither did getting married. Aside from my maternal grandparents, I hadn’t seen many happy marriages growing up. A few of my friends’ parents had divorced, and when I was a teenager, my parents were temporarily separated.
But the lack of successful marriages I saw growing up isn’t why we aren’t married yet. Unfortunately, being married as a college student can disrupt financial assistance. If I were to get married in college, I would have to report both our incomes on my Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which could lower my total aid. I also can’t afford to lose delayed repayment plan options for my student loans, which is likely for students who get married in college.
While finances are crucial to student success, so is focus. Like many of my peers, I am balancing academics with a job, being part of student organizations, and commitments to family and friends, all while trying to stay sane and healthy. Throwing wedding planning into this mix would be like creating my own hurricane.
Thankfully, my fiancé has always been supportive of my ambitions. Carlos has seen me through my entire collegiate journey and was the first person I told that I was accepted to Temple. I’ll never forget him hugging me and shouting, “I’m going to marry an Owl!”
I’m extremely grateful that he’s willing to wait so I can achieve my dream of graduating college.
Even though we are not going to get married until I graduate from college, Carlos and I get to share another special milestone this Christmas: our first holiday season living together.
Getting to spend this and every Christmas watching “White Christmas” with him makes me confident that despite the marriages I saw growing up, together, we’ll create a good one.