Step 1: At 20 years old, break off your engagement to a religious fanatic after you start to question God’s existence. Realize that’s probably not going to work out so well.
Step 2: Pack the majority of everything you own into two large suitcases and a carry-on. In the darkness of the early Idaho morning with the clear stars guiding your travels, drive with your father to the Spokane International Airport where you will say goodbye and get on your first international flight alone. Move halfway across the world. Say adios, America. South Korea, here I come.
Step 3: Get to South Korea. Start a terrible new teaching job where you work ten hour days and cry quietly to your parents as you hide in the supply closet. As you open care packages from family, smell the autumn scented coffee beans and put together just how sad you are. Start to cry … a lot.
Step 4: Finally decide it’s time to move on from the religious fanatic and RSVP for an expat meet-up in your small town of 800,000 people. See on Facebook that a very cute guy also wants to attend this meet-up.
Step 5: Decide to stalk Very Cute Guy online.
Step 6: Finally meet him in person. Find out that he is Canadian, says “about” funny, and notice that his eyes are even more blue in person. Flirt too much over dinner, batting your eyelashes, flipping your long, dirty blonde hair, and swoon. Swoon hard.
Step 7: The next day, go to work. Have your frizzy, redheaded Canadian coworker tell you that you must contact him if you are interested. When she says this with conviction and knowledge, believe her, as this is some unspoken Toronto rule you do not know about.
Step 8: Decide to message him right then and there from the comfort of your small, dark cubicle. When he responds just as quickly, ask him too many personal questions that make you sound unstable, such as, “What do you want from life?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Feel excited and a bit relieved when he agrees to a date.
Step 9: Have a man spend the night at your apartment for the first time in your life.
Step 10: Have an awkward morning with Very Cute Guy. As you bumble about, making terrible coffee and dry scrambled eggs with depressing indie music on in the background, quickly realize you don’t know what to do with men the next morning.
Step 11: Feel grateful when he decides that he wants to go on a second date with you.
Step 12: Fall helplessly in love.
Step 13: Smile at him one morning when you’re sitting in his lap. As the autumn sun pours in through the apartment windows, he tells you that he loves you for the first time. Try to hide your surprise when you register how fast you’re moving. Forever remember how blue his eyes look and how scratchy his stubble feels under your soft hands as you whisper, “I love you too.”
Step 14: Freak the fuck out when he moves in even though you already talked about it.
Step 15: Adopt a small, fluffy, white dog together. Name it after a Harry Potter character and pretend like this is normal behavior for people who have been together for less than three months. Lie to yourself by thinking it’s technically your dog, right?
Step 16: Spend the rest of the year traveling the country together, having dumb fights, and spending too much money on one another. As you hold his hand in the frigid winter weather walking along the worn stone pathways of downtown Seoul, realize he might be “the one.”
Step 17: Make a huge scene at the Incheon International Airport when he leaves for the first time without you. Pretend not to notice all the onlookers on the subway home as fat tears fall down your face and your mascara runs. God… you will think looking back on that memory, that was embarrassing.
Step 18: Continue to say, “but I’m so ugly” when Very Cute Guy surprise proposes to you by coming home early from his boy’s trip to Vietnam. You’re wearing his baggy t-shirt and old workout shorts and are not prepared.
Step 19 – 21. Get a terrifying new job you aren’t qualified for and move to a new city together on the edge of Seoul. Explore new things and fall even more in love. Adopt one more dog in the process. Promise this one will be the last.
Step 22: Get married in his hometown of Hamilton, Canada over Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving. Have Very Cute Guy admit later that you were right. You should have just eloped.
Step 23: Decide it’s time to go back home after your boss tries to give your job away to a man at a bar. Take Very Cute Guy with you to Alaska.
Step 24: Convince Very Cute Guy you need one more dog. Promise this one will really be the last.
Step 25: Continue to get new jobs. Buy a house. Go through life as normal people do.
Step 26: Go to Anchorage for a hockey tournament with Very Cute Guy, now known as Very Cute Hockey Coach. As you watch the moms with their sons and daughters, start to comprehend how much you want a child. Decide when you both get back from your trip, it’s time to make a baby.
Step 26a: Get pregnant.
Step 27: Get a phone call from your doctor one rainy fall day as you both sit quietly in the car, your hands resting gently over your small, swollen belly. Convince yourself that everything is okay.
Step 28: Let Very Cute Guy hold you the next morning as you wake up and start crying, remembering you will no longer be a mom. Realize none of this will make sense.
Step 29: Go through life as normal. Let things slowly fall back into place.
Step 30: Visit Very Cute Guy’s family for Christmas break. Walk the blustery streets of downtown Toronto and start to feel whole. Decide it’s time to try again for a baby.
Step 31: Run home before Spring Parent Teacher Conferences to take a pregnancy test because you just have a good feeling this time. As the light pink lines start to appear on the plastic stick, cry tears of joy.
Step 32: Nine months later, have a horrendous five day labor that ends in a c-section. Try and forget the pain as you watch Very Cute Guy hold your new baby girl under the glow of hospital lights on Thanksgiving Day.
Step 33 – 34: Survive a pandemic with a newborn. Decide that isn’t enough stress. Pack up your most important belongings and move to your hometown of Juneau where you’ve always wanted your child to grow up. Watch your marriage crumble as you take care of a child while you work from home. Let time and space and daycare rebuild it.
Step 35: As the landscape turns into a palette of orange and yellow and brown, watch your redheaded toddler meander down the trails of Southeast Alaska. Listen to the Pacific Ocean as its waves touch the rocky shores and grab Very Cute Guy’s hand. In the bright afternoon sunshine, catch a glimpse of his blue eyes and feel the stubble on his cheek as your soft hands graze it.
Summer A.H. Christiansen is a writer, mother, and teacher residing on the land of the Auke Kwáan and Taku Kwáan in Juneau, Alaska. She is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop and has been published in Alaska Women Speak, Tidal Echoes, and Drizzle Review.