I slipped out of work early to meet him near Columbus Circle. He said he wanted to take me somewhere.
“Maybe that concert in the park,” I told my co-workers on my way out the doors. But I had a sneaking suspicion it was something even better.
We hailed a cab and when we arrived, he pulled me into an elevator at the World Trade Center, rising 1,700 feet above Manhattan. The doors opened and he took me to the edge of the lookout. ‘Marry me,’ he said.
But rewind. It’s 2009 and I’m 21 years old. I just got dumped by the do-gooder boy I thought I was going to marry, and I’m playing Taylor Swift’s latest single on repeat like it’s a narcotic. I’m set to graduate and wondering what to do with my literature degree, which had offered just what it promised: a shelf of used books and a slew of student loans.
It was a breaking point for me and even now, looking back, I can’t say exactly why. But if I had to boil it down to one thing, I’d say that my unhappiness mainly stemmed from the belief that my life should be different than it was. And if I was being honest with myself (which at times like these, we never are), I would say that because the plan I had for my early twenties had been changed, I saw myself as a failure.
But standing here today, in front of this amazing man asking me to marry him, I thought of that 21-year-old Rachel. If I could, I would have visited that lost girl and told her that if it isn’t time, it isn’t damn time. That she has so many things to accomplish before that moment, and that happily ever after will begin far before a man is by her side.
I would tell her that she will move to New York, make friends who are by no exaggeration the coolest humans ever, come to learn what the term ‘night life’ really means, help kick-start an women organization, start dancing again, film a documentary, travel to three new countries, live in London, get a Master’s degree, become a magazine editor, and Rory her way through to a satisfying journalism career where she will change lives. She needed a hero, so that’s what she became.
And then I would tell her that nine years later at a crowded rooftop party, a man would walk into her life and make her see why it didn’t work out with anybody else. And all the heartbreak and the blunders and the awkward first dates will be worth it. Because she never gave up hope. And, I would tell her, one fine day at the edge of a very tall building, she will say yes to forever with him.
Photography by the talented Sarah Wight.