Where to begin...
I didn’t have that many crushes growing up. I was very picky. I also just felt crushes and dating were generally stupid before high school. It felt like a bunch of kids trying to find ways to feel more adult and get their first kiss over with. Yea, not interested. I was far from boy crazy. I had better things to do.
When I got to high school, I had a really hard time. I wasn’t ready for my anxiety to sky rocket like it did. I went out of district to Red Bank Regional High School so I could be a part of the vocal program. It was complete overload. On top of dealing with starting high school, I had never experienced public school or any of those kids before. Everything was completely new, and it was too much for me. Everyone I was meeting was nice to me, but I felt overwhelmingly isolated and alone, and when I was seeing my Rockit friends outside of school, the feeling didn’t go away, and I eventually slipped into depression in my freshman year.
I talk about Rockit in my music bio, if you want to check that out in “About,” but basically, Rockit was a music program I participated in for the majority of my childhood. My best friends that I still have today came out of that program. I always knew that no matter what discomfort I was feeling in my life outside of Rockit, I would feel ok at rehearsal with the people I loved most. But when high school started, I could escape the feelings I was feeling, and Rockit wasn’t what was changing. I was.
Technically, my deep rooted insecurity came out of behaviors I picked up in the 8th grade. I was putting too much weight on external things to give me self worth. In 8th grade, I was doing p90x daily and limiting my calories to 1000/day, lowering the count the next day if I went over the day before. I was the skinniest I had ever been, but I still wasn’t skinny and pretty like the “pretty” girls, so I would push myself harder, and harder. I didn’t know anything about body type, so I didn’t know no amount of abuse I put on myself would make me tall with smaller bones and longer legs.
When I got to high school, with all the pressure I was feeling, I was starting to gain weight back and I hated myself so much. I thought I was so ugly, and I started to dress like I thought that. I hid my body with sweat pants and t-shirts. I bought everything too big. I started thinking about how a boy would never love me. I didn’t deserve it and I didn’t see it for myself. For the first time, I cared about what boys thought. I was putting more value in external goals. Losing weight didn’t make me happy, but maybe having a boy tell me I was pretty will, even though I was farther away from getting one the more I acquired fat. I was 14 and that was the logic.
I started to realize that if I wanted the pain to stop, I had to do things to foster a healthy relationship with myself. I had to find a way to love myself. In sophomore year, our English curriculum had us going into philosophies and ideas I had never experienced. On my own and in the classroom, I was obsessing over the trancendentalist movement. I was exploring my spirituality independently for the first time. As a Catholic school student previously, spirituality wasn’t something I ever saw as me having a choice in exploring before. I know it sounds really lame, but developing a personal relationship with God and creating my own vision of what that is helped me feel less alone and lost. I started seeing so much beauty in the world, instead of just the suffering. I was confident again, and I didn’t need my body or a boy to define me anymore. I wasn’t looking for a significant other, let alone love, but isn’t how all these stories start?
Now, that is an over-simplification, especially when it comes to the complexity of dealing with mental illness, but we’re here to talk about my Tristan. I felt it necessary to set the scene of where I was, because where you are the moment you meet someone important matters. I also want it to be noted how important it is to love yourself before loving someone else. You’ll probably attract the best people into your life.
Technically, I met Tristan before I met Tristan. He was performing with another music school at a charity event Rockit was also performing at. His group went on right before us. Little did I know, Tristan had just auditioned for Rockit and was sticking around for our set. My mom, fortuitously, was standing right behind him and his mom the whole time. Apparently he enjoyed me. My mom said to me later, before she knew he would be in Rockit, “Alli, there was a cute boy in front of me and he could not stop watching you. He was so into it. You should date him.”
Ok, mom. I was back to having no time for boys and childish things.
After Tristan and I started dating, his mom later told mine that on the car ride home from that show, he told her, “Mom, it’s like when she sang, I couldn’t breath.”
Fast forward, Tristan made it into Rockit (obviously, because he’s an incredible guitar player, and probably the best I’ve ever met in my life. And I’ve met A LOT). He was put in an instrumental group, and typically our director would put me in that group for them to do one song with vocals. I walked into my first rehearsal with them for “Spoonman” by Soundgarden, and Tristan was so quiet with me, it was disturbing. Rockit was my home, and I wanted all new students to feel that way, so despite my quiet personality, I always tried to be welcoming. Tristan was unresponsive.
I pulled my friend aside, Christine, who was also in the band, and asked her if he was a quiet kid. She said, “Tristan?! What do you mean? He’s hilarious!”
I asked our director the same question, trying to see if Tristan was enjoying himself. He gave me the same response as Christine. I was confused and believed Tristan must not have liked me or something.
I was in an outside band at the time- outside meaning outside of Rockit. I started as a fill in, and then I became the vocalist. Crimson Sky was the name. I had recently lost one of my guitar players and needed a replacement. I was doing a gig with Crimson Sky and Tristan happened to show up with a mutual friend. My bassist’s dad was actually the one to get his phone number and approached him about our open position. Tristan was down for it, which I think was the first time I experienced someone enthusiastic about doing an outside project with me. I took advantage of the initimidation Tristan seemed to feel about me and used my new confidence to act boldly.
I asked him about writing together and he agreed. I’d always wanted someone to write with and I was still trying to find ways to get him to open up with me. I realize now after getting to know Tristan for so long that’s it’s a miracle we ended up together. He’s changed a lot over time, but he used to not put a lot of effort into seeing other people. He was a quiet homebody who like his alone time, but I didn’t know at the time how odd it was for him to agree to spending so much time with me. Then again, I certainly wasn’t like myself in meeting him either. It was like someone else took the wheel. I was forward and made most of the first moves. Both of us reached far outside our normal comfort zones so we could be together, even though I don’t think either of us expected that to happen or for us to still be doing this 5 years later. Something was bound to happen, and we didn’t want to miss it, I could feel it in my gut. I just had no idea what that was and he definitely did not either. Did I mention we are both also completely clueless when it comes to this stuff?
I invited him over to my house to write. We barely spoke to one another, but he wanted to be there and I wanted him there. I started talking to him on the phone more to set up more writing sessions and because I loved to talk to him. He told me I was beautiful and smart. He loved my sound and he thought I had something to say. He told me when I would come into the room or sing, I would make him smile bigger than he’s ever smiled before. He saw me the way I’d always wanted to be seen, and even further beyond that. He was all I’d ever dreamed of wanting out of any person, and even further beyond that.
In June 2013, I asked him to join me at a Buddy Guy show at the Count Basie Theatre. I considered that me asking him out, but my dad was there, so he will to this day deny that counts as me asking him out. We both had our Rockit auditions for the summer session that day, but his was much earlier. He stuck around the entire day, hanging out with friends, waiting for me to come. I sang “Shelter” by Tedeschi Trucks Band and looked out the window to see him standing with my sister watching and waiting for me. (If you know the song, it was very fitting and foreshadowing.) In person, he was still so quiet at this point, but his actions were loud. He came out to eat with my family and enjoyed the concert, even though I’m sure he wasn’t very comfortable, but he wanted to be with me.
It’s kind of wild. I was recently looking at my old high school journal (true cringe content) and there was an entry where I talked about how I pictured my first date. I wouldn’t do anything fancy. The person I cared about would be someone I could just lay with to watch my favorite movies. We wouldn’t have to say much, but he would hold me and I would feel safe and cared for. 14 year old Allison predicted 15 year old Allison’s First date exactly, even though it wasn’t a planned date and it just kind of turned into one. I know, it’s gross, but it’s true. I invited Tristan out to the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight with our Rockit friends, and he declined (we now now he is not a late night, group hang kind of guy), but we were still on for our writing session that night and we decided to watch the movie together since he had never seen it or understood the Rocky Horror experience. I brought us 2 separate blankets to watch, like an idiot, but I put my head on his shoulder. There was no going back now.
The next night, I had plans to go to a concert with a friend in Central Park. Cell service was shotty, but when were on our way out with better reception, I received a text from Tristan checking to see if my show was out because he wanted to know how it was and talk to me before bed. I couldn’t take it anymore between all the texting, twitter flirting, and my head to shoulder pillow move. I had to know what was going on. He had a lot of female friends at the time. I needed to know 2 things. 1) Was he just really nice and I was just another one of his girlfraaaaands? And 2) Do you like me or what? We are both completely oblivious people. I truly have no idea, besides Tristan, if any guy has ever been into me ever and Tristan, although very classically handsome and model looking, has no idea when he’s being hit on by a woman. That night, I got answers to both of my questions, and the rest is history.
Before I met Tristan, I was pretty much set on giving up on my dreams of finding a writing partner and I was even looking into not going into music college. I decided it was time to be self reliant and also listen to what other people were telling me and pick a different field of study in school. Tristan couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. He saved me. He came along and he was committed to me, excited about what I was doing, and he made me believe in my dreams again. He is my hero.
You want to know how we have made it half a decade? I don’t really have any idea, but I can give you a few in a part II if that’s something you’re interested in. I will say this, for now:
I can’t lie to you guys, love is not like it is in the movies. It’s so much better. Tristan is my best friend. He probably knows me better than anyone else. And he would probably say the same for me. (Probably with the exception of our moms.) All of this takes work, though. As incredible as finding someone you love is, it can also be very complicated. First of all, sure, from the objective perspective of rom-coms, falling in love is adorable. But when it’s happening to you, you have no idea what’s going on and it can be really awkward. Imagine also being young, both of you never before experienced a real relationship, and have virtually no idea how to navigate what’s happening. Another thing, they never do a checkup on the leading couple that lives happily ever after. STAYING together is work. It’s being willing to realize it’s not just your story, it’s that person’s story too. For example, you just read how my relationship started. Tristan’s account is probably completely different, even though we were part of the same experience. You have to be willing to see things someone else’s way and that can be hard. I know there are people who look and Tristan and me from the outside and feel #couplegoals, but this takes communication, compromise, and compassion. Oh, and a lot of patience. Like, a lot. That sounds obvious, but it doesn’t make it less difficult. Tristan and I have come to love each other so much because we have been willing to work through some things.
Bottom line, Tristan makes me laugh. He challenges me as a musician and a person. I want to be as carefree as he is when I grow up. I want to be as focused and driven. He stands by me and understands me when I’m not at my best. He is strong where I am weak, and he is weak where I am strong. We balance each other perfectly in our difference, and yet somehow are still one in the same. He is my person. I’ve learned how to love and how I deserve to be loved. I believe people are brought into our lives for a reason. Our relationship definitely seemed destined. Tristan and I have been just missing one another our entire lives, and when we came together, there was no denying we could not spend anymore time apart. I don’t know what lies ahead, but no matter what, this relationship has been incredibly successful, and there will always be a space in my heart for him. Always.
I hope all of you experience a love as beautiful and unique as mine,