“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The black and white photo of my grandparents' wedding captures two strangers – a bride, hooked into a stiff corset gown, and a groom, rigid in a starched tuxedo – timidly posing beside each other.

They were not in love. 

Angered by the arranged marriage that ended her dreams of becoming a nurse, my grandmother Rose acted out in defiance. She would regularly go to sleep early, leaving only a cold dinner to greet my grandfather Ali after his long day of labor on an Iranian cotton plantation.

On their first anniversary, Rose awoke to find a brand-new oven glimmering in her kitchen. Ali had saved every penny during that first year to allow her to pursue her passion for cooking. Moved by the sacrifice that mirrored her own, Rose decided to put her individual self second for the most important thing of all – their relationship.

For years I took pride in the story of my grandparents' marriage, certain that I would stand ready to sacrifice for my relationships. That was until circumstance called upon me to actually do so: The man I love landed his dream residency across the country – a six-hour flight from me, my family, and my dream job. Could I, in reality, upend my careful plan and put my relationship first?

Fifty years later, I choose to use Rose’s sacrifice as my guidepost. I will resist the easier path – the default decisions – to put relationships second.  I will build a professional life around my most important relationships, not the other way around.

I want a life filled with colorful photographs posing beside the people I love.

 

— Neda Navab