LOVE IS WORTH IT

We were 8 months pregnant and not a single person knew. We were entangled in a web of lies we had woven and in an instant, our lives came crashing down. It was June of 1999, it was the first time I ever laid my eyes on her. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. I remember thinking to myself, “Damn, the guy who gets that girl is the luckiest guy in the world.” For six long months though, I could only admire her from afar. Finally, the semester’s wrapping up and I realized my time was now or never, so I slipped her a note asking for her phone number. As I watched her scribble something back, my heart was literally just beating right out my chest. I could only think of the worst-case scenario. Instead, written there in beautiful handwriting was her phone number. We exchanged many calls that lasted all night through to the early morning, and with a little bit of magic, we began dating. And that was just the beginning of our journey together. One year later, Emily was eight months pregnant and not a single person knew. It was her best-kept secret but also the worst kind to have. Emily was small and wore big sweaters to cover up the bump. We were young, naive and clueless teenagers. We had some of the toughest conversations of our lives during this period. It didn’t get any easier from there though. We made the very difficult decision to put our unborn son up for adoption. We had several meetings with the local adoption agency, meetings where we sifted through, profiles of potential parents. A couple of strangers would be reaping the rewards of our unplanned pregnancy. They would be happy parents and we would not be parents. At 19, a part of me felt light, relieved from the pressures and responsibilities, but the other part of me felt very heavy. I was weighed down by these deep senses of guilt, shame, and regret. The day came for us to finally sign the adoption papers, but before doing so we met Emily’s doctor for her routine appointment, and what the doctor said next would forever change the course of our future. “Emily, your baby’s too small. You need to stay at the hospital until you give birth.” There is now no choice but to reveal our year-long secret. It was time to tell her parents. And they were not happy, to say the least. Her mom is very traditional East Asian and wanted a dowry in exchange for her daughter. She asked for two goats. Where I was supposed to find two goats? Ultimately, with the love and support of our families, we decided to keep our son. We would be happy parents after all. Sometimes what seems insurmountable at the moment may end up being one of life’s greatest blessings. I’m a testament to that. 17 years ago, I was scared, and I doubted myself every single day because I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to be a good father. And now, I’m so proud to be standing on this stage to be able to share my story with my son who is in attendance tonight. He has no idea how many times he’s pulled me out of the darkest moments of my life with his love and his laughter. I see a part of me in him, and I’m credibly proud of the man he is becoming. Better not be bringing home any baby just yet though. As for my high school sweetheart, there are simply no words for me to describe how much love I have for her. We’ve been together for almost 18 years and now have two more beautiful sons. And even though she’s the last person in the world who’d watch a horror movie with me, she’ll always be the first to laugh at my dad’s jokes. Definitely worth more than two goats. I’ve often heard that to make a relationship work, it needs to be 50/50 but I’ve learned that is absolutely not true. Because love is hard, love is stupid, love is messy, love is blind, love is painful, but in spite of all this, love is still so worth it. Love is when you give 100% and expect zero in return because if Emily and I haven’t given each other everything we had all of these years, those two young teenage parents would’ve never made it here today. Almost two decades ago, remember what I said? The guy who gets that girl is the luckiest man in the world. Who would have ever thought that it would be me?