Callie and Gavin

Image 1 of Callie Grace and Gavin

How We Met

Gavin and I met our freshman year of college when we signed up for the same theatre class. I was taken with him immediately- a quiet music major who looked at me like he couldn’t look away and honestly, neither could I. It would take 7 years of chemistry before either of us were brave enough to do anything, but I think this is where a line from ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ becomes relevant. We accept the love we think we deserve. It turns out I didn’t think I deserved all that much. As it turns out, neither did he. While neither of us ended up majoring in theatre, the class we had taken together our first year made such an impact that we went on to work on several projects for the department together throughout our time in college. While we were never single at the same time, being around him always gave me butterflies that I couldn’t explain. Unfortunately I have struggled with an eating disorder since my teens, and each year of college I grew sicker and sicker. After we graduated and parted ways, I went on to spend the next 4 years in and out of treatment centers and hospitals- spending silent Thanksgivings with portioned-out potatoes, Christmas under makeshift trees, and ringing in each new year praying that the next year I would be out in the world wearing a sparkly dress and toasting to having made it to the other side. I had just about lost hope for making it to age 25 when Gavin and I reconnected. From the moment we saw each other again, we knew our time had finally come. “I’m in love with you,” he said after it had been 2 weeks before adding “I’ve always, always loved you.” While being with each other felt so natural, the severity of my eating disorder made our day to day circumstances very difficult.

Image 2 of Callie Grace and Gavin

Image 3 of Callie Grace and Gavin

I was so sick that I was practically in a revolving door to the ER. Three months into our relationship, my body gave out, and Gavin and I flew to a specialized center, Denver ACUTE where I could be re-fed and medically stabilized. It was my 7th treatment center and even though I felt like I was going through the motions much of the time, I learned something I hadn’t before. I’ve spent so many years trying to get rid of the qualities that (so to speak) fed my eating disorder. Perfectionism, endurance, determination, push-the-limit defy-gravity mentality. I finally realized that while these characteristics got me there, they were the exact same ones that were going to get me out. I just needed to channel the strength in a different direction. It wasn’t the smoothest ride. I did EMDR and I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. I tried ice cream for the first time and relied on Gavin more than he will ever be able to know. I considered giving up an average of 12 times a day and put in so many two week notices that one of the therapists told me I was wasting paper, and just granted me a permanent one. Despite the bumpy road, Gavin never wavered. He held my hand through heart monitors IV’s and unknown, to a residential treatment center, and all the way to outpatient.

Image 4 of Callie Grace and Gavin

He read every bit of literature he could find and showed up for every support group that each of the facilities had to offer. Today, I am healthy and happier than I ever imagined I could be- and Gavin is a monumental part of that. We are only mature versions of who we were when we first met. Gavin followed his music dreams to graduate school, and now is the assistant choral director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. He still looks at me the same way as he did when we first met, and I do the same. Inspired by all of the help I was fortunate enough to receive, I am currently earning my dual M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy and Art Therapy. All of these incredible progressions bring to mind Nayyirah Waheed, and what she once said when someone asked her what love feels like. She said “Like everything I’ve ever lost coming back to me.” I want this to be a message to anyone who is struggling that it gets better. You are beautiful and capable and will find healing the validation you have always needed- perhaps where and when you least expect it. I have a sneaking feeling the strength has been in you all along. I know it feels impossible, but try to trust the people you care about. They may show up in every way you could ever hope for. Most of all, love wins over any illness.

Image 5 of Callie Grace and Gavin

Image 6 of Callie Grace and Gavin

how they asked

Gavin and I weren’t able to make dinner plans on our anniversary because we were both working late. Gavin suggested I join him for his GMCLA choir rehearsal so that we would be able to at least spend some time together. Upon my arrival, I listened to Gavin making general announcements. All seemed normal until he explained that it was our anniversary and the piano accompanist began playing one of ‘our’ songs and Gavin asked me to join him on the platform.

Image 7 of Callie Grace and Gavin

The song is called ‘Not Afraid’ by Michael Arden- the whole theme being I am not afraid to love you, no matter what. Soon, the choir started harmonizing to the song. It turns out that Gavin had transcribed the music by hand and the chorus had been practicing for weeks.

Image 8 of Callie Grace and Gavin

Image 9 of Callie Grace and Gavin

Despite this, I truly thought he was singing to me because it was our anniversary until he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Even though we had gone through so much, he explained our year together had been the best of his life, and nothing he had ever done has made more sense.

Image 10 of Callie Grace and Gavin

Image 11 of Callie Grace and Gavin

After I said yes, he had me asked me to turn around and both of our families were standing there- even mine that had flown in from Oregon. It was the sweetest, most magical moment of my life that the people that love us the most were able to witness such a special moment.

Image 12 of Callie Grace and Gavin

I could not be luckier to spend my life with someone who not only has supported my recovery, but is more thoughtful and talented than I could ever have imagined. He is the one that helped me make it possible to finally wear that sparkly dress on new years and plan for the future. There is no one else that I would rather share it with.

Image 13 of Callie Grace and Gavin

Image 14 of Callie Grace and Gavin

Our Video

Special Thanks

Greg Zabilski
 | Photographer
taylor grzechowiak
 | Videographer