Ryan and Jerrica

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How We Met

I was 21, an Irish college student in America and had begun my first year on a soccer scholarship in the States. After a bad year in California, I move to the Deep South to Tennessee, to East Tennessee State University and not really knowing what to expect. My first semester I lived on campus. Before I knew it the summer came and the summer holidays meant id be going home. Myself and two mates found off campus housing across the road in stunning apartments which we leased for the coming year. By the time August came, I moved back to the states and on the very very first day of moving into the new apartments August 21st 2011, I saw the most stunning girl. Amidst the madness of paperwork and crowds of college students frantically trying to push their way closer to moving into the new apartments, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She was just beautiful. For days, weeks and to be honest months, I kept talking about her, but being quite shy around women, I never was able to pluck up the confidence to be able to talk to her. She had taken part time work in the apartment building head office as a means to pay for her rent while studying. This meant that she was in the office on a regular basis.

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Fortunately for me, the gym and games room were also in the office building which meant I was able to get another look at her on a near daily basis (not that it helped me to talk to her!) I would notice though on occasion that when I was in the gym, through the glass windows, sometimes id catch her and a couple of the other staff looking in at me. I guess I never pieced together that there was a possibility that she may have liked me! Another semester flew by and still I hadn’t been able to talk to her. January came around and I had just been through a huge hip surgery and was hobbling about on crutches for about two months. Jerrica would always open the heavy glass office doors for me when she would see me and still I could never find it in me to ask her out. This all changed on one Monday evening.

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Myself and the soccer team had booked out the cinema room in the main building where the office was on the Sunday for a Fifa tournament and general bonding. The following day, on returning to my apartment, my two roommates told me that when we had left and taken the play-station back to the apartment, we had forgotten one of the cables. For some reason, I saw this as my opportunity, maybe it was the final excuse I needed to go and just talk to Jerrica! I quickly changed and got on my crutches and hobbled on my way back to the office. I made my way into the cinema area and was going over what I would say in my head….until from nowhere, Jerrica came to the door and said “you are literally so beautiful, every time I see you it makes my day” I was speechless. Genuinely speechless. At that moment she got pulled away to deal with a customer and I was left wondering what the hell had just happened. I had to convince myself over and over again that she had in fact just said those words and that I wasn’t losing my head.

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After months of going through hard times with my hip surgery, and the disappointments of not being able to play and train, she was the one thing that managed to lift me on a daily basis. A reason to smile, a reason to be happy. The following couple of days, when playing pool up in the apartment clubhouse, I got chatting to Jerrica and asked her out. We went on our first date, albeit after some phone trouble, and it was the most special day. It really went so well. We talked so freely, we laughed and I knew she was just something so special. I remember being nervous at dinner and so much so that I didn’t eat a bite of my food, telling her when she asked why, that I had just had a protein shake so was full! haha Time just flew by in her company. Before we realized, the semester was coming to a close, which meant Id be going home for the summer.

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We took our relationship to the next level and became boyfriend and girlfriend on April 10th 2012. We spent every single day together over that couple of months from late February. We would just lay together watching TV, smiling at each other and just getting to know each other. I knew that we were developing an extremely strong friendship which was of course the backbone for the relationship we have today. I fell in love with her. I absolutely fell in love with her. The hard part was going home for the summer, but knowing we were a proper couple by this stage gave me less to worry about. Summers can break relationships, but for me I thought we were solid enough to make it through some distance apart. For Jerrica this was a huge step to take Being from a smaller area in Tennessee, lots of people end up staying in the same area, marrying old high school sweethearts or getting with the guy from down the road.

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To start a relationship with someone from the other side of the world, not knowing what the future would hold was a big step to take, but my God I couldn’t be happier she did. Little did I know, but five years later we would be engaged and as happy as we could ever imagine. After being home for 3 weeks, I knew I wanted to shorten my original 9 week summer in Ireland down. I re-booked my flight and made my way back to Tennessee after 6 weeks. We were able to relax through the summer, enjoy each others company and soak up the sun on a daily basis. These were some of our happiest memories together, and to think we have come five years since then makes me smile.

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Its certainly been a tough road for us at times, particularly having to deal with long distances on multiple occasions due to work commitments. That same summer, chilling by the pool, I developed a love for country music and appreciated that Jerrica was in love with Carrie Underwood. This was a no brainer for me to find concert tickets for her upcoming birthday! Luckily for me, 4 weeks after Jerrica 21st, Carrie Underwood would perform in Nashville, Tennessee. It was perfect. She smiled the entire night, and to see her that happy just made me feel the luckiest guy in the world. We would go on to share many more months of pure happiness together until graduation in December 2013. This meant we would be heading into the unknown. I was due back to the UK for football trials which was all an uncertainty over when and where I would end up. In terms of a timeline, we didn’t have one, and that was tough. After 6 months I settled down in Ireland where Jerrica would then come to visit for 2 months.

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We journeyed up and down the country showing her the sights and showing her my home, where I grew up and giving her a real sense of who I am. She loved it from start to finish. I stayed on for another season which now meant that we had an opportunity to apply for a visa for Jerrica which we got. She moved to Ireland with me, and we set up home on the west coast and had some of the happiest times together. Having a place to call home, and having your best friend along side you when you needed them most was the best feeling I could hope for. Unfortunately, just when we were settled and enjoying ourselves it all ended. I decided not to stay on and wanted to explore other options with my career so Jerrica moved back to the states where she started a new job. As a result of her getting a great job in medical sales, we opted to do distance until we were able to get something more permanent together. For 18 months now we had been doing distance. At one point only getting to see each other for 6 weeks out of a full year. While people doubted us and doubted that It would all work out, we never had to have a conversation about any of this. We have remained so positive with everything and known that if we made it though all of this, eventually when we are settled together, all issues will seem so small. This was the hurdle in our relationship that would make us the strong couple we are today. Having to wait for a couple of trips to see each other in the year has been extremely hard, not for any other reason but the fact that we want to be together, we want to laugh together and we want to be a couple together. Having a small window off opportunity to see each other during the summer means we have to make the most of it. We pack so much in, weather I fly out to the states and spend time with Jerrica and her family, or her coming here, we make the most of every second. This summer would prove no different….

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how they asked

Knowing there was limited opportunity to see each other during the summer, we planned a getaway to Estepona, Spain. 45 minutes south of Malaga on Spains sunny southeast. I had a week off from football so we were able to plan in advance the dates etc to fly. Having spent a week here two summers ago, Jerrica fell in love with the place. She had never been to Spain before, so to be able to show her the place I spent so much time in as a kid was special. My family have had a home in Estepona for 30 years, and with 4 sisters and a brother we spent the entire summers down there from when I was a baby until I was about 18. I have so many memories there and its a place that means a lot to me.

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To have Jerrica there two years ago was special, but for her to fall in love with the place added to it. It was the perfect place for something special. Two months ago, I had the tickets booked and we were ready to rock. Now the planning had kicked off. I wanted to do something memorable, something that I wouldn’t change. It had to be the proposal that she would never forget. I decided that I wanted to make the most of the stunning Spanish coast, and to do so, I looked into yacht hire. After weeks of research and emailing, I found the one. I made contact and explained my plan and the rest was history. The yacht was now sorted, complete with champagne and some snacks. The plan was boxed off and now it was the waiting game. I had two months to wait, knowing full well what I had planned. It was so hard not telling anyone or letting anything slip. The time came. Jerrica arrived on the Monday morning from the states where we were able to spend just the day in Ireland before making our way out to Spain. By the afternoon on Tuesday we were laying on the beach soaking up the sun loving the fact that we were finally together and without any distractions.

On Wednesday the 7th June, the ocean looked so peaceful. At one point Jerrica commented and said “god it looks so nice, it would be amazing to be out on a boat out there” Little did she know, that is exactly what was about to happen. After spending the afternoon at the beach, we made our way back to the house to freshen up for dinner. I had suggested we go back down to the port to have a walk around the boats before getting a nice meal in a restaurant that I had found. We were looking forward to a good meal out, and trying a new restaurant too, so as far as she was concerned there was nothing different going on. We showered up and made our way down to the port and enjoyed a nice walk around the boats and the marina. It was a beautiful evening with the sun still shining strongly down on us, reflecting off the perfectly still water. At 8pm, we walked towards another row of yachts and at that very point, the captain that I had been in communication with, Robert, spotted me.

He walked towards us and introduced himself and scanned us through the security gate. Jerrica literally looked lost as she had no idea what was happening! It was brilliant. We got to the end of the row and at that point I said to her, “I know you’ve no idea whats going on but I’ve a surprise for you. Were heading out on the boat” She just smiled and laughed a little as she really was a little speechless. We got on board and settled in nicely at the back of the yacht. We set sail out of the port looking back over the stunning landscape behind us, looking at the sun sitting above the mountains casting shadow so nicely onto the water. I slipped the captain a USB stick full of our favorite music from when we first started dating, from that summer in 2012 when we spent so much time by the pool just relaxing. It just set the mood nicely, we were both so relaxed and excited to be on a lovely boat in the Mediterranean. I was looking at the surroundings and trying to figure out where and when would be the ideal time to drop to one knee. I decided to wait until we had turned the bow of the ship towards the coastline which would mean a perfect sunset would be in full view, along with the sails in full flow as they caught the light breeze. With he gentle splash of the waves against the boat, and soft music in the background I thought to myself, “right, its not going to get any better than this” and so I asked Jerrica to come and sit beside me at the side of the boat. Now, every year of our relationship, I have written Jerrica a letter. Ill also write them for special occasions like birthdays etc but will always have one for an anniversary.

For our fifth year anniversary this past April 10th, I sent her a letter titled year one. She loved it, and the thought behind it was that she would then receive year two a couple of weeks later followed by year three etc. So, as you may have guessed, I still had not given her year five yet. As we sat on the side of the boat looking at the picture perfect sunset over the mountains, I began to tell her how much she means to me, and how lucky I have been to have had her in my life this past five years. Then, as she smiled at me I handed her the letter titled year 5. In the letter, I explained how proud I was of her for staying so positive through all of the hard times and how much I appreciated all of her support through my difficult times. She makes me laugh, she makes me smile, she understands me and she supports me.

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I told her, that for five years Ive been so lucky to have all of this, and to have a best friend to spend so much time with. The final line of the letter read, “How does forever sound?” At that point I dropped to my knee and asked her to marry me! She said yes! And I could not have been any more beaming with happiness and pride! She was now my fiancé and had made me the happiest man in the world.

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For all of the planning and fine details that were involved in planning the proposal, I genuinely could not have imagined for it to have gone as well as it did. There is not one single minute out of the day that I would change. Not one. She looked absolutely stunning, and with a beautiful smile from start to finish. All I know is that its a day in my life that ill never forget, and from what she has been saying every hour of every day since the proposal, she won’t forget it any time soon either!

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