Alyssa's engagement ring

Alyssa and Joshua #TheODMcNeils

Before I moved out of D.C., my Little turned to me and said: “you’re going to move to New Jersey, fall in love, get married and never move back.” I chuckled, slightly entertained the idea, and pushed it out of my mind. It clearly went from her mouth to God’s ears because a few weeks later I met Joshua.

As I got to know him I found him to be soft natured and shy when we were around big groups. Yet, when we were alone he was full of light and it was easy to make him laugh. His easygoing spirit was enough for me to deem him my “Long Distance Work Bae.” After the training, I told my best friend that there was this cute guy who was kinda shy but I liked flirting with him. Since we didn’t work in the same office building we gave him his nickname, formulated a plan for me to try and see him more often, and continued our conversation.

A few months later I agreed to “hang out” with him again. It was obvious that he was feeling me but, I hadn’t decided if I wanted to give him a shot. We planned to go to New York and visit a museum. A few hours before we were supposed to meet I got butterflies. I pushed it aside as me not wanting to go to a new city with someone I barely knew and changed the plan to go to lunch at a local pub. Josh showed up in business casual and was visibly nervous. We proceeded to have the worst date of both of our lives. The conversation kept stopping. I thought he talked too much so, childishly, I kept giving one-word answers to his questions. Most importantly, I found it weird that he didn’t fangirl over Beyoncé. He clearly wasn’t my type.

Yet, he kept reaching out to me. At first, I thought he was annoying. But, our text conversations were some of the best I had ever had. Over text, he was thoughtful, funny, and instantly understood why I was struggling at work without me having to explain in detail. I decided to chuck our “hanging out” to nerves and figured when I saw him I would flirt for fun but it would never go anywhere.

Eventually, I moved to Florida and he moved to Philadelphia. My time alone in Florida was one of the most transformative periods of my life. I was forced to work on all the rough edges of personality, confront my depression and anxiety, work two jobs, live by myself in a city I barely knew, get my blog off the ground, and find ways to love myself when every day my brain was telling me that it wasn’t even worth it. I don’t think there are words to describe how hard it was. As I was going through the growing pains of making a better Alyssa, I became emotionally unavailable for a lot of people in my life; including Joshua.

Yet, the “just checking in on you” texts kept coming. I started finding excuses to ask him for help at work just to have a reason to smile in the middle of the day. I remember regularly updating my friends that “Long Distance Work Bae” still had a crush on me. Even though I had a lot going on in Florida, he was still in the back of my mind.

When I moved to New York, I was ready to live my “Rihanna Summer.” I told myself that it was time to stop living life for others and only do things that make me happy. I thought I was going to spend every weekend at brunch, living my fullest New Yorker life, and not worrying about anybody but myself. I just had to get through one final work training before I could truly make Rihanna proud.

The first day of training I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Josh. Something was different about him. He wasn’t the shy man that I just wanted to flirt with and not consider anything further. He was sure of himself and he carried it in the way that he walked.

I decided to make a move and found a way to sit next to him every night at dinner. I would text him funny tweets in the middle of training to see him try to conceal his laughter in the middle of a presentation. I asked him a billion questions just to find a reason to talk to him during the day. I applied pressure. Finally, during the last night of training, the program threw us a big celebratory party. We got drunk and talked until 2 in the morning.  It was refreshing, fun, and I felt absolutely no pressure to be anyone but myself.

We’ve been attached at the hip since that moment. The next year and change have felt like a fairytale. Every day Josh intentionally loves me. He never makes me feel like I’m being dramatic or that I’m asking for too much. I’ve told him my biggest dreams and he immediately helps me create a plan to accomplish them. He makes the girl from Texas who hates wearing heels, will journal about how much you pissed her off before confronting you, thinks Shondaland Thursday should be required TV and will choose Chinese food and a Harry Potter marathon over brunch feel like Beyoncé.

I look in his eyes and feel God’s love. He holds me and all my problems melt into his arms. When we’re talking sometimes I catch myself smiling from ear to ear for no reason. Truthfully, I have never felt a love like this before. Sometimes I cry in the shower because it doesn’t always make sense that God made such a beautiful and perfect human. Then I cry harder because He decided that I was the lucky girl who gets to love him for the rest of her life. Joshua’s love for me is nothing short of a lifetime of blessings stuffed into one human and every day I thank God for his presence in my life.

On October 20, 2018, we got ready for a date night in the city. Most of our dates are casual and easy going, but I wanted a change of scenery and we agreed to get dressed up. He kept most of the plan a surprise and I knew something was up. We started the evening at the One World Observatory. Since I’ve only been in the NYC area for about a year, we frequently do tourist activities. It was perfect. We looked at a 360 view of the city and reminisced over our first date where we walked the Highline and took a boat cruise of the city.

Next, we moved to the Met rooftop garden where he surprised me with a group of my family and friends who were there to witness the start of our life together. I have never ugly cried so hard in my life. Honestly, I can barely remember what he said. I heard “you know how much you mean to me” and it was over. In our engagement video you can hear me sobbing, repeating “Oh God” and hysterical crying/ saying “yes.” It was the best moment of my life.

Josh makes me: laugh until my sides hurt, smile from ear to ear, blush like a high schooler when he tells me how beautiful I am, prays over me, comforts me in life’s valleys, and is always down to drink a bottle of wine. I could not have prayed for a better partner.

To our family and friends- thank you a billion times over. For the past few months, I have been complaining about how much I miss you guys and how I wish I could see everyone more. Looking up and seeing you all will be a moment I will never forget. Josh and I are forever thankful that you sacrificed your time to be there for us. Thank you for your beautiful gifts and for your continuous and unwavering love.

To my fiancé- thank you for being a glass of wine on a fall day, the 6th Harry Potter movie and the 4th Harry Potter book, a big plate of french fries, and a perfect matte red lipstick. Thank you for always intentionally loving me. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life trying to mess up your NBA2K games. I love you so much.