My name is Jen Steele. Most Canadian’s think I am saying Jane due to my Scottish accent and it has been written on many a takeaway coffee cup. I don’t mind really, as I hold my cup in one hand and my fiance’s hand in the other and walk along my favourite street, Broadway in Saskatoon. If anyone told me five years ago that I would be living in Canada with the love of my life, I would have laughed them off. But, here I am. And it’s thanks to Tinder. And possibly to fate. Or God’s will. Or whatever you believe in.
If, on top of this, if anyone told me that he would propose and we would plan the wedding of our dreams back in Scotland for it then to be thwarted by a global pandemic, I would have said that the joke had gone too far! But here we are. And it’s thanks to the coronavirus. And possibly to the universe. Or God’s will. Or whatever you believe in.
Our story begins in March 2015. I was living in Glasgow and working in Edinburgh as a teacher and set to move closer to my job in the Easter holidays. The 45 minute drive was taking 2 hours as the main motorway linking the countries two main cities only has two lanes and on top of that there is always road works, so it was an obvious choice. One morning, after said drive, I got out of my car at school and slid so badly on ice that my foot looked like it was pointing east when my body was straight north. After an ambulance journey, x-ray, cast, awkward drive in the passenger seat of my own car from Edinburgh back to Glasgow with the guy I was seeing/wanting to end things with, I found myself on my couch. Where I pretty much stayed for 5 months. I called things off with the guy a few days later (I felt terrible, especially after he drove me home and got the train back to Edinburgh) but I knew he was not the one for me.
Let’s just say that with all of that time on your hands, even Netflix can become very boring. My ankle was so badly damaged that even after the cast was off, I was on crutches for a very long time and so I did a lot of sitting about. Tinder became a source of entertainment and esteem building as I sat alone, too immobile and in too much pain to join my friends on nights out. Throughout the course of the next couple of months, I swiped left and right, sometimes matching, sometimes not, sometimes wishing I hadn’t! I even had a couple of dates on my crutches. My first crutch date saw me try to get about in crutches, one moon boot and one heel. Yes, I looked ridiculous. Hobbling is hard enough with one moon boot and a trainer, never mind having to uncomfortably hunch over as now your crutches are not at the right height and it becomes an awkward limp of epic proportions. Surprisingly there was date two and even three but again this guy was not the one.
I am the kind of girl who reads lots of chick lit and expects a fairytale. Many an ex-boyfriend had told me I was never going to find a love like I read in my books. However, the joke’s on them. I have become my very own Tinderella and I am writing my version of the tale.
After a while of not finding my Prince Charming, I was all but ready to give up. I sat one Sunday night, contemplating deleting the app when I decided to give it one last try. I started to swipe when the picture of this guy and his tagline describing him as a “Canadian Spy” caught my eye. His name was Matt and he looked hot. He had really nice eyes and a genuine smile. I swiped right and low and behold we had an instant match. A few minutes later he messaged me and our chat instantly began to flow with lots of banter and conversation beyond, “how’s u” and “what you up to?” An hour or so later the spy asked me if I fancied going for a drink. I told him sure, thinking that it would have to be before next Sunday as I was moving to Edinburgh. That was something I didn’t have to worry about as he proposed we meet in half an hour. Now, any of my friends will tell you that I take a lot longer than half an hour to get ready and I nearly hesitated to say yes. However, something in me told me not to be silly and next thing, I said ok, ran a brush through my hair, put another layer of mascara on and then (very carefully and painfully, having only been off my crutches a week) walked out the door.
We met at Patrick train station and walked to Glasgow’s West End chatting and laughing all the way to The Sparkle Horse pub. It felt so easy to talk to him. We got a drink which turned into a few. We talked about anything and everything and it was then that I found out he was only on holiday in Europe for three weeks and was leaving for Dublin at 8:00 am the next morning. I initially felt a bit deflated that this great guy who I felt like I instantly clicked would be someone I would never see again but decided to just have fun and make the most of the experience. We moved onto the next pub in the pouring rain and got to talking about rapping. Next minute, I am giving him my full rendition of Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” (I know the entire rap and I am super proud of it).
Instead of being astonished and embarrassed by me, he rapped right back at me. I had found someone who was as big a goofball as me and I lost any inhibitions. We left to go to Oran Mor and sat at a high table, looking at each other and saying that we couldn’t believe what a good night we were having and wondered where each other had come from. It was then that he kissed me and it was magical. I have never felt anything like it and the minute he looked at me after we kissed, I knew he felt the same. At that moment the lights came on and it was time for us to leave. We both didn’t want the night to end so I told him that he could come back to mine but that nothing was happening! He laughed and jumped in a taxi with me. The rest of the night we talked and kissed and laughed and kept saying that we couldn’t believe that we had met. Before we knew it, it was 7:00 am and Matt had a bus to catch with his friend Dan that he was travelling with. We jumped into my car and we met Dan at the station. He was less than impressed with the girl who had his friend out all night and nearly made them miss the next phase of their journey.
Matt and I did not know what to do and he promised this wouldn’t be the end. He took my number and I told him to download WhatsApp. He kissed me goodbye and jumped on the bus and I got back in my car not really believing that any of what had just happened was real. He messaged me on Tinder telling me that he didn’t want to leave me and that perhaps his spy mission would bring him back to the UK again. I found it altogether unlikely and felt so sad at the thought.
The next day, Matt had found WhatsApp and wifi and got in touch. We kept messaging every time he got free bus, coffee shop or hostel wifi. During this time, I had moved to Edinburgh and Matt was telling me that he wanted to see me and visit Edinburgh before he went back home. Timing wasn’t on our side and with his travels and me starting back at school after the holidays, it wasn’t going to work out. His last stop was Amsterdam and he asked me if I would want to come there over the weekend. I didn’t have to think twice and as mad as it sounds after one date, I said yes. I booked flights and arrived there on the Friday night. Matt met me from the train station and we ended up having the best weekend together. I felt like I had known him forever and was already in love.
On the Sunday we went back to the airport together with him flying to Canada and me to Scotland. At the airport we got snuggled up on a couch and were chatting away and so didn’t realise the time. When we did, Matt’s gate was about to close and so we found ourselves running (well, I was clodhopping- my ankle still wasn’t right) through the airport to his gate. He was the last to board so we had to say goodbye really quickly. He told me I would see him again, kissed me and said goodbye. I turned to walk away and burst into tears. Next thing, I hear my name being shouted out and I turn round to Matt running after me. I quickly wipe away my tears, embarrassed at him seeing me cry and ask him what he was doing. The airport staff had let him run after me to ask me to be his girlfriend and of course I said yes. We quickly hugged and kissed and he ran back to the plane and headed home.
I floated through the airport and ate my McDonalds in a dream. I landed back in Edinburgh and couldn’t quite get my head around it all. That started our long distance relationship. We face-timed, whatsapp called and messaged as much as we could despite the 7-hour time difference. It was so hard, as I got up in the morning, he was asleep and by the time I finished work he had started, by the time he had finished, I was asleep. However, we made it work and soon I had booked flights to Canada for Thanksgiving. Luckily, as a teacher I had lots of holidays, and as a true penny pinching Scot, I had the savings to travel. I flew over and met his family and friends and we had the most amazing time. I flew again that Christmas and he visited Scotland and met my family and friends that February.
While he was over visiting, we decided that we could not do long distance forever and so I started the permanent residency visa process. It was hellish and huge and expensive and stressful but I was very, very lucky. You can wait in a pool of people based on points for up to a year until you are invited to apply for PR. I got my invite 5 days later! By Easter, my application was complete and I awaited an answer. Matt had been transferred to Yellowknife for work and I visited him on my holidays and finally took up the courage to say “I love you” and luckily he said it back! Despite our story, I was too scared to say it and Matt was, too, so it took us a while to say what we had thought from the day we matched on Tinder.
Two months later and four months earlier than normal, I got my permanent residency for Canada. A process which can take up to a year and a half, took four months and so began the biggest change in my life to date. I handed in my notice at my dream job and prepared to sell my dream car and most of my belongings in order to fit my life into two suitcases. The material stuff was easy to do but saying goodbye to my family and especially my friends is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I decided to throw a leaving party and had almost everyone I loved in my life in one place. That was, until Matt walked through the door, flying all the way from Canada as a surprise so that he could be there for me and meet all of my friends and family that he had not already done so.
Matt flew back a few days later and I flew to Canada on the 17th of October. I arrived in Edmonton to a home made sign and the love of my life and I have never looked back. We went from long distance to long spells of not being around anyone else but each other. We’ve been through my perpetual homesickness, my terrible first job that had a bully of a boss, my first Canadian winter (erm…minus 40!?) and the stress of having to take extra courses to get my teaching registration. It has been crazy hard but it is worth it to wake up next to my Canadian spy every single day. I miss my old life like crazy but I definitely don’t miss being apart from Matt or the days before Tinder when I didn’t even know he existed.
Last May, Matt proposed and I cried as I said yes and then laughed out loud, remembering the phonecall that happened the moment after I dropped him off at the bus station after our first date. I had called my mum to tell her that I had met my future husband to which she replied “We’ll see!” Four years later, I had proved that I had gotten it right!
Today (April16) marks three months until our wedding day, in Edinburgh Scotland. We are to be surrounded by 150 of our family members and friends from both Scotland and Canada. We even have friends booked to fly home from Australia! However, the three month mark, has become more of an achy reminder than a build up of excitement. I know in the grand scheme of what is going on in the world right now, a wedding is low on the priority list of people’s problems. However, I have found myself truly going through the grieving process. I had been in complete denial of the virus and its ability to grow the way it has done. I found myself crying non-stop as I packed up what I needed from my classroom and said goodbye to my class of students with additional needs, due to what it meant for their education and as to how long the world would be paused for, realizing this might not be over by July. No return to school, no Edinburgh fairytale.
And then I have been angry. So very angry, at what this is doing to loved ones, to the vulnerable, to everyone. I had been keeping it together until a guest RSVP’d to decline due to the virus and as I read their response, a dragon from within roared, “No, s**t Sherlock!” and all of my emotions came flooding out.
Matt and I have been hoping and praying and wishing! We have been looking at reports and news with the vain hope of a miracle. In the end it was with an extremely heavy heart yet a sensible proactive mind that we made a decision to postpone our wedding until next July (2021). We had been trying to hold off and hold off thinking about and making a decision, however, with things not looking like they are going to reach a peak or take a positive turn anytime soon, both in the UK and Canada, we have decided to wait.
We discussed lots of options. Could we get married with half our wedding party and Matt’s family in a small ceremony when we are allowed to congregate in small groups again? Should we go to a courthouse and get married just the two of us? But then we stopped to think about what our marriage and wedding really means to us. Firstly, it’s about us, and our love for each other. The kind of love that happened out of chance on a dating app that has a higher ratio of matches ending in d*** pics than the real deal, the kind of love that took faith and leaps of courage, the kind of love that withstood long distance and a move half way across the world. This kind of love we have can get us through this and can wait one more year to be bonded further through marriage.
Secondly, it is about the joining of our two souls, cultures, lives, families and friends. For the first and maybe the only time, our wedding will allow us to mesh these two wonderful sets of people from two different walks of life together and there is nothing more important than that for us. To have almost all the people that we love in one room together, to get to know one another, to tour Edinburgh together after the fact, and in doing so build relationships and love. Now, that would be something worth waiting a year for.
In fact, it is so important to us, it is what we based our decision on. We had to take into consideration that as 50 percent of our guests have to travel to Scotland as we do, that it may become impossible to have our wedding this year. With borders closed and travel banned, we are unsure of how long this is going to last. We also do not know if even once this lifts that our friends and family will be comfortable or safe to travel. Matt’s mum and a couple of friends are immuno-compromised and we have lots of friends with babies travelling. So that is that. There is no compromise. We will wait.
And when it happens, it is going to be a dream. It is going to be remarkable. Because it will signify that what is going on in the world has been great and big and scary and world changing and despite all of this, we survived, we made it through. And what lives on, what flourishes, is people, gathering, relationships and love.
S**t happens. My ankle break was awful. And I am still dealing with the chronic pain. Yet, if I hadn’t broken my ankle and had moved to Edinburgh sooner I would never have met Matt. But what’s more, if this hadn’t have happened, I don’t know if I would have been able to see the real importance of our day beyond the perfect shade of cornflower blue and the Midsummer Night’s Dream theme. And that is melding our two lives and all that we love together, which is pretty amazing. And waiting a year is not going to take that away from us.