Brennan and I met in grad school at the Academy of Art University back in 2006. We both were pursuing degrees in graphic design and with our group of friends helped each other along the way. During our last semesters we realized that we really enjoyed each others company and couldn't go a day without seeing each other. We graduated in 2010 and he quickly got a job with Design within Reach as a graphic designer. Soon after he was hired, DWR decided to move the company to Stamford, CT where we currently live and a year later I got a job as a Jr. Art Director for Martha Stewart in NYC. We both really miss SF and are very happy to have our wedding there and hopefully in 2 years move back to enjoy the rest of our lives.
First day of Grad School felt like the first day always feels at any new school; exciting, nervous and a little anxious mixed with a bit of apprehension. I walked in and sat down at one of the long white tables and took in the room. Pen in hand, I awaited the start of class casually glancing around digesting the growing crowd when he walked in. All of my focus shifted to the door and my heartbeat escalated just enough to flush my cheeks as he took the seat next to me. Within moments we were laughing and asking questions about each other. Something about our exchange in such a short time had my curiosity peaked and it was that same curiosity that led me to believe this stranger could possibly be someone that could impact my life forever. That first conversation led to a lasting friendship, which grew to a humble and careful like, to then as you now know fell into love.
Though we were both born and raised in different parts of the country (Brennan in Hawaii and I in Texas), San Francisco is where we always called home. After graduating from Grad school, we both took jobs in New York where we decided to take a chance together and move across country. It’s been amazing thus far, but we were constantly reminded of the lives we left behind in San Francisco, and we were missing it dearly.
As a birthday surprise, Brennan arranged a trip for us to come back to the Bay to take a break from what felt like a nonstop whirlwind since our move. I was ecstatic when he brought out the tickets and immediately got on the phone to tell friends and family we were heading home.
A few days before we left, Brennan received an email from a former professor of ours explaining that he wanted to display Brennan’s thesis work in one of the design cases at our school. I was so excited and proud of Brennan that I could not wait to see his work displayed in those cases alongside the great designers we strived to emulate through our years there. Now, Brennan was to become one of them. This trip was getting better by the minute.
Our professor requested that we stop by between classes so we could go over what part of his thesis would be displayed and how he thought they should go about the selection process. So we set up a time on the evening we were to arrive into town to stop by.
It had been a year since we had walked the halls of the Academy, but the 5th floor still looked and felt the same as it always had. Student’s design work hung carefully in glass cases; excited conversations littered the hallways of deadlines and all nighters. I grinned at the memory of all that we had gone through together here and held Brennan’s hand closer as we stopped into the Executive Directors office to say hello.
As she stood to greet us she expressed how delighted to see us again she was and we spent a few moments catching up on what we’d done since graduating. We were filling her in on how things were going in New York and she was giving us the scoop on the new class when the professor that had contacted Brennan popped in to greet us. We said our goodbyes to the Executive Director and followed our professor down the hallway towards his office where he began to discuss what they had been thinking for the display. I listened excitedly and felt proud as I watched Brennan take in everything.
“And here is where we will be displaying your work.” He said as we rounded the corner. He was gesturing at a glass case that looked like all the others in the hallway except this one was full of familiar faces looking back. They were pictures of me. And Brennan? I scanned confusedly over the case with roses pinned inside and looked to Brennan for answers, when I realized that he had dropped to one knee and was holding out a red ring box. My heartbeat escalated once again as it did on that first day we met, an old familiar feeling took hold and my cheeks flushed as he looked up at me.
“Gracy Michelle Leal” he said, “Will you marry me?”
Tears instantly welled up in my eyes and I said “Yes!” as he slipped the ring onto my finger and rose to meet me with that smile I loved so much. Everyone around us began to cheer and that’s when I realized they all had cameras and video recorders. Our professor had asked them to help document our proposal and these students were now at our sides snapping pictures and wishing us well.
As I wiped my tears away and looked back over to the case I saw that Brennan had designed a poster that told our entire story; from meeting on that first day of class to looking into our future, it was all there. Our professor approached me with a dozen red roses Brennan had delivered from a local flower shop and wished us congratulations. We are now in the history books as the very first couple ever to become engaged at the Academy of Art University and it is something that will be remembered for many years to come.
So here we are. At the start of the rest of our lives, and I’m that girl that get’s to spend it with her best friend. Brennan is special and loving and kind and is always going to great lengths just to make me feel like I’m the only woman in the world. He is the person I have been searching for my entire life and how lucky I am to have finally him.
This is our story. But believe me, it’s only just beginning.