Every couple and family that we work with has
a story many, many stories. There are happy ones and sad ones, long ones and short ones, stories that make us double over in laughter, and stories that let us see depths of despair. We love learning the story of each of our couples and families — it’s one of our favorite parts about our work. But we are not storytellers. We are story-documenters.
When we realized this, we knew that we should document ours as well. The Radian Story is the story of us, Radhika and Ian. From the day we were born to where we stand now, this is our story from babies to bride & groom.
Part 8: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times (Or Our First Year of Marriage)
We thought our first year of marriage would just be pure bliss. We had just spent two long years apart and now we finally had a chance to create a life together. We might have been a little naïve.
From Ian’s perspective
Radhika coming to join me in Philadelphia also meant that she had to leave her home of six years in Chapel Hill to come to an area that really only had one important feature at the time: me. I continued with my grad school lifestyle consisting of class every now and then and lots of working flexibly from home and coffee shops. Meanwhile, Radhika found herself thrust into an underfunded and underperforming school in north Philadelphia. I wanted us to be in our blissful honeymoon period but instead I had taken my new wife away from her family and friends and brought her to the most stressful job she had ever had.
If you know Radhika, you know she’s the embodiment of a boss (find me one person who doesn’t agree with this). She did amazing work at her school, but it certainly took a toll on her and on us. Luckily we managed to find ways to cope. Well, we found one main way to cope on the daily: food.
Philly has an amazing food scene. It’s full of all kinds of small restaurants doing really creative and delicious things with food. We found some real gems, including an Ethiopian restaurant about a block away that we visited every Tuesday (the day Radhika had to stay late after school). My flexible schedule let me cook most days, but when things got tough, or we just needed a pick-me-up, we would seek out a new restaurant and get lost in the experience. As we explored the city through our tummies, we got to reconnect, talk in a lesson planning-free (and delicious) territory, and experience a little bit of that ‘honeymoon period’ that is hard to have when you only see each other for an hour or two each day.
It was a hard first year, but it was another year of growth for us as a couple. We learned how to lean on each other. We learned how to take comfort in each other’s presence. We learned that, no matter what else was happening, we were lucky to be together.
If you ever find yourself in Philadelphia, do yourself a favor and check out some of our favorite culinary escapes:
Marigold Kitchen, 501 S 45th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Go here when you have some money to spare and be prepared for a progression of dishes, none of which you’ve ever had before. This is the best restaurant we’ve ever been to in our lives, and it was just a short walk away from our home!
Abyssinia, 229 S 45th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
This Ethiopian restaurant is our comfort food. Get the Abyssinia special for a selection of their best offerings.
Dock Street, 701 S 50th St, Philadelphia, PA 19143
This is still our favorite pizza place. Get the fig jam pizza and wash it down with a pint of their fantastic beer.
Mercato, 1216 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
This is our only non-West Philly go-to. Radhika still dreams of the lamb ragout with fava beans that she had here. Plus, it’s a BYO restaurant, meaning you can bring your own bottle of wine to enjoy alongside their amazing Italian dishes.
From Radhika’s perspective
It seems that our relationship went in ups and downs, and our first year of marriage was no exception. Don’t get me wrong: being married was amazing! After two years apart, it was so wonderful to be able to see each other as soon as we woke up and right before we went to bed (and without the use of Skype)! However, living in Philadelphia was hard for me. After two years of teaching in Durham, I had found my stride and loved the school at which I taught. Teaching in Philadelphia was a shock. There are many reasons that the job I was in was not the right one, but I was determined to not just leave my students in the middle of the year, so I stuck with it until the school year was over.
Moving to Philadelphia felt like having to uproot my life for one reason and one reason only: Ian. Now, that’s a pretty good reason if you ask me. Ian supported me through every single hard day at work: he made me breakfast and ate with me each morning, packed my lunch, and made dinners (and he still does). He held my hand and went on adventures with me to Ikea when all I wanted was to park in a normal parking lot (I realize this sounds ridiculous, friends, but sometimes you just want to know that the trip from point A to point B won’t involve a 10 minute parking spot search that ends in you having to struggle through parallel parking in a spot that gives your car 4 inches of breathing room). People believe that I am strong and efficient and hard working because I worked 60-70 hour weeks in one of the hardest jobs. I was only able to do that because of Ian.
But it was still hard being in Philadelphia. We choose to live our lives and our relationship under the belief that we’re not each other’s “everything,” so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that being together wouldn’t be just the most magical experience. We are very different people with very different needs (if you don’t believe me, it might be helpful to know that our Myers Briggs types are exact opposites). While we feel most at home with each other, we don’t believe that the other is our home, and while we have one killer couple name, we don’t actually believe we are “one.” We love this quote from The Prophet, which was read by my dad at our wedding, and we feel encompasses this idea:
“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Yes, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of heaven dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone—even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not to each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cyprus grow not in each other’s shadows.”
So how did we get through the year? Well, aside from exploring the city through food, we traveled. While we didn’t officially start photographing people until we moved back to Durham in 2014, we started photographing our travels. During our first year of marriage, we traveled to India for our honeymoon in December of 2013 and to Costa Rica the following summer to celebrate the school year being over! Without our experience in Philadelphia, I might never have started our Instagram account (and if you scroll allllll the way back, you can see our early beginnings in Philly!) and therefore never really turned Radian Photography into what it is now.
I might not choose to move to Philadelphia all over again, but I learned a lot about myself and our marriage while we were there. What I’m most thankful for? That I got to do it all with my favorite human.