I woke up early on Saturday with the same nervous anticipation I had felt on my wedding day.

Much like that wintry morning in Enniskillen five years before, I began with coffee and then put my hair in rollers, trying to keep myself calm.

Of course, Saturday was different. There was no snow on the ground, nor a bridesmaid stranded at Heathrow Airport, and I had two small children doing their very best to rearrange my house in the most creative yet least desirable way possible.

The signs that week had indicated a ‘Groundhog Day’ loop was finally coming to an end, and I was going to become a real MLA – just so long as the DUP turned up.

It’s a strange thing, being a legislator and not actually being able to legislate.

Almost two years ago, I had walked into the Assembly Chamber for the first time, nine months pregnant and exhausted – albeit delighted – to have been elected.

Six or seven failed attempts to elect a speaker later, I now had a four-year-old and an almost two-year-old, and my hope for our ability to create a better future for them, and for all children, was beginning to wane.

Public confidence was obliterated. It felt like every day I was asked when I was getting back to work.

Through an apologetic smile, I would begin to recite my well-worn explanation: that I was in my constituency office, doing advocacy, casework, developing policies – “just not making any laws”, a man in a supermarket said to me one Friday evening.

He shook his head as he put some milk in his trolley, and muttered as he walked away that if he didn’t want to do most of his job, he’d be told where to go. He had a point.

In the run-up to my wedding, I had imagined a home filled with laughter and warmth, meaningful conversations, facing challenges hand-in-hand.

In the run-up to the Assembly’s restoration, I dreamed of tabling motions, questions to the Minister, scrutinising legislation.

Maybe with very good fortune, I would even deliver a Private Member’s Bill.

I guess I’m a romantic when it comes to Devolution. I believe in it wholeheartedly.

Having local ministers with local budgets who can decide how to address local issues – it all matters.

Being able to hold them to account through committee scrutiny, being able to platform issues from the Chamber floor, debate the best direction for policy, create and amend laws – all of this matters, and we dared to hope.

With the world’s media assembled in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, parties descended the staircase in turn – a slow march – stopping for photographs – and then proceeded through the rotunda doors, into the Chamber, where we took our seats.

I have always opted for pain in my footwear choice, in return for gaining height, and like my wedding day, the sole thought which dominated my mind was not on the magnitude of what was about to happen – it was intense focus on not falling over.

Once seated, the Acting Speaker began the ceremonies. Kind words from across the benches were offered to the former Sinn Féin Speaker Alex Maskey – an inclusive and dedicated representative who was finally being granted his retirement.

Focus then shifted to the DUP’s Edwin Poots – a man whose politics are so far from my own – who was elected Speaker, and I was happy.

I thought of when I was a newly-elected MLA with a tiny baby in tow, how outside of my own party colleagues, he had been the kindest – always asking how I was, and if the children were well.

He said he would carry out his role with “impartiality and integrity”, and I believe he will.

Halfway through, there were gasps – had the DUP said the wrong name at the altar?

As parties took it in turns to select Ministerial portfolios, Sinn Féin chose Economy first, and it had been expected the DUP would pick Finance – only they chose Education.

A brief adjournment, then all was well, and the ceremony resumed.

Even some occasional heckling could not detract from a mood which was positive and hopeful on a day that was historic.

The election of the first Nationalist First Minister, and the first openly gay Minister, were important, particularly in a place like Northern Ireland.

They signify change in our society, and offer hope to people who have felt less than, knowing they were now seen.

Representation is important, because it opens imaginations, which leads to possibilities, and with that, opportunity.

If we are to build a truly shared society, then this felt like an important milestone.

Hopeful faces watched on from the gallery – family, friends and political veterans watching on.

I always love celebrations which have photos on display, of weddings from long ago, childhoods and loved ones, gone but not forgotten.

Images from the past, reminding us that time is a long ribbon, weaving through places and moments, connecting us all.

The faces of those who walked before us hang on the walls of Stormont, some of whom were in the gallery; an intergenerational congregation watching on, no doubt reflecting on their hopes and aspirations, both then and now.

And then it was done. The new Executive declaring their will to go into office with each other. To have and to hold accountable.

I thought about my own marriage. That leap of faith you take, binding your life to another with trust and love, the ultimate act of hope.

And how that can create magic. The architects of the Good Friday Agreement made magic.

The extraordinary public servants who had the courage to make political sacrifices for the greater good.

Every day I see people who work with empathy, trust and collaboration – how innate it is in them, and how it shouldn’t be impossible for politicians to do the same.

And how ultimately what politics is about, what anything is about, is people and their stories, and the perspective that brings and the endless hope that holds.

So each month, I’ll be joining you here, where my intention is to use this column to bring everyday stories to the fore – to shine a light on our commonality, highlight individuals, and celebrate our shared humanity.

Stories which remind us what matters, and which foster hope.

The American activist Mariam Kaba said: “Hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope isn’t an emotion, you know? Hope is not optimism. Hope is a discipline ... we have to practice it every single day.”

I look forward to us practicing together.

Kate Nicholl is an Alliance Party MLA for South Belfast and is the party’s spokesperson on Early Years & Childcare.