I met him in our junior year of high school--sneaking glances at him from the back of our shared math class and tenderly wondering if he spoke English. His Instagram profile had indicated he’d spent most of the summer in Germany, which was where I assumed he was from even though he hadn’t given me much knowledge to lend otherwise.
I hadn’t been one to jump into a relationship for a long time, having been through one that was entirely abusive and given my own dense list of trust issues. So, taking a chance on a boy with thick curls and piercing blue-green eyes felt like a path that only circled back to where I was starting from.
Still, I couldn’t seem to help myself from trying.
As curiosity morphed to conversation, discovering he did speak English and was as interested in me as I was with him, our relationship began under a constellation lit sky, with him gifting me a pink unicorn toy that neighed when you pinched the small red button on her ear. It was innocent. It was high school. It was magical. It was all I could’ve ever wanted.
Together, we have endured both tragedy and triumph-- two proms, a plethora of AP classes, summer reading assignments, and lazy afternoons spent on the couch playing Super Mario Bros for Wii Bowling. There have been afternoon coffee dates, theme park adventures, hours spent at the beach or in the pool or simply sitting together in a room occupying the same space, where I have felt more at home than ever before.
Even with some rocks and bumps in between, it’s been over a year since that crisp fall night. Our junior and senior years of high school long behind us and a new journey just about to unfold, the two of us will be attending college in the fall. I will be staying in the state that I already reside in, and he will attend a school exactly 1,140 miles away from where I will be.
The reality of growing up and aspects of your life changing should come as a softer blow than the way I am feeling it, or, at least, I believe it should. I am excited to begin my own path at a college where I can take classes catered to my future profession, and I am equally as excited for him to start his own work in the field of Aviation, which he’s dreamed about entering since he was a little kid.
I am simply scared of the other parts of this new reality we are entering.
It’s not like there haven’t been times in the past we’ve been apart. Last summer, I ventured to California for a week-long trip and he went to the Florida Keys. Recently, I was able to travel out to Alaska and Canada for two weeks, and now he is making a similar trek a few weeks after my return. He is beginning to work on his Private Pilot's License upon his return home, which will continue to subtract those tender moments our relationship was founded on from being experienced throughout the rest of this summer.
I am able to keep myself occupied, enjoy moments with my family or other friends, and draw, adventure, write, or otherwise keep my mind off of the fact that I DO miss him terribly and I DO wish that the reality was that we were older than we are now and could both leave our home state together, instead of me being left behind in a state that I have nearly spent my entire life living in. The opportunities the two of us are given, simply because of different socioeconomic status, family dynamics, and our intended professions, have changed our plans for the future and will continue to change them again and again.
With all the technology that is available now, long distance relationships are becoming far easier than they ever used to be. Long gone are the days when people would have to exchange letters and wait for the snail mail to arrive whenever they wished to speak with their significant other. Even the improvements in phone calling, video calling, and apps like Snapchat or Instagram are making it easier in attempting to bridge the distance between people miles or even nations apart.
And I know that.
I know that both of us are dedicated to making sure that the two of us not only make ourselves a priority, but also the other person anxiously awaiting that phone call or text, trying to warm the solitary space of separation that can seem like a cold and unforgiving world to exist in. Sometimes it can feel like the best part of the day is receiving that “good morning” text or an “I miss you.” You have to begin to find solace in the little things that you can get with the person you love, otherwise the distance will not make your relationship stronger; it will only erode it.
In life, I truly believe that we so often take our words for granted. Everything that we say on a daily basis to those that we interact with it often and easily forgotten about, just another phrase dumped from our thoughts and into a void of unconsciousness.
I have learned that when the person that you love is on the other side of the country or world, everything that is said, every emotion that is felt, intended, or implied, becomes all the more significant than it was before. The feeling of touch says so much, but in a long distance relationship, you cannot simply reach across the table and hold the hand that fits perfectly in yours, or wrap your cold arms up and over the shoulders of the person you know would do anything to keep you warm.
You have to be okay with blue bubble “I love yous” and let it mean just as much to you as those said face to face, hand in hand, or otherwise.
Love is complicated and messy, and the whole point of relationships is not only to grow the bond between two people, but also to grow and change within yourself. Every obstacle is meant to be something that will help you to experience something entirely brand new, while keeping you confident and comfortable within yourself as this change occurs.
You are allowed to be scared. I know that I’m scared. I have to remind myself time and time again that it is not going to hurt as much as I think it will, and retrain myself to know that I am more than just someone to come home to, I am the other half of a dynamic that is going to find its way through anything that gets thrown at us.
Though part of me wishes that I could turn the clock back and start over from the beginning of our story, back to nights where things seemed simple and innocent and the future was still our to unfold, I know now that life is an ever changing entity and if you do not learn to work with the cards you're dealt, you will fall out of the game entirely.
So no matter what, you have to keep playing, for and with the ones that you love.
Even if they’re 1,140 miles away.