1. I was not made to wait around.
I’m too impatient, too expectant. I like to be in control of the situations in my life, so this was a huge reality check for me.
When you’re 500 miles away, living separate lives, there are few direct responses. Communication is much more difficult. It’s done through technology, and if you’re anything like I am, you’ll send a text and then check your phone every three minutes for a reply. Sometimes it’s within minutes, seconds in rare, lucky occasions, but more often than not, it takes upwards of 20 minutes. Sometimes hours. Like I said, I learned that that drives me absolutely crazy.
I also learned that it can feel like you’re being left behind. He gets to have all these experiences, and I wish that I could be there. But I can’t be. I sometimes get really jealous of my boyfriend’s friends, simply because they get to hangout with him every day. It’s too easy to feel like not only are you missing out on being with your significant other, you’re missing out on parts of life that, for whatever reason, you can’t experience yet. And you’ll be upset because you want to go through all that stuff with your best friend. It can be frustrating to have so little control. You can resent it big time, even though it’s not anyone’s fault.
The best way I found to cope with it was to focus on other things. If he was busy, I’d try to find something to do or someone else to talk to. The biggest reason that I think I get uptight about little things like the time it takes him to text back or who he’s hanging out with is because he’s literally my only best friend aside from my mom. I’m working on expanding my friends, and it’s helping.
My point is just that you really do have to be independent. I want to share every detail of my day with him, as well as hear about his. But that never happens. One of us might have more time or more things to share, and the other doesn’t. You can’t think that it’s just you being jipped. I’ve noticed that when I’m upset, it’s usually only when I have spare time. That’s when I’m sitting there, staring at my phone, working myself up, despite the fact that he’s probably just working on homework.
When we’re both busy, losing touch for hours is much less stressful to me. I imagine it feels the same to him. I also know that it helps when you’re clear with each other when you’re busy. It saves a lot of frustration or wandering imagination when one of us tells the other, “Hey, I’ve got homework, then practice, I’ll talk to you afterwards.” Plus, you have to remember why you’re in the situation you’re in. It’s not because anyone was trying to leave anyone waiting around.
In my case, I have six weeks of my senior year left. I’ve busted my ass to be valedictorian, and it’s about to pay off. On the other hand, he’s busted his ass to pass his first year of college. Next year we’ll both be working on college classes, but our age difference and everything it affects right now is out of our control.
2. I’m not strong enough to hold up someone else.
Distance is hard. When I was first introduced to the idea a year ago, I thought more about how I could be there for my guy. He’d be so far from home, in a place completely new. I just wanted him to know that I’d be there as best as I could no matter what. I wanted to be his rock. Instead, I feel like it’s been more of a mutual thing where we’ve had to learn how to support each other. To be honest, it’s mostly me that has emotional breakdowns about missing him and he has to calm me down. I’m not saying we haven’t taken turns needing the other; we’ve both had to learn how to be a good support system for the other.
That took a lot of time. At first, we didn’t want to let each other know how hard the transition was. I was scared to tell him that I spent the first week or two crying every day and that eventually, I started having anxiety attacks because I missed him and I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know where we stood because we were barely talking at all. It was a lot for a 17-year-old. However, I later learned he was having a hard time too. We were just scared to tell each other.
You can’t be afraid to open up and be real with someone if you expect to be with them from so far away. Communication, being there as best you can, that’s really all you have. I’ve learned that it’s okay to burst into tears over the phone because you want so badly to be holding them instead of your phone. That’s honest. And the weird thing is, I always feel better afterward because he knows just the right things to say. And I take turns saying the right things to him. Sometimes we both cry and then say the right things together. My point is, don’t try to handle things alone just because you’re alone physically.
3. My imagination can be my absolute worst enemy.
I don’t even know where to start on this one. I’m sure other women out there understand what I’m trying to get at. Let’s just say that when you’re 500 miles away, trust is a big deal. But you don’t have to mistrust him to think of horrible scenarios involving other girls. For me anyway, I know that any awful thing that crawls into my mind, typically late at night, isn’t true.
I have this theory that I just like to torture myself. Anyway, the best solutions I’ve found to this are to to tell yourself to shut the hell up and find something else to occupy your thoughts. Also, it helps when you know what they’re doing and who they’re with. It leaves less blanks for your mind to fill in. I don’t know, maybe it’s the self deprecating writer in me, and other girls don’t have this issue. I just thought I’d share in case anyone does.
4. Because long distance relationships are so much harder, it takes tough people.
You have to be with someone else who wants it just as much. I like to tell myself that being with someone involves waking up and choosing them every single day. You have to know that they are what you want. That decision has to become subconscious. Instead of asking yourself each morning when you wake up if you still want them, you should reach for your phone and send a good morning text.
The concept of such a commitment is difficult to comprehend, but you shouldn’t think about it. You should just do it. You should just continually love them as hard as you can whether or not you see them every day. And they should do the same. Loyalty, compassion, consideration, those things should be assumed. They should be part of both of your characters and your relationship.
That kind of partnership is so much stronger than the one that’s convenient because you see someone everyday and you’re physically attracted to each other. Distance means the relationship must have depth. All that time and energy to show your feelings over those miles must be worth it to both of you. You have to have faith and confidence in things that aren’t tangible. There are things you just have to know and things that you have to be willing to do.
5. Distance is unavoidable if you’re ambitious.
I want to start off by saying I’m not trying to discredit close proximity relationships or people who have the same dreams or close enough dreams that they can be close physically. But if you dream of being a writer and your boyfriend is working on a geological engineering degree, you’re not going to the same college. And that’s good, because we’re not holding each other back by letting the other work for their own dreams.
We are each doing what we want for ourselves. That’s something you have to understand; self fulfillment is the most important thing in a person’s life. You have to be happy in order to be part of a happy, healthy couple. You also have to let them be happy. You have to support whatever dream they have, no matter what circumstances that might put you in. If you have to deal with hundreds of miles between you and visits every other weekend for the next three years, then do it. Sure, you could probably find someone closer that you might like, but don’t you dare give up one someone that you absolutely love because your life goals take you a few hours away from each other.
Also, don’t force your significant other to choose between you and their dreams. Sure you’ll stay together in a literal sense, but not a metaphorical one. You’ll actually be pushing them away. You’ll resent each other. You’ll be upset because you know they’re unhappy and they’d rather be somewhere else. They’ll be upset because yeah, they would rather be somewhere else, doing what they need to do to be happy. Everyone has a life purpose that is greater than loving somebody else. You have to know and respect that. I could never be with someone who didn’t understand that I need to write in order to breathe. I could never let somebody tell me that I can’t go to the college of my dreams or someday get the job of my dreams or spend time writing all the books I have ideas for. I’m lucky enough to have someone who would never tell me what I could or couldn’t do. I owe him that same courtesy. I also understand that if we both have our time apart to achieve some of our goals, then we can have a future where we achieve the rest together.
6. It blows me away that we do choose to combine our lives.
He has an entirely separate schedule each day compared to mine. He lives in a different place and interacts with different people. He gets to be independent. I do too.
When I focus on my life in front of me, I realize that I don’t mind experiencing things without him, for the most part. I like going through my daily routine of classes and practice and work without trying to fit him in every spare second (a bad habit that I have when he is home for short periods of time). I get to see just how much I can accomplish in my own. Like I said, I’m valedictorian, so it’s a lot. I run National Honor society meetings (I’m president) and I kick ass in my two dual enrollment classes and I enjoy my last remaining weeks of the marching/concert band I’ve been apart of for the last four years. I go to softball practice and I work hard, and then I go to work and do my job to the best of my ability.
I have a lot going on, and I do love my life. I love that he’s in it, but that there is still a lot of it that I get to call mine. Of course I tell him about it all, but I get to experience it on my own. And even though I forget that it’s really a positive thing, he gets to experience his life in his own way. We get to live how we want, and like I said, we do that. The important part is that we then choose to include each other.
Long distance relationships aren’t a piece of cake. Like I’ve told my boyfriend, I wouldn’t be doing this for anyone else, but I couldn’t not do it for him. I guess that’s how you have to feel. And then you have to be prepared for everything you’ll learn about relationships, life, and yourself.