Long-Distance Relationships Mean Always Getting to Say Hello

We’ve said goodbye in driveways, bus stations, and airports, in parking lots and on street corners. Long distance relationships mean always having to say goodbye.

I remember the end of the first visit: I watched her walk down the sidewalk as the bus pulled out of the station, yanking me from her receding figure. As the countdown to our next reunion was reset to a dauntingly high number, the emotion was so raw, so overwhelming, that it seems impossible to describe without clichés or platitudes. Suddenly every mawkish pop song made sense – it makes you want to write bad poetry.

It’s not as devastating after almost three years, which I attribute to comfort rather than any abatement of emotion. At the beginning, I was like a baby who mistook someone leaving my field of vision for ceasing to exist. I had suffered a few bad experiences in the past and could only hope this would be different. It certainly felt different, but I still worried.

“How can I be apart from her?” I’d wonder. “What if something changes? What if it’s never this good again?”

Now, I have faith. I know she’ll be back and the feeling will be back with her. I just have to wait. We’ll be saying hello again soon.

Long distance relationships make you treasure the time you have together.

I take things for granted all the time: my health, job, good fortune, other people, Thanksgiving. But it’s easier to appreciate something when it’s in limited supply (one takeaway from a C- in Intro to Econ.). It’s like fondue. Have you ever had a fondue dinner? You cook each individual piece of your chicken or steak or whatever in a little pot of oil. It takes forever. When I did it, the entire meal was like a three-hour event and inordinately more satisfying. Whereas I usually remember to taste my food right around the time I’m frantically shoveling the final bite into my mouth, fondue forced me to savor each piece.

So long distance relationships are like fondue.

When we have an entire weekend together, I try to really relish it – to pause and think, “Enjoy this. Enjoy this time right now, without worrying about the future or thinking about anything else.” This is a new mindset for me and a definite improvement over the usual combination of future-dread/distraction that casts a pall over my free time and which involves a mental dialogue that goes, “Hmm this is pretty nice, I guess, but I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I have work tomorrow, and I have those freaking reports due, and isn’t there something better or more productive I could be doing right now? An – HEY WHAT’S THAT SHINY THING OVER THERE!?!”

The new mindset works. Our weekends feel like portals into an alternate world where we are together all the time, an endless cycle free from stress or fear. Where nothing can interrupt us or separate us or distract us. Where we are the only two people that matter.

She’s much braver than me, at a new school in a new state, making new friends, away from her family and her home. How does she do it? I get anxious when it’s time to change the clocks forward an hour for daylight saving time – I could never make it.

Coincidentally, she goes to my old school now. It’s funny going back there and visiting her, returning to the old stomping grounds. A younger me lurks the shadows of that campus – an outdated version that inexplicably survives, like bad meat evading a product recall.

He’s still using the same old tricks to solve his problems, yet always only creating new ones in the process. If I ever cross his path, at least I’ll have some reassuring news: “It gets better.”

Once, when I was about 8 years old, I went with my parents to spend Christmas at my aunt and uncle’s in Virginia. My mom and I stayed about a week, but my dad had to leave earlier for work. I remember him packing up the car and getting ready to drive away. Then, as we were saying goodbye, he started to cry. I had never seen him cry before. I was confused. Why was he so sad? Didn’t he know it would only be a few days before we’d see him again? Aren’t beards and tears mutually exclusive?

“I think he’s just going to miss us a lot,” my mom said.

What will the term “long distance relationship” actually entail ten, twenty, thirty years from now?

It’s certainly much different today than it was in 1960, 1980, or even 2005. Texting has an incredibly powerful impact on our generation’s ability to feel in touch with one another at all times. Before that, cell phones and instant messaging made things drastically easier. At one point there was a guy going, “You know, thank god for these carrier pigeons. Without them, I’d don’t know how Sheila and I could possibly make this thing work.”

Do you ever think about how freaking amazing Skype is? Skype is freaking amazing. Skype is some straight up Jetsons type shit.

Just like a long distance couple from 1975 would think we were spoiled rotten, 2030’s long distance couples will have it made by today’s standards. It won’t seem so hard when you can jump in your teleporter every night or use your 3D phone to make your girlfriend’s likeness virtually appear in your room.

Are we the last of a dying breed or the first generation of couples who view distance as an outdated obstacle?

There are a lot of stigmas and fears around long distance relationships and I suppose it’s not for everyone.

But it has its perks, too. Every time I see her again after we’ve been apart, it’s like that first time I went back to visit her: all of the old emotions come rushing back. It’s like waking up to the first spring day after a long, cold winter.

We’ve said hello in driveways, bus stations, and airports, in parking lots and on street corners. Long distance relationships mean always getting to say hello. TC mark

image – pescatello

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