Long-distance Relationships

Just to give everyone fair warning, this blog is going to be sentimental in the extreme and deeply personal, because it’s about someone that means the world to me.

The term is winding down and my time in Oxford is nearing its end.  Already many of the friends I’ve made here over the past nine months have left for home, internships, or travel.  I’ve handed in the last of my essays, and all I have left is one tutorial before then I’ll be officially finished with my Oxford career.  It has been an absolutely amazing year, full of fantastic adventures, wonderful people, and beautiful sights.  It hasn’t always been easy; there have been plenty of late nights/ early mornings writing essays to meet deadlines, and I’ve seen the Oxford sunrise more times than I would care to admit.  And that’s without even mentioning all the difficulties that are inevitable with transitioning to a new place with new people.  But through it all, there have always been friends and family there supporting me.  I could go on for pages and pages thanking everyone who has helped me through this year abroad, but this blog is dedicated to one particular individual to has been a huge part of my life for the past nearly three-and-a-half years:  my amazing girlfriend, Mikayla.

First, a little bit about Mikayla and me:  the first time we met was a church lock-in just over four years ago, in the spring of my junior year of high school (her sophomore year).  From the very beginning, something just clicked between us, and we ended staying up all night just chatting about nothing and everything.  We exchanged phone numbers, but didn’t really chat until about ten months later, when Mikayla texted me out-of-the-blue, and again we stayed up chatting for hours and hours.  When we finally saw each other again (on Super Bowl Sunday, funnily enough), we just knew, and we’ve been together ever since.

Our relationship has always been long-distance.  We both went to different high schools growing up, and now we study at different colleges.  Sometimes the distance makes things hard, but we’ve done our best to see each other when we can and to make the most of the times we do get to spend together.  I always knew that I wanted to study abroad, and it is to Mikayla’s credit that she was always very supportive and never once tried to talk me out of it, despite knowing how much more difficult it was going to make things for us.  The day came for me to fly out to the UK, and as I left we reminded each other with tears in our eyes that it wasn’t a ‘goodbye’, but only a ‘see you later’.

One of the first things I did when I got to the UK was to get a smartphone, and it was one of the smartest things I’ve done since coming here (pun unashamedly intended).  It made it so much easier to keep in touch with everyone back home, both with Facebook messaging and snapchats, and we’ve been able to chat almost as easily as if I were actually still in the states and we were just on different campuses.  The time change did take a lot of getting used to, however, and it sometimes led to confusions and misunderstandings.  But we’ve learned to cope with it, and to some extent manage our work schedules and sleep schedules to make sure to find time during the day to just chat and catch up.  We also continued our weekly Sunday Skype dates, which have always marked one of the high points of my week.  Facebook messaging and snapchats are both wonderful, but nothing can match a conversation in which you can see the other person’s face and hear their voice, despite being thousands of miles apart.  Care packages and handwritten letters were also always wonderful surprises to find in the mail.  I would send Mikayla British treats and sweets and she would send me things I was missing from home, as well as the occasional surprise.  But the letters were always the best part; they always brought me a huge grin to my face and I would reread them whenever I was having a particularly rough or stressful day.

Two of the best weeks of my study abroad were when Mikayla came to visit me over the winter holiday.  She flew over the day before New Year’s Eve, and we rang in the New Year watching the fireworks in London from directly across the Thames from the London Eye.  Even before I knew I would be studying abroad in the UK, Mikayla and I had always said we would go on the London Eye together, and in those two weeks we had our chance.  We also went to museums and castles, travelled to Salisbury, Bath, Cardiff, and Oxford, and saw Stonehenge (in the pouring rain, of course).  We also celebrated Mikayla’s twentieth birthday in the most magical way possible:  a trip to the Harry Potter Studio tour in Watford Junction, where the model of Hogwarts was still all decorated with snow for winter.  Sadly, our travels were over all too soon, and after another tear-filled goodbye Mikayla returned to the States.  If anything, this goodbye was harder than the last, because we knew it would be another six months before we could see each other again.  But we could take comfort in the fact that we had made plenty of memories that would last a lifetime.

The next several months had their ups and downs, as we knew they would.  The spring holiday was particularly hard, because it wasn’t always easy to keep in touch whilst I was travelling the UK.  But we made it through, and as end of term approached, I could feel myself getting more and more excited.  As sad as I am to soon be leaving Oxford behind me after a fantastic nine months, every day that passes is bringing my closer to seeing my wonderful sweetheart again.  I’m sure my friends have gone half-crazy from listening to me ramble on about how excited I am, not to leave, but to be home and reunited again.  I know that I am truly lucky and blessed to have such an amazing woman to share my life with, who has stuck with me and supported me through these past nine months abroad, and these past nearly three-and-a-half years.  If you’re reading this, I love you, Mikayla.  Thank you for everything, and I cannot wait to see your beautiful face again in three days!

Before leaving to study abroad, people kept telling me all sorts of horror stories about long-distance relationships and how they never work and aren’t worth the time or effort.  In my humble opinion, they couldn’t be more wrong.  I won’t deny that distance makes things harder and at times can leave you emotionally exhausted, and there are days that you would give anything for even just a hug.  But in the end, some people are worth fighting for.  It takes patience, understanding, hard work, and more than a little forgiveness, just like any other relationship.  This year has shown me that distance proves the strength of a relationship.  It proves that you aren’t in a relationship simply because it’s easy or convenient; there’s nothing easy or convenient about being over three thousand miles away from the one you love.  It proves that you are in the relationship because you honestly believe to the very core of your being that the other person is worth it, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship work.  I’d like to close with a quote that Mikayla gave me before I headed off to college, which ever since has always been on my desk, wherever I may be:

“Distance is not for the fearful, it’s for the bold.  It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone, in exchange for a little time with the ones they love.  It’s for those knowing a good thing when they see it, even if they don’t see it nearly enough.”