Written by a senior at the University of Notre Dame
Do you remember the short-lived Nickelodeon TV series, The Naked Brothers Band? If so, the popular song from the show titled “Long Distance” might ring a bell. “Cause long distance relationships will kill you!” Ok, so it isn’t particularly memorable and definitely doesn’t stand out among the slew of tween hits that came out during the sitcom-featuring-teen-pop-sensations era, but nevertheless, this song personally resonates with me and used to play in my head from time to time.
I’m neither for nor against the idea of dating someone long distance. I believe in true love and I believe in soulmates. I’m a bit of a “hopeless romantic,” actually. Yet, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the importance of self-discovery during these formative college years. Though my personal experience with dating long distance may hint at a distinct bias, please believe me when I say I’m totally Switzerland when it comes to the big, bad “LDR.”
I get it. People are different, relationships run the gamut and circumstances vary. Long distance relationships can go well, but they can definitely get complicated.
Our modern world of social media and digital communication helped alleviate some of my concern upon entering into a LDR with my high school boyfriend. However, being in constant communication via cell phone didn’t always end up being the best thing. Way too much of my time was spent looking down at my iPhone, Skype-ing in my dorm room and stalking/resenting every girl who dared post a picture with him on Facebook.
I made the mistake of trying to relay every college experience to a person miles away instead of living in the moment and truly appreciating all the new opportunities and people around me. As a college freshman, being in a long distance relationship was like attempting to complete a half-built puzzle with an entirely different box of puzzle pieces. Things in college didn’t exactly seem to come together, at first.
I still play over the conversation I had with my high school boyfriend the summer night before we left for our respective universities. “There are going to be times when we’ll need each other and we just won’t be able to be there, you know? It’s not going to be easy.” As this replays in my head, I see my 18-year-old self nodding in silent acceptance, unable to see the benefits of letting go.
Given the chance to turn back time, I’m undecided as to whether I would change my decision. I have, however, come to the realization that I ended up needing someone there for me more than I ever thought I would. The summer before my sophomore year at ND, my parents separated. Now that really wasn’t easy.
I needed someone there for me more than ever and a hometown significant other was the perfect constant during a time when my whole reality was undergoing some major alterations. But it was unrealistic to think he could be there for me all the time while at another college.
We ran on different wavelengths. And when fraternity events or business exams kept him from reaching out, a certain loneliness would consume me. I began to recognize that I hadn’t begun to establish myself at Notre Dame the way my peers seemed to be doing.
Frequent weekend visits to my boyfriend’s school often kept me from my own social activities. I hadn’t dedicated time or effort to building many relationships on campus. I felt like I lacked an identity. Most significantly, I didn’t know anyone well enough to truly divulge my worries about what was going on at home. In keeping myself closed off and internalizing my hurt, I became constantly frustrated and sad. You can only imagine the kind of strain that put on an already stressful relationship.
The week before I went back to ND for my junior year, I finally broke down in front of my mom. I confessed that I didn’t think I could go back to college and that I needed a year off. She told me I could do whatever I need to do, but if I stuck it out, I shouldn’t be afraid to change some things up. I, after all, was the only one who could determine my own happiness.
I knew what needed to change, and the night before we left for our third year at our respective universities, my boyfriend and I broke up. There wasn’t much closure and there was a lot of hurt, but putting our relationship on hold was something I felt was necessary.
My junior year of college I went back to the drawing board, eager and excited to “change some things up” as my mom recommended. I started participating in activities I felt passionate about but never felt I had the time for, like writing a column for our student newspaper. I put myself out there in more in social situations, introducing myself to peers I’d never talked to before. I joined a softball team, went to dances and nights out that used to end with late night calls to the BF were now devoted to late night Dominos with friends. Perhaps the greatest change I made, however, was beginning to confide in my girlfriends. This was something I rarely felt I needed to do in the past because I had a significant other.
I’m becoming more certain everyday that having a solid group of GFs totally trumps having a BF.
This past summer, my “ex” (I guess that’s what he’s called now, though I hate that term) and I both had internships in the same city and decided to give our relationship another shot. Things went fine, but as mid-August approached the verdict of our annual summer discussion became inevitable. This time, he was the one to break up with me.
I was bummed. Actually, scratch the past tense. I’m still pretty bummed. Right now, I’m in a great place and actually feel like I could take on a relationship…even a long distance one.
I’m left wondering: What if I hadn’t ended this in the first place? Would I still have him? Was it worth it? I may never know.
But I do know that now I’m working with puzzle pieces that are finally coming together.