By Sasha Saliba
I was standing in my friend’s kitchen when she started talking about her boyfriend. As I slowly sipped my water, I could barely keep a straight face when she mentioned her “long distance” relationship — where she and her boyfriend were an hour away from each other. “Really?” I thought to myself. “You’re an hour away from each other!” I could only wish that my boyfriend was an hour away.
I looked down and my mind wandered to my relationship. If I were to drive to see him it wouldn’t be one, three, or even ten or twelve hours. No, not even fifteen. If I were to drive to Lincoln, Nebraska, it would take me about twenty hours. Since I can barely sit still in a car for even three hours, that’s not going to happen any time soon. So my option is to fly to see him and for him to fly to see me. And since we’re both in college that happens every three to four months, as we’re busy with school and work. So back to my previous point — I could only imagine what it would be like to live an hour away from each other.
My boyfriend and I used to live three minutes from each other. I found that out the first night I met him — at a club in Daytona Beach. He moved to Daytona in January 2016 to go to school and I was there attending the community college before I headed to UF. I also found out the night I met him that he was leaving that June to go back home, the same time I was moving to Gainesville. I didn’t think anything of it or even cared, as I figured I would never see this guy again after tonight. But when someone asks you to put your number in their phone and you do, and then they text you non-stop, and you just want to be friends at first but then you go out again — and it turns out to be amazing and you fall crazy in love with each other — then the sentence “I’m leaving in a few months” means something totally different.
Fast forward to June, and it’s the second night I’m in my new apartment. My sister couldn’t sit on the couch watching me sob any longer, as it was already 2:30 in the morning. I was sitting there until 4 a.m., still crying. Who knew we have so many tears? But that summer and fall of 2016 were the hardest times in my life so far. When I wasn’t in class I was in bed, and when I was in bed I was never hungry. Not once. Ever. I had to force myself to eat once or sometimes twice a day. “This isn’t me,” I thought to myself every day. “I’m Sasha Saliba! I’m a smart, independent woman. I work in news! I can’t be upset. I can’t let myself go. I need to grow up.”
The truth is maturity has nothing to do with it. Whether you’re twenty or sixty years old, a broken heart is a broken heart. My boyfriend and I did not break up. We decided to stay together to do the long distance relationship and to be exclusive with each other. Our only rule was to always be honest with each other and to end the relationship before we were going to do something that would hurt the other person. It’s hard learning to trust someone. When you’re not there all the time you have no idea what’s going on or where they are 24/7 (unless you track them, and I’m not going to be that crazy).
But unless they give you something to worry about, you have to trust them and know that it’s great and it’s going to work itself out. And it has. We’ve been together for almost two years now and it’s been so much fun and absolutely amazing. After those first months of tears and staying in bed I finally got up and grew up. Here’s why, in the long run, I think the long distance has ultimately been the best for us.
First of all, it feels mature. Is that weird? I follow so many bloggers and influencers, and a lot of them do long distance. Of course they make way more money than I do right now so they’re able to see their partner more often than every three or four months, but they’re busy! I’m busy! I’m in school full time, I have a job, I work on two different news shows and in the newsroom almost every day and in clubs and organizations. I’m a working girl (I love saying that after seeing the movie “Working Girl”). But I have the time to continue my life and dreams and goals without being held down by trying to come home early to the honey or remembering I have date night with the honey. When he’s here, it’s all about him, but when he’s gone, it’s all about me, and I love that. I’m only 21 and I’m not ready to be tied down just yet.
Second, I have time for my family and friends. My family is very close and amazing and always there for me, and I also have a handful of very close friends. So many girls I know put their family and friends on the backburner when they have a boyfriend. That just seems wrong. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it but I’m improving. Just because you have a boyfriend doesn’t mean time freezes and you can get around to those people later. It also doesn’t mean he’s a unicorn that’s going to disappear if you don’t snatch and hold onto him tight (if he does he’s not the right one for you). But I’ve been able to spend quality time with everyone in my life still and I feel really good and fulfilled about it. Because if, one day, that relationship doesn’t work out, no one is going to appreciate you running back to them, apologizing for ignoring them. They may forgive you, but it might still hurt that you put some boy (in their mind) before your friendship or family.
This last point is really big and something that people have talked and asked me about so many times I can’t even count how many: “Why are you staying with one person in college?! That’s your time to experiment and have fun!”
This might sound crazy and I might sound like your mother, but guess what? You don’t have to make out with someone when you go out. You don’t have to bring someone home to your place that night when you go out. You don’t have to get drunk, either. And you don’t have to experiment to have fun. I know there seems to be some rule floating around the universe these days that that has to happen, because you see everyone else doing it. But that’s not a rule. We are lucky to live in a country where we do have sexual freedom and you are welcome to do whatever you want. But you don’t have to. And to all the people that look at me crazy because I’m faithful to one man and think I must not be having any fun — you’re wrong. I work 24/7, and that’s fun. I’m building up my resume like crazy, and that’s fun. I come home to a nice apartment with a great roommate and we sit and watch E! News most nights, cracking jokes non stop, and that’s fun. And I go out with my girls for girls night out a lot, and that’s really fun.
Fun is a subjective statement, it’s not anything based on fact. So the next time someone tells you what fun is or what you’re supposed to do in college, just smile and move on with your amazing life. Because guess what? Not all guys that seemed fun at one point are asking you to dinner, are always there to talk on the phone or to FaceTime with you or are always there to support you.
I stop sipping my water and look up. We’re still in my friend’s kitchen, still talking. We’ve moved on from talking about her boyfriend to something else, maybe house decor or where we’re going to have dinner. They mention maybe inviting their guys so it can be a quadruple double date? But I know mine can’t make it. He’ll be here in 20 hours. But it’s OK. He’ll be here in a few weeks and we’re going to have so much fun, cry the last day and then look forward to three or four months from then. And it’s not permanent.
Once we’re done with school and figure out careers then we’ll be together. It’s going to be OK. It’s OK to miss someone, to cry, to have mascara stains all over your bed. To drain you iPad battery all the way from FaceTiming for hours and to be with one person. But it’s not OK to stay in bed and hide from the world, to feel sorry for yourself and think you’re the only person who has it hard. My dad always told me that there’s always someone who has a better situation than you and always someone who has a worse situation. That you have to play the cards you’re dealt.
I believe it’s important to take a hard situation (such as a long distance relationship) and see the beauty in the fact that it’s teaching you how to be patient and still live for yourself.