What makes a relationship last? Is it based on the presents you get, the amount of time you spend together or is it based on something else entirely? Can a relationship withstand the test of time even after missing so many birthdays, holidays and other important milestones in a person’s life? More importantly, what is needed to make a long distance relationship last for an extended period of time?
When Eddie and I first started dating, we had been friends first and our relationship had only started a few months before my departure to Ethiopia. Now, it is a year and a half since I left the States, and we’re stronger than ever. In August, we saw each other in Italy after a year of being apart and it was as if nothing had changed. We were a little older, a little wiser and a little more mature. We could still make each other laugh, we enjoyed each other’s company and the love was still there. The biggest obstacle we faced when we saw each other was finding a balance between my “laid-back, it’ll happen, I’m on Ethiopian time” and his “fast-paced, we need to go, the trains won’t wait for us.” Currently, we are at an 8 hour difference but we manage to speak on a weekly basis. What is it like to date someone who is over seven thousand miles away?
Some days are tougher than others. It hits you especially during the holidays, birthdays and important milestones because all you can do is look at photos and wish you could have been there. Recently, Eddie graduated and it hit me hard that I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t keep it together after the pictures were posted and all I could feel was an immense pressure on my heart as the tears fell. In a way, being in a long distance relationship is like being split in two; a part of you is happy but the other part of you is deeply saddened.
Peace Corps has been my dream ever since my brother got back from his service in 2009 and it was the goal I strived for. I cried with relief and happiness in Puerto Rico after having received my nomination email and I was able to share that experience as a Site Leader when I, among two others, took a group of students abroad to do environmental work. I laughed and spoke excitedly on the phone with my family and told them the great news. I had fought for Peace Corps, but most importantly, I had fought for placement in Africa. I wanted to affect change and immerse myself in a culture I only knew about in books and movies. I knew what I wanted and I was determined to see it through. So, why am I split in two? I never intended to get into a relationship before Peace Corps. When I was in high school and I daydreamed, I saw myself single and enjoying what life had to offer me. Meeting Eddie and getting involved with him was a happy accident and one I would gladly make again.
There are some days when I find myself wondering what would have happened had I never taken a risk and instead, stayed in my shell as intended. My life while in Ethiopia had I been single could have been easier but I don’t know if it would have been any better. Eddie’s the first person I call when I am able to get internet and most days, the act of talking to him on the phone or seeing his face on oovoo makes the distance worth it.
Ethiopians have a difficult time understanding why anyone is unmarried and childless at 24. They also cannot grasp why someone would leave their job in the States and volunteer in Ethiopia. I, on the other hand, question how someone could be so content with never leaving the comforts of home and experiencing all that life has to give. Because no matter the distance and the effort it takes to maintain a happy relationship abroad, I am eternally grateful that I followed through with my dreams and goals.
What makes a relationship last? What is needed to make a long distance relationship last for an extended period of time? Maybe there is no right answer, but instead, two dedicated and devoted individuals who want to give it a try. Maybe it’s about one person putting their dreams to action and hoping the other person understands. Maybe it’s about the right person who encourages you and who, despite the distance, still loves you.
My tidbit is around 8:30. Great job Ash!