It was over a year ago, last January, when my boyfriend of almost four years said, “So I have something to tell you” over a Friday night dinner in Chinatown. My appetite instantly evaporated and my stomach suddenly ached with anticipation over what would follow those words. Immediately I thought, This is the break-up dinner, and my mind whirled into a frenzy of what could be wrong when I thought we were so happy. We caught a cab and went back to his Brooklyn apartment, quickly saying hi to his roommates and disappearing into his room to talk.
Sitting on his bed, I prepared myself for the worst. Did he cheat on me? Did he lose his job? Just looking at him, I couldn’t tell. He wasn’t mad, but he wasn’t happy either. He’s usually calm, but at that moment he was nervous.
“So, I’m moving to Hong Kong for work,” was the next thing I heard.
I felt like I’d been smacked. This was very unexpected. As an analyst for Goldman Sachs, he was already in his company’s biggest office—New York—but his eyes lit up as he told me about an opportunity for a transfer to Hong Kong for a year.
I was overwhelmed and confused as to what this meant for us. I sat for a minute and tears just started to fall. It was all I could do. Even as he comforted me, it was all that I did for the rest of the night.
Jordan and I began dating my freshman year at Boston University. I wasn’t looking for a relationship—I had broken up with my high school boyfriend that summer and wanted to start college single. I dated here and there, but the night I met Jordan I knew there was something more about him. We met in standard college fashion: at a fraternity. He was a brother of Chi Phi at MIT whose house just happens to be mere blocks from the BU campus. A high school friend of mine was also Chi Phi and brought me over to meet the brothers. It didn’t take too long after meeting Jordan that we went out on our first date. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to dive into something long term, but we became so close I couldn’t say no.
Three years later, sitting in that restaurant, I was afraid I might have to. I was in my senior year of college. He had already graduated from MIT, being two years older, and moved to New York. Living five hours apart already was annoying, yet do-able. But 18 hours and thousands of miles apart—really?!
The rest of that weekend progressed as our biweekly visits usually did. Spending time in the city, seeing friends, going out—only now any quiet moments were filled with so many questions: How long will you be gone? How will this work? We’re staying together, right? Should I visit?
I hopped on the ever familiar Chinatown bus back to BU on Sunday and confided in my three friends/roommates. They helped me come to accept my love’s year-long departure. But incidentally, it kept getting pushed back, month after month after month. Visa papers and work projects all kept prolonging the inevitable. His transfer became like a long joke where the teller never seems to get to the punchline. I knew it was going to happen, but damnit can we set a date please?! Always thinking, This might be our last month in the same country was exhausting.
I graduated in May and he still had not left. I packed up my boxes and made the move to NYC. It was the first time outside college we actually got to see each other on a daily basis for longer than a weekend. I soon got a job and we were really happy. Saturday mornings always began with Jordan’s signature egg whites and Eggo waffles for breakfast. For the next nine months we lived, loved and planned how things would work when he finally did leave.
Two weeks ago, the punchline finally landed. Jordan and I had our bittersweet goodbye right outside of security at JFK Airport. After he went through, I wiped off the tears that had rolled down my face and caught the subway home.
Back in my room, I sat down and really thought about my situation. I needed to put it into perspective. As sad as I was that he had actually left, I was intent on not pitying myself and becoming “that girl” who can’t function without her boyfriend. It’s just not my style, never has been.
We’d had a little long-distance practice before when I studied abroad in Madrid for four months my junior year and we made it though that. Now, Hong Kong is the big leagues and 12 months is much long than four. But I would never want to stop him from doing something he really wanted. I would do the same if I was given a great opportunity in another country. And honestly, I think we prepped pretty damn well.
The biggest issue for me was—will you continue to be faithful while we’re apart? And will I? No judgment, but I am not a believer in open relationships. Talking about this was easy and hard at the same time. I knew I still wanted to be with him and he expressed the same, but we also made it clear that if either person started to feel differently or was drifting away emotionally, they needed to be honest and communicate that. The realization that we might not last scared me, but it was necessary.
Now that he is off in the Far East, I am focusing on what is near and dear to me. Not that he ever hindered me, but I now have an extra jolt of energy and more time to spend working on what I want for myself professionally, financially, even physically. I mean, I gotta get my fitness on.
I’m working on embracing my independence while still nurturing my relationship. Being a good girlfriend still takes time and thought—possibly even more so now. I’ve got a 12 hour time difference on my hands, so a makeshift schedule of sorts to talk and communicate is key. Skype is my new best friend. And I’ve literally spent hours searching for my web cam, which I still can’t find.
Whoever said it’s the small things that count was absolutely right. When you’re apart, conversations over the phone and computer seem sweeter. A new email goes from being mundane to an unexpected hello during the day. Basically, I’ve found in the past two week that the heart definitely grows fonder.
But it’s not all romance. The honeymoon phase is over after these two weeks and the time to really get used to not having him around is settling in fast. I definitely feel pulls to see him, talk to him, touch him, and I just have to know that I can’t, for now at least. The silver lining is I now have a chance to get to know a new country. At some point, I’ll be making the 18 or some obscene number of hour trip to Hong Kong. There’s talk of going to Thailand, too!
I’ll definitely have my sad moments, but I’m taking this with a grain of sugar, if you will, and making it into a growing experience. As much for me as it will be for him.