There are parts of being in a long distance relationship that I never know if I will fully be able to articulate. The moment I said goodbye to my boyfriend when we left for college freshman year, I closed the door behind me as he drove away and just crumpled to the ground and sobbed. This sounds unbelievably dramatic, and I had never been an emotional person until this moment. However, the fear of the unknown was paralyzing. My best friend was about to live five hours away from me, I was going to be in a different time zone, and I didn't know when I was going to see him again. This was my first real experience where I felt like I had just lost someone I loved.
Of course, I didn't really lose him. But that moment, everything did change. I was forced to become independent and had to re-learn how to find happiness being alone. And boy, was I alone. The first few days after he left, I was still at home preparing to move to my school. I could hardly function. I barely ate, and I had never felt so drained of energy. Whenever I would play music and a song that reminded me of him came on, I could not help but cry. My parents physically dragged me to a "going-away" dinner, and I only spoke a few sentences the whole time. Again, this sounds ridiculously theatrical (and if I had not actually lived through it myself, I would agree). My first semester at college, I was the definition of lost. It took me a long time to find myself without my best friend by my side.
But gradually, things got better (and continue to). Now, our goodbyes are still sad but not quite so sloppy. I no longer feel empty without him. I have found my passions at school and with these discoveries have come people that share them. I have an established group of friends, I have a clear professional direction, and I have goals that feel achievable. Re-creating my identity outside of a boyfriend, while unbelievably difficult, has forced me to self-reflect on who I am as an individual and who I want to become.
Because I don't have a boyfriend around to spend weekends with, I spend all my time with my friends. I have time to dedicate to school, an on-campus job, and serving on executive positions for multiple organizations. My schedule is my own, and I can create time to go to the gym six days a week. I am able to get coffee with potential employers and explore the city of Indianapolis without worrying about canceling plans with my boyfriend. I have truly had an independent college experience, and I do not doubt that this has allowed me to become more involved and invested in my friends, my schoolwork, and my extracurriculars than I would have had we gone to the same school.
These are the things I try to remind myself of when we spend Valentine's Day, both our birthdays and almost every single weekend apart. This is what I force myself to think when he is missing from my sorority's formal, date nights, and philanthropy events. When my roommates spend the night with their boyfriends multiple days a week, I smile and say, "Have a good night!" I try not to envy their position too much because I tell myself that long distance has given me so many opportunities.
This is true. But I also miss him, all the time. One thing is for certain, long distance has made me a much stronger individual. I have learned how to find happiness outside of being with him. I have discovered more about myself the past few years alone than I would have had we been at the same school. I have fostered life-long relationships with my friends.
And, at the end of the day, I know that if we can make it through long distance, we can make it through anything.