Apparently, it started with a game of volleyball.
It was back when I was in Sydney. I had just arrived and moved into my new residential college. The dorm had rented out some volleyball courts at the university gym, and invited all the residents to come and play.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s when it began.
Although nothing happened until much, much later.
A couple weeks after I played volleyball, some kid approached me as I was going to lunch. Everyone in my residential hall ate in the same dining room. This dining hall always kept tons of fruit that residents could take back to their rooms. I have an unnatural fondness for bananas, so I would often take multiple bananas from the cafeteria.
This kid approached me, clutching two bananas in his hand.
It was a sincere attempt to establish a rapport with me, I realize now. It didn’t work. Mostly, I wondered why this kid had a problem with my banana addiction. I completely forgot about the incident and went about business as usual.
It wasn’t until a month later that things began to move. I participated in the residential hall’s talent show, exhibiting my speed drawing skills alongside an actual artist. We needed someone to be the announcer for our act. This same kid volunteered.
We had to rehearse for the act, of course. Check the lighting and practice walking on stage and all that. While we waited for our turn at the rehearsal, I started chatting with our announcer.
At that time, The Legend of Korra had completed its first season. Fans had been waiting with baited breath for the next season to come out. It had already been months.
Clever play, dude. Clever play.
So, I started watching The Legend of Korra with this kid every week. We got to talking. He seemed like a cool guy– likes comics, likes video games, likes reddit, just like me. We became fast friends.
After the 3rd week of watching Korra, he knocks on my door and asks:
C’mon. I’m a middle-class American girl who grew up in white suburbia. Of course I was gonna say,
Another smooth move. Props to you, kid. Anyway, you can imagine where this is going.
We went from acquaintances, to fast friends, to dating. Just like that. For some reason we got along really well. Probably because we were both weird people and total nerds.
But it was a doomed relationship from the start.
After all, I was only going to be in Sydney for so long. By the time we started dating, I had a month and a half left in the country. This guy wasn’t American. He wasn’t even Australian. He’s a citizen of Malaysia who is an international student at the University of Sydney.
Even as we continued to hang out…
…it was tinged with worry.
After all, this guy was from the other side of the world. Not an exaggeration. I had to think realistically. I could enjoy the time I had with him now, for sure. Everyone has that overseas romance, right? But once I left, we’d have to break it off. That idea, for some reason, didn’t appeal to me.
So we decided, against all odds, to try a long-distance relationship. This wasn’t the sort of long distance where you get to see each other once a week, or once a month. This was going to be a relationship where you’d see each other never, and maaaaaaybe in the far future you’d get to visit again.
The day I flew out of Sydney– well, let’s just say it’s not one of my happier memories. He came to the airport with me and waited until I had to board my flight.
At least I wasn’t leaving Australia completely. I dived the Great Barrier Reef after that, then toured Queensland with my friends. Then, I traveled Vietnam with my family. The day that I flew back to Boston, however…
It was over. Everything was over. The warm sunny skies of Sydney were replaced with the sub-zero frost of the Massachusetts Bay. I got back to Boston on a Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, I immediately jumped into my new internship. I didn’t have a chance to catch my breath.
Like that, the long-distance began.
First, we had to deal with the time difference. Even when we were awake at the same time, we’d be busy with work, school, or life. We were really only able to Skype on weekends. We did text and leave voice messages every day, though.
Suddenly, I went from never-answers-her-phone girl to always-attached-to-her-phone girl.
Those first few months were painful. Anyone in a long-distance relationship knows what I mean. The feeling of missing someone so badly, you’d give up a kidney just to see them again. I would sit around, wondering why teleportation hadn’t been invented yet.
As time went on, the pain slowly numbed. I was more and more able to function like a real human being. I really hated to admit that one person could have such a huge effect on my behavior, so this was a small relief.
I read fluffy listicles on long-distance relationships.
Life goes on. Months flew by. Landmark dates passed: Valentine’s Day, my birthday, his birthday, our one-year anniversary. All spent alone. We sent postcards, packages, physical presents to make up for our absence.
I ran my first half-marathon. He finished his final exams. I completed my internship. He landed a part-time job. I traveled Europe with my sister. Things kept changing, but one thing remained constant: Us. We continued to keep in touch. Neither of us wanted to let go, despite all the naysayers.
They all had a point, though. Text messages and video chats can only go so far. Relationships require physical presence, and we were severely lacking in that.
Something had to shift. But what? It’s not like I could fly to Australia, or he to America, for a casual weekend visit. There was no way our relationship could continue like this for long. One day, he asked me to talk.
He told me the details: for the last few months, he had worked at getting his grades up. That way, he could qualify to study abroad. It’s a long process, though. First, he has to choose the top schools that he wanted to go to. Then, the University of Sydney has to approve one of his choices. Then he needs to wait for the exchange institution’s approval, and then he has to go through the painful process of getting a visa.
Well, he’d only have to do all that if he got approved in the first place.
I’ve never been so mad and touched in my life. The waiting began. The University of Sydney took a few weeks to respond. We waited impatiently, hoping that they’d approve his top choice– Northeastern University, my school.
Finally, he got an e-mail.
Then, Northeastern had to accept him. This took another month.
It was a horrible waiting period. The Northeastern study abroad representative was unresponsive and slow. The visa process couldn’t start until Northeastern sent their approval documents. As the weeks crawled on, we texted and worried.
And, then, the magic happened:
At that moment, we realized that this was real. There was no turning back. He still had to go through the long and excruciating process of getting a visa, finding housing, and booking plane tickets, but it was set. This was happening. We were going to be reunited– not for a week or two, but for a full semester.
He flew in right before Christmas, on a 25-hour flight.
My dad and I picked him up from the airport.
I looked around.
And then, I realized.
He was right.
Despite all those months– over a year– of waiting.
Even if it’s hard, it’ll be worth it.
It sure was for us.