"How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?" - Winnie the Pooh/A. A. Milne
This cliché is genuine, reflecting the sentiment of how grateful I should be for what I have. My appreciation must be endless, for I am privileged with a romance straight out of a fairy tale, feelings I never want to forget, and a love that extends forevermore.
But, honestly, sometimes all I can think is: Screw that.
For the few months approaching my departure to college, all I could do was worry and fear. I was burdened by the notion that my decision to leave might be the worst of my life – that I could potentially be giving up the person I love for a future I could not predict.
Long distance is the epitome of the worst waiting game. Every day is a countdown, whether you’re apart or with the person you love. You’re either marking the x's on your mental calendar, waiting until the moment you lock eyes with them again, or savoring every second together in an attempt to avoid the end that will always be just one day too soon.
This was my fate with the person I had grown to love in such a short period of time. While we had known each other for years, it was only at the beginning of summer that our friendship crossed the boundary to romance, unexpectedly and almost miraculously. Because I was leaving and he was staying, our relationship was never anticipated, but it blossomed regardless, as if not even the confines of timing could deny we belonged together. I fell for his cheesy jokes and endearing dimples, constant bedhead and soft t-shirts. All of the little things initially draw me in, but now they allow me to fall in love, on repeat, every day. He never fails to envelop my heart in happiness and always keeps me smiling, even on the hardest days and the longest nights.
But no matter how much I adore him, there is always devastation looming ahead. It is impossible to forget the biggest obstacle of all: the goodbye.
The night before I caught my flight to college, I went to see him, expecting to face the most difficult hours of my life. I imagined myself unable to hold in tears, failing to concentrate on anything but the future months without him. I had prepared to begin that countdown for the first time, waiting for the emptiness to set in, but dreading it all the same.
Yet, as I drove to see him for that goodbye, my hands didn’t tremble as they had in the past, whenever I was overwhelmed with the thought of leaving him. My eyes were dry; my lips curved upwards. I was okay. Somehow, I was surviving.
And in those final hours, I found myself caught in the moment, as if time had slowed down enough for me to appreciate it all, for once. I could relish the warmth between us. Our arms and legs laced together as we listened to the soundtrack of rapid heartbeats and timid breaths. When his fingers grazed my skin, I could count each goose bump as they rose, one by one, from my shoulder down to my wrist. Every kiss was a masterpiece, each movement a brushstroke within the design. I found myself painting on a canvas like no other, never thinking of the final product, but simply lost, blissfully, in the ignorance of the process.
It was in this sense that I found peace. I discovered within myself a strength I had been struggling to locate for the past three months.
I could see that it was not about miles between or days without, but rather the existence of each other, perpetually, in the lives we were leading independently. The world we had created together.
When it came time to say goodbye, it wasn’t that I did not break down – because I did, for hours on end, turning into a mess of sniffles and sobs.
It was not that I could find the right words – because I never did, though I tried countless times, even jumping out of my car to say them in one last attempt before driving away.
And it was not that everything was suddenly so effortless, that I had uncovered all of the answers and could recognize the light at the end of the tunnel. It was still painful, and it broke me beyond belief. I cried all the way home, and again so many moments after. I still cry sometimes, even now.
The only knowledge I gained was that every word, every tear and every moment did not have to be perfect because they did not amount to a finished product. We were not at the end of the road or the beginning of the tunnel. We were somewhere in the universe, lost in a galaxy we have only begun to explore. It expands infinitely in every direction and is not limited to the space we have defined with physical barriers or immediate truths. We are more than bodies, more than embraces, more than words and feelings and certainties. Our love is an action: one we will continue to fulfill no matter the separation. Regardless of where we are now, or where we may be, I have a tangible love embedded in my soul, and I am so privileged to carry such fortune. Sometimes I still say screw the clichés.
But other times, I admit that they were right all along.