20-Something Long-Distance Love

Here’s to you.

By Rachael Long

That old saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder” is complete garbage.

My heart was already pretty stinking fond of my partner before I packed my bags and moved to Denver for the summer. He is the answer to so many prayers, and we fell for each other fast. Me in Denver and him all the way back home in Southeast Missouri; he and I are exactly 963.8 miles apart, and there is nothing romantic about it.

We met in a newsroom. We’re both pursuing careers in journalism, just one of the many things we have in common. When I got an opportunity to participate in an internship with a news organization in Denver for the summer, I was elated to accept.

Making moves for my career felt so right. But leaving my best friend behind for an entire summer was the just about the last thing I wanted to do.

As is my usual custom when faced with life hurdles, I came to my parents seeking advice. This is a practice I’ve come to appreciate more and more as the years go by. As it turns out, parents have an incredible amount of wisdom to bear.

My mom and dad have been together since the 1980s, and their love story strikes awfully close to home for me now.

I’ve always idolized my parents’ love — especially in this era where being married once without divorce is rare — but it wasn’t until my career path began to echo theirs that I felt connected to the journey on which the lovers I call Mom and Dad went.

In the little town of New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, my parents attended Westminster College. Both of them headed for careers in broadcast journalism — her in television and him in radio — the two were fast friends. And then a fast pair.

Sounds familiar, right? Just one of many parallels I have come to find between my parents’ relationship and mine.

My mom took her first job in Cincinnati, just days after her college graduation. Dad helped her move to her new city and settle in. But after spending a month on the job hunt in Cincinnati, he still had no prospects in radio. My father knew he had to return home to Pittsburgh to find a job in his field.

Now keep in mind, this was the pre-internet era: email, cell phones and face-to-face calls were but a dream. My mom recalls to me now and then she would go entire weekends without speaking to another human being.

Despite her loneliness, my mother knew the time apart helped her grow into a strong, independent woman. If I am half the woman she is, I will have greatly succeeded in life, and this is just one of the reasons why:

“I figured out I could make it on my own,” she tells me. “And if I was going to be with your dad, it was going to be because I wanted to be, not because I needed to be.”

After two long years apart, they were married in the Westminster College campus chapel in 1982. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive enough to believe a relationship which survives some time apart is instantly bound for long-term success. My parents certainly faced hurdles long after their sweet and simple wedding in 1982. I should know — I was one of them.

But if my parents — the creators and actors of the most epic love story ever told — could make it through 35 years and counting, I have more than hope for the future.

I have a road map.

While I’m in Denver chasing my dreams, I know my partner is doing the same back home. So while being apart isn’t ideal, I know now that our future isn’t dependent on geography. It’s completely up to us to navigate.

And I couldn’t ask for a better co-pilot.

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