Learning and growing

I find it truly incredible how much this last year of my life has helped me grow. I’ve become so focused on my career lately that very little outside of my classes and my internships has mattered. I feel terrible because of how much I’ve neglected my best friends in the process of growing as a person, but I’ve gained so much in experiences. It’s that devil of a triangle where you have to pick two: sleep, good grades or a social life.

I feel like the greatest place I’ve grown, though, is emotionally. I also feel like I’ve hid my emotions a lot lately, but more about that in a minute.

I started talking with Sean in April. We talked every day, and he just got me. He took me on our first date in May. From there, we spent nearly every weekend together, texted every day, acted like a normal couple, but we never put a label on it. I still fell so hard for that man. Then he left for the summer to work at Cedar Point. We had already been doing distance, so this wasn’t that much different.

Sean had talked about teaching English in Thailand since the beginning of our dating. I knew it was a goal that he had, and he was determined to reach it. I admired him for it and for chasing after it so feverishly. He had an interview with a group that could place him abroad quickly.

He had just finished at Cedar Point and had gone with his mother and grandmother to Cleveland for his grandmother’s surgery. But a few days into that trip he stopped responding to my texts. I worried something terrible had happened.

Five days later, he texted me from the airport saying he had gotten placed in the program and was flying out for training.

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I didn’t get to properly prepare my heart for this. Had he told me when he had got the job offer, I would have been able to pull out, grab the bit of my heart I had given him and run.

This happened a month ago. I’ve had nightmares about him leaving again. I’ve cried more often than I’d like to admit. But it’s also given me so much more determination to get out of college and chase after my dreams. I’m not mad at Sean for following his heart and achieving his goals. I couldn’t be prouder of him than I am right now. I’m mad at him for not letting me protect my heart, though.

I wrote him a letter when he left, and I don’t know that he’ll ever read it, but it’s there for him:

I’m so proud of you for accomplishing this goal. I’m so proud of you for not letting me hold you back and I’m so, so incredibly proud to say that I’ve had you in my life for some short amount of time.

I don’t know when I’ll fall out of love with you or if it’ll stay in my heart forever, even just in a little piece. I don’t know when the tears are going to stop falling or when my heart will stop hurting. I wish I knew these answers.

But please don’t forget how proud of you I am. I appreciate you for helping me grow as a person, and I wish I could have said all of this to your beautiful face. I’m not mad at you. I’m just so incredibly proud of everything you do and everything you’ve helped me do. Thank you.

But that’s the devil in relationships. You end up letting that wall break down just a little and watch this person climb in and set up camp. It’s terrifying because you wonder, “what do they think they’re doing in my territory?” But you still sit by that fire they built and share stories and get to know them. When they leave, you’ll miss them, but you still have those stories and those experiences to learn from. And that’s the beauty of every relationship.

It’s taken me a little while to share this story because I worry that it’ll make me seem weak, like it’ll make me seem oblivious to things that were happening around me.

But I think the story makes me more human. You can’t control the actions of those around you, but you can control the way you react to those actions. I’ve retreated some emotionally. I’m focusing on school and just getting out, and I’ve started to build that emotional wall back up. But I’m still grateful for the man that tore it down a bit.

Sean was my first significant relationship in almost two years. He was the first relationship I’ve had that had decent communication between the two of us, until that ending little hiccup. But I still appreciate everything he taught me about myself and what he taught me about relationships. Maybe someday I’ll find someone that I can love that will love me back, and we can communicate and be happy sometimes and fight sometimes and just talk.

I had a drunk 50-year-old woman at Blissfest in 2010 tell me, “Communication is key.” I didn’t know then how much her words would continue to ring true through my life, but I’ll never forget them, and I’m going to continue to live by them.

Change

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. ” – Isaac Asimov

It’s difficult thinking about the future and what it can hold. One part of me is certain that it’s full of endless possibilities, that I can go anywhere, work from anywhere and do anything. A journalism degree does not limit me to just covering the news. I could freelance, edit, write for a paper or magazine. I could enter communications or marketing or advertising. Yet, another part of me feels stuck in a rut, set with the conservative, traditional ten year plan that 18-year-old me wanted.

One of the best things that has happened to me is dating a man that has such clear goals in mind about where he wants to go, what he wants to do and what he wants to be. I admire his tenacity in reaching those goals, too, not letting anything hold him back, including me. I appreciate his open communication since the beginning of our relationship about these goals and his determination to achieve them. I support his dreams and anything that he has to do to get there, even if it means his leaving the country and me behind with it.

Like Asimov said, “It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today.” Without change, there is no spark, nothing to look forward to, nothing to push for. I’m watching the industry I adore change rapidly, from the MLive internship program getting cut to reporters leaving almost weekly for other jobs. It’s terrifying to watch those jobs left vacant. However, that’s a change the company has made and it’s a reflection of how society feels about journalism.

Yes, change is scary. I’m entering my final semester of college on Monday. I have 18 credits, 115 days and six finals that stand in the way of me and my degree. After five and a half years, it’s time to move on. I won’t let anything stop me. There will be lots of changes along with it, an abundance of new ideas and opportunities ahead of me during the semester and especially after. Embracing change is the only way to go about life, though.

You shouldn’t get stuck in some rut because it’s where you feel you should be. You shouldn’t rest on your laurels because it’s what is comfortable. You should be constantly pushing forward, trying for better and making yourself better in turn.

I think John F. Kennedy put it best when he said, “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Digital divides

As I laid in bed, the clock at the top of my phone screen read 00:17. A new text message notification popped over the little numbers. Sean 🌊 R

New iMessage 

it read. It was from the man I’ve been dating for five months or so. 

We met online, like a lot of Millennials these days. We talked for almost a month before actually meeting, and hit it off quickly. 

Almost every weekend for the first two months we spent at least 24 hours together. Our first date alone lasted close to 30 hours. 

Then, he got a job in another state. It was solid money for the summer between school years and he’d be able to save up some money to make his dream of teaching abroad come true – a goal of his I admire. 

That left us in this interesting spot for communication. 

That first month of communication had been spent gazing at backlit telephones and computer screens. Now, with him living four hours away, we were back at it. 

Sean 🌊 R

New iMessage 

is a regular notification on my screens. 

Tonight, our conversation was about dreams. The science behind them, the recurring ones and what pot does to the typical REM cycle people experience. 

Sean told me about what he had learned in classes. I told him my recurring dreams about tornadoes. He told me about how he hasn’t dreamed a lot in the last eight years. 

It was the kind of conversation we would usually have while laying in bed next to one another, getting ready to drift off. 

And yet, we were doing just that, separated by four hours and 250 miles between us, but connected through these incredible backlit screens. 

I can’t wait to have these conversations with him in person again – hopefully in a couple weeks when he comes back to Michigan – but until then, we still have this small digital connection. 

And there’s always dreams. 

My relationship preferences are no less valid than the next person’s

I went on vacation to relax. I went on vacation to interview with a prospective job. I went on vacation to spend time with one of my best friends.

And what have I gotten from it?

A good prospect for the job, but in turn, I’ve been ridiculed for my relationship choices by my so-called best friend.

It hurts. He’s mocked my relationship. He said, “you guys have been dating a month and he was out in California for part of it? And now you’re down here? What kind of a relationship is that?” Umm… An adult one where we still have separate lives and want to be together?

I chose a relationship that is long distance for a reason. I have a sense of independence with it. I know that I can keep being myself while still having someone there for me. We can see each other when we make time, and we still have our own selves intact. I’ve had issues with relationships consuming my life, losing myself to the other person and putting their opinions and values ahead of my own. That isn’t an issue with long distance relationships for me. It helps me maintain who I am.

He ridiculed my choice to have an LDR because I wouldn’t be able to be with the other person all the time. I wouldn’t be able to touch them. However, in the last six months, I’ve come to realize that being comfortable in my own skin means allowing others to touch me on my terms. I don’t want to always have someone coming up to me and touching me whenever. That’s NOT OK. Human contact is nice, but again, it has to be on MY terms, not someone else’s. That’s part of why consent is such a huge deal. If I don’t want you touching me, don’t touch me.

There is no excuse for him to say that my opinions and preferences for a relationship are any less valid than his. Everyone is different, and if I’ve found someone that gets that, then that’s great. He can find his own thing with someone that gets his preferences.

I’m OK with being alone. I’m OK with being surrounded by people. I’m OK with just being me. I’m glad I’ve taken this trip because it’s helping me re-evaluate the relationships in my life and those that may be poisonous to me and my future. It’s just the start, but I think it could really propel me in the right direction.