High school sweethearts. The nickname attributed to those of us who found love at 17, holding hands through the concrete hallways and smiling across the gym at pep rallies. I never cared much for it, feeling it a little too cliche or too sappy if I ever said it out loud. But now that a handful of years have passed, I’ve grown fond of it. Quite proud of it actually. Because it means that somehow, someway, through all the homework and the drama and the insecurities that exist in a high school building… we found each other. And I still love him, as different as we both are now almost six years later.
While I won’t pretend to be a relationship expert, I will say that I’ve loved deeply and hurt deeply and learned valuable things from it all. We fell in love in high school, yes. But high school doesn’t last forever and choosing separate colleges becomes the most heart-wrenching reality of your life. It felt like being Gabriella and Troy, and High School Musical 3 was real life for a bit. Except when I curled up on his lap and cried and cried and cried, he didn’t sing to me or anything. But I’m ok with that.
We kept moving forward, because that’s all we knew to do. We traveled hours in separate directions with big hopes and big fears. For a year we lived life separated by distance, and experience, and reality, and none of it seemed right. I was the absolute worst girlfriend at the long-distance thing. I’m not sure I could ever apologize enough now, looking back at how distant and cold I became. I loved him, but I didn’t know how to live without him. It almost became too much, because my reality was all I could see. It seemed easier to just let go.
But he loved me. Too much. More than I deserved. He listened, he gave me space when I asked, and all the while he fought for me. He fought for me with such boldness wrapped in patience, and gentleness, and forgiveness until I finally realized, no one would love me better. And no one else would ever have my heart.
It’s been almost six years now that I’ve loved him. With multiple seasons of long-distance intertwined. I’ve learned to do it better, I think. To be more consistent and more intentional in loving him from a distance. It’s harder, sure. But I know with certainty that our relationship wouldn’t be nearly as strong if we never did. Or if we tried and let it break us apart. Of course sometimes that happens to people, and that’s ok. When I say long-distance is good for a relationship, I don’t just mean if you stay together. Being long-distance shows you just what matters. If it breaks a couple up, that’s ok. That’s good even, because every break-up means you’re one person closer to your forever love. But if you stay together, it bonds you and molds you and strengthens you. And you learn to love better because of it.
Photo via CamrynStahlmanD