Summer after summer, middle school friends would return to the classroom in August recounting tales of tremendous adventures and exploits from the previous few months. Things would range from mountain climbing to sleep-away camp to working at the pool, but seemingly every story featured a recurring theme: a girl. A girl who, “Dude, she was perfect.” She got her braces off like two years ago. She sometimes played Call of Duty, and her mom let her stay out until 11. You began to envision what such a girl could even look like, and how you could have possibly overlooked someone so ostensibly perfect for you, but just a few short words snapped the trance: “She doesn’t go here, though.” Ahh, you immediately realized: She isn’t real. Now, however, this absent love interest no longer rings synonymous with hyperbole and fabrication to me.
I wasn’t very socially savvy growing up. I didn’t have a girlfriend, and fabricating one would have merely exacerbated her absence. But after some unusual circumstances (we ran against each other for a student council position), I began to fall for a girl. My feelings were reciprocated, the previously unimaginable began to come into view, and it was great. So great, in fact, that even though I was heading to Harvard and she was off to Pepperdine, we made the conscious decision to continue our relationship at our respective schools, despite what felt like staggering odds against us, and the common advice of ditching your high school sweetheart.
Not only does she not go here, but she really doesn’t go here: Almost 3,000 miles away, a six-hour plane ride (or for someone on my budget, a 980-hour walk). Malibu is about as far away as you can get from Boston within the contiguous United States, but in today’s day and age, that really doesn’t matter.
Due in part to the advent of state-of-the-art technologies like FaceTime, Snapchat, and hug shirts, maintaining communication in a long distance relationship is increasingly possible, and people are taking advantage. Previously avoided by anyone other than married couples temporarily forced into one by military service or job transfers, more and more couples are electing to make things work from far away. According to a 2014 study, approximately 14 million Americans are in a long distance relationship, and marriages only account for about a quarter of those.
Perhaps as a result of these improved telecommunications, or perhaps because Buzzfeed published Why Your Long Distance Relationship is Totally Worth It, college-aged students have become a larger portion of the “LDR” pie. Nowadays, approximately 33 percent of college students claim to have participated in an LDR, a number that increases drastically when expanded to include flings between Mather and Quad residents.
Although there are certainly drawbacks, research on the subject has provided distant lovers at least some solace. A Journal of Communication study found that “men and women in long distance relationships were more likely to share meaningful thoughts and feelings, leading to a greater sense of intimacy,” which in turn may explain why only about 40 percent of established long distance relationships end in a breakup, compared to 85 percent of all couples. Although a certain amount of selection bias may emerge from the fact that those in a long distance relationship tend to be more serious to begin with, effective communication is key to sustaining a meaningful bond.
I probably won’t see Grace again in person until next month, but we already have a slew of things lined up for when she gets here. Perhaps that is the greatest strength of a long distance relationship: We have to be intentional with our time. With such a limited amount of it, none can be squandered with laziness, passivity, or a meaningless fight. Every moment spent together is an investment that pays enormous dividends in making those 3,000 miles feel a whole lot closer.
Declan P. Garvey ’17, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Mather House.
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