The teen experience: "LONG DISTANCE" College Freshman Boy

         I never thought I would want to do a long-distance relationship, ever. I couldn't imagine being in a relationship with someone who I couldn't see frequently and who lived so far away. That changed when I spent my junior year at City Term in NYC.

         When I arrived at the program, I loved every second of it. The people I was with, the city, and the academics. There was also this girl, Jesse, who I had started to become friends with into the third week. We got along extremely well. Even though we didn't share many of the same hobbies to bond over, our personalities clicked. As soon as we started spending time together, there was this flirtatious tension that built between us. My heart would jump when she walked in the room, and I would always try to walk past her classroom on the way to mine, so we'd have a moment to say hi. I noticed she just "happened" to bump into me after my classes as well.

         One night, after weeks of lingering hugs, brushing hands, and getting to know each other more, we were talking in a classroom while printing out an assignment for the next day. We were a lot closer than we needed to be, and when the conversation paused, we kissed. It was more intense and connected than any other intimate interaction I had experienced with anyone before. That's when I found out what “fireworks” felt like. We kept hooking up in the days following whenever we got the chance (it was harder than you might think since we were at a boarding school). We continued to try new things and go a little further each time. Our interactions between class became more frequent, and our intimate moments more intense. Before spring break I had a moment when I thought to myself, "Damn I really like this girl - I want to make this a little more serious". So, on the day we left, I pulled her aside and was up front. I told her I like her a lot, and that I didn't wanna hook up with other people over spring break because I wanted to just be with her. She felt the same way. I was ecstatic.

         We talked a lot over break. When we returned we were closer than ever, and started more liberally using the terms "girlfriend" and "boyfriend". It continued to ramp up rapidly after that; we got on so well and every moment I spent with her got better. She made me so happy, every single moment. We did a great job of balancing time with friends and each other. It was easy because our friends overlapped a lot. By April, we had talked about sex for a little while, but it was going to be her first time, so we wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen in a classroom or bathroom or something like that. We wanted it to be in the right place where we didn't have to worry about anybody else and just focus on the moment.

        There was a weekend when her parents were in town and she had a hotel room to herself. We spent the day together and talked about how we wanted to have sex that night, so when we got back to her hotel room we started hooking up. Things moved slowly as we weren't in any rush. We were both in tune with how the other felt, and it was exciting. We were more loving then we had been before. When we started to have sex, it was a little difficult trying to find the position that felt best, but it still felt so right because it wasn't awkward. We were so comfortable with each other. We laughed a little as we figured it out. When we found our flow though, I felt closer to her than I ever had before.

         Our feelings for each other continued to grow so much more than I thought they could, and I kept thinking to myself, "Oh no, oh no, I'm falling in love with her". It felt like nothing I had ever imagined before. The part that sucked though was that she lived on the east coast and I lived on the west. That issue seemed so small though when, towards the end of the term, we sat together in a room talking about how we'd miss each other like crazy with less than a month left. Then it just happened. She was looking down when I said, "Jesse". She looked up at me and the words, "I love you", flew out of my mouth. She said it right back with no hesitation. It felt warm.

         That's when I realized why people do long distance, and it's when she realized it too. After we exchanged those words for the first time, we decided we wanted to stay together. The summer was rough. The goodbyes sucked, and she didn't have her phone for 2 months. When she returned to civilization, we were so good. We got the chance to see each other once before school began and we talked about what we were nervous for and what we would do to make it work. When it started, we talked on the phone every day. We kept that up for the entirety of senior year. It started off without a hitch. We were our normal selves and the phone didn't really hinder our conversation. We talked about how we still felt like we were in a “honeymoon phase”, how we didn't fight at all, and how it felt great.

         Overtime, things started to change, as they do in any relationship. We got the chance to visit each other somewhat frequently considering we lived so far away from each other. About every 2 months or month and a half she would visit me and I, her. We met each other’s friends and got a first-hand look into the parts of life we couldn't see through face time. I liked her friends and got along well with them, but something started to separate us. It was how she felt about my friends. In particular, those who were girls. She started to feel like she couldn't connect to some of the people I was friends with, and we began to fight over how she felt about me spending time with those girls. This was a consistent issue throughout the year, but we were still very much in love and that love continued to grow. The relationship was still making both of us happy.

         Slowly, the amount of time I spent talking to her, and sometimes fighting with her, ate into my time with family and friends. I didn't think it was happening at first, but after a while I couldn't deny it. Our love made me blind to that though and made me more indifferent. She thought that we were too different, but I disagreed and had to constantly convince her that she overthought all of the interactions that I had with friends. Going out with friends on weekend nights only exacerbated this issue, and parties and drinking made her even more annoyed with my actions. It turned into a pattern of me doing something I thought of as inconsequential, she getting angry or upset at my actions, me apologizing profusely and working to make sure it didn't happen again, and then another issue popping up or an old one resurfacing. I felt like I couldn't do anything right, and she felt like she was acting crazy.

         Regardless of all this we stayed together because we still loved each other so much and when we saw each other it was the best feeling in the world. Senior year ended, and we both were away from our phones for a little part of the summer. Again, we wrote to each other all of the time to provide updates on our lives. I didn’t think that I’d have to worry about the fighting from senior year, but the same issues came up about my friends at camp. When we saw each other in early August, she said she felt like something had changed with me and that I wasn't the same person. I didn't understand what she was talking about. I didn't know what she meant. And that's the moment when I really realized why this relationship could be so hard sometimes. I loved her so much and we were so close, but we had this disconnect over what I thought would be okay with her, what I wanted to do, and what would make her uncomfortable. Still, we wanted to stay together in college. After all we were far closer - only 2 hours by public transit.

         When college began we found a good rhythm, and things started to feel really good again. We did new things, met new people, and told each other all about it. It was so exciting. That second “honeymoon phase” ended after about a month. We had both visited each other at school. Again I liked her friends a lot. However, she didn't like most of mine. She felt like I was changing, like my friends were to different, and she couldn't get along well with them. I told her they all loved her, and they did. Still, she felt they were too different. We still really enjoyed seeing each other and being in a relationship, but over time these problems continued to manifest. Again, particularly around my friends who were girls.

         I was joining lots of groups, and in second semester I started rushing co-ed program houses (basically co-ed fraternities) and fraternities with my friends. She said that I was all over the place trying to find myself and that I didn't have enough time for her even though I made such an effort to see her so often. It hurt me a lot when she said that because it made me feel like all of the hard work that we put into being together didn't mean anything. And yet I still loved her. So so much. But we were fighting way too much, and we both needed to dive more into our own college experiences because it wasn't working while together.

         On our 2nd anniversary we went to her beach house nearby and spent the weekend there together, just the two of us. It was amazing to be away from it all. We had talked before about whether or not to break up, and we decided while we were there that as much as we didn't want to, it was time. We couldn't go on like we had been - it hurt too much. I felt like I needed more room to change, and she felt like that too. It was mutual, it was amiable, but we really didn't want to. We still loved each other, and that made it hurt that much more.

         That was almost 2 months ago today, and it still sucks but it's getting better. We text a bit because we still want to be friends. It feels weird to call her my ex. Now I'm fully immersed in the college culture here, and my friendships have gotten even stronger. It's a little easier to be in the moment because my mind isn't always on her. I still love her, but the space is good for us to figure out who we are more. Figure out what we want in life, college, and relationships. We're still working on being friends. If it's right we'll get back together down the line, so we can support each other in being the happiest and best versions of ourselves. If it doesn't work out that way, she'll still have been a big part of my life, and maybe she'll continue to be in it in a way that's good for both of us.

Shafia Zaloom