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My girlfriend and I have a shared Spotify playlist which I listen to whenever I miss her, which is all the time because she lives in Seyssins, France, and I’m in Cambridge, Mass. right now, and our lives only physically intersect when we return to our high school home of Saratoga, Calif. during the few weeks that our school breaks sync up.
The first thing people usually ask me once they find out about my relationship is “How did you meet?” (The key word here is usually; my Computer Science professor last semester asked me how it felt to check “hot French girlfriend” off my bucket list.) The second question people end up asking is “How does that work?”
Everyone warns you against long-distance. It doesn’t work, they say. Communication is stunted when you’re not face-to-face. They won’t be there for you when you need them the most. How can you trust someone you can’t even see most hours of the day?
I have internalized all these criticisms and more. My girlfriend and I danced around the “should-we-shouldn’t-we” question of dating for the entirety of last summer before we finally got together. I have three different anniversaries in my calendar labeled with increasing amounts of “okay, for real this time,” for each difficult, inconclusive conversation we had. We talked about it. Outlined every pro and con. Picked at every thread until our fingernails bled. And in the end, against all the staggering reasons why long distance doesn’t work, compiled by seemingly every reasonable person in existence, we decided to go for it. Why?
Sometimes, you love someone so much that whatever responsibilities you have or whatever circumstances you’re in that are pulling you apart — that all fades into the background. You see them, and only them, and you think, “I would be a fool to give this up.” Maybe the world is stacked against you. But why not try? If your heart either breaks now as you exit each other’s lives forever as missed opportunities and premature goodbyes, or later when you’ve done everything you could have to make it work, which one feels worse?
We twisted and backtracked and talked in circles for something so easy it was almost anticlimactic in the end. I love her. She loves me. We’re going to try. Maybe it won’t work out in the end. Maybe love isn’t stable or sustainable enough to build a relationship on. Maybe love isn’t enough forever. But it’s enough for now.
If it hasn’t been made strikingly obvious yet, I am a hopeless romantic without much to back it up with. I am writing a series of love letters for the days leading up to Valentine’s Day in one of the saddest, most distant years for love. I am in a long-term long-distance relationship. Maybe I’m just naive, but I believe in love over everything threatening to pull it apart.
I’m not the only one left yearning and clinging to tentative threads of love recently. The Covid-19 pandemic has separated so many people from their loves, turning relationships that were once so close, emotionally and physically, into remote, removed, long-distance ones. Harvard students who spent every day three semesters ago eating and sleeping and psetting within 20 feet of each other are now scattered across the globe, living disparate lives. As I add six hours to my clock to send my girlfriend a good morning text late at night, Harvard students are converting their time zones to Eastern Standard Time to attend class in the middle of the night. As I FaceTime my girlfriend and wish I could be seeing her face in person instead of over our temperamental Internet where the frames keep dropping, seminar classmates are wishing the same.
Just as so many of us miss Harvard, I miss my girlfriend all the time. But as I miss her, I think of all the reasons I love her. Why she’s worth it, even as 3,684 miles and an entire ocean stretch between us. In an ironic repeat of last summer (when we got together), I am waiting with bated breath for summer break again, when my girlfriend and I will spot each other from across the park and run into each other’s arms. From me with my girlfriend, to Harvard students shut out from campus, we are all waiting to return to love, and love is waiting for us.
Christina M. Xiao ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor.
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