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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Too Long; Didn’t LDR

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Third week of first-year fall term was too early to feel like falling apart. Then again, life tends to feel arbitrary when it happens. I felt like this so acutely, but not all at once. It happened over time, across occasions of asking advice at breakfast, and the impromptu conversation leaning on your friend’s desk, while seated on the floor. Those moments betrayed a dilemma: my long-distance relationship was falling apart, rendering me to pieces just as well. And with each of these moments, within the newfound communities I found myself in, the same advice rang through: “Do what’s best for you.” My first reaction to different iterations of the advice was to find it selfish, and I had a sense of the harsh logical conclusion of this advice.

It has been almost two years since I did what was “best,” not just for me, but for my girlfriend then, who is now starting her first year at a university in our home state. As you may guess, we started out in high school, like many romantic long-distances that go into college (I also will keep her name out, out of respect for her privacy.) In hindsight, after being single for a good chunk of my time here, our relationship was doomed to end the way it did in a break-up, after a single term away from home. Of the many reasons I’m willing to share publicly, the leading one was underestimating my commitment to our relationship against the newer commitments I began to make with new friends and communities at Carleton. This still sounds selfish today, although the baseness of it was stronger that fall term.

To put it bluntly, by the end of that fall term, it came to my head that I wanted my life here more than my life with her, from afar or at some future point without the distance. In a short month, I had begun to connect and reach out to others here, and I wanted to be involved with campus life. Some could say I wanted to take advantage of my time, and none like it with all the social possibilities, the new friendships, the passions to discover. Keeping contact became more a chore than it should have been – it was time not spent living in Carleton and “living” far away, despite the ease that IM and Skype give us to be in touch.

Granted, I can’t speak for others who are in LDRs, much less speak for those who have fallen out of theirs. Yet I can imagine that this strain of long-distancing, to exist in two places at once, could be happening – or have happened – to many of us. For some of us, balance is doable, though with significant concessions. For others, in my camp, the strain could not be had: friends of mine admitted breaking up with their significant others before coming here. I have even heard of relationships within Carleton that broke-up in some way due to being off-campus. How much we are willing to negotiate the strain could explain all the varying degrees of the longevity of LDRs. And perhaps this may even concern the maturity of those involved in these relationships. This is not to imply the superiority or inferiority of someone’s “strength” over another’s: break-ups can be as right as staying together and vice-versa, depending on the situation.

I suspect, though, that the strain is ever tougher because of the nature of time here, the only place I know that numbers the weeks of its short, jam-packed terms. Social engagements aside, academic commitments are also a high priority. In fact, any commitment here, given our time crunch, can force our hand in the strain, for the Carleton bubble is a bubble for a reason. The art of the long-distance is tricky, though doable, and hardly dead yet anywhere. And for those that make it work here, my heart goes out to you. But if many of us can’t break out the bubble enough, for better or for worse, the LDR may as well be mostly dead for us.

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