Let’s talk about something scary.
Whether that may be from your friends, family, significant other, or dog…distance can be a truly unsettling thing to think about in the world of university.
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert college student by any means, but I will say that I have had my fair share of times of distance in my years as a student. So I can say with confidence that you can take it from me if you are an upcoming or current college student worried or struggling about the distance that is hitting you in the face as of now. Not to brag or anything, but I do tend to give some great advice.
So, here’s what I have to say about distance…
What? Not what you were expecting? Well of course not! It’s been engraved in our heads our entire lives that distance is usually associated with bad things. As much as we would probably like to think that the distance from our normality is going to be good for us (that’s the point of college anyway, right?), the thought of it always tends to hit us like it did with this kid when asked if he is going to miss his mom in kindergarten…
What am I going to do without my parents there? What if my car breaks down? What if I can’t cook spaghetti by myself? What if I have this weird rash on my arm and my mom can’t diagnose it by just a text picture? What do you mean I won’t see my boyfriend for months at a time? GROCERY SHOPPING??
Here’s what you’re going to do…
You’re going to figure it out.
News flash! 18 year old recent high school graduates don’t actually know everything. Hell, 22 year old senior college students don’t even know everything! But you know what they’ve done these past years to get through life without knowing it all? They just figure it out as they go. And they realize it’s actually quite awesome living that way.
Here’s where I’ll finally start talking about myself (I know you were wondering when that was bound to happen).
When I was dropped off at college in a completely new state with not one friend but my blankie that I’ve had since birth, I was terrified. I tried so hard to be strong when giving my parents a hug goodbye. I held back my tears until I couldn’t see their car driving away anymore and then that’s when the distance really hit me. Up until this point the thought of being away from home was merely a fantasy, and now, here it is. It’s just me.
I’m now entering my third and final year of college (yes, it is possible to do it in less than 4 years and I highly recommend it), and being in the middle of it all is how I can say that the distance from home has been awesome.
Not everything about my experience has been a walk in the park, but I can proudly say that what I have learned about myself and the world has been what’s made the distance so cool.
Just two years ago I knew nothing about living on my own. I knew how to cook some things and wash my clothes, but I didn’t know what it was like having all of the responsibility on solely myself. I didn’t know what it was like to pay rent. I had never made appointments and went to the doctor and meetings by myself. I even had to go through a surgery without my mom there! Can you even imagine??
While going through these experiences was the most challenging and confusing times of my life up to this point, look at me now. I’m alive! Broke as hell, but living. I can now easily meal prep for an entire week with nothing but $10 and some noodles. I can call anyone and schedule anything without having to rehearse what I will say 50 times and then stutter when it’s my turn to talk. I even know how to call insurance companies and schedule claims for doctor visits and surgeries and go through the entire procedure all alone. If that does scream “adult” I don’t know what else does.
The point is, being distant from home and from your parents is terrifying in the moment. I won’t sugar coat that. You will make more phone calls home to your mom and dad than you ever have in your entire life. There will be nights when you cry and cry because all you can think about is how good your home smells when the laundry is going. How it feels like home on a Sunday afternoon when football is on the TV and everyone is in a different chair taking a nap. You will miss these things. It will be hard. But you will come out of it a much more independent, strong, and knowledgeable individual because of it. I truly believe that you do the most growing up between the end of your senior year of high school and the end of freshman year of college. And it’s all thanks to the distance.
Now, distance in a relationship.
This may not be relevant to everyone, so if you aren’t in a distance relationship then feel free to stop here. (Thanks for reading!)
But, if you are someone who is soon going to, or are currently in some kind of distant relationship in college, listen up.
This shit, is hard.
I’ve been with my current boyfriend for almost four years now, and for three of those years, it’s been at a distance. 7 hour distance to be exact. Different states if you want to get really technical.
I remember so clearly the night that we said goodbye to each other when he was going to college for his freshman year. That was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to go through. Not knowing the next time we’ll be together, and knowing that he was off to much bigger and better things for his life while I was stuck in the same town at the same school doing the same old things for another year. That first year away from each other was the hardest. There was fighting and jealousy, yet more love than I’ve ever experienced in my life. You couldn’t give me all the money in the world to relive that year.
The second year was better. For me. Now it was my turn to go somewhere new. Now it was my turn to make new friends and go to parties for the first time and discover who I am as a young, irresponsible kid in the real world. There were more fights and more jealousy and more love. But this time, we were both in the same crowd.
This past year was the best for us. Now that we’ve both gotten past the newness of college and have started to settle into a more mature college student, we’ve done better. Though this year was the easiest for us, it also proved to be somewhat the most difficult. The freshness of college and being alone had worn off and now we both are getting to be sick of the distance. Not just because we miss each other, but because we know that the end is near and it’s time to start thinking together. Yes, there were still some fights and jealousy, but this year as a whole was the best. And now that it’s over, I’m realizing the benefits of being apart.
If you are able to, I strongly recommend doing a distance relationship in college. These years have been the best of my life, and even though I think it would’ve been awesome to spend them with my boyfriend, I know that it’s been more beneficial to me, and him, that they were not spent together.
No matter how long you’ve been with someone, I believe in the importance of spending time apart. I believe it is crucial to have your time “single living” (while together, of course), because that gives you the opportunity to grow into who you really are. With these years apart from my boyfriend we were both able to live our separate lives for a while and in a sense, get it out of our system. Don’t get me wrong, there was no cheating or “hall passes” during this time, that’s not what I’m suggesting, but what I mean is that we got the time to have our own friends, own hobbies, own schedules, own lives…while still together. It was like being single, but committed. It made us both value our relationship and time together even more, and it gave us even more to look forward to when this is all over.
Though the distance sucks the most when in a relationship, this is the time that the distance proves to be on your side. Consider it, embrace it, don’t be scared of it. If your relationship is really meant to be, the distance won’t make you crack.
If it sounds like I just rambled on about nothing it’s probably because I just did, and I’m sorry. But if there is one thing that I think all readers should take away from this, it’s this:
Distance is awesome. From parents, home, familiarity, and even significant others, it’s worth it. This opportunity gives you the best chance to learn about who you are and help shape you into the person you will be. Embrace this distance, know it is temporary if you want it to be, and remember that your mom is just a phone call away.
I’d love to hear about your experience with distance in college! What was your time like? Any advice for me for my final year, or for others about to enter this stage of their lives? Did distance help or hurt you?