When I moved from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin during my awkward middle school years, I quickly learned how difficult it was to stay intimate with people I was close to. The longer we were apart, the more difficult it was to maintain the same relationship. Starting college, I was presented the opportunity to meet new people and made an effort to keep in touch with friends from high school whom I regarded as family. While difficult, the relationships that I have kept despite the challenging distance have proved rewarding.
Many barriers stand in the way of people’s ability to stay close and in touch with each other. The hardest being the many hours, financial restrictions and schedule conflicts that come with dropping everything in order to spend time with those you miss. Travel plans are limited by the number of days that can be taken off due to full-time jobs, school schedules and travel expenses. As much as my parents and siblings would have loved to forget about all of our pre-existing obligations, there were only so many times that we could afford to make the 16 hour drive and to visit my grandparents and aunt.
Not being able to spend time in the same physical location can also be devastating. Phones allow people to converse about their lives, but do not compare to touches on the shoulder, wiping away a tear, sharing a hug, lending each other a hand and creating memories together. This divide is made especially obvious when they are ill: Compassion and comfort are best provided in person when you can hold their hand in the hospital, not a phone. Being unable to spend time with someone you care deeply about during their decline is a crippling feeling; especially knowing their days are numbered.
Learning to overcome the barriers that are created by distance makes people better communicators with the people they are distanced from. Time spent apart adds an extra element of awareness for the moments together. This awareness and the way two people are communicating is brought back home after making a trip to see each other and affects the relationships of those who are geographically closer to you. After visiting family out of state, every chance that my family had to spend time with each other, even if it was tagging along to go to the grocery store rather than staying home, was taken advantage of. Making a more conscious effort to communicate with each other while apart creates a greater appreciation for those who surround us every day and the way in which we interact with them.
The challenges that confront a long distance relationship help to illuminate the true essence of it. In a romantic relationship that overcomes distance, two people are unable to be physically intimate, while there are others that could fulfill that desire. When two people are separated by distance but stay together, it validates the authenticity of the relationship because of the challenges they have to overcome. The people whom I have stayed in touch with have been able to make me happier and help me gain a greater self-awareness.
While students are surrounded by people in every environment they encounter, the individual quirks and traits of those we are closest to, the memories we share, and how they make us happy are the essence of why people choose to overcome any inconveniences that it may cause them and love endures. As students at Lawrence, we are all incredibly lucky to spend nine months of the year surrounded by so many intelligent, talented people. It is important that we make the most of the time we have with all of these people, as well as keeping in touch with family and friends from home.
Over the course of the next four—or if you are lucky enough, five—years, we will all have the privilege to walk the short distance to the next residence hall or down the hallway to spend time with each other. This is a rare opportunity that we will not easily have again as we disperse into the world as successful adults. One of the most precious things we have is the people in our lives. We would be denying ourselves a great amount of joy if we took the relationships we have, and the new ones that have the potential to grow, for granted