I debated about posting this; it feels banal in a way to share this story when there are so many other things happening. When our lives, everyone’s lives are being affected so much by Covid-19. At the end of the day, the best therapy is to talk, to share, to remember that we all are in this together.
I started writing this over a week ago when the worst thing that had happened to me personally because of Covid was deciding to cancel an upcoming trip to the United States to see my Fiancée. Back then my government, Colombia, hadn’t taken strong measures against the virus, and the United States, where my fiancée lives, was still in full denial mode.
Still, we decided it was better to not risk international travel at that moment, both for fear of being part of spreading the virus and because of the politics of travel changing so fast all over the world the possibility of getting stranded on an airport increasing each day.
At the moment, I planned on this post to be something light about how to manage long-distance dating, how my fiancée and I have been managing it for almost seven years. A reflection on how it can be hard but also highly rewarding, and depending on your personality even preferred at times.
I was going to tell you cute anecdotes about our time together. Like how I couldn’t manage to find the exit door from the Miami Airport on my first trip there, I had no internet to contact my fiancée and at 2:00 a.m. I just sat on the floor outside of the gate I had landed at until she finally stopped driving around on her rental car waiting for me to go out, parked and came inside to find me.
We discovered then that Colombians and Americans have really different definitions of picking someone at the airport. Colombians park, sit inside, often with flowers and balloons to welcome people, and are the first thing you see when crossing the door.
But as days passed, things became worse and harsher measures started being put in place by both our countries, this turned into something else. Mostly a reflection of my personal fears. Mostly, how hard it is to live this so far away from one of the persons you care more about in the world.
We’ve been dating for 7 years long distance because it works for us, and even though we plan for me to eventually move, we have never been in a rush. We usually see each other from 4 to 6 times a year. Two longer vacations, one for the holidays and one at some point during the year, cause that’s how I can use my vacation time. And some long weekends here and there. It’s not ideal, but it works so far.
I’ve been asking my boss for years now to let me work remotely at least some weeks a year, so I can spend longer spans of time visiting my Fiancée. My boss has always refused. He hates to let people work remotely. He loves knowing we are sitting at the office from 7 to 5 no matter what. The irony.
Last year was especially hard because we couldn’t see each other as much, so we decided to take a longer trip together for New Years’. I took some extra time off, even though I knew my job wouldn’t love it. And we spent two weeks together in Houston, South Korea, and Taiwan. It was one of the best vacations we have ever had, and I was pretty happy I stopped caring for a moment about what my work would say and just did it. I had no clue then, that that would be the last chance to see each other, for who knows how long.
The plan was for me to travel for a week to Houston during easter, most Hispanic countries get the full week or two days off depending on the job. It falls on April 5 to 12 this year. We decided to cancel that trip early on before any quarantine or social distancing measures were in place in any of our countries, but when things were starting to look like it would be necessary. Just a couple days later my government started restricting international flights, until they finally closed all borders starting March 22.
We were optimistic then, talking about how we could maybe do it in June, for our anniversary. At this point, I don’t know if that will be possible. That’s not the hardest part though, we are used to being apart. The hardest part is the constant worry for them. The checking what their country is doing, thinking about what may happen. Worrying about their family and how will they do when things get worse. While at the same time, thinking about yourself, about what’s happening around you. Knowing that if something were to happen to either of you, there would be few ways for the other to help.
Knowing that an internet connection is the only thing keeping you grounded during these moments and that if for some reason it went down you would have no way to contact them for weeks or months. Yes, I’m a worrier. But to be fair a week ago I didn’t have to worry about not being able to visit them whenever we could and wanted.
Handling quarantine apart is hard too. Would it be harder if we were in close quarters together? Maybe. But feeling helpless to make their handling of these bad times it’s a different matter. We chat. We are planning on watching Netflix together, we send each other news and reports about what’s happening, we send each other songs and fun stuff too. It’s not too different from our usual dynamic, but the purpose behind it is different.
We both know each message has a whole lot of additional meaning. We have told each other I love you way more too. We try to cling to the plans and dreams we have had for a while. Confident that eventually, we will be able to make them true. At the same time, we can’t shake the thoughts from the back of my mind that maybe we wasted more time than we should. That maybe we should have cared less about planning, about waiting until we had everything set up, a house, a good job, some savings, family in a good place before we went ahead with moving.
Maybe we should care less about all the what if’s and focus more in the moment. On being happy today and now, while we can. We have lived separate lives for so long, that’s normal for us. But we always knew there was a future where we would see each other again. A future where we would be together. I have to keep hoping there is one, for both us, for everybody.