By Kelsey Matzen
Laguna Beach, California is 462 miles from Petaluma, nine hours by car and an hour by plane. As a vacation destination, it doesn’t seem too far away. However, when someone that you’re used to seeing everyday, someone that you love and rely on, is over 450 miles away, it’s an excruciating distance.
    The summer of 2011 began with my boyfriend, Jovan, telling me that he was moving to Laguna Beach .We had less than a week together before he left. We had only been dating for five months, so it shouldn’t have been a harsh separation. However, our history went further back to a friendship in eighth grade. For two years, he had acted as one of my closest confidantes, remaining my friend through the storm of drama that comes with entering adolescence. We had fought, but somehow we kept returning to each other; staying angry simply didn’t seem to be an option. He’s a prominent part of my life, someone I’m accustomed to seeing every day; losing him felt unnatural.
    I was not an advocate for long distance relationships; it didn’t make sense for teenagers, people barely on the cusp of adulthood, to make such a serious commitment. Jovan and I never discussed what would happen once he left, how the relationship would or would not progress; we chose to avoid the painful conversation and savor the last days together. There was an unspoken agreement, though, that we would allow the relationship to fizzle naturally. However, that didn’t end up happening. Somehow, we manage to stay together. With those 462 miles separating us, the idea of a long distance relationship was more appealing while the alternative was too distressing to consider.
    It took a lot of fighting, stress, heartbreak, and tears, but we finally adapted to the long distance. Jovan and I discovered how much a difference those 462 miles made; it was almost as if we began an entirely new relationship. It requires a much higher degree of trust. Unable to be with him, I had to rely solely on Jovan’s word in order to quell the fears I had about him and other girls. With my overactive imagination, I saw every outing that he went on as an opportunity for him to meet new girls and I searched for any scrap of evidence that he was leading some sort of secret double life. I became the jealous conniving girlfriend that I had always hated and I was hurting him with my paranoia. I finally realized that unless I began trusting him and believing him, I was going to destroy the relationship. After being together for more than a year, I’ve finally figured out that all that time and energy I spent worrying was ridiculous and unwarranted.
Staying together presents us with many instances of waiting: we wait for holidays and vacations when we can see each other; we wait for phone calls and text messages to arrive through a lagging and altogether unreliable phone signal; we wait those last few dragging hours for the plane to finally land at the airport. For a naturally restless person like myself, this constant patience is difficult to accommodate. Particularly in the time leading up to a visit, I find myself counting the days all too often. Calendars distract me as I study Jovan’s arrival date and I constantly complain about how slowly the time passes. Nothing else can garner the kind of excitement that comes from the idea of getting to see Jovan again.
Long distance relationships are harsh; they test all the basic values and concepts of a regular relationship at a much higher level. There’s a lot of disapproval: from our parents who believe we’re too young, from other family members who don’t think it’s worth it, and from peers who simply don’t understand what the point is. It’s vexing and stressful, but despite how exasperating it may seem at the time, I know it’s worth it because Jovan is someone I care about. During a long separation, when I’m worrying or feeling lonely, sometimes I question the relationship and wonder if I made the right choice.
When I see him walking out of the airport, though, with a smile lighting up his face, I know I made the best choice possible.