Do everything you can to make it work. But don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself either. Respect yourself enough to know when to let go.
Recently, I’ve been putting short, motivational banners on the home screen of my phone. Now, more than ever, it has become a motivation for every day.
‘THIS GIRL CAN’ is emblazoned across my screen today. I have to keep reciting this mantra in my head. This girl can.
Today, I can finally be alone, and be okay with it. This girl can.
I don’t think anyone is going to deny that this past year has been incredibly difficult. A major part of that crapiness for me, just in the last nine months, has included going through an incredibly difficult long-distance break-up. Twice.
When I wanted to write this post, people asked me, “Claire, isn’t it scary writing so publicly about something so personal? Doesn’t that make you feel vulnerable?”
Well I guess vulnerability is my thing. That’s an important part of this story. And it’s an important part of sharing this in general. When I created this site, I wanted it to serve as an outlet to talk about the tough parts of travel that everyone experiences at some point, among other things. To be honest, yes, this post is mainly serving as a way for me to process my current emotional pain. But I also hope that someone reading this can see even just a small part of themselves within this situation, and can know that they’re not the only one. I hope my experience can help someone else out there feel a little less miserable.
My story begins in August of 2016 when I broke up with my long-term boyfriend (LTB) of almost five years. We had been long-distance for at least two months at this point; I was in Albania, and he was elsewhere in Europe doing research. This certainly wasn’t the first time we had done long-distance – every summer we were “together,” we were apart – but after discovering so much about myself in Albania, I decided it was time to call it quits. It was an extremely hard decision, but I quickly knew it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I learned that I should never settle for someone who isn’t treating me the way I deserve to be treated.
Enter German guy. Shortly before I broke things off with LTB, I met German guy on the same beach on the Albanian Riviera. There was electric chemistry between the two of us, and I knew I couldn’t just let that go. After hopping on a plane precisely the day after breaking up with LTB and spending an amazing three days in Florence collecting myself, I made the decision to make my way all the way up to Germany to spend a few days with German guy. He kept telling me I was crazy for doing it. I kept denying it.
After careful consideration, I’ve concluded: I was, in fact, crazy for doing it.
As any whirlwind travel romance goes, three days turned into four, and then five, and before I knew it, I was staying with him for an entire week. It was a fairy tale like I could have never imagined: long, deep conversations from the day into the night, as if we had known each other for years; stolen moments around the corners of buildings in his hometown and in elevators up to the top of towers; long kisses in the middle of parks as if no one else around us existed; stoplight kisses and outdoor film festivals and walks around the lake. Dinner with him and his family (who I met after spending just two days with him – yikes!). Giggling at stupid, silly jokes only the two of us understood. Learning new bits of German and English from one another. I literally felt as if I was the main character of a romance novel that was too good to be true. When we finally had to say goodbye, I was in more tears than made sense after just one week. I didn’t want it to end. And so I didn’t let it.
After leaving him that week, we have been through almost everything: days of constant, incessant texting halfway across the globe; weeks of multiple Skype dates six hours apart. Week-long visits in the Netherlands and weekends in Germany that never seemed to last long enough. Awkward moments in countries next-door when we didn’t know where things were at in this relationship-not-relationship with no labels. A period of three months in which I didn’t hear a single word from him, with no warning or explanation.
I can no longer deny it: for the past nine months, I have been working through infatuation and heartache and everything in between to make this work. I was giving him everything in my heart and then some, and he just couldn’t quite return the feelings, no matter how deep of a connection with me he said we shared. He clearly had his issues with distance and relationships in general, and I don’t fault him for that; we all have our own thing. But the more I read about others’ experiences in long-distance relationships with fellow travelers, the more I was desperately driven to keep us off of this never-ending list of failed travel romances. No, I thought, This will not be another one of those travel relationships that will inevitably fail. This is special and different. Everyone is only saying it will fail because theirs did.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized for far too long, I’ve been trying to fit a circular puzzle piece into a square hole, and I just couldn’t keep forcing it anymore. It was inevitably going to fail, and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
Part of what I’ve been working on for the past year is self-care and self-love, and I got to the point where I realized things weren’t working for me, and once again, I wasn’t being treated the way I deserved. I was settling in the desperate hopes that he would finally realize he wanted to formally be with me and commit to making that work, and when I finally took a stand and said I’m not waiting around anymore, I was taking a stand for my own worth. I was making it clear that I respect myself too much to unfairly wait around while he figures his own stuff out, and as incredibly shitty as it felt (and does feel) to have broken things off for now, I have to keep remembering that this is an incredible testament to my progress in loving and taking care of myself.
What should be redeeming after all of this, I think, is that despite all of my experiences with long-distance relationships working until they don’t, I believe they are 100% worth it – with the right person. If you find someone so incredibly special who makes you feel more amazing than you’ve ever felt in your entire life, don’t let that go. Do everything you can to hold on and to make it work. But don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself either. Respect yourself enough to know when to let go.
So in the meantime, I distract myself until it hurts less. I surround myself with great friends who care about me. I commit myself to finishing this semester in the Netherlands strong and graduating a semester early this coming December. I dedicate myself to making this blog everything I aspire for it to be.
There’s no denying it: this is all really crappy right now. I’m sure I haven’t experienced my last night alone, in tears. But as I know from before, and I’ll probably have to remember again in the future, it will get better. Slowly but surely, the pain will fade, and I’ll realize the reason why all of this had to happen. I am so incredibly strong, and if I’ve gotten through it before, I can definitely get through it again. I just have to keep reminding myself:
This girl can.