Reclaiming my individuality with long-distance

A student describes how her long-distance relationship helped nurture her individualism.

Allyson Tharp // The Temple News

I didn’t want to get into a serious relationship before college, assuming it would be doomed by distance, but love doesn’t wait for convenience. I started dating my boyfriend Nick in June 2020, and after spending nearly every day together for over a year, we transitioned to a long-distance relationship at the start of last school year. 

As sophomores finally able to experience college while global lockdown restrictions loosened, he left for Penn State University Park, and I moved a couple of blocks off Temple’s Main Campus. We had to settle with seeing each other less than once a month. Any excitement I had for college was overshadowed by the looming dread of our separation. 

At that point, I was overly dependent on Nick. I associated my happiness with the time we spent together and confused my own identity with my role as a girlfriend. I was constantly worried about what he was doing when we spent some time apart, forgetting we should live two different lives. 

I spent the summer leading up to our college move-in crying in his arms instead of appreciating our time together. I was too scared to live without him beside me, worried I couldn’t do it. 

 After roughly a week of endless tears and nausea, I worked enough emotion out of my system and was finally able to calm down. As loneliness naturally faded into normalcy, I focused more on my grades, spent more time with my friends and eased the spam of texts I sent Nick every day. I slowly noticed I was making more time to put myself together and grab a coffee before class. I was keeping my room cleaner and making dinner at night. Ultimately, I was finding motivation in the independence of college. 

Then, a couple of months into the Fall 2021 semester, I was hit with a sudden realization — I was totally fine. 

I maintained a 4.0 GPA, my social life and college finances. I still spent some days feeling alone, but I was genuinely doing well. 

My dependency was obvious to me throughout our relationship, but I refused to accept it, as I didn’t want to change anything. After spending time alone, I reflected on our summer and finally recognized I was risking our relationship’s health by adding stress to both of us.  

We found new ways to pursue a healthier relationship. We connected with each other every day with at least a few texts and put less pressure on each other to be perfect partners because we were both dealing with the stress of distance dating, which isn’t easy for either of us. 

I began rebuilding my sense of identity through doing things I loved and exploring my passions, slowing down to spend time with myself and learning to love the little things unique to me.  

On my own, I am a passionate, dramatic and empathetic woman. I center my lifestyle around loving animals, the planet and people. I know how to stand up for myself and hate admitting when I’m wrong. I’m a cat person with a type A personality. I feel the need to do everything myself, with a false notion of needing to prove myself. I love breathing in fresh air surrounded by woods, swimming in the ocean and hugging the people most important to me. Good or bad, I can recognize the pieces of myself that uniquely connect to build my individual personhood. 

Being in a relationship doesn’t take away from my individuality. We’re two very different people soulfully bound together. He respects and loves my eccentricities, as I do his. He’s a dog person, fascinated by ancient relics and is incredibly musically inclined. In fact, our individualism continuously inspires us to strengthen our relationship. 

I feel content with myself, and we still maintain and grow our love. I was able to reclaim my identity and strengthen my relationship with the same distance I feared would destroy both. I found my worth within myself, and it allowed me to embrace my healthiest, happiest self and relationship. 

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