How I'm Making My Long-Distance Marriage Work

In my living room, there’s one big brown cardboard box stacked on top of several others. My luggage is packed and I’m saying my goodbyes. I kiss my dog and hug him tight, and he cries like a baby as the front door shuts behind me. I could turn around and comfort him (like I want to), but I’ve made up my mind and I know that my husband will treat him like a king while I’m gone. With all of the times that I’ve packed up and had to leave for work, I’ve learned that crying is healthy and that the big lump in the back of my throat disappears with a large cup of hot tea. A short road trip away, and my husband helps me unload my bags at the airport. He kisses me goodbye and I feel a tinge of guilt for leaving him for my career.

I have to remind myself that I’m not leaving, I’m arriving.

I’m chasing my dreams. For now, it’s goodbye, though there will be a lot of “hellos,” on Skype and FaceTime, picture messages of the places I’ve been, and the people I’m sharing my journey with. Handwritten love notes snail-mailed to each other (usually from me to him — most guys just don’t get it). Moments we’ll miss because we’re not next to each other to understand the hilarity, or the pain. We laugh and tell our friends that this is the modern marriage and it works, but if you asked me after a glass of wine, I may reveal that it’s a bit harder than what we project.

But we’re not alone. I know there’s a lot of us out there. People choosing fulfillment over career complacency. We humans are created to do something that makes us happy, and for me, that something is big and bold. Something meaningful and inspiring. Something worth sacrificing a little comfort for.

On days when I’m traveling alone and feel like I need my husband’s strength, I dream about tucking him in my pocket and taking him everywhere with me. Several times I’ve embarrassingly caught myself talking to no one, laughing at my own jokes as if he was there right beside me.

The stories about Mom and Dad, living and working in the same city, having Sunday picnics with the family, and having children at a ripe, youngish age are becoming somewhat archaic. There is so much competition now to find a good, fulfilling job that makes us excited to get up in the morning and go to work. Often, a college education is a bare minimum requirement for a starting position that barely pays the bills (and definitely doesn’t pay off any college loans). Naturally, this gets us really excited to accept a starting position, take the company’s trash out, pick up our boss’s coffee in the middle of a Northeastern blizzard ruining our nicest pair of black heels with unpredictably deep puddles, and spend part of our measly paychecks on acceptably unprovocative pantsuits that we’d never be caught wearing after 5 p.m. on a weekday.

I made a decision, and that life is over for me. I’d rather baby-sit my three young nephews and teach them how to get bubblegum stuck in my hair. I’ve chosen to shift my life into a career that’s meaningful and fulfilling. Which also means that I’ve had to painfully sacrifice things that mean the most to me.

I’m open to change. And I certainly never want to look back and say, “I wish I had _____.” And thankfully, my husband thinks I shouldn’t either. We both agree that there will be a day that we can settle down and live with each other more than several months out of the year. A day when we both agree that we’ve done it all, are ready to nestle into our jointly claimed abode and spend the rest of our lives together.

But I’m not done seeking just yet, and that’s quite all right for both of us.

So, with my soul mate's blessing (and most likely my dog’s deep resentment), I board my full flight with a slight melancholy as I sip from another cup of boiling hot tea that I purchased at the airport. I lock myself into my coach seat and I hear the cabin door shut. There’s no turning back now. The plane grumbles as it prepares for takeoff, just like my throat does as it tries to dislodge the stubborn lump that won’t go away. I put on my noise canceling headphones, lean my head against the window and drift away slowly with the help of the cabin pressure. My eyes slowly blink their way into a deep dream and before they shut completely, I catch a glimpse of my sleepy reflection in the small window that I’m leaning against. I look deep into my reflection’s eyes and smirk softly with the thought that I am seeking. I am finding fulfillment. And most importantly, I’m not leaving, I’m arriving.

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