Living abroad is not easy, at all. Not for me, at least. Last night as I cried and cried over missing Pookie and my friends and family, I found myself thinking, “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.” Japan is not a bad place. Living on base is not a bad thing. I have made friends, and I enjoy spending time with them. What makes living abroad so difficult for me is missing everyone and thinking about how I won’t really be with them again for four years. Four whole freaking years. It’s not like I won’t ever see them in these four years, but visiting is very different from day-to-day living. I keep hoping for some sort of miracle that Dan will not have to stay here for the whole four years. I even asked him if that would ever be a possibility. He said it is extremely unlikely. Sigh… It’s really not that I don’t like it here. I just wish I was closer to everyone I love.
I knew this move would be difficult. But, unlike everything else that could possibly happen, I did not anticipate the true nature of how difficult this would be. I am usually really good at anticipating the suck. How did this get passed my assiduous mind? I won’t pretend that I don’t know how. I was so focused on finally being with Dan, that almost nothing else mattered. Dan left for Japan about 6 days after our wedding. For months I would patiently (sometimes impatiently) wait at home until Dan told me that I have been given the OK to live with him. Whenever the process was prolonged, I would throw a little fit and wonder if I would ever live with my husband. My focus was purely on getting to Japan. Not until my final days in the United States did I feel extreme panic when realizing I were to leave everything I know and love.
So why was I so focused on finally being with Dan? Well, for those of you who don’t know, until now, we have been separated from one another for our entire relationship. And the title of this post is “Our Story” because I am going to tell it, whether it interests you or not. Dan’s experience is likely different from my own, but my feelings throughout our relationship are similar to what it feels like to hold your breath. I only use this metaphor to describe my feelings because right now I find myself short of breath as I think back. You may understand why, as I write. I guess the theme of our story is that our love refused to die.
The longest consecutive time Dan and I have lived close to each other was when we first met. That was for about three months.
In April 2013, I walked into my friend’s apartment in Harrisonburg, VA (town I went to college) where I found her making an OK Cupid profile. I have always thought dating websites were silly, but like the mostly open-minded, supportive friend I am, I said, “cool!” She insisted I make one with her as moral support. At first I thought no, but I was single and I generally like to fill things out (like a survey), so I thought why not? Fast forward to May where I was preparing to go back home to NY for the summer. I looked over what guys looked at my profile and who I matched with. I spotted a blonde haired muscular guy standing on a mountain. His profile said he was an avid health enthusiast, or something like that. I know the words avid and health were in there. I contacted him saying that I realize he may not be interested in me since he looked at my profile and didn’t say anything, but I thought I’d take a shot.
We met at the diner in the town he lived in, one over from mine. I almost didn’t go on this date just because I didn’t feel like it. Obviously I did go, and I am glad I did. I remember being nervous about what to order since he was such an avid health enthusiast. I have later come to learn that that was sort of just a phase for him. Phew. The first things I noticed on that first date that made me like him: We both rearranged our silverware as our food came; He pulled over to the side of the road to wait for me when someone cut me off while I was following him to a nearby park; He geeked out as much as I did about the dogs at the park.
June first was the day we had become “official”. He had talked about wanting to enlist in the Air Force and at the time, I was actually ok with it. I was trying hard not to get attached too quickly, so I played it as cool and casual as I could. I remember a friend asking me if I was ok with the fact that he wants to do that, and I responded so nonchalantly, “I like him but I’m not in love with him. If he goes, he goes.” I was completely fooling myself.
We spent so much time together that summer before I went back to school. During those months with Dan, I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. I cried the day I left and embarrassed myself in front of him. I was so sad because I truly thought I would never see him again. I thought he was going to enlist immediately and he would be gone. I loved the way I felt when I was with him and I was devastated to lose that. But, we stayed together and we saw each other when he visited me and when I went home for the breaks between semesters. The following summer he went to basic training and we could not speak for three months. We wrote each other letters which I have sitting on the bookshelf behind me.
I went to his graduation in San Antonio, TX. I cried when I saw him because of so many reasons. His head was shaved and he was very thin. He looked so different. And I didn’t know how to act when we first reunited. That time apart, including when he went to tech school for a couple months, felt awful. That time feels like nothing compared to when he left for England and was gone for two years. Dan did not understand why I was so upset before he left. His reasoning was that he wasn’t gone yet, so there is nothing to be sad about. But I already knew of the impending doom and every possible feeling we would have while apart.
The entire first year Dan was in England, I was miserable. I constantly worried about what would happen to me and him. We had absolutely no foreseeable future. I worried he would stop loving me or find someone new. I worried about how unhappy we were becoming. The way I worried was debilitating me from everyday life. I visited him and a couple weeks later we broke up. Thinking back to the way I felt that night makes me tear up even now when we are happily married. There was nothing we could do to be happy. That was the hardest thing. I felt so much turmoil in our situation, but I didn’t want to let him go. So we broke up. That was January 2015. We didn’t talk for about a week and a half, but then went back to talking everyday. For some reason, removing the title of being in a relationship made things easier between us. There was less pressure. And we still loved each other. We had plans to meet in Turkey when I went to visit my family, and plans with his friends to visit him in England. I told him not to go to Turkey, and his friends didn’t go to England at the time anyway. We knew it would hurt too much to see one another and not BE with one another. We were broken up for a year and every single night before I went to bed, I whispered to myself, “I really miss Dan.” That is not an exaggeration. I tried to see other people, but no one could make me feel the way Dan would. I actively tried to let him go, but I could not. The day before we got married, a friend of mine reminded me of what I had said to her while we were still broken up: “If I ever end up with somebody other than Dan, I am settling.” He has always been the only one I want.
For the longest time I had a resentment against the air force and England. I associated the two with taking Dan away from me. Every time an air force commercial would come on TV, I would throw the F word around. Every time anything to do with England was brought up, I would talk about how stupid that country is. I know, I’m so mature. But, they have wronged me and I had good reason.
In January 2016, Dan came home to visit. He had gotten his next assignment, Japan. He was only supposed to be there for two years, but they took him for three. He didn’t know I knew already when we went to get breakfast together and he was so nervous to tell me about it. I had said to him long before that as long as he is in the military, I can’t be with him. In that bagel shop is where we decided that we don’t want to be without each other anymore. I said I would go to Japan with him. We knew that meant we had to get married, which is something we weren’t too keen on at the time. But we knew that we could no longer be apart, so that was the decision we made. Finally, I was able to exhale. I felt at peace with so many things.
He went back to England and that summer our friends and I took that trip to visit him and then go to Norway to hike and camp on Trolltunga. He proposed to me there.
Our wedding was the happiest day of my life. It was so much fun, and I felt an overwhelming amount of love for my new husband, and from our friends who have rooted for us the entire time, throughout our struggle.
So you see, all I wanted was to be with Dan. And I am happy to be able to be with him now. This was just a long explanation of why I was so ill-prepared going to Japan. I miss home. There is this everlasting conflict between being with Dan and being with everything and everyone else I love. In a perfect world I would have everyone living around me all the time. But, obviously, this world isn’t perfect.
I get really sad sometimes, and sometimes I really want to go home. However, the universe has given me this time to learn. To learn how to cope with my feelings, to learn to find my creativity, to learn to become more independent, to learn how to continuously love, and to learn how to be true to myself.
What I have learned already from my experiences is that I am ultimately being taken care of by something bigger than myself. Right now I may not be able to see why or how, but I will eventually look back and say, “Oh that’s why, that’s how.”