The morning after we said our last goodbyes, I woke up red and puffy-faced from crying, but I also felt in my heart that it had been the right thing to do. His “era” in my life had lasted a full two years (including a six month break-up in the middle); as much as it had given and taught me, it had also taken a lot. As I prepared to go abroad, I decided confidently that I wasn't going to be in a relationship again for a long time. I told my mom that I didn't plan to date anyone for the next four years, until I graduated from college. I wanted to focus on myself, I said. I wanted to live my own life and figure myself out, independently.
I packed my bags, boarded a plane, and moved my life to a different continent.
And the next day I met Ken.
For two months, we existed in each other's peripheral vision. I saw him at birthday parties and when my cousin invited him over to hang out. Twelve days before I left for America, I asked my cousin to teach me to longboard; Ken, who had more longboarding experience than he did, came along. When it turned out that my cousin had plans for later that night, Ken and I decided to go out for food and maybe a movie. We talked so much at dinner that we missed the movie by an hour and a half. There was some kind of click.
And yet, it’s taken effort. Oh Lord, has it taken effort. Skype, email, and WhatsApp make the distance easier, but they don’t take it away. And so with every tearful goodbye, I tell myself that one day, it will be easier. One day, we won’t have to do this anymore.
That ‘one day’ seemed like it was going to be next year. I would be at Oxford and he would be in the Netherlands, only an hour-long flight from London, or a ten-euro overnight bus ride. For a whole year, we would be on the same continent, able to see each other every month or so. In terms of distance, it still wouldn’t be a “normal” relationship, but the North Sea is a significantly smaller distance to cross than the Atlantic Ocean, both geographically and psychologically. Two days ago, when Ken and I had to say goodbye yet again after two weeks together, he reminded me that next year would be different, and so much easier. That our ‘one day’ was so soon.
And then, last night, he was called up and offered an internship in San Francisco for January.
So this is the part where I give myself a very hard and much-needed bitch slap.
Once upon a time, I named this blog after my biblical namesake, the Sara who laughed when God said she would finally bear a child in her old age. Many people dislike that story. You are not supposed to laugh at God (or listen in on what he says to your husband, but what else are you going to do in a small tent?). But the way I saw it, the story was not about laughing at God; it was about accepting the fact that the things we want never quite happen in the time or way that we expect them to.
Sara, for years and years, wanted to have a baby. When God, in the form of a stranger, said that she would finally have a child, she was post-menopausal and her husband was 99 years old. Of course she laughed; it sounded ridiculous. But whatever her intent, it is possible to see that story as an example of accepting the lot you are given, in all its surprising and ridiculous forms, with a bit of humor and grace. Laugh a little. Don't take yourself, or your plans, too seriously.
It's a lesson I've applied to my life in lots of ways, because life never goes in the way of your plans. And this unexpected, intercontinental love story – in which we are now switching continents and adding time zones – is just another example of that. So I'm trying to laugh about it. This is life – surprising, ridiculous, beautiful – at its best. So it's not the way I planned.
Nothing ever is.