Telling the story of how I met Ben actually starts with how I met chih, who was later my college roommate and is still a wonderful friend. ( Read more... )
Telling the story of how I met Ben actually starts with how I met chih, who was later my college roommate and is still a wonderful friend. ( Read more... )
I realized that I was looking at things the wrong way earlier. It's not that being in a long-distance relationship should make you good at saying goodbye for a trip. It should actually make you incredibly bad at it, or at least it made me bad at it. I have all these associations with goodbyes to Ben, with feeling lonely and burdened and trying to fill the time with anything. So if, say, I know he is leaving in three hours, I start thinking about the many, many other times that I knew he was leaving in three hours to be gone for awhile and I start feeling the same way I did then.
What's a little stupid is, of course, I was recently gone for 3 weeks and he was here. Being the one that leaves is easier, I guess, especially if you are going somewhere fun or doing something new after leaving.
I realized something fantastic though, from this. We were together for just over 4.5 years as a long-distance couple, and we have been living in Philadelphia for a little less than 4 years. This means that seven months from now, we will have been living together for the same amount of time that we had to be apart, and of course after that the long-distance part of our relationship will become the minority of our total time together. That is amazing to think about.
the fog on the street lamp slowly thins
water on water's the way
the safety of shoreline fading away
I didn't sleep that well the night before( ... )
( there's more... )
Now, finally, while the band really contributed to how much fun and party-like the reception was, the dancing wasn't my favorite thing about them. See, when I hired them I had asked if they played 'Leavin' on a Jet Plane', a song which means a lot when you are in a long-distance relationship. They said they didn't usually but might be able to work something out, and I said well don't worry about it, it's not a big deal, but if you could it would be great. So what happened was, after everyone was done eating and we were standing mingling, they announced that they were going to sing us something special, a capella, before our first dance. I heard that and thought, wow, they are singing it just for us, that's so great. We were standing at the back of the room, and I turned to Ben as they started, "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..." And his face was shocked and his eyes were tearing up, and I realized I never told him that I asked about that song. He looked at me, in the weepy-happy way you get a lot of at a wedding, and while they sang the song with no backup, we stood in the back of the room embracing and crying a little. It worked out well that our first dance was upbeat and fun after that, but during that song I can't tell you how joyous, in love, and almost triumphant I felt, that we made it through. "Every place I go, I think of you; every song I sing, I sing for you; when I come back, I’ll wear your wedding ring..."
I'm pleased overall with how my summer went; I was initially worried that I wouldn't enjoy it much, that I would be lonely, that I'd be unhappy. The first week was really hard, just because I had to reprogram myself to not expect Ben to be around, but after that it was pretty great. I traveled a fair amount (but not expensively), did outdoorsy stuff, visited friends, played piano more than I had been, started running along the Schuylkill River Trail a couple times a week, etc. etc. The only thing that could have been better was my job, which wasn't as great as I was hoping it would be. But it's gotten better since the beginning of the summer, I'm moving towards doing more science, and I did a good job with the work I did get. Oh yeah, and I read a lot of books and watched a lot of interesting movies, and got out and met more graduate students in other departments (as well as more in my own department). Now that I don't have massive coursework demands on my time, I'm trying to experience the East Coast really thoroughly, in part because I suspect that when I graduate, I'll move back west, and in part because at Berkeley I felt like I got a lot more out of living there the longer I was there, and it was only near the end that I'd found everything I really loved. I definitely had the feeling there that I did more fun things in the last five months I was there than in the first two years I lived there, and I want to even things out more so that I'm finding cool things from the very beginning.
Ben loved his internship, and while I didn't like us being apart for the summer, I do like that it makes him that much more marketable for later when we have to find jobs near each other. He really enjoyed working at EA, and it's obvious to me that he's in the right field: he programs and plays computer games all day at work, then goes home and... plays computer games and programs. He has a focus which I don't have and will probably never have; I think that if I were making a living writing, or playing piano, I would go home and exercise or read or do math. He is extremely broadly knowledgeable, one of my favorite things about him, but I'm not sure he has a driving desire to do lots of crazy different things all the time. We match each other well, because I admire him for his focus and immense competence in his field, and he admires me for my breadth, even though really we both have each of those things somewhat. But one thing that I like about him loving game development so much is that he can almost certainly have a stable, well-paying career, and so I feel less pressure to have one myself (though it's pretty likely, hopefully).
So as of right now, it's been five weeks since I saw Ben, and I'll be seeing him and lots of friends in Seattle this weekend. Then only four weeks until he moves back here. I'm happy and fine and enjoying myself without him, but it's so nice to talk to him on the phone or on WoW, and I'm really excited to see him. I've been going to dinner, doing laundry, running by the Schuylkill, packing, reading papers, and thinking about how wonderful it will be to hold him.
Skipping beats, flashing jeeps
I am struggling
Daydreaming, been sitting, the corner cafe
And I'm left in bits, recovered tectonic, trembling
You get me everytime
Why'd you have to be so cute
It's impossible to ignore you
Must you make me laugh so much
It's bad enough we get along so well
Say goodnight and go
( ways in which this weekend was different )
And now I'm back, and I'm making progress in my work, and trying to get caught up on my chores. My favorite pair of jeans ripped while I was in LA, so maybe I can mend those... and I want to finish Juneteenth, the other Ralph Ellison book, so that I can start rereading Harry Potter. :) I should also clean up... when I came back yesterday, I noticed that one of our mouse traps had moved onto a vent in the dining room... then noticed the tail protruding from it. A mouse got its leg caught in the trap, tried to go down the vent, and died there. I was concerned that the mouse would be stuck in the vent, and I would have to take drastic measures (or have a professional take them on my behalf) to remove it, but it slid right out. But now things feel unclean.
Our garden grows slowly, in fits and starts, not nearly as fast as our weeds. But we have pea-vines!
I have remembered beauty in the night,
Against black silences I waked to see
A shower of sunlight over Italy
And green Ravello dreaming on her height;
I have remembered music in the dark,
The clean swift brightness of a fugue of Bach's,
And running water singing on the rocks
When once in English woods I heard a lark.
But all remembered beauty is no more
Than a vague prelude to the thought of you --
You are the rarest soul I ever knew,
Lover of beauty, knightliest and best;
My thoughts seek you as waves that seek the shore,
And when I think of you, I am at rest.
Unfortunately, cross-country travel makes it harder to just take a weekend with each other, since flying from west to east coast takes a day. And I'm more at liberty to take a day off than Ben is, so it looks like I'll be going out there twice, and one time Ben will pay for it. I already have my tickets for LAX in mid-June, but we talked tentatively about having our second meetup be in Seattle, where Chih/James/Adam are. We would have to see if the prices make it feasible, but if we did that, would you consider visiting Seattle too, Erin/Josh/Laura(/Joe?!)?
Things I really need to do this summer:
*go hiking a few times
*do neat cultural things, like at Philly I-House
*suppress hate for humidity
That invited seminar which I am so happy to be giving is next week! I practiced by giving my talk to the first-year seminar, which was good practice, gave good comments, and made sure that I had finished and practiced my talk at least a week in advance. I would love to have more opportunity to give scientific talks, because I abhor bad ones so much. I was really nervous about it, but overall I'm happy with how things went.
It is nearly the end of the semester, so my last teaching is this week, and I have one biophysics problem set, one E&M problem set, and two quantum problem sets to go. Then finals, which will be both more numerous and more painful than last semester. Oh god, and homework solutions, and grading... *sigh* but at least now the end is in sight.
Btw, the second cervical cancer vaccine shot really hurts!
We're celebrating it tomorrow, but since it's an odd year I have no idea what we'll be doing. Maybe you remember that last year I planned a weekend for us in Monterey, which was a really great time. I spent a lot of time on it, finding the cheapest nice hotel there, picking a fancy restaurant (which ended up being great), and finding lots of stuff to do, much more than we ended up doing. It's a beautiful area and we had fun. But there was also something kind of strange about that weekend... keep in mind that at the time, I was retaking quantum, less than a month from retaking the physics GRE, and worrying about reapplying to graduate school after getting rejected everywhere. And on top of that, it was looking nigh on impossible for Ben and I to attend the same school for our Ph.D.'s, and we knew it. We talked about it a lot, tearfully and reasonably, and each felt we had done the most we could, but for our relationship to progress, we needed to be actually together. And neither of us wanted to stay apart any longer, though we couldn't bear the idea of breaking up. Things felt desperate, and I was really afraid that I had found the love of my life and I was going to lose him to circumstance.
I felt that whole weekend like I was trying to win Ben over from something, even though he was in the same boat that I was. I wanted everything to go so amazingly well, to prove to the universe that I deserved Ben and could I please finally have him now? Even though everything went off without a hitch, at the end of the weekend I felt desolate, because we had to leave now and did one fantastic weekend bring us any closer to being together? A lot of the weekends we spent together, when the end came and one of us had to leave, I would cry. I loved being with Ben and I never wanted it to stop. And that happened on our anniversary weekend, but it was terrible, it was so much worse. I couldn't stop crying, and it felt like there was a huge hole being ripped inside me, because everything was great, but how was this going to work? We couldn't keep on being apart, but I felt like there was no chance of us ever being together. We got in our separate cars and I sobbed and sobbed, and made Ben drive back up the freeway and hold me again, and he left and I cried more... I knew I had to drive back to Berkeley, but it felt so hopeless. I did it eventually, playing happy music to try to keep myself from crying in the car.
Here we are, a year later. It's our anniversary today, though we're celebrating it tomorrow. I had a lot of class and teaching today, and I was sort of worn out and walking home to have dinner with Ben. And it's so amazing to think, isn't it, that this is the sort of thing I was fighting for, the chance to come home to Ben cooking, to meet him for lunch outside my building, to go grocery shopping together and do chores together and sleep exhausted but together. This is the only anniversary present I want! I daydreamed about it so much, and probably idealized it quite a lot, but you know, it's better than I imagined! It's so wonderful and we're so happy, and I want to scream out that sometimes the world is nothing but joy, and sometimes there are happy endings, and sometimes everything is beautiful and nothing hurts! Sometimes things click and they happen and it all falls into place! Sometimes there is meaning! Sometimes romance persists! Sometimes love comes and fills you and you overflow, forever and ever! Sometimes dreams do come true!
It's like a second honeymoon, or something of that nature, to finally be free of something that's been holding us back for so long. It's the end of an era, the end of so many things, and the beginning of something totally new. I have to admit that I'm a little scared... long distance isn't good, but it's something we're very good at dealing with. We're going into new water here. But it feels so good to be together, finally, permanently. It's hard not to feel so happy that I just keep smiling, and it makes it so much better to see how happy Ben is too. We're silly and cute and mushy and it's great, it feels so simple and carefree. I feel so carefree.
This is a happy ending and a beautiful beginning and the best of all possible outcomes. Thank you world, friends, Ben, self. It finally worked.
Ben sent me this photo of where we would be working if we go to Penn, that is, where the CIS and physics buildings are. :)
The graduate chair actually called me and told me how enthusiastic they are about me, and a lot about their program, which seems research-centric and condensed-matter-centric. They just got a huge grant for materials science, 80% of which is earmarked for soft condensed matter. I'm really excited about visiting and seeing everything for myself.
For one thing, it really applies to the student lifestyle. There's the rush you get when you get a good grade on a test you aced or an essay you slaved over or a lab you spent days puzzling out, the feeling of accomplishment when you get through a hard semester, and the sensation I love of continual learning, putting piece after piece together and learning, more quickly than you'd think possible. And that builds on the late-night sessions, the slaving over everything, the rushing, the pressure, the lack of sleep, that horrible sinking feeling when you've had a hard time in an exam, or you're turning in a project that you know isn't your best work. It makes the feats you manage seem more real, more wrung out of your flesh and bone and abused grey matter.
The same thing is true of long-distance relationships, I think. There's a lot more hardship, a lot more loneliness, and a lot more arguments than you'd get having the same relationship the normal way. But the time together feels so sweet, and you get this sense of pride if you can keep it together, and you can get such high thrills seeing someone you care so much about when you've been missing them so deeply.
It's always like that when I fly into LAX, which will always be the most beautiful airport in the world in my eyes. When I flew down last Thursday, I hadn't been since June (because of Ben living in the Bay Area for the summer, my conference, us meeting in Mammoth for Thanksgiving), so it was a little like seeing an old friend. I usually fly in at night, and it was familiar and wonderful to see the luminous city spread out before me, so large and beautiful, lines of the sea and mountains and highways visible. My excitement always rises as we go down to land, flying next to the glittering black high-rises near the airport, setting down and thinking how Ben's feet are on the same ground less than a mile from where I am. And coming out of the terminal and seeing him... it's so intense, the joy you feel.
And then flying out, midday Tuesday, in the flat noon light with a faint haze spreading over the city, feeling the familiar loneliness come seeping back in, coalescing in my limbs and sinking to the bottom of my stomach. This is half of why my hopes are so high for graduate school.
I don't have much time for swimming, which sucks because I don't feel as good and I can't eat as much, and I barely have time for piano, which I really want now after gran'dad's death. I eke out time talking to Ben and seeing my friends, with the feeling that I shouldn't be doing it the whole time.
So I guess the summary is, I feel the same way I did last year around this time, but only a tenth as desperate.
On the plus side, Thanksgiving is soon, and that'll be relaxing. And I'm looking forward to some opera hopefully this week, a Regina Carter concert at Yoshi's on Friday, and hiking with Jessica (hopefully, again) on Saturday. Nonetheless, I'm trying really hard not to feel unhappy and just tell myself that it'll change soon.
In a lot of ways our relationship hasn't changed much; we had a great time over the summer hanging out, cooking, going on hikes and picnics, watching movies, going to museums, eating well. It's great to feel that our communication and understanding of each other just keeps improving, and that makes the relationship even more satisfying to be in. I'm not a person who hides much, but I think it's especially obvious that I'm so happy with Ben, and I love and admire him so much. It's great to be a part of his life and have him in mine.
That said, I'm starting to feel like now we're getting to the tricky part... we've gotten through trials of long distance okay, ironed out a lot of things, but now our lives are getting complicated. My not getting into graduate school was really damaging to us, because I needed so much support after that and Ben felt like the person required to give most of it, and after a while there's only so much you can say. We both mismanaged things there, and the summer was a fortunate chance to talk through that and fix it. But there's the big one looming, of where we will go for graduate school. I obviously really want us to get in to the same school, one that's good for both of us, preferably a few so that we can be really happy, and preferably one where we could both get funding. I'm really worried about how things will actually turn out, though, especially since I don't think I'll have my pick of schools. And while we've done well with distance so far, neither of us really wants it while we're going for our Ph.D.s, and at this point we can only really get further apart, geographically, unless we get in somewhere together.
This is really scary. I don't mind not knowing what school I'll end up at, right now, but I would feel infinitely relieved if I knew I'd be with Ben. Time will tell (three of the most unhelpful words ever).
Sweets, we were so lucky to meet, lucky to be so compatible, lucky to avoid the big traps, lucky to find ways to be together some summers. And it wasn't just luck; we worked hard to be good to each other, to be the people we each wanted to be, and to support and enrich each other's lives. We worked hard to communicate and open up, even when it was uncomfortable, and look what the rewards have been. I'm so happy, and so proud of us.
But here's hoping we're lucky again.
On Friday, we went to the SUPERB showing of Batman Begins per juhi's recommendation. It was very cool, only three dollars, and really a very good movie. One of the best superhero movies I've seen, although the fight scenes were not very well done. On Saturday we went down to Foster City and Ben packed while I did his laundry, vacuumed the floor, and talked on the phone. Sunday we went to the Legion of Honor and had a good time looking at the building, admiring the Rodins and the period furniture, making fun of the silly paintings and bizarre clothing. We hiked down to the sea and picnicked, watching ships pass into the Bay under the Golden Gate bridge. And Sunday night we rented Goodfellas and had popcorn.
I'm kind of... processing. I miss Ben and I'm torn apart by some of the issues that have been coming up in our relationship. We had a good summer for strengthening our ties, being more honest with each other, and just having a good time, but all in all we're both worn out by the distance, and it's affecting the way our relationship is evolving, because it's hard to get close, so close that you feel you're part of the same person, to someone you only see every few weeks. There's a necessary separation, one that's stunting our growth. It's not anything like a breaking-up kind of issue, just a problem, the biggest one in our relationship right now. I just hope we get into the same grad school, and it's good for both of us, so we can move past this.
It's very important to see things clearly.