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Posts Tagged ‘separation’

Nearly four years ago now, three months after I got engaged, I hopped a plane to Oxford to spend a year earning my master’s degree (and, obviously, browsing bookshops and strolling gardens and eating my weight in scones and Digestive biscuits and paninis from On the Hoof).

This dream year was not without its opportunity costs, most notably the steady full-time salary I’d been enjoying (hello, student loan debt), and time with Jeremiah, my longtime boyfriend and newly-minted fiance. He stayed in Abilene to pursue his own master’s degree, and while we emailed every day and had weekly Skype dates and visited each other at Christmas and Spring Break, man oh man did I miss him.

Most people were totally understanding about this, as long as I didn’t whine about it all the time. One of my Oxford housemates was in a similar situation (her fiance was in North Wales). But a couple of friends had one standard response to any complaints I made about missing Jeremiah, the exchange rate, the wet English weather or any other difficulties. It consisted of one phrase: “Well, you chose it.”

Translation: Stop whining. You landed yourself in this situation on purpose, so you better suck it up.

Now, I don’t discount the power of an occasional dose of tough love, particularly when someone is engaging in self-destructive behavior, or when they’re doing nothing but complain. But usually, when I was venting my feelings, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t really wish my situation were different. I knew I’d chosen this year in Oxford, and – let’s be clear – I was having the time of my life. Those struggles were part of the deal, and I knew it. But I didn’t always have to like it.

That tough-love phrase has stayed with me since I left Oxford, and I’ve wondered about it in the context of various day jobs (some of which were true choices and some of which were necessities), and especially since our move to Boston. Lately, in the face of wet, dreary summer weather and missing Texas and crowded commuter trains and a case of the general blahs, I’ve wondered: Just because I/we chose Boston, does that mean we always have to like it?

I don’t think so.

Now, I really do believe in making the best of any situation. I believe in blooming where you’re planted and practicing gratitude and all those other platitudes (which can actually do wonders for your spirit). I don’t believe in whining, constant negativity, or refusing to see the good in a person or place or situation. But I believe in being honest about how things are going; I don’t think ignoring the bad stuff will make it go away. We all need to vent sometimes, and responding with that knee-jerk phrase when someone’s asking for empathy can make them pull back in hurt and frustration. (Believe me. I know.)

So I’m trying to be gentle with myself these days, when this still-new Boston life brings with it frustrations or loneliness or other kinds of strain. And I’m trying to be gentle with others who vent about their jobs or their cities or other frustrating things in their lives. Because honesty and a listening ear go a long way toward true friendship and being seen. And that is ultimately what I want to pursue – even if it means listening to – and voicing – a few complaints along the way.

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