Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Story, Part XII: Grad Week and Growing Up

Read previous installments of "Our Story" here.

Previously I mentioned that Spring 2005 was a busy semester.  Sadly most of my journal during that time is about my boyfriend being too busy to call me, or canceling plans to visit me, or neglecting to send me cards or gifts in the mail.  I felt like things were getting very dull, and actually missed what life had been like before we were "official."  It certainly was a lot more fun!

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May 12, 2005
I've received less phone calls and zero cards or gifts since we've been together.  So what's the point?  Having someone to be sweet to if we're ever bored?

As my now-husband has been known to say, "When you catch the bus ... you can stop running."  Well guys, not exactly!  But thankfully, an end was in sight.  We both finished school and I headed up to Connecticut with Jon's family for one of the most memorable weeks ever - Grad Week!

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May 19, 2005
What a great week!  Seeing Jon every day for 5 days in a row is almost too good to be true!

And was it ever oh, so good!  There were ceremonies and parades, luncheons and banquets, cruises and balls!  Okay, just one ball.  But it was a big deal.  Actually, everything was a big deal.  Such is life at the Academy.  But it was fun to let yourself get caught up in it all, even for just a few days.  Because after graduation each of the cadets that had spent the last 4 years together were now Ensigns and spreading themselves out across the nation ... and putting all their education into practice. 

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For Jon, that new home was a 5-bedroom beach house in Virginia that he shared with 4 other friends ... and a teeny-tiny stateroom on a cutter, where he actually spent most of his time during that 2-year tour.  I was able to make it down for one visit before he left on his first patrol.  I fell in love with the neighborhood, the beach, the town, and the school I was planning to enroll in the following year.  But all too quickly the weekend ended, Jon was off to sea, and I was back home to a lazy summer of waitressing and dreaming of the future in the sun.

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As an Interpersonal Communication major in college, I learned a little about relationships.  And after Jon and I started dating I became really interested in the whole "long distance romantic relationship" field.  I figured it would be a beneficial area of study for myself, so I ended up writing one of my final senior papers on "LDRR's."  You'd think I'd have it all figured out, and on paper I might.

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I can list all the reasons for a couple to "choose" an LDRR.  I can explain why couples in LDRRs tend to feel greater satisfaction in their relationships than those who are not, why their "highs" are so "high" and their "lows" are so "low."  How simple miscommunications can be so easily blown out of proportion.  How they tend to put their best foot forward during the face-to-face time they do have together ... and also tend to brush problems under the rug because it's not worth ruining the small amount of time they do have together.  I can explain what leads to an LDRR's success ... or demise.  But ultimately, everything I had studied didn't matter, all my personal experience has led me to one fact: long distance romantic relationships just plain STINK, like old, rotten fish stink.  They are a wretched, exhausting experience.  And I'm just relieved that it's not something we have to deal with anymore, at least not on the level we used to. 

June 23, 2005
I thought I'd be able to handle this whole long-distance thing fairly well.  I guess not.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make it.

But back then, there was no end in sight.  I would spend most of my day missing my boyfriend.  Then call him that night but not have anything to say since life wasn't very exciting at the time.  And so we'd have a short, uninteresting conversation.  And I'd hang up thinking something was wrong, maybe we weren't in love anymore, maybe this is how break-ups start off ... And then Jon wouldn't call for another day or two because he was busy moving into his house or starting his new job or going jet-skiing with his buddies.  And then I'd worry even more, trying to figure out what I could do differently, or why my boyfriend doesn't even act like he misses me.  Looking back, I just had too much time on my hands.

June 28, 2005
I wish I was drop-dead busy.  Anything to make the time go by faster.  And yet I don't want to just "get through" this next year.  I want to accomplish something.  I just don't know how to make things better.

So things would continue in this scary, downward spiral until finally something would go right  - Jon would call and say something super-sweet and convince me that we really, truly were meant to be together and that this was all just a phase.  Or we'd get a short little visit, a weekend of pure bliss together and each other's undivided attention, and at the end I'd wonder just what I was all worried about in the first place.  Surely, we were meant to be.

August 2, 2005
Honestly, if I didn't think Jon and I had a definite future I wouldn't both with a long-distance relationship.  They're all work and no fun.

Needless to say, I did a little growing up that summer, became a bit more rational.  I quickly learned some lessons that I've carried with me all through out our marriage.  I learned that it wasn't all about me ... or Jon.  That sometimes other people, jobs, activities, require our attention at that moment.  That just because my husband was devoted to his country didn't mean he couldn't be devoted to me.  That relationships aren't all rainbows and unicorns all the time, that sometime there are very mundane phone calls, very boring emails, very routine days, and very ho-hum evenings together.  But that's life.  And in the end, I'd rather share a boring phone call with my man over a very dull day than lead an exciting, exotic life without him.  And just because life wasn't as thrilling or eventful as those first days together, didn't mean we loved each other any less.  If I could have only known then, how important this would all be later, especially when I started my new gig as a military spouse, or rather, as the wife of a deployed sailor.  But that's getting ahead of the story. 

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Then again, from the moment we had gotten together, from that first Sunday Jon sat next to me in church, people started assuming we were engaged.  My pastor would jokingly check my left ring finger every Sunday, just in case there had been a change.  Friends and friends of friends started asking when the wedding would be.  And then I started thinking of wedding plans... and glancing over the calendar trying to figure out which dates landed on Saturdays that following year.  One of Jon's friends had just gotten married and told him how great wedded life was - that no matter how fun life is with "your buddies" there's no better roommate than your wife.  And then Jon started doing the math - adding up the increase he'd get in housing allowance, the extra amount we'd earn in separation pay whenever he was out to sea, the fact that I'd actually have some health insurance after I'd graduated - and the numbers were just a little convincing.  And then there was the family, who kept hinting at the future - the big family vacation that Jon's mom's family was planning the following July, Jon's sister's family's next visit to the States from Israel, my Dad's wrestling team schedule that winter and spring and, most alarming, the rate that others around me were getting engaged ... and gobbling up all the best wedding dates!

It was at this point that I started to realize Ken and Barbie had it so easy.  If my memory serves me right, Ken just walked up to Barbie, got down on one knee, pulled out a ring, asked her to marry him and she gasps and says, "Yes, oh yes!" There's no discussion of dates and who is available when and what happens in the meantime.  Ken never asks her what kind of ring she wants, he just instinctively knows.  And Barbie hasn't a clue that she's about to start planning her wedding.

The real world doesn't work that way. Jon and I had only been dating for a few months, and most of that time had been spent miles apart in turmoil. We had no idea what his deployment schedule would be the following year. We also agreed that I would not be moving down to Virginia until after a wedding, if there was one. And he assured me that there would be no ring until Christmas-time, at the earliest.  So while I didn't know when I would be engaged, I at least knew when I wouldn't.  And so I shoved all the worry aside, all the talks about dresses and money and dates and reception halls. There was no reason to worry about all this until I had a good reason to.  And until then, I was determined to enjoy the last sliver of summer that remained ... and the last few days I would get to spend with my Coastie before he deployed to sea again.  I was so clueless...

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