I’m participating in The Scintilla Project, which is a fortnight of prompts that are meant to remind the participants why they started blogging in the first place. I’m very excited about this project – I think this is the kickstart I need to start writing here again. Please be sure to go to the homepage and check out some of the other participants!
Day 3: What’s the story of the most difficult challenge you’ve faced in a relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?
Oh, this is a good one.
I am currently sitting in Des Moines, IA. I do not officially live here, though my name is on the lease – I am a Missouri resident. My official address is in Kansas City. My husband, the law student, lives in Des Moines. So our challenge is that for almost two years, we have lived apart.
Now, this is not nearly as bad as military deployments, where spouses do not see each other for a year or more. But any separation from someone you love is difficult. When you’re used to spending time together, that first time apart is gut-wrenching.
We had been married for 3.5 years when the initial decision was made. The law student had been working in a legal support capacity for a company in Houston, when one day he came home and said, “I want to take the LSAT.”
“Okay. What brought this on?”
He then explained to me about a conversation he had at work, and his supervisor talked about things he could do when he became a paralegal. He realized that he didn’t want to be working as an assistant to the process; he wanted to be actively involved in steering it, which meant he needed to become a lawyer.
So he took the LSAT after about two months of studying. And scored approximately in the 81st percentile.
He applied to law schools, and on a cold, rainy February day, he received the letter he wanted. He had been accepted to his first-choice law school. In Iowa. With a scholarship. We would have been fools not to take it. There was much celebration that evening; we may or may not have bought a bottle of champagne.
Two weeks later, my boss and one of my coworkers met with me. They offered me a huge promotion. It was a change in title, a change in duties, and a larger paycheck.
“You do know that I plan to leave in May, right?” I had told my boss the day after we received the letter that he had been accepted. The law student and I had decided that he would start school in June with a constitutional law semester, one of his major interests. This meant we would be moving up to Des Moines in May; we had a trip scheduled for the end of March to find a place to live.
“We know. You can stay as long as you want.”
I immediately called the law student, who said that I had to take the promotion.
“But they want me to work on a project that will go into August.”
“We’ll make it work.”
And so there it was. The tacit acknowledgement that, other than a few work trips I had made, we would be spending long stretches of time apart. We didn’t want to think of the ramifications. Now, after years of working as assistants, we were working to become professionals.
A coworker at my second, part-time job was moving to Austin for the summer and needed someone to sublet his apartment. The lease ran through August. I needed a place to live, and that was the amount of time my new boss and I thought the project would take. So I had a place to live for a few months.
We moved the law student up in May. My parents drove to Des Moines from their home in Illinois; the plan was that my mother would drive back to Houston with me and fly home.
The goodbye was teary for both of us; I felt like someone had stuck a knife in my stomach. Here was the man I loved, standing outside the apartment that would be his home for the foreseeable future, saying goodbye to me, and I to him. This would only be a two-week separation; I had planned a business trip to our Kansas City office for mid-June and was going to drive up for the weekend, and I had already booked airfare and a car for the July 4 weekend. But still, I was in tears when I picked up my mom at the hotel. Thankfully, she agreed to take the first shift behind the wheel so I could compose myself.
The weeks went by, and while it was still lonely, it became easier. I threw myself into my work. When the project still dragged on and it became apparent that I would need to stay longer than August, I moved in with some friends that had a spare bedroom. Meanwhile, my bosses were working on a transfer to Kansas City, which is three hours from Des Moines. I could see the law student on the weekends.
Finally, in early December, a vice president and head of the accounting department in Kansas City stopped by my desk.
“Congratulations! Your transfer has been approved. I’m excited you’ll be here. Can you be up here in mid-December?”
This gave me a little over a week to get my affairs in order in Texas, find a place to live in my new city, and get my dad’s airfare booked. (I knew about the transfer long before it was officially approved. It had been decided that my dad would fly down to Houston, drive up with me, and fly home from Kansas City.)
So, I moved to Kansas City in December 2010. I found a place to live and worked to establish my new life.
And now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The law student will graduate this December. He decided to move to Kansas City to practice law. Finally, after 2.5 years apart, we will live under the same roof.
And I’m scared.
I’ve loved the independence of being alone. I’ve started to carve out a life for myself in Kansas City. I have grown to love this city on the edge of the Plains. It felt like home, because it matched the Midwest ethos and personality I grew up with in Illinois. Now my husband, who does not like living in cities and who has no contacts to assist in his job search in Missouri, was going to join me. I wonder how he’s going to like this scrappy city, if he’ll be able to get his dream job as a public defender in the area, if he’ll be welcomed by the legal community.
But then, in other moments, I think about the fact that he will be with me, that I will be able to spend time with my best friend and love. We will be able to sleep in the same bed, our bed, versus the rented bed that feels cold and lonely without him there. We would be able to eat dinner together, to watch TV and make snarky comments about the bad movies we like to watch. We could buy a house together, begin to place roots in a community. We can go to the River Market, concerts at the Kauffman Center, baseball games at the K where I can see my White Sox play the Royals, instead of being surrounded by the Cubs (Des Moines is home to the Chicago Cubs’ AAA team).
I know that once we get under the same roof there will be some bumps. We will be relearning how to live together. But I reason that if we’ve managed this extended absence, we can learn to live together again.