Late (For) Tea

6 Tips to Make Your Long-Distance Relationship Prosper

In a couple of weeks my boyfriend Vince and I will have been together for 2 years. To some people this might not seem like much but to me it is a milestone because we have a very peculiar relationship. Vince lives in the United States and I live in Europe. Out of the (almost) two years we’ve been a couple, we have only been together at the same place for a few months. Maybe half a year or so if we add up all the weeks that we spent visiting each other.  Many people have asked me how a relationship like ours can work. To me the situation we are in has almost become natural but sometimes I realise how crazy we must sound to others.

I hope that with this post I can inspire people who might be going through the same thing or are thinking of starting a long-distance relationship but are not quite sure what to expect. I also hope I can give clarity to those who don’t completely understand how these things work.

Before I start rambling away, let me clarify that I am not able to give advice on relationships that were formed online. I personally don’t think it is a good idea to be in a relationship with someone you have never  met, especially not if they apparently live far away. It is not safe and you could easily become a victim of ‘catfishing’.

After seeing this picture, I knew we were special.

After seeing this picture, I knew we were special.

A Little Bit of History

Vince and I met when he was studying abroad at my university here in London. For me it was ‘attraction at first sight.’ I saw Vince for the first time on the very first day he arrived. I was having dinner at the cafeteria with some of the girls I lived with and we saw a big group of people coming in. My wonderful friend Maria enthusiastically announced that the new Americans had stranded on our campus. Seeing new faces on our small campus was always very exciting and we were curious about newcomers. I saw Vince and I couldn’t stop staring, it was ridiculous. I explained to my friend Maria that I didn’t care because the Americans were going to leave anyway. I didn’t want to fall in love with someone who was going to leave me behind. I obviously had no idea what I was talking about. I would see Vince around campus all the time but never bothered talking to him because I didn’t want to get involved with an American. Well, you know how these thing go… One night I went to a party with my friends at the Student’s Union and there he was. Hanging out with his other American friends. Somehow I ended up talking to him after all. I just had to take that chance. I thought it had all gone horribly wrong until he added me on Facebook a couple of days later. I don’t think I need to tell you the rest of the story.

So, how do you make a long-distance relationship work?

A long-distance relationship is really like any other relationship but there are a few essential differences. Here are 6 tips on how to make it a great experience.

1. Get Creative

If physical intimacy and closeness are the most important factors to you, then don’t even think about having this kind of relationship. Being in a long-distance relationship means having quite a few lonely nights. However, once you can hold your beloved in your arms again it will feel like falling in love all over again. We all know how ‘amazeballs’ that feels, eh? Since there is no physical intimacy you have to be ready to communicate in a different way. Texting, skyping, face timing, writing letters, sending each other little gifts etc. Let your creative juices flow. It is important that you communicate effectively and honestly. Vince and I have a private blog where we post all kinds of things for each other. The posts range from music to funny videos to pictures. Arrange date nights by watching movies together. You can use Netflix if your connection is good enough. Since a LDR doesn’t allow you to be together physically, you have to try and at least feel together constantly.

2. Note the Time Difference 

Take note of the time difference. It might not seem very important but if the time difference is greater than 2 or 3 hours it will matter. You might not go to bed at the same time. Sometimes you might even go to bed when your partner is already getting up. Also, the greater the time difference, the greater the distance, the greater the travel costs to see each other. Let’s not forget the jet lag you will experience when visiting…

3. Travel Costs

Barrett Strong once sang ‘The best things in life are free but you can give them to the birds and bees, I need money’. Because that’s what you will want and that’s what you will need when you want to see your significant other more than twice a year or so. I don’t even want to think about how much money we spent on plane tickets. In the end you might not even spend more money on the relationship than normal couples do. Normal couples might not have to spend as much money on travelling but they might just spend money on date nights and other things. If possible meet half-way. The costs might not only be less horrendous but you can also go on a new adventure together. Yay!

4. Trust

I think trust is always important. In any kind of relationship. Yet, in a LDR it is sometimes all you have. When your significant other is going out with friends and you know that it is one of those crazy nights, don’t panic. It is wrong to question them, or worse, accuse them of things they haven’t even done. You have to trust them or else the relationship is not going to work and that’s a promise. It’s OK to be anxious. If you are, just tell your partner and they should understand.

5. Honesty

Like trust, honesty is important in all kinds of relationships. If you have any worries or fears that are bothering you a lot, you should probably let your partner know. Especially when it concerns the relationship. Sometimes omitting information is worse than telling them straight away. If you don’t say something straight away and they find out somehow, it will look like you were trying to hide something and that’s not good.

6. Distraction

It is unhealthy to let your whole world revolve around one single person. Even though a LDR requires commitment, dedication and sacrifice, it shouldn’t become the one and only thing you care about. If you think about your partner 24/7 you will get miserable very quickly. It is normal and OK to miss someone. You can’t help missing someone when you care about them and they’re not with you. However, distraction is important so you don’t fall into a major depression. On top of that, imagine how your partner will feel if you cry yourself to sleep every night and tell them how miserable you are. They will most likely feel like they cannot live up to your expectations. The amazing advantage of a LDR is that it gives you space to grow as an individual. Concentrate yourself on your job or studies. Go out and explore the world. Take up a new hobby. Read a good book. Watch a movie. Educate yourself. Let your partner know about the new things you learnt. It will make a big difference.

If you have any more tips, feel free to share them in the comments!

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Are You Disconnected Yet?

Valentine’s Day makes me think of red roses, chocolate hearts and frustration. Don’t get me wrong! I believe that the idea behind Valentine’s Day is great. Having a day to specifically celebrate Love is a beautiful idea. Taking time to connect with another human being is important. You shouldn’t need a specific day to remind you of that but today I realised that maybe reminders like this are now more important than ever. When was the last time you genuinely interacted with another human being?

The Internet is a splendid invention. Before the Internet our lives were less practical and convenient. If I didn’t have free software like Skype, I wouldn’t be able to talk or see my boyfriend, who lives thousands of miles away from me. Without Google, it would take me weeks instead of days to do academic research. Without Spotify, I couldn’t listen to my favourite music wherever I go.
Smart phones are yet another convenient invention that has made our lives even easier because now we can carry the Internet in our pockets. We have access to it almost whenever and wherever we want. For a while I’ve been trying to convince myself that all of this convenience isn’t changing who we are and how we interact with the world around us. However, I would be more than just naïve if I truly believed that. I don’t doubt that there are positive changes to all of this but what about the negative ones? I wrote a short research paper on how social media like Facebook affects adolescents. My findings were disconcerting because I had to come to the conclusion that social media was not only doing something strange to adolescents but to all of us. And that’s just Facebook. What about the Internet as a whole? What about all of the distractions it constantly offers?

I don’t own a smart phone, which is important to mention because it allows me to have a completely different perspective. Last week, for instance, I sat on the London Overground heading to Richmond. At some point I started looking at the people around me and everyone had a smart phone and was doing something with that smart phone. They were listening to music, texting someone, browsing the web or playing games. God knows what they were doing but they were definitely in a different world than I was. This is all OK, I mean, I get bored on the train. I do some introspection or just read a book. Back in the days, people probably had their heads buried in the daily newspapers. What about social gatherings, though? One of the most annoying examples I can think of right now are concerts. I go to a concert because I want to listen to my favourite artist in the flesh. I can let the sound waves carry me. I feel the beat in my chest. And then you have those interesting individuals who stand in front of you and block your view because they’re trying to record the whole thing with their smart phones. They are literally trying to capture a moment they will never be able to capture because it is so unique and so evanescent. We’ve always been eager to capture moments which mean something to us. It is a desperate attempt to hold on to a specific moment in our lives. It is not reality, though. It’s only a representation, an image. I love taking pictures. I have several photos in my room to remind me of all the wonderful people I have met and all the beautiful places I’ve been to. Now, with social media it seems that we want to capture and record every little thing. We want to present fake lives to the virtual world. Our online self is often not who we really are. But what are we trying to prove? What are we escaping from? Are we escaping from a broken society? We seem to be willing to connect but actually this overload of information is making us kind of antisocial. No ordinary human being will ever be able to process all the information that we take in every single day. I don’t understand why we’d rather connect with things, events or people that aren’t in the Here and Now.

I think that a lot of us are missing out on the world because we are constantly distracted. I know we and the generations after us will be OK somehow. We survived the telegraph, the radio and TV. So, I’m sure we will survive the Internet, the smart phone and even Google Glass. I just don’t know how.

What Studying Abroad Taught Me

I’m full of empty promises sometimes. That is one of the many things I discovered about myself while I was studying abroad in New York City. Obviously, not being able to keep a promise is more than just a bad habit. It’s a sign of unreliability, a lack of discipline. For instance, I promised myself and many others that I would blog about my experience out there. It would have been a good way to keep track of everything and update my friends and relatives. It also would have been great to find out how and when I became who I am now.

Taken by Laetitia "Lee" Kaiser

College of Mount Saint Vincent. Taken by Laetitia “Lee” Kaiser.

When I stepped into my old bedroom at my parents’ house in Luxembourg two weeks ago, I realized that I had changed. I had become a different person in only 6 months. Standing in that room felt like standing in a cabinet of curiosities. The pictures on the wall belonged to a time long gone. The books in the shelves were putrid remnants of the person I had ceased to be. Someone else had rearranged the furniture. Some things were gone. Others had collected a layer of dust. That’s when it hit me. 6 months. Sometimes that is all it takes.

Brooklyn Bridge. Taken by Lee Kaiser.

Brooklyn Bridge. Taken by Lee Kaiser.

I had many challenging moments in New York. I doubted myself and the decisions I had taken so many times. There were nights I silently cried into my pillow because my heart was overflowing with emotions and I was interminably confused. I didn’t understand why everything I did seemed so very bizarre and unusal of me. I was surprised at my own actions. I felt emotions I had never felt before. It was like I was watching myself from the other side. I had a lot of time to think about it all and I came to the  conclusion that New York encouraged me to live. I knew that the months would fly by like nothing. It was like I was finally aware of the passing of time. I could finally see with clarity. I felt no inhibitions, I did all the things I wanted to do because they felt right to me at that time and place. I have no regrets. I don’t even regret the painful moments. I am happy, I am sad. Happy — because I learnt a valuable lesson that I will never forget. Sad — because my study abroad experience is nothing but another collection of seemingly pointless memories now. When we are caught in a daily, monotonous routine, we tend to forget  that our days are numbered.

‘I can do it tomorrow.’

‘I’m too tired to do this now.’

‘I don’t have the money.’

But really… Let’s be honest for a minute. Would we stick to our little excuses if we knew that today was our last day on earth?

Thought of the Day #12

(Note: Mary Rommely to her young daugther Katie, who has just given birth to her first child)

“It is a good thing to learn the truth one’s self. To first believe with all your heart, and then not to believe, is good too. It fattens the emotions and makes them to stretch. When as a woman life and people disappoint her, she will have had practice in disappointment and it will not come so hard. In teaching your child, do not forget that suffering is good too. It makes a person rich in character.”

— Betty SmithA Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

About two weeks ago, I decided to venture into Central London and spend my afternoon reading and contemplating. The first spot I went to was one of my favourite spots, namely London’s lovely South Bank. I spent some time at the daily second-hand book market under Waterloo Bridge, then I walked along the River Thames and found a free bench to sit down on and look across the water. South Bank was quite busy that day so I thought it was lucky I had found a free spot for myself. I read a little until I felt a bit cold and thought it was time to move around again a bit. It was an absolutely nice day, even though a cold wind was blowing.

The actual reason I had gone into Central London on that day was in order to visit Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. The closest I ever got to a Japanese garden before this little trip was through photographs and documentaries. Although I would have loved to see a Japanese garden in Japan, I was intrigued to see the London version. After all, it had been offered to the United Kingdom by the Japanese themselves so I expected it to be “genuine”. I caught the tube from Waterloo and ended up getting off at Notting Hill Gate. I could have got off the tube one stop later, at Holland Park, but I was in the mood for walking and taking everything in that was coming my way. I didn’t regret that decision because it allowed me to discover quite a few interesting things. It was pretty much through coincidence that I found out that there was an American Food Store located near Holland Park Station. It was already late and I wanted to spend as much time as possible at Holland Park, so I decided to postpone my visit to the American grocery shop. I hope I’ll find the time in the near future to check it out as they sell American candy.

I had no idea where exactly the park was and I just followed my instinct. I walked up a hill and gaped at all the white rows of prestigious houses and wished I had enough money to buy a house there. I know that Kensington and Chelsea are both considered “posh” boroughs but it still struck me how much the architecture in London changes after only walking for a couple of minutes.
Also, apparently I can fully trust my intuition because I found Holland Park without getting lost. You could say that my nose simply followed the scent of fresh spring flowers and nature. As soon as I entered the park through a small, inconspicuous gate, the smell of flowers completely overwhelmed me. It made me realise how much I had missed the smell and look of spring flowers. The entrance of the park was so beautiful and colourful, I could have spent the whole afternoon just sitting there but we all know I had other plans.

Holland Park is special. It makes you feel like you’re actually in a forest. It’s easy to forget you’re actually in a city (until you run into the first group of loud tourists and/or realise how minutely structured and organised everything is). After half an hour I finally figured out where I could find that Japanese Garden.
It seems to be a popular place to go to because the tiny garden was crowded with all kinds of people. Slightly curious, I observed the groups of Japanese tourists who carefully analysed every single plant or ornament and heatedly discussed it among themselves. Some Spanish-speaking teenagers were hanging out near the small waterfall, commenting on the big carps swimming around in the pond. I wished the garden had been a bit calmer but studying the sheer minimalism of the place made it a relaxing and special experience nonetheless. I can imagine the garden to be a great place to meditate at in the morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Pictures taken by Laetitia Kaiser (some rights reserved)

Overgrown by James Blake (2013)

I’ve been listening to James Blake’s new album Overgrown for the last couple of hours while writing an essay on Postcolonial Cinema. I believe this album is the reason why I’m not getting on with this essay at all. It is so brilliant that I just want to sit there and take it all in without any distractions. Instead of writing a pointlessly long review on this album, I’m just going to post the music video of the album’s 5th track “Retrograde”. Why? Because it’s so great, no words can do this album justice. (But, seriously… I need to finish this essay. I had to share this, though!)

If you insist on reading a good and extensive review on this album, here‘s the iTunes (US) link, which also gives you the possibility to buy the track (or album) if you’re as much in love with it as I am.

Thought of the Day #11

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

lol

Gotham City

After an absolutely crazy week of essay writing, I decided to simply keep writing but rather for pleasure at this instance. I haven’t blogged about my intentions to study abroad in the US next semester, so I thought now would be a great opportunity to do so.

At the beginning of this academic year I came to the conclusion that before I graduated, I had to do something out of the ordinary and fun as I have no clue what kind of challenges and possible difficulties I will have to face once university is over and done with. A couple of people I respect, told me that studying abroad would make my CV look more attractive to employers. The many other positive arguments they presented ultimately convinced me and made the decision-making quite easy. On top of that, my boyfriend is American, he studies and lives in Iowa which was only an additional incentive to go through with the process and yes, I did try to find a way to study at his  school, which unfortunately didn’t work out in the end. Obviously that was a huge disappointment for both of us since my other options were either East Coast or West Coast, thus a long way from the Midwest. However we got over it and we changed our perspectives on the situation. After all, I will be in the same country as him and the 6-hour time difference will be reduced to a 1-hour difference. It will still take us a couple of hours on a plane to be able to spend time together but it’s OK. 950 miles are better than 4,000 miles, right? Gratitude is the key factor here and my gratitude at this stage is infinite.

Many places are 950 miles away from my boyfriend’s university but one of those places is Riverdale in New York City, which is the place I will be going to and studying at for 5 to 6 months. I’ve never been to New York. Actually, I’ve never been on the East Coast. Chicago is the only major US city I’ve been to and I grew to love it in many ways. O’hare almost feels like a second home to me now — after London Heathrow, that is. I’m looking forward to jumping into this whole new experience and I will make sure to tell you all about it.

In about a month my second year at St Mary’s will come to an end, which means I’m only one year away from graduating. It is a scary thought. I know I’m not the only student dealing with uncertainty and fear, which is a little comforting. The path to adulthood isn’t an easy one at all, that’s what I’ve learnt so far. Major life changes like this one are utterly daunting but I know that everything will be OK somehow.

Manhattan Bridge, 1909

Little Notes

A few months ago I took a picture of a desperate-sounding annotation I came across in an old text book I got from a second-hand book seller. (You can find the post here.) I don’t know anything about the person who wrote it. I also have no idea what became of them. My guess is that they did just fine but you never know.

In a way finding this particular text book and stumbling over that particular comment did something to me. It made me want to travel back in time and tell that person that they should look at the bright side, that everything was going to be fine even if it didn’t seem like it at that moment. I’m aware that sometimes things don’t get better for some people but I believe that this often happens because they lack the right kind of motivation. With “the right kind’ I mean “positive” motivation. Negative motivation is better than no motivation at all, I guess. Yet it doesn’t give you the same feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, which is what you may need to keep going with whatever you’re doing or want to do. ‘I did this because I had to, I felt forced to and I had no other choice’ isn’t the greatest thought to have after finishing a difficult task. It leaves a bitter after taste and you might feel like you haven’t accomplished anything at all.

I started collecting positive, motivational phrases and quotes from all kinds of cultural texts. I wrote them on several little pieces of paper and left one in each text book I borrowed from my university’s library. I’m still doing it and I’ll keep doing it. This morning I returned 3 books and there is a positive note in each of them now, waiting to be found. It all sounds crazy but I felt like helping. I will never know the outcome of it. I didn’t leave an email address or a name because it doesn’t matter who left them. I don’t want to be thanked. I only hope that it will put a smile on someone’s face someday and that they’ll think, ‘Heck yeah, I can totally do this!’

Of course, there’s something in it for me too. Every time I return a book, I smile and I feel like I’m contributing to make our world a brighter place, one positive note at a time. I know if I found a note in one of my text books, I would smile and I would secretly thank the stranger who left it. I’m sure there will be someone who will appreciate it just as much. It’s almost like a little reward that you’ve gone to the library and decided to work on your assignment(s).

At first I wanted to keep this action to myself. However, why not share with the people who take their time to read this post. Maybe we should start leaving happy, appreciative notes collectively.