I came from a small Oregon town with a population of about 25,000. I knew four Asian people (with various backgrounds and heritages) throughout my twenty-one years before transferring to university. I moved into the dorms at Oregon State University, where I had a Korean roommate and a Japanese next-door neighbor.
I had so many questions—I didn’t know where to start. Both of these lovely people were very patient with me and excused what were probably idiotic and insensitive interrogations. I ended up learning a lot.
Four months later, I got to know my Japanese neighbor, Mitsuhiro, quite a bit more than I thought I ever would (but had secretly hoped). I invited him to my small birthday dinner and a night out on the town with my brother, his girlfriend, and a good friend of mine, and by the end of the night, I took a chance (with the help of some liquid courage) and declared my affections. From then on, I was fortunate enough to see and spend time with this man (almost) every day for six months, until he had to return to Japan.
We knew that we loved each other very much, and that we didn’t want to abandon what we had because of temporary separation, so we decided to embark on a long distance relationship (which I’ve just recently learned has the handy acronym LDR).
Thanks to Skype and then FaceTime when we got our updated phones, we were able to keep in pretty consistent contact. Unless one of us was extremely busy studying or going to be out for the night/day (17 hour time difference), we made a point to speak on the phone/Skype/FaceTime every day.
For some people that may seem excessive, but neither of us like to text or IM, so talking for one or two (or three…) hours in one setting once per day was good enough for us. Even if I had a lot of homework, often I would still call him and chat for at least ten or fifteen minutes, because I knew if I didn’t get to talk to him, I’d be thinking about him anyway, and I would never be able to focus on my work.
So Mitsu and I established a system and were able to maintain our LDR without seeing each other (in person) for over a year. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Mitsu in Japan for a month this last August-September. Over that year and since I returned from Japan, our phone conversations were hard sometimes when we had to discuss major cultural differences that affected our relationship, and when I took my stress from school out on him—which I did more times than I’d like to admit. There were only one or two times on either of our parts when the little green monster, Jealousy, reared its ugly head, but those occasions never proved to be true cause for concern, and we were able to talk them out.
“Talking it out” has been what has saved our relationship. If we weren’t able to ask the difficult questions and give the honest and sometimes painful answers, and have them received with patience, respect, and open, loving hearts, then I’d probably be submitting this story to the “Heartbreak” section.
I cannot stress how important patience has been in our relationship. Patience and selflessness are, in my opinion, two absolutely essential elements in any relationship, near or far—but especially in the latter.
Mitsu and I have been in a relationship for one year and ten months (two years on my birthday, February 5). Most of it has been long distance. It’s hard to be apart physically, of course, but what makes our relationship not only tolerable, but rich and fulfilling, is our support of each other, our dedication to providing for each others’ needs as best we can from afar, and our hope for the future.
We both have dreams and ambitions of our own which are different in many ways, but we have one important intersecting goal: to be with and help each other in those dreams. As long as we have hope for our future and we work toward it, there is no reason we can’t be as happy as others in more… convenient circumstances. We are and have been doing more than just surviving the distance—we’ve thrived and grown in the distance, which will make the ultimate proximity so much sweeter.
-Written by Carina Hubbard exclusively for the “Surviving the Distance” section of share your story. Make sure to thank her in the comments!
Edit – as of early 2014, Carina moved to Japan. Her and Mitsu are married now :)