How We Survived Long Distance Dating
I refused to admit he was my boyfriend until he drove 11 hours in the middle of the night and surprised me in my Journalism 101 class with cake and a goofy tie.
I also refused to date anyone, let alone someone long distance, but there I was mailing a flat rate box in the bottom of my school union to my “boyfriend” who lived 11 hours away. We mailed the same exact box back in forth to each other for a year. The final time it made a trek through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, the post office attendant scolded me for bringing such a shambly box to her. I begged for her to send it just one last time, she obliged as she wrapped the entire thing in tape and said, “This is the final journey.”
There was never anything overly extravagant or special in the box, just moments from our lives that usually felt a world apart. My roommate and I would always unpack the box Jake sent in our dorm room. She was always fascinated at what-on earth could be in the box. He would send free coozies he collected on campus, candy from the gas station down the street from his apartment and concert tickets from the weekend before where he had written in sharpie “wish you were here.”
We would then search our room for mere junk to send back. I packed my box with mardi gras beads, a can of diet coke, and a photo from the last time we saw each other. I always wrote a letter or a card where I would gush about how much I missed him and how many days until we saw each other again. It was our cheap college kid version of a care package.
Each box was filled with utter junk, and I mean that. Marie Kondo would not approve. I don’t think I saved a single item that Jake sent me. But, that box was much bigger than the junk inside it. It was the way we shared our vastly different worlds. I was a lost and independence-seeking freshman and Jake was a sophomore with the same group of friends from high school settling into college life much better than me. We talked on the phone and Skyped almost every day - but the box brought life in Gainesville, Florida to Oxford, Mississippi and vice versa.
I remember the first time I was published on the front page of The Daily Mississippian, I mailed Jake a copy of the paper in that box and he mailed me back a box full of shredded paper, Starbursts and a free T-Shirt from a University of Florida basketball game with a note about how proud he was of me.
It was a vehicle in which we felt closer and felt included. When you are in a long distance dating relationship, there is so much about your partner’s life that remains unknown. But, when I received my box, I felt like I was peering into his days. I felt like I was a part of his journey that week, even though I had no idea in actuality what his day to day was like.
We obviously no longer need to mail a box back and forth to one another, we share 564 square feet of home and a bed with a dog in it, but I miss the feeling of a package arriving and running to the union to collect it. It felt like a 3D love letter that brought me into Jake’s world and him in mine. I will forever cherish that box and the moments it created.