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The Story of Us, Part 4: The Long Distance Game

Jan 6, 2021

If four months apart wasn’t already enough, we decided to go for even more.

As I mentioned in part 3 (which, let me take a moment to pause and say, if you haven’t read the parts prior to this, stop what you are doing and go read those first! I promise it will help everything make so much more sense!)…
Okay, now that it is taken care of, where was I? Oh right, as I mentioned back in Part 3, after high school I headed off to Philadelphia University for a five-year degree in Architecture. Yep! Some of you may not have known that. While there, I also got a double minor in photography and business. Can you tell that I like to keep myself busy? Haha!
Once Joel returned back from boot camp, he too went to college, but it was back at home. So, the inevitable began…the long distance relationship. Sure, it was only a little over an hour from each other, but we still didn’t get to see each other every day, or sometimes, even every week.

Instead of letters, texting now became our primary mode of communication.

Luckily, and I mean luckily, his guard unit was in Plymouth Meeting which was only about 20 minutes from my college. So once a month, when he would have to come for duty over a weekend, he would get to stay at my place each evening! Man, did we make the most of it. Going out to dinner, watching movies, exploring the city. I knew that there was no homework getting done during that time because I just wanted to hangout with him. Now don’t get me wrong, we visited each other on other weekends, but we knew we at least had these scheduled no matter what.

We had a great system going!

My friends at college loved Joel and always wanted to know when he was coming for the weekend. And on the weekends I went home, we would hangout with our families and just go do things together. But then my third year of architecture came around….

The year you decide if you are going to study abroad (if not during your fourth year).

For so long, my answer immediately was no. I’m a picky eater, so I’m always nervous about finding food to eat. I am majorly family-oriented and couldn’t imagine not seeing them for four months. And overall, I just didn’t have a huge interest in it. So Joel and I never really worried about it.
But as I started to talk to my other architecture friends and hear about everyone that was going and also talking to those who had already gone and who couldn’t say enough incredible things about it and even my parents encouraging me, my mind started to become more curious. Joel was totally supportive about it, too! The big thing holding me back was that we would be apart for another four months.

I just didn’t want to go through it again.

After long conversations and a lot of thinking and praying, I finally made the decision to go. So January of 2016, I headed with a group of PhilaU kids to Rome for our spring semester. Just a quick note, the experience was INCREDIBLE! I would encourage anyone that has the opportunity to do it! You learn so much about the world but also about yourself. I tried new foods over there, learned to travel all on my own, and learned how to just live as an adult. I can’t stress enough how glad I am that I made the decision to go!
(This was our last photo we took together before I headed out. New Years Eve, 2015 – 4 days before I went to Rome)

Okay, sorry. Back to our story.

For Joel and I, it was definitely better than boot camp. There was an app that we could pretty easily chat back-and-forth on when I was on WiFi. The only thing that stunk was the eight hour time difference. It was quite an adjustment to figure out when the other was sleeping or working or available. But we made it work, just like we had done before! I was consistently sharing pictures with him about everywhere I went, so he could kind of travel with me. To be honest, though, I missed him! It was hard talking to him but not getting to see him or hug him or just be together.

I truly missed him so much!

Over spring break though, I was planning to go to Barcelona and then Paris with some friends. Joel surprised me and planned a trip to come and visit me in Paris! Five uninterrupted days with him! It was amazing! So much emotion, stories to tell, and of course, sights to see! I absolutely loved it!

And just like that, it was over.

At least, there was only a little over a month left. But now that I had seen him, it made those last few weeks a struggle. I was getting sad that my time with all my friends in Rome was coming to an end but also wishing it away to a point, so I could get back home to Joel. I tried to just take in every last minute of my time in Rome. And don’t get me wrong, it was amazing!
May 4th, finally came and it was time to go home. Where had the past fourth months gone? I headed to the airport to board the plan, not having any clue what would be coming in the next 48 hours.
Stay tuned for Part 5. It’s about to get really good! Promise!!!
XOXO ~ Heather Marie


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Photographer, go-getter, and ice cream lover
Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania