I’m plopped at my desk at school, and facing towards me, tacked on a piece of corkboard is a photo of Rob. To be exact, Rob examining a menu. He’s wearing a powdered blue collared shirt with a pattern that reminds me of a grid notebook you would find in your back-to-school section. He looks wealthier than he is, content with a soft smile and gazes at the menu with deep admiration. He’ll obviously be ordering a steak. It’s dawned on me that I have never written about the most rewarding gift of my self-love journey. Everyone, meet Rob.
During senior year of high school, I felt my entire world crash onto me. Mid-January of 2017, my eyes were opened to a darkness I never knew I could experience. Now, naturally if you knew “of” me at the time, on the surface, you would associate my downfall with the loss of a high school ~boyfriend~. But, if you knew me at my core at that time, you knew how much more of an imbalance I felt by virtue of lying to myself, imposter syndrome, an ACL tear, responsibility overwhelm and bullying.
For a period of time, I convinced myself my worth was located in a car at 4 a.m. in a parking lot in my local town. I thought it was in forced conversations with someone who did not share my same values. I thought it was in chasing someone from my past, in hopes I could restore some type of normalcy. It took me a while to figure out that my measuring tool for worth was far from accurate and incredibly flawed.
Now, we could all brand Rob as my “saving grace,” but I was responsible for the work I put into myself. I found my solace, I sought out my faith, I changed my mindset, I fell in love with growth. Rob was the first big reward I reaped.
When you first meet Rob, you’ll note he’s soft-spoken. You’ll wonder how a man in 2020 could embody the values of respect we glamorize existed in the early 20th century. He credits himself as a listener, and a very good one. He is obsessed with the details, googles anything you mention to him, and finds a way to be intentional with his new knowledge. He’s the type to want to destroy you in mini golf, but if it will make you upset, he will let you win and act like you pulled a Tiger Woods performance. He has a humbling presence you just want to be a part of. You want to ask him about his accolades and his achievements, because he will never tell you. He can be very witty, but he will never make a joke that could even possibly make you feel bad about yourself. Rob is careful with his words, he does not waste them. He does not believe in fighting, and if you ever have the time, ask him why. That answer will make you want to be a better person. Rob has never outgrown his child-like spirit. He loves entertaining kids and being a role model for young boys. He can always make room for a donut. Rob challenges me everyday to look at life with a light-hearted lens. He challenges me to put my faith first, and my flesh second. He prioritizes my happiness, feels my sadness and encourages my independence.
People ask me all the time what the trick to a healthy long distance relationship is, and after being a two-year veteran, I feel very confident in my answer. Of course the communication, prioritization and trust answers are all valid and nonnegotiable. But apart from that, the toughest part of being in a long distance relationship is the absence of being there for the little moments, the small frustrations and the tiny victories. The inability to help in person, celebrate in person and resolve in person. It’s training yourself to be so supportive that you have to selfishly take yourself out of the equation. It’s learning to let them make the choices that best impact their spirit, even from far away. It’s growing together as two separate individual’s, encouraging one another’s growth and having it naturally radiate off the two of you when you are once again in person. It’s focusing on becoming the best version of YOURSELF, so you can be YOUR best to someone else. It’s in setting an example and hoping your partner emulates that same growth. If not, then it will never work out—even in person.
When feelings of “love” fade, jealousy and bitterness creep in like a thief in the night. And they can stay make a comfortable stay, if you don’t take a step back and evaluate where YOUR work needs to be done. New seasons always bring upon new challenges, and our natural instinct is to depend on significant others to fix our own internal spirit. It is not their responsibility, and they will always let you down— by no fault of their own. I am not immune to this. There are periods of loneliness or frustration that I find myself seeking Rob to fill, but that void is mine. Sometimes I force MY growth on Rob, or expect him to be a “certain way.” Sometimes I hold past regressions over him. Sometimes I can really upset him with my words in a moment. I am fully not immune, and my relationship is far from perfect.
However, I am so thankful for Rob. I am thankful he came into my life at a perfect time. A time I came out victorious and more myself. A time where I had to remove certain people in my life who did not serve me. I am thankful Rob is the kind of man who examines a menu fully—even when he knows he’ll get the steak. I am so thankful he views me completely, with all my dimensions— even the not-so-pretty ones.
Be your absolute best self—whatever that looks like. I can promise you, your friendships, romantic relationship and self confidence will go places you never imagined.