“You do realize that— as long as you work for this company— any relationship you choose to be in will be long distance, right? Or, at least, the relationship will always have an element of that.” The space between us lay quiet for a minute while the weight of my words settled into his consciousness. This time, he didn’t spoof the very American way I said ‘Riiiight’ at the end of my sentences. Instead, in his very French way, he dejectedly sighed. “I know. I know.”
It was this short conversation that clicked my curious spirit awake. Why is it that we are so apprehensive to invest our heart, time, and soul when a relationship doesn’t fit into our ‘boxes?’ “Oh, she lives so far away.” “Oh, he’s a pilot.” “Well, she or he doesn’t have ‘Christian,’ ‘Career-driven,’ ‘Intelligent,’ ‘Future Mom,’ ‘Incredible Dad,’ ‘Never Married,’ ‘Wealthy,’ [Fill In The Blank With Too Much Expectation] written on his or her forehead. That’s most likely true that you won’t see any of these cues, tipping you off to an important message; like the currently popular bright neon signs that blink sharply in corner-lit bars and hipster hangouts do.
Blatantly obvious matches, or easy relationships, will not appear simply because you travel often and meet many interesting people. It’s going to take time to really see who someone is, and if you are willing to cut someone out due to the size of the ocean between you because, “It’s just not realistic—” let me ask you something:
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When has love ever been realistic?
I understand the difficulties in long distance, but what I don’t understand is this aversion to long distance dating. Long distance relationships are more prevalent— and likely— in 2017 than ever before. The way we meet, date, and interact is a byproduct of dating apps, the greater percentage of jobs available which require travel, and an insatiable appetite for new places and experiences. We also desire to maintain a sense of independence and autonomy for a longer period of our lives. The majority of individuals would not choose long-distance-over-not, but when the guy down the street is, shrug-your-shoulders “alright,” of course we entertain love traveling elsewhere.
What is ‘long-distance’ anyway? If you ask me to exclusively date someone who lives on the Eastside while I’m on the beachside, you have just requested that I invest in a relationship that will require me to drive 2hrs in each direction. Technically, that makes my imaginary lover and I in a long distance relationship— even when we technically live in the same town! Maybe distance is relative. What is long distance to a flight attendant and pilot is a much different concept than it is for the person who has a difficult time getting any more days besides Saturdays or Sundays away from the office. Crew on the other hand— we don’t even know the word, ‘Weekend.’ The truth is, that when you fly across the Atlantic or Pacific pond— every other day— distance appears and disappears quickly.
So, ‘What is distance?’ Space happens when people are pulled in different directions at break-neck speeds. What’s worse than kilometers apart is emotional distance. For you can sit right next to someone; share intimate moments and hold conversation, but be millions of miles away. Being present isn’t just about taking up a physical space.
So, we say we know how to navigate the weird ways our career gets in the way of connection. We say, “We don’t do long distance.” We say, “I’ve done that before, and it didn’t work.” We boast about our realistic views of life and love. We would never date flight attendants, and of course, pilots are out of the question. There are those boxes again. Our relationship goals, dates, significant potentials, and tinder swipes become after-thoughts to our job— the one that has us fitfully falling asleep in foreign cities and waking up to a predictable breakfast of rubbery piss-yellow eggs and motor oil colored burnt coffee. Oh, this isn’t all of our layovers, but all of our layovers do color our world-view.
It’s the lifestyle that so colorfully tints the way we view love. The way we understand possibility. The way we say we don’t believe, but are still secretly hoping— somewhere deep within us— that we meet ‘our person’ who proves the pessimism to shit. The narratives begin in our minds and continue in our reality. Relationships are ruined by the airline lifestyle, we bemoan. Relationships are ruined by finances. Relationships are ruined by differing approaches to parenting, God, the way the house is cleaned, who didn’t take the trash out. Relationships are under fire more than ever before— to be ruined and to ruin you. Never has it been so hard to make a relationship; distance or not, work. But, never has it been so possible.
Cause, really, isn’t it a matter of perspective? Isn’t love a choice in the end anyway?
This could all be bull-shit, and I don’t know what-the-hell I am talking about. That’s fair, but whether I die an old-maid or not, I would rather believe in and express the story of good, kind, genuine, caring, authentic, brave, committed, and long-lasting love in the aviation industry. I also believe that if you have a pilot or flight attendant by your side, or in question, see what you will learn. It’s worth dating them. It’s worth the adventure. Isn’t it said, “Love is the greatest adventure of all.”
When someone tells me that they don’t do long-distance, I wonder if they, “Don’t do long-distance” or “They don’t do long-distance with me?” Or, can we throw in the third option of— “You won’t do long-distance with me, because of her?” I know for myself that, when it matters, I’ll deal with distance. I think you would, too; if it matters. It’s not my first choice. It’s not a choice I’d make with everyone. It’s not the ideal, but you know when it’s worth trying for.
Distance can make the stakes higher, risks more prominent, and facts dicey. Communication keeps cutting out due to flight departure schedules and that damned wifi-connection. Have you ever noticed how the connection predictably cuts out during a heated moment— when you needed to catch the most critical phrase? What you end up fielding instead of important information is that all-too familiar ‘beep-beep-beep’ of Whatsapp trying to reconnect. Yeah. You know.
We are trying here though, aren’t we? We are trying to live everywhere, do everything, and be available for someone to love us and be there to love them. Is it possible? Is it probable? Does it work when you are a flight attendant or pilot?
Yes. I’m telling you 100 percent, hands-down, heads-up, arms open; that it can work, but it— that ever complex relationship thing— takes time. Think how great our relationships would be is if we devoted as much attention to them as we did to our jobs? Our adventures? Our responsibilities? Just think.
You get out of life what you are willing to put into it. It’s not going to always be pretty. It won’t always make sense. You may cheat. You may already have. You are going to break his heart. He might have crushed yours to bits. The best things in life are not safe, comfortable, or sure. And, if you keep flying, at some point, you’ll have to determine, “Is the distance worth the reward?”
I’ll never be a realist. I realize that I probably have a much too idealistic view of the world and who I will have in my life, but as children, isn’t that why we always loved a good fairytale? I said it before, “When is love ever realistic?”