Maintaining Relationships at Olin

The purpose of this piece is as an auxiliary to the relationship panel. It answers some of the more important questions I remember hearing last year. The three questions that I will address here relate to familial and romantic relationships. The opinions expressed herein are based on my own experiences, and I know that other people are in very different situations. Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best.

How can I stay close with my family?

My family and I send each other letters. You know, those things that take a week or more to get from Massachusetts to South Texas and vice versa. The idea behind this is that when I receive a letter, I’d know the happenings at home without stressing about replying quickly.

When I get a letter, I already know that everything that’s written is dated. I read it and laugh knowing that much of what was written has already happened. I’d always know how the chickens were doing one week ago. I’d know that my brother was going to a chess tournament or that my other brother broke a toe, but by the time I knew the tournament would have already happened or the toe would have already been in a cast for days.

I’m also still in my family’s group chat. They did offer to make one without me so that I don’t receive all their superfluous messages, but I opted to stay. It’s a good way to still be present with them despite being so far away. I get the messages from my parents and brothers that say “headed home” from work or school. I get messages that ask, “Do we need anything
from the grocery store?” And I like to reply, “Yes, eggs.”

We also video chat. Not every day or every weekend, but just whenever we want to see each other. I use my laptop and they crowd around my father’s phone at the dinner table. We exchange funny stories and update each other on the more immediate happenings, short term plans, and general thoughts. I also get to see my younger brothers and how they’re growing and they get to see me descend into madness as the semester progresses.

Will my family miss me when I get back?

I’d say, probably. My two youngest brothers are in the 6th and 9th grades. When I first went off to college, they were excited that I was going somewhere far away. When I returned home for winter vacation, they saw me as more of an adult. I had experiences that they could only imagine. They wanted me to tell them what snow felt like and what the people over here were like.

My parents also treated me more like an adult. They began to ask me questions about the changing social aspects of Boston and the rest of the U.S. At some point, my father heard the term “whitewashing,” on the news and asked me what it meant. I defined it for him and asked if he’d never heard it before. He replied that it meant something different when he was younger. Being away from them for so long also meant that I noticed their oddities more so than before. After spending the day working with my father, I asked my mother, “has he gotten weirder, or am I just noticing it?”

Will my long distance relation-
ship fail?

Heck if I know. If you’re carrying over a relationship from college, the most important thing to know is that it will be different. The amount of time that you can dedicate to each other will diminish proportional to the intensity of the curriculums that you and they pursue.

In my case, I was an engineer and she was an architect. We weren’t able to talk until late at night, and even then sparsely. We both had deadlines that made it hard to maintain the same level of communication that we had in high school. Despite that, we tried our best to send messages throughout the day. We’d share what we ate, the cool things we’d see, and more so that we’d still feel present in each other’s lives. We’d wish each other happy birthday and she enjoyed getting letters from me. And, of course, we cherished the times we got to see each other during the vacations.

But, maintaining a relationship that is not close by takes effort. We’d both lose sleep because we didn’t want to stop sending text messages. I didn’t actively pursue a friend group because I felt secure with having her. I didn’t join many clubs because we wanted to set aside time for us. Had the relationship lasted, this may have been fine. I would have invested in a relationship that would have lasted through college and beyond. But that’s not what happened.

She ended the relationship in the Spring. While I only know the “why” that she told me, I think that the burden of the relationship had become too much. I’d like to think that a relationship ends when one of the people in it isn’t getting what they need out of it, whether it be support, attention, affection or something else.

If you take my story to heart you might think that long-distance relationships are destined for failure, but I’m just one data point. I’d like to think that if you’re both mature individuals who understand the ramifications of a long-distance relationship and believe that the relationship you have is good, then I see no problem in putting effort into keeping it alive. And, if that is the path you choose, I wish you the best of luck.

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