Back Away from the Future

Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,

I’m in a relationship with a guy I really love. He’s a year older than me (he graduated last year) and we’ve been together since my freshman year. I know that might sound like I just have never really been with anyone else, but we’ve been on and off before and we always get back together because we really love one another and we’re committed to working things out.

I’m pretty worried about our future, though. Since he’s been out of school a year he’s gotten a job in Portland that he really likes and a lot of his friends still live in the area, so he feels pretty settled down for the foreseeable future. But I’ve been applying to grad school programs for next year and I haven’t gotten into any yet, so I have no idea where I might be next year. He’s the only reason that I’d be staying in Portland, because I don’t really want to stay here. . .so if I got into grad school in Seattle or New York or something I’d be moving there, and if I didn’t get into any grad schools I kind of want to move back home and reapply next year? I don’t think that it’s fair to ask him to follow me home (on the east coast) and then just keep following me wherever I end up, but I don’t know what else to do. I really don’t want to break up with him, but I can’t think of any way that we can stay together.

Back Away from the Future

Dear Back Away,

Thinking about the future — especially when you’re in the midst of thesis — can be really scary and I commend you for your willingness to plan ahead farther than your next chapter deadline. Though it may seem like you’re just prolonging your period of frustration and indecision, you’ll feel better come commencement knowing that you have some kind of plan in place, rather than a nebulous “we’ll work things out” that will lead to immeasurable stress as soon as summer begins. I also think that your history of re-committing to your relationship with this guy (hopefully with some serious conversation about what you both need from one another) puts you in a good position to work through this crisis together.

First, I think that you might do well by beginning to look concretely at the options that you have in front of you. What cities might grad school take you to next year? Which cities (if any) would your sweetie be willing to move to with you? If you both love Seattle, you might consider simply moving there next year. You’ll both be happy with where you end up, and the commute won’t be as long if you end up getting into a Seattle school in the next round.

If you’re unwilling to move to a new city without an education waiting for you on the other end. . .yeah, I agree that asking someone to follow you from city to city (and from coast to coast, it sounds like!) is a lot. If you’re truly planning on moving back home, do you know for how long? If it’s a year or less, you may be able to do long distance. If you want to go for longer than that, it might be worth moving back east together and putting down some roots. This, again, assumes that you’d only be looking at grad schools in the area when you begin to reapply. Would you be willing to limit your pool so that you and your guy can settle down?

If none of these options sound feasible, you may be looking at a breakup. I know that sounds scary and terrible, and it might be. Breaking up for a reason that makes sense to your head but not your heart is shitty — it seems like you should be able to work your way around it. Sometimes, though, you just can’t. If that’s the case, I want to remind you that you’re not being mean or selfish by following your grad school dreams — you’re trying to make yourself happy and fulfilled, just like your sweetie is by living in Portland now. You’re not going to ruin your entire life by letting this relationship slip away, and it’s better to think about that now than leave things weird and unspoken when you move back home without him.

It’s going to be ok — it sounds like you have a lot of great choices in front of you.

Love and thesis karma,
Miss Lonely Hearts



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