How to Survive Long Distance Relationships

The heartache, the anticipation, the joyous reunions, the practical benefits of a bit of time and space apart.  Each one of us at IfSheDreams has gone through a bout of long distance with our beaus (current or past) and we’ve all lived to tell the tale, although tales there are many! We decided to chat about it and share our stories, just as we usually do over eggs benny or wine, except this time in words right here on this blog. Read on to hear more about how we got through it.

Rebecca:

My fiancé and I have spent two thirds of our relationship apart. We shared a postal code when we began dating in Spain and then later in Toronto for a bit while I was finishing law school. Apart from those two interludes, our love has stretched from Canada to Spain, Australia to Canada, Canada to England, and now Canada to India. We have lasted up to six months without seeing each other, but usually manage to jump across ponds every couple of months now. Finally, finally, after we get married in March, we will at long last get to put our books on the same shelf (my milestone on what a home with my boo looks like).

Endurance of the heart is absolutely necessary to make it work. But then the reward at the finish line is so great!

The distance has been agonizing at times – most times – but we’ve dealt with it remarkably well, I think. We’re both quite intense when it comes to our endeavours, which is the real reason we’ve spent so much of our relationship at a distance. The time apart has allowed us to give work and study our all when required, whether it was articling in Toronto or a PhD in Punjab. And sometimes when you feel lonely, work is all you can do to fill the gap. So I try to think of long distance relationships now as rather productive ones and keep myself from being idle at all costs!

Long distance is a marathon – you have to stretch your patience over months or weeks, making it last to the final drop until you can replenish. Endurance of the heart is absolutely necessary to make it work. But then the reward at the finish line is so great!

That is the beauty of long distance relationships: the frustrations are many, but the joys are so joyous!

Jean:

LDR = long distance relationships

Ok, full disclosure—I thought LDRs were just endurance flogging. No physical intimacy. No shared adventures. No stealth eating the last of their favorite leftovers. No hand holding. (I love holding hands. It’s right up there with eating your partner’s OFF-LIMITS turkey sandwich over the kitchen sink.) Plus 2-3 hours per day of phone calls, texting, emails, skyping, naked pics… Equals a constant feeling of being whipped, and not the kind anyone likes.

Oh and I’m the WORST candidate for LDRs.

I rarely have my phone on me. And when I do, it’s usually dead. Or, about to die. Or, cracked and malfunctioning. Or, about to be abandoned, lost, or forgotten.

I have an insatiable need for physical affection. No, I’m not talking about sex. I just like to be touched. And held. And to hold others. And did I mention holding hands? Sign. Me. Up.

I’m also a bit…. Random (a nice word for unreliable). I tend to change plans, reorganize my schedule at a whim, and cancel way more than I should. This means that if we’re supposed to talk at 8PM, that may or may not become 10PM, or 11:30PM or 1PM the next day. I have good reasons for my randomness, but excuses are the first stop toward Breakup Ville.

If that isn’t enough, I guard my independence and freedom so savagely, you’d think it was a vintage Louis Vuitton handbag.

Soo.. when I met my fiancee in New York (where I didn’t live and had no intention of moving to), I thought summer fling. But, he has perfect teeth, legendary Italian charm, a list of interests as long as… (I don’t kiss and tell) but it’s LONG 😉

He laughed me out of a comatose state on the same day a friend took his own life, a feat for which he should win a medal. And I never have to ask him to hold my hand, or wrap me in his arms, because he’s always already doing both. How could I not fall in love with him? And how could I ever let him go? Impossible. He’ll be next to me when I’m gray and creaky and my only joy is chucking pebbles at teenagers from a rocking chair.

We’ve been in a LDR for a year and a half now. There are times when I’d gladly take a few lashes to have him next to me. And, now that we are expecting a son, I miss him more than ever. I miss his hands on my belly. I miss him playing guitar to our beautiful baby. I miss him setting a sandwich next to my desk, and squeezing lemon into a glass of water for me. I miss curling my foot over his at night, and our late night talks in the shower.

Just keep the finish line in your sights and bear down for a marathon of the heart.

I only sugarcoat cake so I’m gonna be straight with you. It’s awful. And, it only works for us because it has to work. Being without him isn’t an option. If that’s how you feel about your partner, don’t worry. You’ll make it through. Just keep the finish line in your sights and bear down for a marathon of the heart.

Valerie:

Spicy man and I have been together for almost nine years. We spent a year apart when I was in school. Overnight, our time together transitioned from being together everyday to daily phonecalls. The transition was very difficult but also strengthened us both individually and as a couple. As a couple, we had shared many of the same classes in university and volunteered with the same organizations when we were together. Being away forced me to do things completely on my own and reminded me of what my interests, passions, strengths and opinions were as a individual. This time helped make clear my individual identity and in this way, improved the health of my relationship.

There were difficult times. Arguments were difficult to completely resolve if one person was busy or wanted to hang up. If one of us wanted to share some immediate news we’d have to wait until there was some free time in the other’s schedule. These challenges made us appreciate our time together that much more. There were lovely surprise visits when I could introduce him to new friends, take him out on the town, etc.

My suggestions in helping you survive an LDR would be to schedule regular calls and make sure that nothing comes in the way of that. Your commitment to that time will indicate to the other person that they are still a priority, commitment and fun part of your life.

5 years after our LDR I still have our bracelets and they serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come together and how much stronger we can be.

I also used and recommend ordering a rubber LDR bracelet that I ordered from this site: http://lovingfromadistance.com/ldrbracelets.html – there are three colours: purple, pink and brown. I wanted to publicly brand spicy man as taken while I was away – don’t worry – I didn’t make him wear the pink one. These bracelets were cute and reminded me of him when I’d look down at my wrist. 5 years after our LDR I still have them and they serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come together and how much stronger we can be. We’ll be getting married in June! 

Michela:

It’s more and more likely that at some point you’ll be faced with making the decision about whether or not you can, or more importantly, whether you want to make a long distance relationship work. In my experience long distance relationships aren’t easy to navigate and may require attitudinal shifts, but definitely require communication and persistence. But having been through one that didn’t work –I’m actually not jaded by the ‘long distance’ part of relationships.

Honestly, it’s not the “let’s talk every evening at x time” type of communication I value, but instead it’s the depth and honesty of communication.

Ensuring both you and your partner are on the same page about your goals and intentions for your time apart, and for your relationship, are important. Long distance relationships take work – and it usually becomes apparent if you both aren’t in agreement on how you see each other in your life. How can it work if you both don’t agree on what you want the end goal to look like? Or at the very least, how you’ll develop a strategy to figure out what it looks like.

Having been through one that didn’t work –I’m actually not jaded by the ‘long distance’ part of relationships.

After that, it’s the spontaneous messages and calls that keep the connection going…

Yes, you’d expect that in any relationship, but I think you need it even more so when you don’t see each other regularly. If you’re together it’s likely because if something happens in the day that vexes you, you probably want and appreciate your partner’s opinion on how to deal with it (or not kill someone), or maybe something makes you burst out in laughter, that you want no need to share (even if it’s mad corny).  

Long distance relationships work when 2 people want them to…

Only when no matter how hard it is with travel, time change and separation, it’s just simply harder on the heart to be apart.

When the tables turn, that’s probably the point when it’s time for you both to consider accepting the lessons you’ve learned from each other, and then part ways.

 

Trump’s Race

The U.S. 2016 Presidential Election will likely go down as one of, if not the most, divisive in history. I’ve observed and studied policies and laws that negatively impact disenfranchised groups but never have I seen a presidential candidate call Mexicans “rapists,” propose a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., brag about grabbing women without consent and call people with Black skin lazy.

When he won, I was deeply troubled. I’ve always known racism to be a real issue in North America but the way Trump fuelled the racist tendencies of some of his voters reminded me of historical conflicts that began with racist language. In the Rwandan Genocide, Hutu extremist groups set up radio stations urging people to “weed out the cockroaches” or kill Tutsis. In the opinion of a Holocaust survivor, Hitler rose to power, in part, by building a brand of saying what everyone thought but was too afraid to say – he too shared a mission of making his country “great again.

When Trump won, everyone was talking about it. I sat down with a Trump supporter to listen to their opinions. In particular, he focused on Trump’s 10-point plan. He felt confident that Trump would increase jobs and bring back wealth to the country because he was a business man – he couldn’t care less for Trump’s racist remarks.

And I guess that’s the point when I was reminded of how individualistic we are. If you haven’t been seriously impacted by racism, then you have the luxury of not caring about the leader of the free world making such comments. You don’t have to worry about Trump’s “tough on crime” proposals that will disproportionally affect Black men. You don’t have to worry if you don’t wear a headscarf or if you’re not a Mexican-American. You have the luxury of focusing solely on economic policies.

Maybe Trump will bring positive economic changes to the U.S. but it doesn’t excuse or legitimize his racist rhetoric. He remains unaccountable for the factually incorrect statements that won him the presidency. The divisiveness of this election shows that race is still a very controversial issue.

One thing that I am committing to is welcoming one-on-one conversations about race without judging the person who brings up stereotypes and prejudices – as long as they come to the table with a willingness to listen and learn. While it makes me happy and comfortable to surround myself with like-minded people, not effectively engaging with people who disagree with me does a disservice to our community and propagates divisive institutions.

The Interaction Institute for Social Change is an organization that engages in conversations about race in the workplace and is calling for unity and dialogue after the US election. Check out their blog. Engaging in an open and respectful dialogue about race is one form of positive change that we can collectively participate in as a response to Trump’s racist rhetoric – I hope you’ll join me at the table.

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Build Your Wealth & Freedom

Let’s talk money.

Most of us bought into the “baby boomer” dream:

  1. study hard
  2. get a good degree from a good school to get a good job
  3. work your way up the ladder over many years (don’t get fired)
  4. buy a home
  5. retire at 65
  6. travel and enjoy your pension

Millennials are between the stages of 1-4 right now and we’ve realized that for the most part, this dream is a lie. Getting into a good school doesn’t guarantee a job. Highly qualified and experienced millennials find it difficult to secure employment. Even when we are employed, most people don’t like what they’re doing from day-to-day. Permanent jobs have turned into contract work and saving enough for a down payment seems to be more and more difficult when the cost of living and price of houses continues to go up.

So, what do we do?

Seek a new dream.

Mine looks like this:

  1. Earn as much money as possible providing value to others even if that means working several jobs
  2. Save the money I earn (and eliminate debt as early as possible)
  3. Invest that money
  4. Refrain from buying a house for the next few years and use a small portion of earnings and dividends to travel and enjoy life

Personal finance wasn’t taught in school and it’s a shame. Universities and banks benefit from our ignorance. Since university/college tuition is at a price few students can pay upfront, students are forced to borrow from OSAP and banks. Universities benefit from new customers students. Banks benefit from the interest paid on loans and the longer it takes a student to pay off his/her loan, the more interest a student pays.

To make money I run my own law practice and tutor for the Ontario bar exam and I am looking to take on one or two more jobs. I want to work and earn more because my fiancé and I sat down with a few very successful entrepreneurs in the last few weeks and listened to their life stories. Each of them had worked several jobs or 16-hour-days, five to seven days a week in their 20s and 30s. Now, in their 50s, one entrepreneur lives in a big house on Rosedale, owns two restaurants and travels 6 months of the year. Another entrepreneur has five beautiful kids, two luxury cars and owns the building his business operates from.

Their successes inspire me. Everyone has a different perspective on money. To me, money is freedom. It’s a reward for providing value to others. It’s the ability to travel when you want, to control your time, provide for your dependents with ease and contribute to society at a higher level by investing in start-ups, donating to charities, etc.

Everyone has a different perspective on money. To me, money is freedom. It’s a reward for providing value to others. It’s the ability to travel when you want, to control your time, provide for your dependents with ease and contribute to society at a higher level by investing in start-ups, donating to charities, etc.

Some things you can do to get started on building your own financial security are:

  1. Try your best to pay off your debt as quickly as possible – live frugally and take advantage of bursaries, loan forgiveness programs, etc.
  2. Learn how to invest money – WealthSimple seems to be a great up-and-coming resource and I have a promo code that allows you to invest your first $10 000 for free. Comment below if you’re interested!
  3. Seek ways to monetize your skills to benefit others – offer your services at a market rate, support your friends businesses, etc.
  4. Contribute to your savings accounts

While managing money is important, I always keep quality of life in mind. My fiancé and I make sure to travel at least twice a year (going to Paris next month!!) and I will splurge on the occasional date/girls night. My friends and I help each other save by hosting dinners/hanging out at each other’s places, taking advantage of Groupon deals, etc. I’m excited about building towards my wealth potential and I hope you are too!

Building wealth is a topic that affects all of us. How are you doing it? Do you have any tips to share? Feel free to comment below.

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I Choose Happiness

 

“What’s it like to be a lawyer?” That’s a question I asked myself and a question I am now asked as a lawyer time and time again. When I was accepted to law school I did what I do with most of the deep questions I have in life – I turned to Google. “Should I go to law school?”

The first result was entitled, “why law school is the worst decision you’ll make” – Ha! I read through it. The negatives included graduating with enormous debt, a lack of job opportunities and intense work hours. And like any bold-faced 23-year-old I thought, “pffffft – I can do anything I put my mind to.” I wanted to prove to myself that I could achieve this coveted title. I also wanted to help people at a higher-level than I could as a front-line worker in the non-profit sector. So, I accepted the golden ticket and off I went.

I had some cool experiences in school but for the most part it was a lot of work and stress. That’s not necessarily such a bad thing since work and stress are integral to chasing any worthwhile goal. I had the opportunity to compete in several moots including the Jessup International Law Moot Competition and the International Criminal Court Trial Competition. Travelling to places like New York and the Netherlands to represent my school and country was thrilling to say the least and created memories that I look back on fondly.

After I articled I started my own practice. Starting a practice at a young age has been very challenging and rewarding. It is something many of my peers are interested in and seems to be the route young lawyers are choosing more often. I plan to provide seminars on this and other topics to support law students and new calls (stay tuned!).

So to answer my initial question, being a lawyer is a very subjective experience because it depends on who you are as a person. Some realities remain the same: you graduate with enormous debt, there are fewer job opportunities and hire-backs and the work hours are intense. Google was right. So, for those reasons being a new lawyer is very challenging.

The thing about actually practicing law is that you can help people solve their problems. However, you learn on the job since law school DOES NOT teach you how to practice as a lawyer. This is why senior lawyers say the first few years of practice are the most challenging because you are learning how to deliver services to clients, how to address the court, how to file applications and actions, etc.

When you begin practicing, you are also finishing the licensing process and law school, which leaves you a little more exhausted, knowledgeable, humble and risk-averse. Why? Because you spend three years studying case law with people who seem and may be a lot smarter than you. Case law, in part, is about punishing the poor buggar who wasn’t reasonable enough to prevent the incident that led to the car accident, or the death, or the unfinished contract, etc.

For example, if you produce a bottle of ginger beer and a worm somehow makes its way into the bottle and into your customer’s mouth, you’re probably getting sued. Decision? You’re likely paying damages to the plaintiff. Other ginger beer producers then hear about your punishment and think, “whoa – we are setting up policies that make it near impossible for worms to get into the bottles.” These decisions lead to better standards that punish negligent people/companies and make our society just a bit more harmonious.

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Winning First Runner-Up at the Hague at the International Criminal Court Trial Competition (2013)
So, as a law student, you spend three years studying the worst-case scenario. Your knack to spot trouble before it occurs is so acute that you can’t turn it off. Selling something to a friend? Don’t make any guarantees. Supplying something to a business? Make good on every precise condition and warranty in the contract. Thinking of starting a business? Here is a list of all the things that could go wrong.

While being familiar with risk is useful, it inadvertently makes you a bit more cynical about the world. That was tough for me to deal with when I began practicing. By nature, I’m an optimistic, risk-taking person and I am starting to see that while practicing law is a wonderful opportunity, I am currently not completely fulfilled by my work.

I had a heart-to-heart with a senior lawyer and I told this person, “3 years of law school, the bar exam and articling are exhausting enough – but to realize at the end of it all that you start from the bottom when you begin practicing law and have to overcome yet another learning curve with the added stress of debt and long work hours – that’s a tough pill to swallow.” The lawyer agreed, informing me that it takes about 10 years to build up enough experience to be really good at what you do. In 10 years I’ll be almost 40 and there’s a lot more I want to do with my life before then.

As a result, I am currently going through an internal conflict. My legal/rational brain tells me “Make more money!! You need to buy a house!! You need to have kids!! You need to build your practice!! How could you think of taking a risk on anything other than the stable growth of your practice?!” My heart tells me, “So you’re a lawyer now – but you’re only young once, baby – try acting, singing and dancing, explore comedy, start another cool business with your spicy man. Take more risks!”

This #SummerSixteen I am focused on following my heart through youtube videos, stand-up comedy, acting, and more. While I continue to practice law, I’m going to see where these artsy endeavors take me. Maybe I’ll get it out of my system and continue on the path of being an awesome lawyer or maybe they’ll change my trajectory completely. All I know is that while I am committed to excellent service for my clients, I am also committed to my happiness.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to be a lawyer, know that the path to become one is rocky and take some time to talk to or shadow different lawyers whose shoes you want to be in in a few years. If you really want to pursue this career, you’ll do it no matter what anyone says.

If you’re a lawyer and are not happy with your work or are considering starting again in a new field, do it. Don’t sit at your desk and work the rest of your life away. My friend Jean says, “you owe it to the world to share your talent.” She’s right. Live your best life, even if that means risking it all.

I am grateful to have made it this far and have the ability to help people solve their legal problems. I’ve proven to myself that I have what it takes to be a great lawyer and have worked with people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit, with entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, and other inspiring clients. But I’m young and life is short so I’m going to have some fun.

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Sri Lanka: An Adventure of a Lifetime

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If you like curry and adventure, you’ll love Sri Lanka. I had no idea what to expect when I hopped on a plane with my spicy man in November 2014. We touched down in a damp Colombo, popped in our new SIM cards and rolled our suitcases outside into the island air. After bargaining rates with the cabbies we settled into our ride and started our drive through the city.

I rolled down my window and the humid air rushed through my curls – it was 9:00am and people were opening up their storefronts, heading to work in their blouses and dress pants, music was playing and the horn-honking drivers were kicking up dust from the roads as they weaved around pedestrians.

After settling into our BnB, we crossed the street in the pouring rain into a small local restaurant called Green Cabin where we ordered hoppers (like miniature crepes in the shape of a bowl with either egg or milk in the middle), chicken curry, mutton rolls and lime soda. With our bellies full we planned out the next two weeks of our trip and here are some of the things I recommend you do when you go to this beautiful island:

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Colombo
Colombo is a bustling city with a lot going on. You can wake up at around 5:00AM, take a tuk tuk to the Galle Face beach and walk along the boardwalk as the sun rises. You can walk across the street from the beach to the Taj Samudra where you can dine like a queen on a breakfast feast of coconut-milk-rice, fish curry, spicy omelets, hoppers, coconut sambol (freshly shredded and spiced coconut) and exotic fruits like starfruit, papaya and mango followed by the most famous tea in the world, “Ceylon tea”.

FullSizeRender-11The tea is so fresh and fragrant that you need no milk or sugar to enjoy it. You can drive seven miles from Colombo to the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, one of the most revered Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka where you can remove your sandals and take in your own moment of peace and gratitude. You can pop back into the city and visit the variety of artsy cafes and shops including, my favourite, Hansa Coffee, to eat some bombtastic brownies and iced mochas. Finally, for the foodie in you, treat yourself to an authentic lumprais from the Dutch Burgher Union, which may be one of the few times you eat deliciousness out of a banana leaf.

Beddegamma & Yala National Park

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sleep in a tree? Me neither – but #bae wanted to go so we went. On the way to Beddegamma from the city we stopped at almost every fruit stall to drink out of orange coconuts and eat mangosteens (tip: do not eat the wood apples – they taste like socks – not wood or apples).

FullSizeRender-8 copy 2Our treehouse had a full queen-sized bed, a toilet, a sink, and a giant tree trunk that ran through the middle of it. At night I counted the stars and fell asleep feeling a cool breeze and listening to wild birds. I woke up at 5:00am the next morning, took a cold shower, crept down the stairs and we made our way back to the camp site where a jeep picked us up and drove us into Yala for a safari. It was a phenomenal experience! We drove through mud roads into the park where we saw families of spotted deer, monkeys, a group of grazing elephants, exotic birds, peacocks and more.

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Nuwara Eliya
If you like tea, high altitudes, rolling hills, waterfalls and lots of nature you will love Nuwara Eliya. I am a tea fanatic so when we arrived at the Tea Factory Hotel, I was overjoyed. The hotel is on a tea plantation and you can wake up to see the sun rise over the hilltops. Eating a breakfast of string hoppers rolled over a mixture of honey and shredded coconut was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

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Kandy
Kandy is another bustling city with a lot to offer. The markets were busy with smells of fresh spices and exotic fruits. The curry tasted just like my aunt’s. Oddly, they didn’t serve rice and curry and night – instead, the variety of restaurants offered Chinese food. While we love Chinese food, we were determined to find some good kothu roti. We found a greasy spoon only frequented by locals where nobody spoke English and we had the BEST chicken kothu roti in the city – it was intensely flavourful and the owner was so happy we came by that we all took a group photo before we left. After dinner we walked to a dessert shop for wattalapam (a very sweet dessert made up of jaggery, coconut milk, eggs and spices) and finished off the night with watermelon juice.

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Kandalama
If you can only stay in one area of Sri Lanka and you are in need of some good R&R then you must go to Heritance Kandalama. The hotel is an architectural masterpiece by Geoffrey Bawa who integrated the jungle and caves into the hotel. When you walk out on the balcony attached to your room you walk right into the jungle and can hang out with the little monkeys who try to con you for bananas. Your room is stacked with a box of fresh fruits and the bathroom has a glass wall so you can hang out in the tub and watch baby monkeys swing along the trees. The food in the dining areas is second to none. You can take a cooking class and learn how to make fish curry or relax in the infinity pool or organize a trip to Sigiriya Rock, an ancient rock fortress you can climb and take in the view of the jungle.

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Sri Lanka is by far one of my favourite places to travel to and has (along with Italy) the best food in the world. If you have the time and can save up the money, it’s definitely worth a visit!

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