Love Across the Atlantic

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In honor of Valentine’s Day, although I am a day late here, I thought it would be fitting to share my own love story. 

I met D on a cold Irish evening in January, 4 years ago.  We were brought together by the fates of the NFL playoffs.  I was an unsure, excited, adventure seeking 19 year old, just beginning my study abroad experience in Dublin.  He was an outgoing, charming, carefree 22 year old from Dublin, taking advantage of the free food and drinks his annual holiday work party was offering for the evening. 

We met at what can only be described as the most romantic bar in Dublin.  The only bar that televised NFL games, the Woolshed was packed with screaming sports fans from across the globe.  The floor was covered in spilled pints and wing remains.  The air smelled of cologne and sweat, with the faintest hint of cigarette smoke.  To put it bluntly—it was the type of setting that fairytales are made of. 

I feel like this is the part where I should talk about how our eyes met from across the crowded room, D tore through the crowd to make his way to me, and we shared the most romantic and passionate kiss that this world has ever known.  However, that is not quite the way things went down that night.  We would partake in our share of earth shattering, mind blowing, fairy tale worthy moments—but this night in the Woolshed was not quite one of them.

I was a woman on a mission that night—I was determined to meet an actual Irish person.  After already being abroad for over a week, the only Irish person I had interacted with was the director of my study abroad program.  This was just not acceptable.

As I sat at a table with my study abroad crew, I scanned the room, hoping that my self-proclaimed radar for Irish men would finally kick in.   That’s when I saw them—a small group of guys situated in front of the bar.  They were laughing and having fun over pints of Heineken.  It seemed liked something I needed to be a part of.  

So, I did what any 19 year old from the suburbs of Pennsylvania would do.  I chugged the rest of my beer, grabbed the arm of my newly made study abroad friend, and bravely approached the gathering.  Once we made our way to the guys, I did what any 19 year old from the suburbs of Pennsylvania would do—I stood awkwardly near them and said nothing.  Luckily, after a few minutes of uncomfortable lingering, I heard 6 words that would forever change the course of my life.

“ What team are you rooting for?” one of the guys shouted over in an Irish accent.  My lingering had paid off.  Being awkward and uncomfortable had actually worked. 

“Steelers.” I said, as I dragged my friend closer to their group.  “I’m not really a huge football fan, but I go to school in Pittsburgh so sort of have no choice.” 

“Oh you’re American?” I looked to my left to see where the question had come from, and there was D.  And the rest, is basically history.  

We talked all night—he was grabbing a drink with some friends before his holiday work party, he was a huge tennis fan and considered Novak Djokovic to be his favorite player, he thought that Rose should have moved her fat ass over to make room for Jack on that damn door.  Game over. 

Looking back on that night, it is so crazy to think that I was talking to the man that would change my life forever; the man that would become my best friend; the man that would move across the Atlantic Ocean to start a life with me; the man that would become my husband. 

I don’t think either of us knew what we were getting ourselves into that night at the Woolshed.  But if we did, I honestly don’t think we would have done a single thing differently.

We spent the next three months living in a fairytale.  We drank pints at every pub in the city, we listened to countless live renditions of Galway Girl, we watched Jake Gyllenhaall saving lives at the movie theater, we walked D’s dog in the park next to his house, we spent endless sleepless nights laughing together until the sun came up.  We fell in love.

One of the most difficult nights of my life was the final night of my study abroad trip.  I met D in the city after my program’s farewell dinner.  We attempted to grab drinks at one of our favorite pubs, but we could barely make eye contact without breaking down.  We walked hand in hand back to the dorm I was staying at, knowing that each step we took brought us closer to an impossible goodbye.

And it still breaks my heart, even thinking of it now.  It was our first of many impossible goodbyes. 

But we made a promise that night—this was not the end. 

The second my plane touched down in Philadelphia, I started planning my trip back.  3 months later, D was picking me up from the airport in Dublin. 

And thus started our 3 year relationship across the Atlantic.  Some of the greatest and most difficult moments of my life happened throughout those 3 years.  The heartbreak of the goodbyes was only made bearable through the extreme joy of the hellos.

When people ask me about long distance relationships and how we made it and if I would recommend it, I find it hard to answer.  Honestly, I think D and I were extremely lucky.  We talked every day on Skype, we never went more than 4 months without visiting each other, we were honest, we were committed, we trusted each other, and we were willing to do whatever it took.  Distance is not for the faint of heart.  It can honestly rip you apart if you let it.   You just can’t let it.

And when you meet your best friend, the love of your life, the man you want to spend the rest of your life wife, at the Woolshed, on a cold Irish evening in January, while you are studying abroad in Dublin, you don’t let them go.

Would I recommend that anyone be in a long distance relationship?  Hell no.
Would I change anything about D and mine’s relationship?  Hell no. 

Because you know what?  We made it.  We made it through the goodbyes, the Skype calls, the loneliness, the waiting.  Because as I lay here in bed on a Sunday morning, D is laying right next to me.  And that is really all I ever wanted.