Review of The Great, Wide World Part 1

The prompt: Write a review of your life as if it were a movie or a book.

The Great, Wide World: Part 1 is, at heart, an existential story of self definition.  The protagonist is not as iconic as Holden Caulfield, but then she is not as petulant either.  What makes her tale unique is that unlike many journeymen protagonists, she has a clear mission from the start–live life as a story.

She is half successful and half not.  Her misadventures consist of years of passivity and an acceptance of the status quo which can only be described as irritating.  When she makes a career decision to teach in her early twenties, she spends several years floundering in admin assistant jobs.  When one of those jobs shows her gallingly disrespected, our heroine doesn’t stand up for herself, she lies down and takes it–until she gets fired.  Everyone wanted to see a scene where she stands up for herself, but instead she lets things continue on other people’s terms, and that is where she fails as a heroine.  Heroes are meant to be in control of their decisions, if nothing else, no matter how misguided those decisions may be.  Romeo may declare himself ‘Fortune’s fool’ but he’s the one who draws the sword on Tybalt.  The protagonist often leaves her weapons of defense and attack safely sheathed, leaving the audience hungry for more conflict and less whinging. Continue reading

Parting is such sweet sorrow

A couple of months ago, I would have scoffed at Juliet’s sentiment.  There is nothing sweet about parting, I would have said.  It is hard and miserable, and the only thing to do when standing in front of the security line at the airport is to think about the next time we’re going to see each other and swallow tears.

I spent a good ten months in a long distance relationship, and it was very hard to pull through.  At the beginning and end there were huge stretches of nearly 100 days where we couldn’t be together, and that’s a very long time.  There’s so much of a romantic relationship that comes from physical proximity.  And you get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m not (only) referring to that.  Although there is that.  But there is also being able to do things together, or just curling up on the couch and watch tv together.  Or doing totally different things, and then getting up to get a drink and, in passing, giving a kiss or touch.

When I was grappling with the decision to up sticks and move to England for love, a lot of people advised me to stay.  “Nine months is a drop in the bucket,” I heard.  And by way of additional comfort “You can talk through Skype!”

But let me tell you something–Skype sucks.  Ok, that’s not really fair.  Skype has been a great boon in a lot of ways, and the fiance and I used it to the hilt.  I sent my Skype conversation records to the British consulate for my visa approval and they showed conversations of 6, 8, 10 hours routinely.  It was good because we felt like we could be able to talk to each other all day, for free.

Still, though…while Skype is good for keeping the channels of communication open, it’s not very intimate.  And, if I’m honest, after awhile it gets boring.  Think about it–how much time do you spend actually conversing with your partner?  You probably talk to them most of all, but even so, two solid hours of conversation every single day?  That’s a lot of talking.  Plus there’s the fact that we were staring at a computer screen.  We couldn’t go for a walk together, or even go into the other room (my laptop at the time was 5 years old and had no battery life).

So Skype helps, but it’s not a remedy.  Long distance relationships are still hard, because as nice as seeing each other’s face is, we were still living largely separate lives, and at the end of the day we still went to bed alone.  That is particularly painful when I had been waiting so long to be in a relationship and stop feeling lonely.

It gets so painful that eventually we both started to shut down a bit.  It’s impossible to miss someone constantly for days and weeks on end, so it’s easier to build a little wall around that feeling, keep my head down, and carry on.  I suspect this is the death knell for most long distance relationships, because it’s all too easy for that protective wall to be a real wall, and pretty soon you’ve blocked the other person out.  I think in my case, the fact that our long distance stint was relatively brief and that we were both so stubbornly and tenaciously committed got us through.  It’s not possible to date long distance casually.  By the time we got to see each other again, the joy of reunion had faded with too much anticipation, and the moment was instead full of weary relief, a sigh of at last.

In the midst of the last long stretch (mid April to the second week of July), my best friend’s husband went on a week-long bike ride through England.  Before his departure, she was fretting about being alone and how much she’d miss him.  At the time, I had very little sympathy.  A week? I thought.  What I wouldn’t give to only be separated for a week.  I was alone in the house every night.

Eventually though, I was forced to eat my words (thoughts?).  The fiance has had a trip to China planned for ages, since the week we first got together.  I couldn’t really complain about his departure, although the stuff we planned afterwards (like our wedding) made the timing less than ideal.  As the trip approached though, I found myself growing bluer and bluer about having to say goodbye.  There may have been some tears.  What’s more, these past nine days I’ve missed him more than I’ve missed him in all those long six week stretches.  I am so excited about seeing him tomorrow I’m practically vibrating, and I’m going to give him the biggest, most joyful hug.

At first I wondered why I had turned into such a hypocrite.  But then I realized–it’s not hypocritical.  When Juliet says “parting is such sweet sorrow” she adds “That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow,” fully intending to see Romeo the next day.  The melancholy of being separated is a novelty, an indulgence in emo romanticism.  A week is long enough for a separation to be noticeable, but not long enough for it to be real, or truly painful.  I have to say, it’s rather nice to have that luxury.