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My name is Emily, and Gabe, my boyfriend of over a year, is in the army.
I’m living in Florida, and he’s been everywhere from South Carolina to Tennessee to New York. Together, we’ve made it through months of handwritten letters, 10-minute FaceTime calls and weekend visits that always feel like a tease.
Despite the fact that he’s the man for me and we’ve been planning a future together, I’m in no rush to pack up my life and move.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Gabe and I wish he was here to make me homemade pizza and take me on Chipotle dates. But it’s my entire life being changed here, and I have to make sure I get the chance to go after what I want.
I refer to my decision as “The Paris Effect.” In the season one finale of “The Hills,” Lauren Conrad chose a summer in Malibu with her boyfriend over a summer in Paris interning for Teen Vogue. They broke up, and she was forever known as “The Girl Who Didn’t Go To Paris.”
Too often, we choose the guy over the gig. It’s not that we necessarily want one over the other, though some of us do, it’s that we’re afraid we’ll miss our only opportunity for love. We break under the pressure that our perfect man may not wait a few months — or a few years — and we’ll be left in our corner offices, all alone.
When Gabe and I first starting dating, I was convinced that I would follow him anywhere. In my mind, I looked at it as an adventure of some sort, an opportunity I couldn’t let myself pass up.
When we found out he was going to be stationed in Tennessee, I sent my resume to every job that I at least semi-qualified for, barely ever considering if it was something I’d actually like to do. What did it matter? I’d finally get be with the one loved.
Except I got zero responses. Not even from the Cheesecake Factory.
At first, I was devastated. Gabe and I’s future was in total jeopardy because the state of Tennessee did not see me fit to be a hostess. My world felt like it was ending. Until I decided to look at things another way.
Fate is something I semi-believe in. Though I feel like the majority of my life is within my control, some things are just meant to be. And for whatever reason, I wasn’t meant to move for Gabe. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was using our relationship as an excuse not to work toward the things I wanted. It all came down to fear.
Fear that Gabe would leave me if I didn’t sacrifice my dreams for him. Fear that if I pursued my career, I would fail. Fear that no matter what happened, I would be devouring my feelings into pizza and gain 30 pounds. Fear was everywhere.
But I think what I was afraid of the most, is the person I would become if I chose a life without the comfort of my boyfriend by my side.
I’ve never seen myself as a strong person. I frequently cry at commercials that shouldn’t evoke an emotional reaction, and I’m terrified to be left at home alone. Leading a life that meant being alone, a lot, was scary. But in the back of my mind, I knew it was something I had to do if I wanted to become the woman I’m supposed to be.
And this is not an entirely selfish decision, though it certainly looks that way. There are not a lot of benefits for military girlfriends. In the eyes of Uncle Sam we’re practically nonexistent. Though there are loopholes, it would make more sense for us to get married if I was going to move for him. And I don’t think it would be fair to Gabe if I rushed into something that serious without doing a little (er, maybe a lot) of growing.
I have no issues with women who choose to move for their men. My mom left her job to go be with my dad, and if that hadn't happened, then I wouldn’t have been born. You have to listen to your gut, and decide your own fate.
I haven’t stopped growing yet, and I have no problem admitting that. People tell me all the time “if you really love someone, marriage isn’t a big deal.” Um, I call bullshit. It is a big deal. I don’t want to have the responsibility of being someone’s wife, until I’m the best version of myself.
My bucket list is full of unfulfilled items that I want to conquer on my own. I don’t want to resent Gabe because I missed out on opportunities that are only available when I’m young. I mean, I’m supporting and understanding (most of the time) of his goal to be in the military. Being in a relationship means that that support is equally shared and mutually respected.
So my new reality is this: Gabe isn’t going leave me if he’s really the one, and I believe that someday in the hopefully near future we will be together. In the meantime, I will accomplish more than I ever thought I could do. That’s what I’m choosing to believe.